David L. Katz, MD, sorts out the healthy, the harmful, and the hype.
Dear Dr. Katz:
I’ve put on a lot of pounds recently, and sex seems less pleasurable. Can weight gain affect my sexual response?
Dr. Katz’s Response:
Extra pounds can take the zing out of your sex life in at least three ways. First, excess body fat can raise blood pressure and impair blood circulation. Since poor blood flow to the genitals is a common cause of sexual dysfunction in women as well as men, you can begin to see why gaining weight could leave you feeling less vital and less amorous.
Second, your hormones may be out of whack. Studies suggest that overweight women tend to have imbalanced levels of estrogen, prolactin and testosterone. This has mostly been studied in terms of breast cancer risk, but it’s also known that hormone imbalances in women can dampen libido.
Finally, and perhaps most important, your weight may be altering how you feel about yourself. Sexual performance and pleasure require being in a good place psychologically. If extra pounds are preventing that, you could decide to accept yourself at this higher weight—realize that a scale measures pounds, not self-worth.
But if your extra pounds are affecting your health, or if you just can’t be happy with yourself at your current size, you know the answer without my saying it. Improve your diet, increase your activity and stop or reverse the weight gain. Forget blondes—healthy people are the ones who have more fun.