Q: I have put on a lot of weight in the past twelve months – almost 2 stone – and am feeling very low. When it comes to having sex with my husband, I feel deeply unattractive and often put it off. He says he doesn’t mind, but I do. I am afraid my lack of interest in sex will destroy our marriage.
A: It can be difficult to separate body image from how we feel about ourselves. Maybe you put on the weight because you were feeling low and are now caught in a negative loop. From a health point of view putting on two stone in a year is a lot. Maybe a visit to your GP to look at the cause would be helpful.
Beyond possible health concerns there are wider issues to consider. On our TV screens, and in print, we are constantly exposed to images of the body beautiful. If our bodies don’t match up, then we can judge ourselves negatively. The shape of our bodies has little to do with sex, which essentially is about having pleasure and intimacy with your partner. It is part of the bond. But, for you sex is inextricably linked to how you see your body.
It makes little sense to say that only women who are thin have great sex! An overweight or a reed-thin woman, both can have sex that is pleasurable. It is not about how much you weigh. Sexual response is not dictated by weight. It is how you think about your body that turns on or off the desire.
At the moment you see yourself as a failure. Stop, look and listen! What is good in your life right now? Forget about the weight and the low self-esteem. Do you love your husband? Do you enjoy his company? He might be your best friend. If I asked him what he liked about you no doubt he would have some good things to say.
In my work in sex therapy this is a question I will always ask each partner when I see them individually. Both are always pleased by the responses. But if it doesn’t fit with our own self perception we are so quick to dismiss that that our partners could possibly love us. Lack of interest in sex is a difficulty but don’t put it all down to body image. If this was the way of the world all of the ‘beautiful’ people would be really happy. I don’t know of any evidence of this.
All through life there is a relentless push, a yearning to be different to what we are. This can be constructive but it also can be destructive.
Challenge your view of your body. A good place to start is by taking exercise. It is excellent for our health and it can help our mood. The energy it brings can help in the bedroom.
Take the emphasis off how you look and try to think about your inner self. When you are sexual, is it all about meeting your partner’s needs and his pleasure?? Think about what you desire rather than focusing on whether he finds you attractive. You live in the body you have and can enjoy it and with that your sexuality.