Weight Loss, Health, Mood, and Sexuality

Weight Loss, Health, Mood and Sexuality

Updated 10/31/23

People can embrace connective sex at any size.

Our weight is often used as an indicator of general health. There are correlations between excess weight and health problems, however correlation isn’t always causation. Thus, weight can be implicated in both men with sexual concerns and women with sexual concerns .

Your health impacts your emotions, and your emotional health can impact sexual desire and functioning.

Remember that when it comes to weight gain and sexuality, correlation isn’t necessarily causation.

It’s built into our society to associate body weight with virtue, worthiness, confidence and health. Why would we think that mental health professionals are less at risk of such stereotypes ? These harmful attitudes can lead to increased anxiety, self-criticism, and shame. All of which can make your sexual problems even worse. It can also make it so the wrong sexual root cause is implicated. Sex is complex. Although sex is physical, it’s also an experience, an emotional sexual connection , and/or a mindset. There is already a lot of terrible sexual advice out there. Many sexperts are more interested in building up a big social media following than they are about actually helping people who are dealing with real life sexual problems. When these professionals recognize that weight loss is a great way to build up a following, they’re just as likely to pack it on their agenda to get more visitors. Unfortunately, what they’re not going to help you get is results.

When your weight is carelessly implicated, it’s going to set up a bogus set of goals. For example, it encourages magical thinking. “If I lose weight, my mood, and self-esteem will improve.”

This matters to me because I see people in my office every week who put off living their lives in a meaningful way, waiting to reach these types of goals. People feel unworthy of sex because they think that they can never be attractive to someone . On top of that, people are told to just be confident as if that’s something that they can just make happen. Then people are told that they’ll naturally be more confident if they lose weight. This sets up a problematic series of thinking where people tell themselves that they have to feel and look a certain way to engage in the world in a meaningful way. If they lose weight, yet the core problems still remain, it makes them think they’re even more broken. If they can’t lose the weight, they’re also left to feel broken. A trap is set where people will keep consuming that social media content, but they won’t actually get better. In fact, they’ll probably feel worse.

Health Can Impact Your Sexual Goals

Your health is going to influence your sexual desire, your anxiety, and your overall quality of life . Sexual dysfunction and sexual desire obviously relate to hormonal balance. (And no, that doesn’t mean just pumping you non-stop full of testosterone). Your insulin, cortisol, thyroid functioning and a series of other hormonal factors impact sexual desire and sexual functioning. They also impact your mood, which will impact how much you even want sex at all. But weight doesn’t necessarily reflect these hormonal issues. For example, some people who have unmanaged diabetes actually rapidly lose a lot of weight.

Physical comfort and mobility also impact sexuality. They also impact your overall quality of life. My point here is rather than focusing on an exact weight, it’s important to have a primary care physician who can help you manage your health in a holistic way. The healthier you are and the better you physically feel, the more likely you are to improve on sexual dysfunction symptoms. It may not directly cure them, but it will certainly help.

Recognize Social Media’s Impact on on your Body Image and Mood.

I originally wrote this article in 2011, and a lot has changed since then. Social media has become much more prominent in our culture. This has further perpetuated crummy advice as it pertains to body image and mood. People often seek to look like those on social media similar to how people try to look like celebrities, thinking this builds confidence in life, relationships and sex. Obviously, these are often products that are being sold.

It’s also important monitor yourself when reading information on body positivity . I love the idea of accepting people for who they are. However, I’ve also seen people get dismissed when struggling with body image issues by being told to just be more body positive. This can set up a serious issue because it can make you feel like there is nowhere to turn if you’re struggling with body image issues even though it’s normal to struggle with these issues in a culture obsessed with superficial body image. Thus, the general message is a good one, but don’t feel isolated when you’re not feel ing that general sense of positivity.

“Diffuse” things to lives how you want to live.

As you can see, the importance put on the scale gets over-emphasized. The number can get scapegoated and treated as if it’s always the cause of all of your problems.

How you feel about yourself, the sexual barriers that your facing, and your relationship problems can all be blamed on your weight. In theory, this sets it up so that you would have a simple goal–to lose weight. I want you to know that the simplicity of this is complete bullshit. The insecurities that you’re living with aren’t going to ever completely leave you unfortunately. That’s true of all of us. They’re simply old voices that get louder and quieter over time. When they get really loud, you’re more at risk of getting reactive to get rid of them. This means you going on crash diets, utilizing useless advice, and further losing a sense of your own worth.

I recommend that you separate the things that you want to change and make separate goals. This is what we call diffusion (think of it as an opposite of infusion). Rather than treating all of these elements as if they will come together if you find the one simple solution, recognize that change is more complicated than this . All things hold different levels of importance to you. Treat them like the separate things they are.

If you want to make a goal for weight loss, make this goal. But be sure to make it based on your values and the things that are important to you, rather than using weight loss as a way of getting rid of emotional pain and self-esteem issues. For example, if you want to lose-weight, ask yourself “why?” It could be because you’re an athlete and you want to reach an athletic goal. In this example, you may have a competitive goal. This is also an example of moving towards something valuable rather than losing weight to move away from feeling bad about yourself.

In regards to sex, you may decide to make a weight loss goal to help with a level of joint pain that you’ve been experiencing that has been causing sexual barriers. Again, this is a goal that moves you towards something rather than moves you away from something that you fear about yourself, such as feeling like you’re unworthy or undesirable.

Work on stress management and emotional awareness to improve your sexuality.

Sometimes, people need to change the relationship that they have with food. Whether it’s binging, compulsive numbing, or restricting, the relationship you have with food may reflect problems with anxiety, trauma, and other emotions. For example, you can eat to cope with difficult emotions, situations, grief, and life circumstances. Similarly, if things feel out of control, you can overly restrict food as a way of gaining a sense of control over something in your life. There are a lot of patterns that can be used here.

What makes this even more complicated is that people can then become aware of being stuck in a problematic pattern, which can cause even more frustration with yourself. Mindfulness is often the first step to changing this cycle. Being more aware of how you feel can help you intervene and slow things down. It can also help you build a tolerance to these emotions, which can increase your tolerance to difficult situations.

Sometimes, this journey really needs to be done with the help of a trained professional. If you’re dealing with an eating disorder, it’s good to have an eating disorder specialist on board. It can also help to have a trauma therapist on board who you can help you navigate through things that have happened in your past.

Build an expanded relationship with sex.

Unfortunately, the way people view themselves and view their body image often increases a sense of rigidity about sex . For example, people view sex as a forbidden arena where only thin people deserve to play. This means that you’ve got to challenge your beliefs about sex. Learning how to let go of some of the over-romanticized thoughts you’ve had about sex can give you a new found freedom to enjoy it. This will also help you let go of some sexual anxiety.

Here are some of my favorite questions I like to ask clients to get them breaking away from sexual rigidity:

  • Where would you like to take yourself sexually?
  • What types of experiences would you like to have?
  • How can you have these now with the body that you currently have?
  • Where did you learn about how sex should be and what do you realize is different in real life?

Build a positive relationship with exercise.

Exercise can make us feel better. Sexual issues highly correlate with depression and anxiety. Exercise can really be a game changer in making you feel differently.

There is research that is showing that health issues can decrease significantly with even moderate levels of exercise. What we also know is that exercise alone doesn’t improve your self-esteem, nor does it make you lose much weight by itself . Thus, make sure your exercise goal aligns with your desired positive outcome.

If you’re going to add exercise into your life, do so in a value-based way. For example, some people join gyms for the social component. You can join athletic leagues for a sense of community and friendship. Exercise can give you a competitive component to your life. Whatever it is that you would use exercise for, be sure it aligns with a values-based goal .

It’s impossible to avoid influence.

The big challenge is balancing how making much you’re influenced by the world around you along with moving towards valuable goals. We’re surrounded by messages about body-image that are blatant and subtle all the time. The best you can do is support yourself, while becoming aware of how these things are influencing you. I encourage clients all of the time to practice becoming more aware of how these things influence them. I encourage you to do the same. Doing so can change how you feel about yourself and how you interact with the world.


If you’re in Texas, looking for a therapist to help you with sex, body image, emotional regulation, and relationships, please feel free to contact us at any time.

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