Does Being Overweight Negatively Impact Your Sex Drive?

Maintaining a healthy weight can be a struggle, especially as we get older. You probably already know that being overweight can cause or contribute to a host of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

What you may not have considered is that carrying around excess weight can also negatively impact your sex life. Human libido is tied to many different things. Even small changes in your body’s chemistry and health can have a big effect on your desire to engage in sex.

Since sexual satisfaction is extremely important to mental and emotional health, we thought we’d look at the effect that being overweight can have on your sex drive. Here’s what you need to know.

weight gain affecting intimacy

What is Libido?

Libido is defined as the desire to engage in sex or sexual activity. A healthy libido is an indicator of overall sexual health. A low libido may point in the direction of underlying medical problems that need attention.

Sexual health covers an array of things. The World Health Organization has this to say about sexual health:

Sexual health is fundamental to the overall health and well-being of individuals, couples, and families, and to the social and economic development of communities and countries. Sexual health, when viewed affirmatively, requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence.

While sexual health is sometimes overlooked as a component of overall health, it should not be. Good sexual health requires access to sex education, sexual health care, information, and emotional support.

What Things Can Cause Low Libido?

As you might imagine, the things that can cause low libido are different in men and women. Let’s start with women. Here are some of the things that can cause or contribute to women losing their sex drive:

  • Diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, coronary artery disease, and cancer
  • Medications, especially the antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs
  • Drinking
  • Smoking
  • Pain during sex or unsatisfying sex
  • Surgery on the breasts or genital tract
  • Fatigue
  • Hormonal changes, including menopause, breastfeeding, and pregnancy
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor body image
  • A history of sexual abuse or assault

obesity and intimacy

For men, some of the causes of low libido are similar while others differ from women. Here are the things that can cause or contribute to low libido in men:

  • Low testosterone levels
  • Medications, including blood pressure medication, ACE inhibitors, opioids, anabolic steroids, and antidepressants (especially SSRIs)
  • Chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and issues with the lungs, kidneys, and liver
  • Aging
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • A history of trauma, especially sexual trauma

weight gain affecting intimacy

To both lists, we can add being overweight or obese, which is something we’ll talk about in a lot of detail later in this article.

What Health Issues May Be Indicated by Low Libido?

Low libido is often an indication that something else is wrong. Because libido is strongly linked to the circulatory system, it may be an indicator that there is something wrong with your heart. Likewise, the role of hormones in libido may indicate that a hormonal imbalance is at play.

Here are some of the most common health issues that are related to low libido.

  1. Heart disease. In both men and women, arousal is linked to circulation. A man with poor circulation may not be able to achieve or sustain an erection. Women with poor circulation may not become aroused for sex. Some of the specific diseases that may be indicated are coronary atherosclerosis and high blood pressure.
  2. Diabetes. Diabetes is a disease that’s related to circulation and hormones. When the body no longer responds to insulin, glucose accumulates in the bloodstream, causing inflammation and affecting the health of your blood vessels. That can negatively impact libido.
  3. Depression. Depression may be biochemical or situational or a combination of the two. Because sex and emotion are so closely linked, depression can impact a person’s desire for sex as well as their ability to become aroused for sex.
  4. Anxiety. Anxiety is another common mental illness that may be linked to low libido. A man who feels anxious may not be able to achieve an erection and may lose his desire for sex. Women who are anxious may find themselves preoccupied with thoughts that do not include sex.

Anybody who experiences a sudden decrease in libido should see a doctor. It’s normal for libido to wax and wane. For example, many women experience a rush of libido at the time they ovulate, and that peak subsides as they approach menstruation. Men experience fluctuations in libido, too.

How Does Weight Affect Libido?

Now, let’s talk about some of the ways that being overweight or obese can impact your libido. Some of them may surprise you.

Self Esteem

One of the most significant ways that being overweight can impact your libido is by making you self-conscious about your body. When we gain weight, it’s common to feel embarrassed or ashamed about the way we look.

Self-consciousness can make us reluctant to take our clothes off. After all, sex is something that makes us all feel vulnerable because it requires trust. If you don’t feel confident in your body, you may not want to engage in sexual activity at all.

Arousal

As we mentioned, arousal is linked to circulatory health for both men and women. If your circulatory system isn’t functioning properly, then you might find that your body simply doesn’t become aroused the way it did when you weighed less.

Sex may be uncomfortable or even painful if you’re not aroused. That alone would be enough to make some people avoid sexual activity.

Flexibility

Not all sex needs to be acrobatic, but even the most basic sexual encounter requires some degree of flexibility with your body. People who are overweight or obese may struggle to find comfortable positions or to maintain them for long periods.

Carrying extra weight can impact the health of your weight-bearing joints, including some that may impact your ability to engage in sex, such as your hips and knees. One painful encounter may be enough to make a person who’s overweight reluctant to engage in sex.

Stamina

There are as many ways to have sex as there are people on the planet, but it’s often true that a short sexual encounter is more likely to be an unsatisfying one – especially for women. Many women need time to reach orgasm and when they lack the stamina to engage in prolonged sexual activity, they may wind up feeling disappointed.

People who are overweight may simply not be able to keep going for more than few minutes – and that goes for any physical activity, not just sex.

Fatigue

We already talked about fatigue being a contributing factor for low libido. When you’re carrying extra weight, you’re more likely to have difficulty sleeping. Even if you don’t have sleep apnea, you may find yourself feeling tired a lot of the time.

Fatigue and low libido form a self-perpetuating loop. People who are overtired are less likely to have the energy for sex. People who aren’t sexually satisfied are more likely to be anxious and depressed than people who have satisfying sex lives.

Quick and Easy Ways to Boost Your Libido

Now, let’s talk about some good news. Even if you are overweight and have experienced a reduction in your sex drive, there are some things you can do right now – or with just a little effort – that can make a big difference in how you feel. Here they are

  1. Lose a little weight. Even losing as little as 10 pounds can help you feel better about yourself. Since hormones play a role in weight loss, dropping a few pounds may give your libido a boost.
  2. Do exercises that redirect blood flow to your pelvic area. Examples include crunches, squats, and certain Yoga poses such as Reclined Butterfly Pose and Upward-Facing Dog.
  3. Cut down your intake of sugar and other inflammatory foods, including processed foods, and add more nutritious food to your diet.
  4. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce is packed with nutrients, many of which are good for your circulation, joint health, and libido.
  5. Get your cholesterol under control. High cholesterol is a libido killer. Try cutting back on your consumption of red meat and other foods high in cholesterol.
  6. Work toward accepting your body as it is. If low self-esteem is killing your sex drive, one of the most important things you can do is to learn to love yourself the way you are right now. If you have a supportive partner, ask for their help.

my husband is not attracted to me because i gained weight

The key thing we want you to take away is that libido is, in many cases, something you can control. If you make it a priority and make a few healthy changes in your life, you’ll be able to reclaim your sex drive and enjoy your sex life again!