Getting Your Sexy Back

News and Advice, Women's Health
on September 9, 2010

Question: I was overweight until I was 16, when I peaked at 206 on the scale. I went down to 150 in the course of a year. Now, at 23, I weigh a healthy 135. Here is my problem: I have zero confidence with men. The only time I feel sexy is when I feel "wanted" by a man, and even that is not working for me right now. It's becoming a problem with my current boyfriend of two years. I am confident in just about every other way. How can I go from feeling sex-less to sexy? -Katie

DEAR KATIE: What you're describing is pretty common among the Former Fat Girls I've talked to–including me. It was so inconceivable to me that anyone would find me attractive that I think I was probably asked out a zillion times without my knowing it. You know, like when the guy says, "You like Mexican food? I LOVE Mexican food." (Hint, hint!) And you go off on a tangent about how much you love Casa Gorda's cheese dip and margaritas, but that they're not as good as the place down the street, and besides, a Mexican restaurant is only as good as their guacamole, and yadda yadda yadda. Completely neutralizing the conversation, sucking all the sexual tension out of the exchange.

It took time for me to stop treating every guy I met like a buddy. I lost my weight in my late 20s, and didn't meet my husband until I was 37. (Hopefully, that little fact won't completely depress you.) But I really didn't recognize that I had a problem until late in my process. The fact that you're seeing it now, at your age, gives you an advantage. There is also an increased recognition that women with weight issues can have related problems with their sexuality–and therapists who can deal with those issues specifically.

Other than therapy, though, here are a few ideas to help you get in touch with your inner Beyonce.

Dance with your man. Long before "Dancing With the Stars," I stumbled onto this secret. My husband and I actually met dancing, and dancing was a huge part of our courtship. I'm not talking about the impersonal moves of the 80s and 90s. I'm talking about partner dances that force you to actually touch each other, even look into each other's eyes. The waltz. Salsa (bonus for hip shaking!). The cha cha. Swing. You can find ballroom classes at anywhere from your Y to community center to the iconic Fred Astaire. Any time I feel like our relationship needs a bit more spice, I get a sitter and we go dance. It's the best remedy.

Do Zumba, bellydancing, or (don't judge) pole dancing. Zumba, a fitness class that mixes everything from hip-hop moves to the Charleston has swept the nation because, frankly it's fun. But it also gets your hips swingin' and your booty shakin'. Even though it's normally taught in your typical aerobics room, you can come away feeling like you've just took a turn as a chorus girl in a Broadway musical. (Hey, that's an idea: Zumba, The Musical!) Slip on one of those little fitness skorts so you feel more feminine doing it–I've found that helps. You can also find bellydancing classes just about anywhere–it's great for your abs and back, and I don't think I need tell you how sensual the dance can be. In recent years, pole dancing has become popular as a fitness class (believe it or not), and I know specifically of breast cancer survivors who have used the pursuit to help them get their mojo back after feeling robbed of their femininity after mastectomy.

Dress up. I'm not saying go formal if the occasion doesn't call for it. But I've found that when I'm feeling bad about myself, I stop trying. I wear my comfy jeans, my drab jackets and I try to fade into the background. Try wearing more feminine silhouettes: dresses and skirts, those wonderful flowy sweaters everyone ís showing right now for fall, heels (even little kitten heels). Trade in the baggy p.j. pants for a short little nightgown, even if it feels weird. And wear makeup. You might even want to go take advantage of the free makeovers regularly offered at department store counters, and/or have a store's personal shopper pick out some styles you'd never think to try on. You never know, that might help you "see" yourself in a new, sexy way.

Try therapy. If you do opt for therapy, someone who specializes in counseling women with eating disorders would probably be very good at helping you get over this issue.