Strictly Come Dancing stars Ola and James Jordan recently spoke about their sex life declining due to their respective weight gain, saying: ‘the bellies get in the way of us when it comes to sex – It’s not as exciting’.
They’re certainly not the only people to have felt this way.
While Ola and James seem to be keeping positive about their experiences with weight gain, many people feel distressed over their bodies – particularly in the context of sex. In the UK, 61% of adults feel negative or ‘very negative’ about their body image ‘most of the time’. And when it comes to the bedroom, one in 10 women in the UK feel self-conscious about their bodies during sex, according to research from 2019 about body and sexual confidence, along with 3% of British men.
One of those women is 35-year-old stay at home mum Joanne.
‘After I finished having all my kids – three boys – my body was changed forever,’ she tells Metro.co.uk. ‘My husband says he still thinks I’m hot but I don’t believe him. How can he? My body is so different from when we started seeing each other ten years ago.’
Retail assistant Aimee, 26, feels similarly, sharing: ‘My boyfriend and I have been going through a dry spell since we had our baby. My belly is huge and my boobs are on the floor and I just can’t imagine him wanting to have sex with me.”’
Many people, especially women, feel pressure to adhere to specific body standards (namely being thin) to make themselves more desirable for sex. But while significant weight gain might impact your mobility in some ways (James Jordan, for instance, shared that he misses being able to hold Ola over his head), it doesn’t affect your desirability, your worth, nor your access to sexual pleasure.
In fact, one study into weight gain’s correlation with sexual frequency showed that the volume of sexual activity amongst participants ‘did not differ significantly by weight status’. In fact, sexually active overweight or obese men and women who were overweight had more regular sexual intercourse than those who were not.
HR assistant Hattie, 27, says her sex life improved after her and her husband gained weight.
‘Perhaps it helped that neither of us noticed our weight gain until we were really thinking about it, but we started having sex so much more after we got fat,’ she tells us. ‘There’s so much more of us to play with!’
Hattie recommends ‘leaning in’ to your new body and using it for sex instead of ‘being mean to it’.
‘Bellies don’t get in the way of sex, they get involved,’ she says. ‘Have your partner touch and kiss your new belly. And do that for him too. Take it as an opportunity to have new kinds of squishy sex.’
Hattie’s right, because fatness, no matter how much you have of it, has nothing to do with sex. Not really.
When we feel bad about our bodies or we’re put off sex because of them, this is mostly psychological. When we have a poor body image, we’ll convince ourselves that our perceived worth has tanked. But this is untrue.
If you’re having sex with people who are really into you (and we hope that you are), their hots for you will go far beyond what your body looks like.
Unfortunately, a poor body image is not so easy to discard because we’ve grown up with ideas about what makes the ‘ideal’ body from a very young age.
But Gigi Engle, a certified sex educator who specialises in gender, sexuality, and relationship diversity, has a few ideas on how you should reframe your thinking if you’re worried about sex after weight gain.
‘It helps to reframe the idea that you have to be a certain size to enjoy pleasure,’ she notes.
‘Understand that your body is capable of having pleasure and giving pleasure no matter what size you are,’ she says. ‘You’re still worthy of sexual pleasure, having sexual enjoyment and being appreciated no matter what your body looks like.’
There are practices you can try to start rebuilding your confidence with sex after bodily changes, whether it be weight gain, weight loss, injury or something else entirely.
When you come out of the bathroom after shower or a bath, spend some time looking at yourself naked in the mirror.
‘Just sort of look at yourself,’ Gigi says. ‘And instead of pointing out a bunch of things that you don’t like about yourself, point out things that you do like about yourself, like your lips or your boobs.’
This reframes your thinking through positive reinforcement. It feels a bit silly at first but after a few goes, it will feel natural to compliment yourself.
You can try writing positive affirmations around your house where you’ll see them. A lot of people like to write them on post-it notes and stick them to their mirrors, cupboard doors or fridges.
Write whatever you think you need to hear.
We recommend: ‘My weight has nothing to do with my sexiness’. That might be a good place to start.
Gigi recommends good old masturbation for tapping into sexual confidence.
‘I would start rebuilding the sex that you’d have with yourself before bringing in the partner because when people masturbate more their self image improves,’ she suggests.
When you’re about to have sex or you’re thinking about having sex, try to focus on the positive experiences you’re going to gain from it instead of your body or your weight. Think ‘I’m going to have a good orgasm’ or ‘we’re going to feel really connected’ instead.
Ultimately, your sexual partner is not going to be judging you and you’re not going to judge them.
Good people are empathetic towards one another, especially during sex, and after plenty of internal work (and trying the exercises above) your worries about your weight and the (totally false) idea that it ruins sex will melt away.
Gigi adds: The more you can positively reinforce that your body’s capable and deserving of having pleasure, the more comfortable you will feel in your skin, and the less perturbed you will be about any weight gain.’
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