Sex file: Hard to have sex when you don’t feel sexy

Sex file: Hard to have sex when you don’t feel sexy

My husband has put on a lot of weight. I still fancy him, but he’s become much less keen on sex. We’re in our fifties and he says that it’s just age that’s slowed his libido down. He must feel less sexy, but I’m fed up that he won’t make any effort to save our sex life.

Although your husband blames his age for his lack of libido, his weight is more likely to be responsible. The issue may be metabolic — obesity has a negative impact on testosterone levels — but stigma and low self-esteem are equally likely to cause sexual difficulties. Body image is a subjective psychological phenomenon, in that people who are a perfectly normal weight can convince themselves that they are fat, but people who are obese experience much higher levels of body dissatisfaction. It is hard to have sex when you don’t feel sexy.

Despite the fact that it clearly does not work, blame and shame are routinely used to try to motivate obese individuals to lose weight.

The discrimination obese people endure is so profound that in her 2015 study Angelina R Sutin found that it was associated with an increased mortality risk of nearly 60%. She concluded that the stigma associated with being overweight or obese shortens life to such an extent that it may be more harmful than actually being overweight or obese.

There is such an intense focus on the health implications of obesity that the psychological, sexual and relational consequences are often forgotten, but many obese people experience some form of sexual dysfunction. Dealing with a triple whammy of obesity, sexual dysfunction and low self-esteem is not easy and although it feels as if your husband is rejecting you, he is actually protecting himself. After all, if he doesn’t try to have sex, he avoids the possibility of sexual failure. It is not a sustainable strategy, but nagging him won’t help. People don’t actively choose to be obese.

It is worth reminding your husband that everyone’s metabolism slows by 5% each decade, so we all burn about 200 fewer calories a day at age 45 than we did at age 25. Most people also eat about 200 calories more food energy a day than they did 10 years ago, so anyone who doesn’t actively fight the flab can put on significant weight.

Because it is much easier to get a fat person fit than it is to get a fat person thin, encouraging your husband to be more active and helping him to make healthier food and drink choices will have a more immediate impact than a diet. Gentle exercise will also boost his serotonin levels and that will help him to feel happier and more positive.

Getting your sex life back on track is important, but he may need help, so he needs to book an appointment with his doctor. His GP will check his heart and his testosterone levels. If they are fine he could get a prescription for Viagra, Cialis or Levitra. The drugs have different active ingredients, but the main difference between them is how long they work for.

Viagra and Levitra give the possibility of an erection for four hours, whereas with Cialis it is 36. Viagra and Cialis have not, to my knowledge, been tested on obese men, but an independent pilot study by Antonio Aversa, which was published in the International Journal of Impotence Research in 2012, evaluated the effects of Levitra on sexual distress in men with obesity. The study found that Levitra improved sexual function and had a positive impact on the participants’ sexual relationships, so it is probably worth a try.

Send your queries to suzigodson@mac.com

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