Sex: Better Sex: What's Weight Got to Do with It? (cont.)

"Any activity that increases blood flow to the large muscle groups in the thighs, buttocks, and pelvis -- such as yoga, brisk walking, or cycling for 20 minutes three times a week -- is also going to bathe the genitals with better circulation," says Kellogg. The result, she says, is more lubrication, better arousal, and better orgasmic function. And ultimately a return of sexual desire.

Kellogg also tells WebMD that women might consider supplementing their sexy workout with a little light erotic reading for 20 minutes three times a week. The goal here: To focus attention back on sex and improve both drive and desire.

"There is nothing sexy about housework or PTA meetings or grocery shopping. If that's taking up all your thoughts, there is no room to think about sex, no matter what your shape or size," says Kellogg.

"Weight becomes less of an issue when a woman simply feels better and feels sexy," she says.

Think Sexy, and You'll Be Sexy

Which leads us to what may be happening in your head. For some people, getting physical problems under control is all it takes to fan the flames of desire. For others, it's still not quite enough.

Experts say that one of the biggest obstacles to enjoying sex at any size is a poor body image. They caution that the inability to accept your weight and your size can leave you sleeping single in a double bed.

"There is this idea out there that if you accept your body and your weight that it's somehow going to take away your motivation to change the way you look -- in a way, society almost tells us that you have to hate your body before you can improve it," says Binks.

This is the kind of attitude, he says, that frequently causes overweight folks to feel so self-conscious about how they look that desire is completely inhibited.

Psychologist and body-image expert Abby Aronson, PhD, agrees. "The epitome of sexuality is abandoning self-consciousness to experience the moment intensely. If one is fretting about this bulge or that bulge or how their butt looks from every angle, it's pretty difficult to enjoy the moment, much less be there for your partner," says Aronson, author of The Final Diet.

While body image can hamper both men and women, experts agree that women feel the impact more. In fact, Kellogg reports that even women who have loving partners can still view themselves as sexually unattractive if their body image doesn't conform to the "norm."

"If a woman doesn't find herself to be sexually appealing, she will believe she is not sexually appealing to her partner, even if he tells her she is," says Kellogg.

Sexual Desire Still Missing? Get Help.

Although small changes in lifestyle along with some healthy "self-talk" can go a long way toward improving both drive and desire, if you still can't think of yourself as desirable, some professional image counseling may be in order.

"If you are someone who has very negative feelings about your body image, then getting treatment that works toward improving self-esteem will automatically be reflected in your desire for sex and your ability to achieve sexual fulfillment, regardless of your size," says Binks. The best place to start is often with your family doctor. But if you feel you need more specialized help, experts say, don't hesitate to turn to a counselor with expertise in body image and weight issues.

Above all, remember this: While studies show that up to 30% of overweight people have sexual difficulties, Binks points out that up to 70% of overweight people are doing just fine -- and you can, too.

The key, says Aronson, is this: "Don't buy into society's idea of the perfect sexual body, and do allow your own sexuality and sensuality to thrive inside the body you have."

Published March 25, 2005.

Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 2000; vol 26: pp 191-208. Annual meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity, Las Vegas, Nov. 14-18, 2004.

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