Confession: Weight Gain Killed My Sex Life

Our contributor is a student at an East coast university. And that’s all she’s willing to say. Except this…

There’s something about the heat of the summer sun that makes everyone a little more frisky, a little more excited, a little more promiscuous — it’s the season of bathing suits, little clothing, late-night dates, sex on the beach. I used to be into all this. I used to look forward to whipping out the ripped jean shorts, the sexy summer dresses, the skimpy tank tops. I used to take every opportunity to go to the beach. I used to enjoy sex. But things have changed. It’s the tired old campus story: too much booze, too little exercise, too much late-night junk food, and all of a sudden I’ve gained 27 pounds and am no longer comfortable getting naked with a guy.

I have let the weight completely alter my lifestyle. When asked out on a dinner date, I kindly decline. When invited to the beach, I say I can’t. Shopping? Clubbing? Forget it. I’m inside reading books about how to lose weight.

This is by no means the first time I’ve suddenly withdrawn from society out of weight-gain embarrassment — but it is the first time it’s happened since I started having an active sex life. Now I’m discovering how the extra pounds affect my sex life, too.

When you’re in a steady relationship, a bit of unwanted flab isn’t the end of the world. The two of you are comfortable in bed together, you have seen one another naked, you have established a sexual routine or understanding. But when you’re single and considering getting naked for the very first time with someone? My extra heft is something I just can’t get past.

I was in bed for the first time with a friend-turned-hookup a few weeks ago (turns out, in college, forgoing dates and clubbing doesn’t stop you getting laid: I met him playing pick-up basketball at the gym) and it was horrible. Not only did we have to work on establishing a rhythm together, but I was too self-conscious and uncomfortable to let loose. I refused to go on top, where I was certain my flab would flop around in his face, and I barely put any effort into being on the bottom, where I was afraid I was displaying a multitude of chins. Forget trying unconventional positions, he was just lucky I was out of my sweatpants.

Needless to say, the sex was the worst I have ever had, and I was so ashamed at my lackluster behavior. I often wonder how men deal with this. Do they get self-conscious in the sack if they pack on some pounds? Or does their pride in their dicks simply override any embarrassment of the gut? In my experience, women are much more likely to beat themselves up about a jiggly belly, cellulite-y thighs, or flabby arms. And even if a man does feel self-conscious about his weight, it’s not something that’s going to occur to him — or distract him — in the middle of sex. Perhaps it’s not dick pride so much as an ability to focus.

Whereas a woman’s body insecurities can give her the attention span of a gnat during sex. You look down at your belly and become convinced that your partner is trying to avoid looking at the rolls of fat, and suddenly all you want to do is close your legs and throw on a shirt. And don’t even get me started on Hollywood’s (or Madison Avenue’s) narrow-minded concept of “sexy.” All the Dove commercials in the world can’t make up for what that does to a woman’s body image.

In the end, I think it comes down to confidence. My problem is not that the extra flab is affecting my physical ability to perform in bed; rather, those couple dozen pounds have decreased my self esteem. A woman can be attractive at any weight if she radiates confidence. And body confidence means you’ll be able to focus on what’s really important during sex: a happy ending — for both of you.

I’m still trying to figure out my own personal route to body confidence. I know that happiness will have a lot to do with it — cliche as it sounds, that tends to shine through. And I also know that unsatisfying casual sex isn’t exactly a recipe for happiness. So I have vowed not to even consider having sex again until I feel better about myself — whether I lose the weight or not.

What if you’re sick-skinny?
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  1. OMG, Ms. East Coast University – THANK YOU! I thought it was just me!! I’m in my 30s, and about 10 years ago I could have written this piece. No one understands! They think you can just get in and screw anyone (thing) no matter what. Thank you for reinforcing my ideas and letting me know I’m not crazy.

  2. i completely relate. but know what? i learned a way around out. turns out that sex is great exercise!

    i used to be incredibly frisky, sexual and kinky. i gained weight and all of a sudden, my sexing became boring. my boyfriend and i still had sex, but we stopped *having* sex. you know, those nights where you devour each other like animals? where your every limb twitches with ecstasy? it stopped. i was ashamed of my body. i’d cover myself up or be really embarassed to be naked. i suffered and my sex life suffered because of it.

    and then it hit me. if i’m insecure about my middle, i can wear a corset. it’s sexy as hell AND it covers up what i’m insecure about. next come my thighs. well, they have seen better days. so let me decorate them with thigh highs. if i felt ugly, i’d do my hair and makeup so that i FELT beautiful. well, having your hair and makeup done while wearing sexy corsets and thigh highs bring back all the confidence you need (plus it’ll excite your guy like never before so it’s a total win-win). it’s been about a month and i’m 10 pounds lighter and i KNOW its the sex.

    guys like shape. and if there’s one thing i’ve learned, many men are secret chubby chasers. same as women are pressured into being stick thin, men are pressured into showing attraction for only that. but most men do not mind the extra boobs and butt and once you realize that sex is about the two of you, not just yourself, it becomes much easier. and hey, if you’re really feeling that bad, you CAN cover it up and be smoking hot while doing so. the unwanted pounds will melt away with all of your rediscovery of sex and you’ll feel like goddess in the process.

  3. Listen. I once read an article that was talking about how the more a guy can accept different body types the more he actually appreciates women. Not just women who he will be having sex with but all women and their ideals. Sometimes it’s hard to understand, especially when you’re in college and guys are dorks, but if/when you are comfortable it’s about the guy too.

    My boyfriend is like 5’10” and weighs 140. I’m 5’8″ and weigh 150-160. Guess what? He told me I should gain weight. I think it’s nuts but he likes SHAPE. God bless him. Nothing obese, but shape he loves. He’s a real fan of Joan Holloway on Madmen. Let me tell you…

    It comes together.

  4. I use to have weight problems like that but if you start watching what you eat, cut soda outta your diet, exercise regularly you should be fine. i am 5’1” and weighted almost 200 lbs just by doin those three lil things i am down to 127 and still have my boobs, didn’t lose any of them. As for exerciseit don’thave to be nothing major, i recently had knee surgery and still losing weight doin what i can, thing i found that helps the most is walk…often and fast. Be confident with who you are, they don’t make you and if they wanna judge a book by it’s cover then they weren’t worth your time anyway, that was learned the hard way.

  5. East Coast,
    I just reached thirty in Feb. Have been with the same guy for 8 1/2 years I have never gained weight before till now, and let me tell you even in a realitionship of this long i am embarressed of my new flab. I got to the point that the only way i would even have sex is with the lights off and that is so not me. I have always been very exotic in our sex life. I even had a flat belly after having two kids. This is totaly grossing me out. So Girl you are not alone. We just need to start doing step arobics, if we can find the time. Good Luck to u and try to image ur old skinny self when having sex thats what i do and it helps.

  6. Amanda,
    Just keep in mind that your body is going to be changing over your life time anyway. Frankly, its not always in our control. If you think losing weight would offer you health benefits, then it’s probably a good thing. Just keep it moderate and do it right (aka, with lifestyle changes, not dieting) and you’ll have plenty of time to watch the changes in the mirror and adjust to this newer you. Also, it’s possible that your bust could stay relatively the same and this worrying is for nothing. Just remember, as a wise woman once told me, “You always want to keep a little extra for the top.”

    Oh, and to the article, I think leaving out the complication of someone else’s possible opinion of you naked is probably the easiest thing to do right now, when you’re trying to get YOUR opinion of yourself naked in order. The later is must more important anyway.

  7. Amanda H,

    I say it’s always a good idea to eat better and exercise. If you lose 20 pounds in the process, you’ll see how your mind adjusts to your new body when you get there.

  8. i really enjoyed reading the article/confession and the 9 comments posted. Health and body confidence are all good things to have, i agree. But please allow me to get a bit superficial. I have a lingering question, and this seems like a good opportunity to ask it anonomously to a wide audience. I have always been on the chubby side, with body confidence high and lows, natural of course. But it seems to me that the only things that change are how i feel about my body and not any actual physical fluctuations. I am seriously considering losing weight in order to be healthier, but im a bit hesitant for fear of how my body will change. Specifically, im afriad of losing my boobs. I have a pear shape, so i carry a lot of my weight in my thighs and hips. My boobs although not terribly big are voluptuous enough and ive learned to accept them. I’m afriad that if i lose some major weight like 20 pounds, so from 150 to 130, i might be healthier but ill have to say bye bye to the way my boobs appear now. i feel like its a catch 22 situation, sleeker legs and a smaller waist with possibly smaller and “saggier” boobs or a more busty/ perky chest with thick thighs and a small buddha belly? any comments or thoughts would be appreciated.

  9. We have all bought into the Madison Avenue idea of what a beautiful woman should look like to the point that anyone who is not anorexic feels ‘fat’.

    The term ‘Rubenesque’ is what I prefer to describe women who are less than skinny. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Beautiful_Woman

    Don’t let other people’s opinions rule your life! There are lots of guys who accept you just as you are. If a man can’t look any further into you than the shape of your body you don’t need him in your life anyway.

  10. It might sound narcissistic, but buy yourself a full-length mirror and check yourself out everyday before you get dressed. No girl needs to be model-stick thin–I bet that if you see yourself naked enough, you’ll become more comfortable with your body. I workout out everyday, and I still always freak out when I pinpoint certain areas of my body I don’t like; I forget to look at the “whole package” (bathroom mirrors that cut off half your body are the worst!). Looking at my entire body in a mirror can actually take away some self-image insecurities.

  11. I believe that in order to trully love the wonderful artistry of sex you need to be more comfortable with yourself. My suggestion is to get naked more often in preperation of feeling good in your own skin.

    Spending more time Naked allows you the luxury of getting to know urself, which enables you to present your body to others, in a shameless way. Think about it, if your comfortable, why wouldn’t your partner be? Once a guy determines that he’s wants to sleep with you, that’s just that. Whether or not you’re a little “heavier” than you were before he met you is the furthest thing from his mind, so let it go, and, ehem: GET NAKED.

  12. KB – I hear you. A person can be heathly without necessarily looking thin. There are many healthy types of body.

    But this is a young woman who’s unhappy about what she sees as pretty dramatic weight gain in a relatively short time – and that is cause for concern.

    My mind and body sent me the same signals when I gained too much weight. I’m better off now for having paid them heed. That was my body sending me an SOS – saying, “you’re wrecking me! take care of me!” Those feelings of self-loathing were just part of the signal. It’s one of the things a body does when in distress, at least for me.

    Oh, I’m with ya on the sex thing too. Becoming sexually withdrawn is rarely a good thing.

  13. Johnny-I’d agree about a healthy body and a healthy mind. But healthy=/= thin in every case. and really, is denying yourself sex helpful even if you aren’t healthy? Aren’t there lots of articles here about how good sex is for you?

  14. I dunno…

    I myself am going through a sort of second puberty – my body is changing. I am a life-long skinny guy. I could always eat and drink anything I wanted, in any quantity, whenever I wanted. But as I approach 30, that party is rapidly ending.

    I discovered this by gaining lots of weight, in a bad way. I had this pale, celulitey blubber ring around my middle, with skinny arms and shoulders. Just about the worst possible look for a dude.

    My GF still seemed attracted to me, although she did tease me about it. I considered that fair. It was her way of gently telling me that she was worried about where this was going. Regardless of how she felt about me, I didn’t like the way my body looked. I wanted to change it for me.

    So I made a big lifestyle change. I stopped eating crap, and started working out four times a week. It can be a pain in the ass, but I’ve found sports I enjoy (this is the most important part. People try to exercise for exercise’s sake, and they get bored and quit. You have to think it’s fun, or it’ll never work). Now I look way better, and I feel way better.

    Regardless of whether or not you buy the “your partner just likes seeing you naked regardless” bit, if YOU don’t like where your body’s going, then change it. Your sexual partners experience your body a relatively small percentage of the time. You live in your body 24/7.

    Don’t let yourself slide. A healthy body and a healthy mind go hand-in hand. Don’t change your mind to accommodate an unhealthy lifestyle. Change your lifestyle so it’s congruent with what your mind knows is right, and is trying to tell you now.

  15. Well said kb & nick. It’s corny but true, you have to love yourself before anyone else can love you – and that is not just on an emotional level.

  16. kb is right.
    i’ve had girlfriends with perfect bodies, and some without, and in my eyes they were all truly beautiful when laying next to me during a night of lovemaking

  17. this really just makes me sad. the only thing I have to say is, if you’re naked, he’s happy. If that’s not the way it works, he doesn’t need to get to see it.

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