Does Your Weight Affect Your Sex Life?

Because our society does not equate big with beautiful, many of the millions of American women who are size 12 and above are made to feel undesirable.

For some women, the excess weight causes their self-esteem to plummet and their sex lives to dry up. Yet, they're in the majority: 68 percent of American women wear a size 12 or above.

Dr. Jennifer Berman, a urologist, and Laura Berman, a sex therapist, focused on how extra weight can affect a woman's sex life both physically and emotionally, in the second part of Good Morning America's series on plus-size women, "Living Life Larger."

One woman, a 45-year-old mom of twins, told GMA she has a hard time looking in the mirror and seeing an attractive woman because of her weight.

"How can I feel sexy in the bedroom when I can't even accept myself as attractive?" she asked.

Another woman, married with five children, said she gets odd looks when she walks into lingerie stores, and once there, is unable to find anything in her size.

Dance Naked?

They are not alone in grappling with body image issues. Nearly 60 percent of women who regarded themselves as overweight said that they would not allow their partner to see them naked, a survey published in Slimming magazine, a British magazine, found. More than 80 percent of the women surveyed claimed that their excess weight was also ruining their sex lives.

Laura Berman says that women who feel inhibited about sex because of their bodies should learn to develop healthier images of their bodies.

"Be sure not to use your weight as a defense against being sexual or involved with someone," Laura Berman said. "It comes down to healthy body image. It's also about body self acceptance, being comfortable with the way your body works and functions."

Exercises, like dancing naked in front of a mirror, can help women feel more comfortable about their bodies, Berman said.

Weight Linked to Estrogen Levels

As for finding lingerie that fits, stores like Lane Bryant and Avenue cater to full-size women, Berman said. But "going commando" is just as sexy, she added.

"Being nude and being comfortable in your nudeness is just as sexy," Berman said. Plus, feather boas are a one-size-fits-all prop that is suitable for any woman.

Another woman said that her partner is supportive and he makes her feel beautiful, but that she had trouble reaching orgasm. She worries that it is because of her weight.

"In theory, the more fat cells one has is directly associated with higher estrogen levels," Dr. Jennifer Berman said. "The more fat cells, the more estrogen. But having high estrogen means that your levels of testosterone could be waning."

While more estrogen is good for lubrication, low levels of testosterone means low libido and decreased sexual response, which could account for trouble reaching orgasm.

Supportive Partners Needed

The attitude that men have toward women's bodies plays a key role in the woman's self-esteem, and their sex lives.

"But the partner's reaction should be interpreted in the right way," Laura Berman said. "Maybe your partner is concerned about your health or maybe it is because the extra weight is a turn-off for some reason. But, none of those things should be ignored."

Ultimately, he should be supporting you no matter what your size, she said. Many partners can be critical or a bad influence, because they have poor diets, and do not exercise themselves.

"A partner should participate in a healthy lifestyle," Berman said.

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