If you are among the many people in the world who have committed themselves to a life of health, fitness and ultimate weight-loss, but have started to notice a decrease in your sexual appetite (aka your libido), then read on.
Eating whole, fresh foods and upkeeping one's fitness levels is, of course, important. Many of us know that overweight, sedentary individuals often develop issues with their libido, with low fitness levels and restricted blood flow causing knock-on effects in the bedroom. But when was the last time that someone warned you of the havoc your cabbage soup diet and daily gym sessions could wreak on your thyroid? How it could send your hormones into a frenzy, and eventually flat-line your sex drive altogether?
Society's questionable values
The almighty reverence that modern society places upon thinness and the people who embody an image of “health” and “wellbeing” has led to an ever-increasing number of individuals preoccupying themselves with the attainment of perfection. We cut down on carbs; put a halt to fats; incessantly check our daily step count and basically reject anything that’s not lean, green or promises to turn us into a marathon-running machine. Some of us go a step further; opting to abandon solid food altogether for the eternally superior juice cleanse, all the while upkeeping a rigorous daily routine of morning Pilates, afternoon runs and evening yoga.
This might seem healthy, but an increasing amount of research is finding that the combination of restrictive eating and overzealous exercising is, in fact, doing people more harm than good – particularly where sex is concerned.
Because how can you possibly concentrate on gettin’ jiggy with it when you’re still calculating the calorie count from lunch? How are you going to hear the sweet nothings being whispered into your ear when the sound of your starved, grumbling tummy is overpowering it? When walking 15k in and out to work means you can hardly gather the strength to pull down the blinds at the end of the day, you’re definitely not going to have the energy to make sweet love to your partner too.
Anti-diet activist and blogger, Cait Meredith, is vocal about sharing her experience with dieting and food restriction over the years.
“It's really important that people are made aware about the potential side effects of dieting, restriction and weight loss, including the less sexy side effects (literally).”
Cait is open and forthcoming about her own experience with decreased libido during this time; “When I was suffering from disordered eating my libido took a total nosedive. As well as not having the brain space to dedicate to thinking about sex, physiologically I was so under-fuelled by my restrictive diet and overworked by an intensive exercise regime that my body seemed to cut off my sex drive in an effort to preserve vital energy.”
Cait’s experience is not unusual in this modern era. As western society has become engrossed with attaining increasingly unrealistic beauty standards, people are trying to contend with their decreasing sense of body confidence by engaging in an incredibly destructive diet culture; taking appetite suppressants and diet pills, restricting, purging and wearing their hunger as a veritable badge of honour for the end goal they have in sight.
Most people are aware that a healthy lifestyle is the key to a good sex life, although few recognise that extreme weight loss and low weight can be responsible for a lack of sex drive, as the production of oestrogen and testosterone (the hormones responsible for the female libido) are affected. As Cait, and other health professionals have outlined, obsessing over food and weight loss doesn’t leave much room for sexual desire, with restrictive regimes draining individuals of energy, confidence and all sense of spontaneous, sexual fun.
Stress is another huge factor when it comes to low libido, and anyone constantly keeping tabs on their weight, food intake and exercise levels will understand how stress can take its toll. Stress decreases the production of estrogen (a key ingredient of the libido secret sauce) and for Cait, the level of stress she experienced “as a direct result of the dieting”, restricted her estrogen so much that her period stopped for two years (this is called amenorrhea).
What we eat affects our sex life
Getting an adequate intake provides us with the energy we need to function sexually, produce the necessary hormones, facilitate blood flow and even lubrication.
Fad diets often instruct the elimination of entire food groups such as sugar and fat, and this causes the dieting body to struggle as it tries to operate in its natural rhythm without sufficient sustenance. A diet very low in fat restricts the body’s ability to make libido-raising hormones (because hormones are made of fat), while a diet low in carbohydrates hinders thyroid function (which regulates the hormones). Pair this with prolonged over-exercising, and you may find yourself experiencing adrenal fatigue; a reduced level of adrenal hormones and a subsequent lowering of energy levels, mood, metabolism and, yes, a lowering of sex drive. It’s ultimately thanks to these restrictive diets that a body may struggle to give the libido the va-va-voom it needs to function.
Use food to your advantage
Look to good fats (found in oily fish, avocados, walnuts) which contribute to the production of estrogen and testosterone; embrace whole grains (which increase testosterone); tuck into oysters (for their dopamine-producing qualities) and recognise that when you’re restricting yourself on any one major food group, you’re missing out on the benefits they can bring, not just the calories.
Barry White says so
Restricting your food intake to extreme levels; overexercising on a regular basis; and stressing about the way your body looks leaves your hormones out of whack, completely exhausts your entire system and its energy reserves, and is why, when Barry White comes on the speakers, you’re left looking up at the ceiling twiddling your thumbs, instead of answering his call to “get it on”.
So the next time you feel any inklings of guilt after particularly indulgent or lazy weekend with boo, stop and take heed of the fact that this bit of release and relaxation could be to thank for your buzzing libido. Balance is so important, and although exercise and eating well is also important, leaving a bit of wiggle room in your routine will do wonders for when you want to get jiggy with it and let your sexuality shine as bright as a freshly detoxed liver.
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'Instead of eating healthily, I now choose to eat happily'