A new study shows that being obese has more consequences than risks of heart disease and diabetes - it can affect your sexual health.
French and British researchers found that obese women have four times as many unplanned pregnancies as healthy-weight women even though they have less sex. Obese men are more likely to have STIs compared to their healthy-weight counterparts, even though they typically have fewer sexual partners.
Furthermore, obese women are less likely to use contraception, and obese men are more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction. In the U.S. where two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, these findings are relevant. The results show that obesity doesn't affect just one's physical health but one's sexual health as well.
What may be the reason behind this research? Authors suggested that low self-esteem, body image issues and societal pressure may contribute to obese women avoiding contraception and obese men having sexual issues.
Blaming the obese is hardly the correct conclusion for such a study - as many of us may already know, obesity is an epidemic that is more than just about the body - it's about mental and physical health, and sociological factors. Thinking about sexual health targeting obese individuals, then, is about examining all the issues surrounding obesity and tailoring sexual advice and health care around these issues.
At the end of the day, making sure we are taking care of our whole selves - our bodies and minds and lives - should be the ultimate goal when considering what it means to be "healthy." Using contraception, having safe and enjoyable sex, and having healthy relationships with your sexual partners, are a small but important piece of being healthy. All individuals deserve to have access to this kind of wellness. In programs that focus on overcoming obesity, we should be focused on sexual health as well as exercise, nutritional wellness, etc.