Losing Weight With Cupid

Need a fun way to shed pounds? Try kissing and a little sex.

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on February 11, 2004
5 min read

Granted, the latest weight-loss program to make the rounds won't shed pounds as quickly as plans more firmly rooted in that familiar diet-and-exercise mantra. But hey, there is that "fun factor" to consider.

Instead of counting carbs or calories, this math involves kisses. Rather than ruthless Pilates gurus and perky-than-thou size 4 aerobics instructors, your personal coach is an airborne overweight sprite with a fetish for archery.

Thanks to some research unearthed from the scripts of philematology -- literally, the science of kissing -- it seems as though Cupid's well-placed arrow can help you lose weight, if at the very least by working off some of those Valentine's Day chocolates.

"In 1978, we first published research indicating that each passionate kiss burns between 6 and 12 calories, depending on the level of enthusiasm," says Betty Goldblatt, RD, MPH, publisher and co-founder of Environmental Nutrition newsletter. That's close to what's consumed while jogging for one minute.

So with this and other findings, her usually serious and seasonally playful staff of registered dieticians offer a new spin on how to, theoretically at least, shed nearly 10 pounds a year: With their newly published "Kissing Diet," they estimate that each well-placed (and received) lip lock burns an average of 9 calories. At three kisses a day, every day, that amounts to burning 9,855 calories a year -- totaling about 3 pounds of weight loss.

"Of course, we're talking about an Italian kiss, since we learned about this research from Italian researchers," Goldblatt tells WebMD. "And I suppose that means it's a fairly intense kiss, since the Italians are known for being pretty intense lovers. It's probably a little more complicated if you're talking about a French kiss."

Maybe she's talking with tongue firmly in cheek, but when your tongue explores the cheek of another, you can burn even more -- and reportedly also activate all 34 of your facial muscles (as opposed to just two to purse your lips for a less robust peck). On paper, that could mean a more toned face. And as you may recall from yesteryear's prom dates, that tongue-tangling has been known to lead to serious make-out sessions, which some research indicates may engage nearly every muscle and tendon in your body, if ever so briefly.

Still, whatever nationality of your smooches, when you kiss as though you're in Cupid's cross-hairs, you'll likely reach the second phase of the Kissing Diet weight-loss plan -- a resulting two "amorous interludes" each week.

Each horizontal workout is said to shed about 212 calories, roughly the same as walking 2 miles. So even with this conservative twice-weekly romp (likely more if this archer's aim is a bulls-eye), Goldblatt estimates you burn an additional 22,100 calories.

Make those interludes vertical and you may burn even more calories.

"Sex isn't always weight-bearing, but it certainly can be," quips Peter B. Anderson, PhD, past president of the Foundation for the Scientific Study of Sexuality and a professor of health education at the University of New Orleans. "Do it standing up and you'll burn more calories and also stress bones and muscles in different ways that would be good for you. Hold your partner in the air and you'll burn even more."

Not quite that athletic? "As a general rule, the partner on top who is doing more thrusting will burn more calories," he tells WebMD.

Even with Olympic-caliber libidinous gymnastics, Anderson is quick to note that sex alone won't produce the kind of weight loss seen with, shall we say ... more traditional forms of exercise. "That's because intercourse is largely an anaerobic activity, as opposed to an aerobic workout."

Longer-duration, lower-intensity aerobic workouts burn fat; anaerobic workouts -- such as sexual and other strenuous activities that last only a short time -- primarily burn glucose. "Unless you're a teen or in your 20s, you're probably not getting too aerobic a workout, by virtue of the shorter duration," he says. "If you are ... well, lucky you."

Still, every little bit helps. To lose 1 pound, you need to decrease caloric intake by approximately 500 calories per day, the equivalent of a 3,500 calories decrease in one week, or increase caloric expenditure by the same amount. "Any increase over current levels of intercourse will burn more calories than you're currently expending," says Anderson. "So if you go with the data that you burn around 200 calories with intercourse, by having sex every day, you could conceivably burn about 1,400 calories a week."

The total stats for the Kissing Diet are nothing to sneeze at:

  • 3 kisses per day at 9 calories per event X 365 days = 9,855 calories
  • 2 amorous interludes (horizontal) per week at 212 calories per event X 52 weeks = 22,100 calories
  • Grand total = 31,955 calories per year

But you must work hard if you want to get the most weight loss bang for your buck from each encounter ... or vice-versa, so to speak.

"The more engaged you are in movement during sex, the more active you are, the more benefit you'll derive for weight loss and wellness," says Patti Britton, PhD, clinical fellow of the American Academy of Clinical Sexologists and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Sensual Massage.

"One of the things I teach as a sexologist is to exaggerate and replicate the signs of an orgasm. When we're orgasmic, we have pelvic thrusting. The more pelvic thrusting you both can do -- during the entire act -- the higher the level of physical activity and amount of caloric expenditure."

In other words, give it that ole' college try -- every time you hit the sheets. And it may not hurt to try it different ways. "I recommend couples engage is several different positions with each encounter," she tells WebMD. "You'll likely be more active and hence, burn more calories. And variety is always the spice of a good sex life."

And when should you employ this advice? Biologically, morning sex makes more sense, says Britton, because a pooling of testosterone -- the so-called "hormone of desire" -- occurs during sleep. While both sexes produce testosterone, men have the clear supply edge. You may have also noticed, those morning erections at times.

"Because of this pooling, when a man awakens, he is often in an aroused or pre-aroused state, so that's when nature is calling his pager, so to speak," Britton says. "But the reality is that there's usually less time for sex in the morning because we're rushing to work, and hurry-up sex is not ideal -- for weight loss or anything else. Yet sometimes, a morning quickie can be your own Stairmaster burn. A good quickie can be really hot, arousing, and calorie-burning."

Still, evening encounters offer their own advantage. "Many weight-loss programs teach that eating late is worse because that's when metabolism is slower," she explains. "So at the least, I would suggest that instead of having a late-night snack that contributes to weight gain, maybe you substitute it with a late-night romp."