Chocolate, sexy lingerie, fine jewelry, rose pedals on your bed may be all rage for Valentines Day. But what Victoria’s Secret Angels and Tiffany & Co. won’t tell you is that feeling sexually desirable and performing better sexually year-around doesn’t come in pink or with a price tag. It merely takes heart.
Just ask former “Biggest Loser” contestants Amy (formerly Hildreth) and Marty Wolff who found love and a new identity as normal-weight individuals two years ago on NBC’s on-going hit reality show.
Amy, who is four months pregnant, said nothing makes her feel more sexy and confident about her self-body image than maintaining a daily workout routine and withstanding sweet temptations.
“My experience has been that I feel the most confident and most sexy when I’m working out regularly and intensely, eat healthy and not make bad decisions eating out,” Wolff said.
She ought to know. After losing 106 pounds between April and December 2006 from a starting weight of 260 before the show, her real-life weight maintenance struggle began. Knowing that the final weigh-in of 154 pounds would be an unrealistic long-term weight, Wolff kept a routine of two-to-three hours of calorie-burning cardio exercise six days a week and three days of weekly strength-training sessions while watching her diet.
For husband Marty, dropping 146 pounds of his initial 365-pound frame gave him the confidence he never had to ‘ask the pretty girl out on a date.’ Now happily married to that pretty girl and looking forward to being a dad, Wolff vowed he will never return to being the ‘fat guy.’
“Losing weight helped me find the real person inside of me,” Wolff said. “I’m still at 255 pounds and my weight fluctuates between five and 10 pounds, but when I’m bigger I definitely feel less attractive, less confident and less desirable about who I am.”
Regular Workouts For Sexier Living
Researchers know that a person doesn’t have to be overweight or obese to feel less sexy. While numerous studies already link regular fitness to overall better health and disease prevention, a recent study suggests that regular workouts can make people feel sexier too.
A University of Arkansas study of 408 single male and female college students found that those who had higher perceived levels of fitness rated themselves as more sexually desirable and performing better sexually than people with lower fitness levels.
In addition, in the study more than 90 percent of men who reported their fitness level as ‘much above average’ rated their sexual performance and desirability as ‘above average’ or ‘much above average.’
Fitter women also perceived themselves as more sexually desirable.
Yet, compared to the men who exercised six to seven days a week and rated themselves in the ‘stud’ category, only 63 percent of women who exercised as frequently rated themselves that way.
Why? Researchers speculate that women who exercised as frequently as men may still feel less confident due to “poor body image.” Women also tend to focus more on cardio workouts while men tend to perform more strength-training, correlating bigger muscles with higher levels of desirability and better sexual performance.
In women, researchers found that self-body image and actual body size play a vital role in sexual functioning. According to a study published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly, obese women had lower body satisfaction and sexual desire, fewer erotic fantasies and less autoeroticism and sexual motivation than normal-weight women. Women with a higher BMI were found less likely to be in a dating relationship and had fewer sexual experiences than women with lower BMIs. BMI stands for body mass index and measures a person’s body weight in relation to height. It is often calculated by physicians and fitness professionals to determine if a person is normal weight, overweight or obese.
Wolff said growing up, she would not let her morbidly obese frame get in the way of dating.
“I probably would get down on myself (when I was big), but was still very social and didn’t let my body weight hold me back,” said Wolff, adding “I wasn’t the typical overweight girl.”
The key to her happiness isn’t so much about body size than the on-going commitment to make a change.
“A lot of (self-body image) has to do with my daily activities—when I skip workouts, eat fast food and for whatever reason don’t make healthy decisions, I feel less sexy, less confident and less desirable,” she said.
Ironically, she also never felt more ‘fat’ than after gaining a few extra pounds from indulging in Holiday treats after her final weigh-in on the show.
A study conducted by researchers Angela D. Weaver and E. Sandra Byers from the University of New Brunswick in Canada supports the idea that most women feel insecure about their bodies.
The study showed that university students who had a positive self-body image reported better sexual functioning even after accounting for differences in BMI and exercise.
Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D. in physiology and ACE’s Chief Science Officer, agreed by saying that “sexual function is affected by general health and the more you can do to improve your health with physical activity, the better your sex life can be.” He added that “physical improvements in muscle strength and tone, endurance, body composition and cardiovascular function (specifically enhanced peripheral blood flow) can all boost sexual functioning in both men and women.”
Obesity Can Lead to Erectile Dysfunction & Chronic Disease
While men may struggle less with a low self-body image, they should be aware that too much excess weight can lead to potentially serious health problems, including erectile dysfunction and chronic diseases.
The good news is that starting a regular fitness program not only improves overall health, but can reverse certain health conditions. In a study of 110 obese men aged 35 to 55 with erectile dysfunction daily physical activity and a healthy diet was the key to significant weight loss and better health. Moreover, it enabled the men to regain normal sexual function.
So whether you’re normal weight, overweight or obese, exercising on a regular basis will help give you a better heart, a sexier body and likely improve your love life.
With February being the month of love, why not give yourself and your Valentine the gift of a couple’s workout with an ACE-certified Personal Trainer near you. You won’t feel guilty enjoying chocolate-covered strawberries and toasting a glass of champagne with your Valentine this February 14th.
Marion Webb is the managing editor for the American Council on Exercise and an ACE-certified Personal Trainer. For specific fitness-related story ideas or comments, please e-mail her directly at email@example.com.