Written by Dr Becky Spelman, We-Vibe’s, Relationship Expert.

Dr Becky Spelman

Dr Becky Spelman

A lot of women find that when they gain weight, their interest in sex declines. There are a number of factors at play here, and it’s worth teasing out what’s going on so as to figure out a good way to respond to what can be a very upsetting issue. 

First of all, the weight gain may well be a symptom, rather than a cause, of the deeper reasons that really lie behind the change. A lot of us overeat, or eat less healthily, or drink too much alcohol, or all three, when we are under stress, with the inevitable result of weight gain. In these situations, rather than obsessing about the weight gain per se, we need to explore the reasons behind it. Are we stressed at work? Worried about or unhappy in our relationship? Struggling to deal with getting older or with a difficult situation at home? In these situations, when we address the root problem, the reasons for our bad eating habits are likely to disappear, along with our excess weight, and when that happens, we are also likely to see gains in the area of libido.

Any instance of weight gain in the absence of overeating should be investigated by a doctor. A certain amount of fluctuation in weight is perfectly normal, but someone who has suddenly gained quite a lot of weight could have a hormonal imbalance. This hormonal imbalance could be contributing not just to the embarrassing change in size, but also to a lowered libido. In these cases, medical treatment such as hormonal supplements and/or changes to diet and exercise may address both of the presenting issues. 

Regardless of the reasons behind the weight gain, we also need to explore why our self-esteem and libido are so entangled with feelings of self-worth that relate to our physical appearance. Women often agonise when they have put on a few pounds, and worry that their “muffin top” or love handles make them undesirable. There’s nothing at all sexy about feeling undesirable, which in itself can lead to heightened levels of stress. Moreover, the lowered self-esteem that can result can contribute to overeating, which obviously only serves to compound the problem in the first place! So, what’s a girl to do? First of all, we all need to have realistic expectations for ourselves. One problem women face today is that the public figures who are presented to them as role models are often unusually thin. Most women, no matter how healthy they are, will never have stick-thin figures, because that sort of shape is very much an outlier on the spectrum of human figures, and while it can be healthy for some, it is not a healthy goal for most of us. Rather than compare ourselves to these unattainable models, we need to ask ourselves about what looks healthy for us and—only if we must—aspire to resemble physical role models who represent a healthier version of ourselves. We also need to work on our self-esteem, because low self-esteem can cause us to look at ourselves in the mirror and imagine that we look fatter than we really are, or focus on small perceived imperfections until we completely miss the bigger picture. 

Lamentably, in our patriarchal society, women are still held to a much higher standard when it comes to physical attraction. We’re supposed to stay looking younger for longer, and to hold onto our youthful figures into middle age and beyond. The really sad thing is that women themselves are often the gatekeepers for these impossibly high standards. Rather than trying to adhere to ideals that are unrealistic, it makes sense to have a conversation with the significant others in our lives. Think about it: If he wants to have sex with you, obviously he finds you attractive the way you are, even if you are carrying a few extra pounds or aren’t quite as slender as you used to be! Ask yourself if you would reject him just because he’s not quite as firm around the waist as before, or isn’t as toned as he once was. The odds are good you’re a lot more forgiving of others’ physical shortcomings than of your own! Treat yourself with kindness, and accept that you don’t have to be 100% perfect, 100% of the time!