sexual frustration and overeating

I’ve written extensively on how food is used to stimulate sexual desire and how food can be paired with sexual desire. These topics all deal with food being the instigator and sex being the result. But what about the other way around? Do sexual practices influence the food we eat? It turns out that sexual frustration can actually lead to overeating.

It’s no wonder that food is so often used as a replacement for sex. We release some of the same hormones during both activities. The same hormones we get from eating things like chocolate, phenylethamine and endorphins, are actually produced during sex as well. So by eating when we feel sexual desire, we are actually somewhat simulating the same mood as we would get from having sex (

Can this sexy hunk of chocolate replace your sexual desires?

Many websites list overeating as one of the most common symptoms of sexual frustration, but the relationship is much more complicated than this. Sex is not just about releasing hormones; it’s a complex activity that is typically just as emotional as physical. In their book, Weight, Sex, and Marriage: A Delicate Balance, Richard Stuart and Barbara Johnson explain the complex relationship between weight and sex in the context of marriage, using personal anecdotes from many couples to explain their ideas. There are four scenarios involving food and sex that I found they highlighted:

1. Woman have sexual frustration because her partner doesn’t want sex so she overeats to defy him:

It may seem contrary to popular belief, but typically the most frequent reason couples attend sex therapy is because the husband isn’t interested in sex (37). The couple’s sex life is typically controlled by the partner who wants the least sex so a faithful wife (or husband) is often thrust into a life of sexual frustration.

Many women who desire more sex than their husbands desire, gain weight. At first they do this to alleviate the desire
inside them by engaging in some form of pleasure and as a way to pretend they’re not really upset they aren’t desired by their husband. According to Stuart and Johnson, “Many apparently believe it ‘hurts less’ if they deliberately contribute to their own rejection by gaining weight. It’s as if they’re saying, ‘You can’t fire me, I quit!”

But after a while, the weight gained actually causes women’s sexual desire to diminish. According to one woman’s story, “While I was thin, I couldn’t stop thinking about sex, and I stuffed myself with junk food every time he rejected me. Eventually, I got back to my high weight, and discovered, much to my relief, that my ‘urgent’ need for sex had gone away,” (58).

2. Sex is boring – food is way more interesting:

Other women turn to food to when their romantic lives seem to become mundane. According to one woman who used to love having sex with her husband but is now board with the routine, food can be a replacement for the sex she once loved. She said, “Lately I find late night snacks much more enjoyable than sex. And if an extra ten pounds makes him less interested, so much the better.”

Many people try to alleviate their relationship trouble by having a relationship with food

3. Better sex can also cause a healthier diet:

As sexual frustration can lead to overeating, the opposite can also be true – sexual fulfillment can lead to a healthy relationships with food. According to Stuart and Johnson, “As a woman finds finds increased emotional and sexual intimacy with her husband, food often becomes less important. Having overcome the emotional emptiness of a burned-out relationship, she has no need to seek out edible substitutes for love and affection. One woman describes how her husband’s attention is a perfectly satisfying replacement for overeating: “I don’t worry about maintaining my weight loss – the extra affection I get from my husband is enough,” (102).

4. Weight loss can lead to better sex:

This certainly isn’t always true. As one woman described in the book, she continued to lose weight in order to entice her husband to be interested in her sexual again but it didn’t work. BUT, it is certainly true that better self-confidence can lead to better sex, and sometimes (healthy!) weight loss can lead to higher self-confidence.

According to one woman’s story, sex became a much more fulfilling activity after she lost weight. She said, “At my heaviest, sex was urgent because it was the only time I felt loved or needed. Even though I was too fat to participate actively when I weighted 211 pounds, I had to have the closeness. At 145, I’m more mobile, I feel better about being seen in the nude, and I enjoy taking baths with my husband. And best of all, we make love now because we want to, not because I have to,” (102).

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