The Catastrophic Effects of Diet Culture on Your (Sex) Life

Have you ever felt undesirable or self-conscious because you believed you could or should be slimmer? Was there ever a moment that you actively did not want to have your photo taken or meet someone new because you felt you needed to lose a few pounds? Or have you felt less than because your waist was bigger than your friend, sibling, coworker? 

You are not alone. In fact, this kind of thinking is problematic for both men and women worldwide, and it contributes to much bigger problems, like not going for the promotion you want or deserve, not feeling confident enough to ask someone out, or feeling apprehensive about being intimate

Point is the way in which society dictates what is deemed beautiful has created generations of individuals not going for what they want and feeling sub-par in the process. But had you ever thought about how this all affects the way in which you date, form relationships, and engage in sexual activity?

What is Diet Culture?

Diet culture is a belief that thinness equals beauty and good health. It’s the notion that we should be spending our time, money, and energy on losing weight and attaining the “perfect” body because we’ve learned that our value lies in the size or shape of our body. 

In this way, diet culture has a direct impact on how we look, feel, and live. Let’s take a look at a few examples of how diet culture affects one’s sex life…


False: Thin is the Only Sexy

Diet culture dictates that thin equals sexy. And this is so prevalent everywhere you look—magazines, image searches, sex and dating blogs, health and wellness sites, and more. A simple stock free image search with the keyword “sexy” will bring up a slew of slim women in beautiful clothing with radiant skin and a gorgeous smile. And this has a direct effect on those who don’t have the “perfect” body. 

It screams that they’re not sexy because they aren’t a size zero, and has the detrimental ability to create issues with self-esteem, self-love, self-acceptance, and happiness. It also encourages a society of body shaming, which can lead to individuals feeling less worthy of receiving pleasure.

Did you know that a negative body image is one of the biggest reasons why some don’t experience sexual enjoyment and desire?

False: Thin People Have Better Sex

Good sex has nothing to do with the size of your body, although almost all of us have been led to believe it. Good sex is about compassion, love, trust, communication, and connection. The sad part is that so many people think that they cannot have great sex because they feel uncomfortable in their size. This can lead to an even bigger obsession to lose weight, and ultimately, a dislike or hatred for their body.

When we dislike or actively hate our own bodies, we spend our days constantly judging it, attempting to change it, and feeling as though it’s not worthy. It leads to people feeling nervous, ashamed, fearful, and self-conscious in the bedroom, which inhibits one from letting go, feeling free, experimenting, and experiencing sexual adventure and playfulness. 

A mind that’s preoccupied with how someone else sees them in the bedroom is going to reduce the chances of having amazing sex, being aroused, and achieving climax. Self-judgement stands in the way of you trusting your body, and if you can’t do that, how will you ever trust another person with it?

Body Image and Sexual Self-Esteem

When someone believes that their body is unattractive, it leads to a lower sexual self-esteem and quite often, an avoidance of sexual activity altogether. Adversely, when one believes that their partner does not find them attractive, a lower sexual functioning is likely to follow.

And as researcher Marta Meana says: “Being desired is the orgasm”.

But let’s look at actual research…

Researchers Christopher Quinn-Nilas, Lindsay Benson, Robin R. Milhausen, Andrea C. Buchholz, and Melissa Goncalves conducted a study in 2016 on 88 sexually active heterosexual women in order to find a link between body image and sexual functioning.

They found that a poor evaluative, affective, and behavioural body image was detrimental to women’s sexual functioning and that dissatisfaction with one’s body, and the idea that others were dissatisfied with their body, reduced their feelings of desire. It was also found that the women who were body self-conscious during sexual activity found it harder or impossible to orgasm.

Their final conclusion advised that, if one were to actively work on improving their body image, it could have exceedingly positive effects on their sex life.

Disregarding Diet Culture and Moving Towards Body Acceptance

While it’s impossible to change a learned behaviour and thought process overnight, it is possible to start working towards a more self-loving attitude when it comes to body acceptance. 

Now is the time to disregard diet culture and move towards self-acceptance, higher levels of self-esteem, and extraordinary sex!


13 Ways You Can Address Body Issues and Enjoy The Sex You Deserve

  • Positive Self-Talk: Self-talk is your internal dialogue which is influenced by your subconscious. By identifying negative self-talk, you can start to change the way that you think, and behave. For example: negative self-talk would be “No one will ever love me because I have an undesirable body.” Positive self-talk would be “My body takes care of me and I take care of it. It is strong and powerful.”
  • Believe Compliments: Some may find it difficult to believe compliments when they have low self-esteem. Try not to doubt the wonderful things people are saying about you, because oftentimes, they’re true.
  • Mindfulness: During moments of intimacy, bringing yourself into the here-and-now will help reduce feelings of anxiety. Mindfulness works by channelling your thoughts and energy into the pleasure you’re experiencing, instead of worrying about unnecessary noise. 
  • Kegel Exercises: These are especially useful for older women who experience incontinence. In a study, it was found that those who practised kegel exercises were less likely to be incontinent, which proved to increase their levels of self-esteem.
  • Inspiring Literature: There are so many wonderful self-help books, fiction/non-fiction, and memoirs available that encourage people to embrace their bodies and feel great about themselves. 
  • Focus on Your Partner’s Pleasure: For those whose minds tend to wander during sexual activity, try to focus on your partner’s pleasure. Oftentimes, when one person is visibly aroused because of their partner, it causes them to feel desirable and sexy. 
  • Value Isn’t Measured by Size: Value and self-worth can be measured by a dozen sets of criteria, but size is not one of them. Think about all the things you’ve accomplished, and be proud of yourself.
  • Identify Diet Culture Ideals and Smash Them: Trying to drown out the noise of diet culture will help you to live more freely and not be a slave to society’s standards of beauty. By continuously comparing yourself to others, you may never truly be happy.
  • Talk About Yourself Lovingly: Start being mindful of the ways that you talk to others about yourself. Do you use kind and affirming words? Or do you often put yourself down? The former will help you to build a more positive self-talk which will lead to higher levels of self-esteem and self-love.
  • Be Mindful of Who You Follow on Social Media: Take the time to look at what pages and people you follow on social media. When you’re constantly looking at accounts that have the same values as diet culture, you may develop an unhealthy obsession paired with negative thoughts about yourself. Try to follow body positive pages that embrace different kinds of people in a healthy way.
  • Change The Way You Think About Food: Food is our source of fuel and sustenance. When we are grateful for our meals and learn to eat mindfully and in moderation, we can begin to recognise that food is not the enemy, but an important part of being healthy.
  • Move Your Body Because it Feels Good: You don’t need to visit the gym five times a week if you don’t want to. Forcing yourself to be active may only lead to resentment and frustration. Instead, try to find an activity you enjoy, such as dancing or yoga. In this way, you’ll feel good about the way in which you move and take care of your body, which is a great way to feel sexy.
  • Don’t Hold Yourself Back From Living Your Best Life: Oftentimes, people stop themselves from grabbing great opportunities because they feel they aren’t good enough. You are perfect as you are, and you deserve amazing opportunities. Go snorkelling, take the trip abroad, and have hot and uninhibited sex with the person you’ve got your eye on! Confidence is sexy.

At the end of the day, we are not advocating unhealthy lifestyles—we are merely bringing to light the toxicity surrounding diet culture and the way in which it contributes to a lack of self-love and sub-par sexual experiences. 

Living a life in moderation, adoring your body, and realising that you deserve it all is the attitude that will allow you to be proud of and love yourself in your own skin, and to be intimate with passion, love and/or lust. Turn the lights on, throw the sheets off the bed, and praise your body for all of its hard work and beauty.
Author: [email protected]

Helena is a sex-positive freelance copywriter in her early 30’s from Cape Town, South Africa. She’s travelled and lived in various countries in Asia and Europe for almost a decade and continues to live her dream — travelling the world independently as a copywriter. Having written for various companies and magazines within the industry, she has extensive knowledge in the field of sexual health, the escort industry, and sex toy marketing.