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Can Losing Weight Improve Your Sex Life?

Learn how obesity may (or may not) affect your sex life

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Updated February 15, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

There are many good reasons to lose weight. Improving your sex life might be one of them. But researchers have found mixed results when studying the effects of obesity on sexuality.

How Losing Weight Might Affect the Sex Lives of Women

Recent studies have confirmed an association between obesity and depression. For both men and women, if you are obese, you are at greater risk for clinical depression. People who are depressed are often less inclined to do the things that may make them feel good, like sex. So does that mean that obese women are less likely to engage in sex? Maybe not.

When researchers at Istanbul University studied the direct relationship between obesity and female sexuality, they found no connection. They concluded that even though obese women are more likely to be depressed, it does not affect their sexuality.

Obesity may, however, affect a woman's likelihood to engage in riskier sexual activity. A study conducted in France examined specific sexual activities of women who are obese as compared to women who maintained a normal weight. They found a link between body mass index and sexual behavior. Women with BMIs that fell in the obese range were less likely to anticipate having a sexual encounter. They were also less likely to get contraceptive health care and more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy.

In several studies regarding the sexual health of women, scientists have recommended that weight loss be included in any discussion about improving sexual functioning. A researcher at St. Louis University gave her bottom-line recommendation: "The treatment of obesity will have a positive effect on a woman's sexual health, with a likely improvement in female sexual dysfunction and a decrease in risk factors related to contraception, pregnancy, infertility, and menopause."

How Losing Weight Might Affect the Sex Lives of Men

Obese men may gain a unique benefit from losing weight. Obesity is cited as a major contributor to buried penis syndrome, a condition in which the penis is buried or hidden under tissue above the pubic area. Although surgery can resolve the issue in some circumstances, weight loss is often the easier option.

In a case study of an obese 30-year-old man, researchers noted that the complications of buried penis syndrome can be broad. They include erectile dysfunction and difficulty with female penetration. In treating the man, they noted that surgery is available but weight loss is the preferred treatment.

Should You Lose Weight To Improve Your Sex Life?

The benefits of weight loss include increased energy, improved mobility, and elevated self-esteem. These factors are bound to have a positive effect on your love life. In addition, if your weight contributes to depression, the confidence you gain from losing weight may help improve that condition.

But because the evidence regarding sexuality and obesity is mixed, there is no reason to believe that you can't have a satisfying sex life during the weight loss process. Improved intimacy with your partner may even help you to get the emotional support you need as you lose weight.

Sources:

Nathalie Bajos, Kaye Wellings, Caroline Laborde, Caroline Moreau " Sexuality and obesity, a gender perspective: results from French national random probability survey of sexual behaviours ." British Medical Journal 2010 June 15.

Shah MB. " Obesity and sexuality in women ." Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 2009 Jun;36(2):347-.

Kadioglu P, Yetkin DO, Sanli O, Yalin AS, Onem K, Kadioglu A.. " Obesity might not be a risk factor for female sexual dysfunction. ." BJU Int. 2010 Nov;106(9):1357-61.

Gitlin MJ. " Effects of depression and antidepressants on sexual functioning.." Bull Menninger Clin. 1995 Spring;59(2):232-48. Review. PubMed PMID: 7795566.

B. Mattsson, C. Vollmer, C. Schwab, C. Padevit, K. Horton, H. John, M. Horstmann. " Complications of a buried penis in an extremely obese patient ." Andrologia 18 JUL 2011.

Amelia R. Gavinemail, Greg E. Simon, Evette J. Ludman. " The association between obesity, depression, and educational attainment in women: The mediating role of body image dissatisfaction." Journal of Psychosomatic Research Volume 69, Issue 6 , Pages 573-581, December 2010.

Floriana S. Luppino, MD; Leonore M. de Wit, MS; Paul F. Bouvy, MD, PhD; Theo Stijnen, PhD; Pim Cuijpers, PhD; Brenda W. J. H. Penninx, PhD; Frans G. Zitman, MD, PhD. " Overweight, Obesity, and Depression A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Longitudinal Studies." Archives of General Psychiatry 2010;67(3):220-229.

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