How to Discuss Sex and Self-Confidence After Extreme Weight Loss
This has been a very difficult post to write.
For one reason... I'm going to talk about sex. (In my head, all I can think is "oh my god, parents, please stop reading right now" even though I know they will read every word.) As much as I kind of make a living with posting half naked pictures of myself and talk about all the wonderful, vulnerable details regarding my body - there is something different about talking about something so personal and still relatively 'taboo' in our society.
The other reason? Finding the authority to talk about this topic. It's silly - part of me feels like an expert in the field of sex and confidence before and after extreme weight loss. Unfortunately, I also am very aware of my privilege and luck when it comes to my personal experiences. I was fortunate to find an amazing guy at the age of 14 who was my best friend, my first real kiss, was there loving me at my largest and smallest, and recently married me. I realize my perspective is narrow compared to someone on a very different path than me, and my advice and perspective may only get so much mileage for my readers. I've also spent time coming to terms with that fact because that is the beauty of the internet and the age we live in.
The best we can do is share our experience and hope parts of it resonate and help someone else.
When I decided I wanted to lose weight, I kept a journal and wrote down all the things I thought losing weight would help me do. Some were reasonable, like easier traveling (being more comfortable and able to take public transportation was a huge victory after losing weight for me) or being able to move and workout easier - weight loss directly helped those goals. I also had a very popular wish for my weight loss - that I would be more confident once I was at my goal weight.
There is definitely a deeply held belief in our society that a slimmer waistline means more self-confidence. I say it is deeply held because as many times as I read posts like this one stating that weight loss would not give me endless amounts of self-love, part of me still believed that would be the case. To a degree - weight loss did help. There is something about being able to run up a flight of stairs and not be winded, or dancing with your significant other and not be drenched in sweat after one dance. Those things did lead to a boost in confidence for sure!
Unfortunately, while losing my weight and getting healthier has been one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself - it didn’t solve every issue. If anything, other issues and insecurities popped up to deal with! I grew up obese - I knew how to deal with it, I understood my bigger body. As flawed as I saw it - it was mine. Losing the weight gave me a new body - a body with bony bits, jiggly bits, and flat out flabby bits.
While healthy for the first time in my life, I had to deal with a new self-image. I was now dealing with looking like someone who had a pretty good body when clothed - yet naked, all I could see for awhile was what I had done to my body for my first 23 years of life.
I called my year after my weight loss surgery my “selfish year” in which I was fully dedicated to me and my goals. What I realized after was during that time, I was unapologetic about what I was going through. My now-husband, Anthony, saw me celebrate, he saw me cry. He saw me point out new body parts I loved, and he saw me criticize my body unfairly. I told him my insecurities, when he did something that made me feel bad in some way - I told him. When he did something that made me feel good - I told him.
You may be wondering - what does this have to do about the sex conversation I was promised? How do I talk to my partner about sex?
During my "selfish year", I realized more than ever - I deserved health, respect, and love -from my significant other, and more importantly, myself.
In two overarching themes, here is my advice for more body confidence and better sex after extreme weight loss:
1. Remember that you are a priority.
You know that expression about how you can't pour from an empty cup? This stems from that. Whether you are here trying to decide how to make your health a priority, how to be a better lover, a better partner - remember, you can't pour from an empty cup.
When I decided I wanted to have weight loss surgery, I started the process and did not tell Anthony for months. I was terrified - he was one of the best parts of my life, what if this somehow ended things? It was finally my own mother who pointed out - your health is paramount to any relationship. If he didn’t support your desire to get healthy, you don’t have a relationship to fight for.
I began to realize how true this was for every aspect of a relationship, especially sexually. Just like health, you deserve to feel love, and you deserve to feel sexy and confident with your partner. So many of us forget that key idea that you deserve to feel good. Instead of focusing on what your partner will think of your new body and letting fear drive you, re-frame it. You deserve to feel loved. You deserve to be appreciated, and feel safe with your significant other.
Whenever these fears creep into my mind - the fear of rejection or revulsion, I consider how I would act if my husband came to me with those fears for himself. I can't even imagine coming to him with anything but love, support, and kindness. His insecurities make me want to hug him that much tighter and make sure he knows that every bad thought he is having is ridiculous, because he is the most attractive, loving partner on the planet in my eyes.
When I think about it that way - why would I expect him to treat me less than?
If I didn't think about my partner that way, is this relationship a healthy one to strive to keep?
Feeling confident with your body can be very self driven, but making sure your partner knows what you need to feel good in your relationship is key to getting it - as nice as it would be, they can't read your mind. Trust me - when you are getting what you need from your partner to feel sexy and loved, your confidence goes through the roof!
2. Rip off the band-aid.
You know what I am talking about. That conversation that has been playing in the back of your head for days that you want to talk about but never vocalize. That thing you really want to try with your partner but haven't had the nerve to ask or just do it already? It's time to face it.
Here is the funny thing about those conversations when something has been bothering you. Best case scenario, it is something that has been swirling around in your partner's head too and they are happy you finally brought it up. Or, worst case, your partner is blindsided by the conversation - here's the wonderful thing though, you can now be productive with those thoughts and seek resolution.
These conversations are not limited to just making you feel more confident, but relate to every aspect of developing a healthy sexual relationship. No matter what issue you are dealing with in your personal situation, you deserve to be made a priority and to share that information with your partner.
For example, through a lot of college and some time after, I felt blindsided a lot from one particular conversation with Anthony that kept coming up in regards to an issue he saw with our sex life. Looking back on it, it can be described as us figuring out our love languages (if you are unfamiliar with the subject, check out The 5 Love Languages - it's a game changer!) I realized years after this argument that my top love language is quality time - I just like hanging out with my partner a whole bunch. Anthony's is physical touch - intimacy is very important to him. What this ended up causing in our years in college and shortly afterwords was me being decently happy and pleased with where our relationship was - and Anthony feeling ignored, or like he wasn't being made a priority.
Every time he brought it up, I felt terrible because in no way did I feel like I was ignoring him - I could sit there and list off ways I showed him I loved him (I spent time learning his hobbies, I went out of my way to cook for him, I tried to make special dates for us). What I realized was that is how I liked being shown I was special and loved. Those actions made me feel taken care of and important in someone's life. With these conversations, I slowly realized that a simple night alone with each other in the bedroom meant way more to my partner than knowing all about the video game he was playing! He loved my cooking, but going out of my way to smack his butt in an empty aisle of the grocery store made him feel like he was important to me.
If he had never had those conversations with me, causing us both to talk about what we needed from our relationship - it would have lead to a lot of resentment and probably us eventually ending it. By us both realizing we needed to be priorities, it lead to us being more honest and open - and getting what we wanted and needed out of our partnership.
As my last bit of parting advice in regards to sex, here are my nitty-gritty words of wisdom:
Your body is going to change after weight loss, and your confidence will ebb and flow. Embrace your good days and act on it with your partner! Sexual confidence can be very cyclical - once you feel confident to initiate and act on it, you feel more confident after and that confidence carries over to the next time. Push your boundaries, try new things with your partner. Sex should be fun and exciting - and something to look forward to!
Loose skin is a fact of life after extreme weight loss, and yes - it will lay funny, it will make funny noises when you are moving in certain positions. It's a part of life. Laugh and move on. Remember - bodies and sex are weird, loose skin or not. Have fun with it, and if it really is making you uncomfortable - there are always new positions to try!
My favorite advice to give is work on being vulnerable with your partner. When I was at my largest - I hated when Anthony touched my belly button. He had a habit when we were falling asleep that he would spoon me and his hand would fall across my stomach and he would jokingly touch my belly button. I have no idea why this was such an issue for me - but I hated it. It made me hyper-aware of how big my stomach was, how uncomfortable I was with my size. When I decided to lose weight, I explained to Anthony that I would have loose skin and I did not want to feel uncomfortable with him anymore - and so no spot was off limits. By establishing this, and making it a trusted part of our relationship - it helped me not be self-conscious with him. He can play with my loose skin, and I will laugh. We have established he loves me, I trust him, and I refuse to hide my body from him.
If you haven't been able to tell, sex and confidence is one of my favorite topics.
I want to hear from you - what are your biggest issues or fears with sex or intimacy? I hope to expand more on this subject in the future with a youtube video, and may even convince Anthony to partake as well to answer questions from the spouse point of view.
Feel free to comment below, or if you are more comfortable sharing through email, you can always send me a message through my contact form.