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with Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Would You Give Up Sex to Drop Weight?

no sex

Jupiterimages, Brand X Pictures

Many years ago, I read a study conducted by Rand Corporation researchers in which people were asked what price they would pay to finally have and maintain an ideal body. The results blew my mind. Most people in the survey indicated that they’d be willing to give up plenty of their pleasurable lifestyle habits (e.g. smoking, watching TV, alcohol, vacations) to achieve the Holy Grail of bodies. However, there was a significant minority that said they’d be more than willing to lose a limb if it meant they could finally be the weight and shape of their dreams. For years, that finding has echoed in my mind as I have conducted studies and continue to work with my wonderful patients. This issue of weight goes much deeper than most people appreciate.

On the heels of this older research comes a recent poll conducted by Kelton Research for NutriSystem in which 1001 men and women were asked what they’d be willing to give up to achieve weight related goals. People seem to be highly motivated not to gain weight. First up, 52% of women adamantly stated they’d be happy to bag sex for an entire summer if it meant they wouldn’t gain 10 pounds. Not surprisingly, only 25% of men agreed. 66% of those polled said that dropping pounds definitely made them feel sexier. How much weight do you need to remove to rock and roll? According to those polled, about 23 pounds lies between you and your dream romp in the sheets.

It gets even more interesting. If folks were given a choice of dropping 10-20 pounds or getting a job promotion, wipe the shock off your face when I tell you that the majority went with the weight option. Fitness magazine did its own poll in 2006 and found that over 50% of adults would rather lose their job than get fat. Continuing in the financial vein, the current poll revealed that 63% of women and 55% of men would rather be poor and average weight than rich and obese. Not even dollar signs can deter people from their body quest.

Here are other sacrifices men and women were willing to undergo in order to achieve a flat stomach over the summer:

1)    54% — stop watching TV

2)    54% — stop shopping for anything but basics for survival

3)    42% — turn off the cell phone

4)    36% — unplug the computer

5)    21% — forsake sex

6)    6% — no longer shower (yikes)

How about the people in the poll who didn’t care to sacrifice? 46% of those polled would not “diet” because they do not want to give up their favorite foods. 25% don’t like the stress of eating more healthfully while 39% think it’s just plain a pain and inconvenient. Per chance you’ve shared some of these sentiments at some time?

For those who have a “dieting” history, over 50% have struggled to shed weight over the past 2 years, and 30% have tried over the past year. Women have undergone some kind of diet on average 16 times in their lifetime, compared to 8 times for men.

At the end of the day, this is one of those polls that gives you a little food for thought. It makes you wonder about yourself. What is your attitude about weight? What you would be willing to do to achieve body Nirvana says a lot about what role weight plays in your life. The folks who’d be willing to sacrifice a limb are not playing around. They value the body perfect at such a high level that loss of limb is inconsequential.

My question to everyone centers on the issue of expectation. What kind of life changes are you expecting by achieving your perception of the ideal body? If you’re lonely, are you expecting attractive people suddenly drop in your lap? Are you seeking joy and happiness? How do you think your life would improve? Would it?

Step back for a moment and really think about the weight-expectation connection. I’ll wager to guess that the mental angst most people carry around about their excess weight generates so much pain because it’s associated with expectations and hopes of a better life. This is so profound for some people that they’re willing to pay a price that would baffle people who don’t have a weight and/or body image issue. You’d think money would trump weight. Apparently it doesn’t if you’re still obese. Having sex pales in comparison with holding onto a great body. It’s clear that how we physically appear and present ourselves in life is so important that we’d can TV, cell phones and computers to achieve and sustain it.

What about you? What’s your experience? Log onto my Diet Community discussion, “Does Staying a Great Weight Beat Sex?” and share your thoughts.

Posted by: Pamela Peeke, MD at 6:07 am

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