The (s)ex files: weight loss and body image


As almost anyone who’s overweight will tell you, feeling fat often puts the brakes on sex. It’s a body image thing: You don’t feel sexy and that affects your behavior in the bedroom (or the kitchen, or the shower, or …. let your imagination run wild). Oh, sure, there are some super-confident women who embrace their curves and feel sexy at any size, but for most of us it’s an issue.

As some readers of my blog already know, I embarked on a lifestyle change in February. Through a combination of healthy eating and exercise, I’ve been able to lose 48 pounds and want to lose about 30 more. I realize that’s a lot of weight, but in the scheme of things it’s not an incredible amount: I read stories almost every day about women who’ve lost two or three times as much.

Still, the nearly 50 pounds I’ve lost has had positive effects, both physically and mentally. Physically, I’m more comfortable than I’ve been in years. Why? Because in the past, I’ve lost weight with diet alone. This time, I added exercise to the effort. I walk three to five miles on a treadmill five days per week. Last night, I set the speed at 3.5 miles per hour and put in four miles. Now that might not impress some people, but consider that I was a non-exerciser. At first, 1.5 miles at two miles per hour was an effort. Now that seems like a cakewalk.

There’s another element to my exercise routine: Two nights per week, I take an adult dance class. On Tuesdays, it’s a ballet barre/stretch class. On Wednesdays, it’s tap — sometimes one class, sometimes two. I took 17 years of ballet and tap when I was young and love to dance, so the classes are a treat. Ballet and stretching elongate the muscles, while tap strengthens my leg muscles and my mind, the latter because of the long and intricate combinations of steps we learn on the spot.

The weight loss, dance classes and treadmill hours have transformed my body. I’m fortunate –some people who lose weight, particularly at my age — replace their concerns about fat with concerns about loose skin. I don’t have that issue; my skin has reacted well and seems to have retained much of its elasticity. Of course, I’m keeping it moisturized with bath and post-bath products that help.

Though my weight loss journey isn’t over, I feel stronger, more flexible and more sinuous. I move more easily. My body is less cumbersome, less clumsy. It’s easier to bend, flex, contort. And when I run my hands down my body, there’s a new sleekness.

That leads me to the sex part: I feel good. My body feels good. My skin — rid of sugar, preservatives and other toxins — is soft, smooth and glowing. I can feel my ribs, my pelvic bones, the muscles beneath my skin. I’m a breast cancer survivor who had double mastectomies with reconstructive surgery. When I gained weight, my stomach got bigger but my breasts didn’t. It gave me an odd, pregnant-looking profile. Frankly, my breasts look great with my flat stomach (thank you, Dr. Alfredo Villarreal Rios).

All of these things combine to make me more aware of my body, in a positive way. The new physical me has affected the mental me. Result: I feel sexy. I’m good with the way I look naked, and that’s something I haven’t experienced in years. A heightened sense of my own desirability and confidence in my sexuality are welcome side effects of weight loss I didn’t anticipate. I’m not saying that every woman who’s overweight should lose pounds to feel sexual — as I said, heavier women who feel hot can be incredibly sexy. But for me, losing the equivalent of two toddlers has done wonders for my sexual confidence and desire.

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