Embracing your Inner Sex Goddess is a tall order. Especially if all you can think about is how disgusting your stomach looks and how fat your thighs are.
For sure, negative thoughts running through your head provide a lousy set up for foreplay or any kind of sexually satisfying experience – for you both.
Here are five ways your body image woes impact your sex life.
- How you perceive and see your body affects desire and arousal
The more negatively you think about your body, the more sexually inhibited you will be. All phases of the sexual response cycle are affected by disliking your body. That includes desire/interest, arousal, and orgasm.
Being critical toward your own body means you are less in tune with pleasurable sexual sensations. You are less likely to want to have sex, to feel sexy, or to be present enough in the moment to experience the oohs and aaahs.
- Feeling bad about your body limits your sexual expression.
Worrying about how you look means you are less likely to get naked with your partner. If you are disgusted by cellulite on your thighs, for example, you are unlikely to be comfortable with your partner looking at or touching your thighs. (Cellulite is normal, folks! It occurs in 80-90% of women.)
If you feel badly about your body, you may not be okay with your partner freely touching or exploring your body. Also, you may be so caught up in your own negative body image thoughts that you are not present to touch or explore his body.
- Shame is associated with negative body image and with less satisfying sex.
Sooo many factors contribute to poor body image. A common one is a history of being teased. Let’s say you remember other kids in sixth grade calling you “Thunder Thighs”. Forget the fact it was fifteen plus years ago, and your body looks completely different now that you are beyond puberty.
Another common cause of negative body image and shame is the memory of how your mom talked about her own body and maybe yours too. Nonetheless, you still carry the beliefs, memories, and associated shame with you from that time. Shame and enjoyment cannot mutually coexist.
- Due to body dislike, the repertoire of sex positions is limited.
Self critical thoughts and feelings of disgust toward your body mean you are less likely to be playful and curious about different sex positions. Missionary style, perhaps under the covers and in the dark, may be the extent of what feels tolerable.
You may be unwilling to try a certain sex position because you think it makes your stomach look fat. At least give innovative sex positions a chance!
- Dissociation from the moment is more likely with body dissatisfaction.
Critiquing your body size or shape takes up space in your mind and takes away from the present moment.
Being distracted with negative body thoughts means you are less able to access and experience the pleasure and intimacy of the moment with your partner.
Another reason for dissociation is a history of a sexual assault or other boundary violation. A negative sexual experience from the past can be triggered, causing a sense of being somewhere else other than in the here and now.
The most powerful ‘sex organ’ is your brain. Your own thoughts and feelings about your body and your relationship with your body are what determine sexual satisfaction.
The key is not what you look or weigh. More moans of pleasure are available by addressing negative beliefs and thoughts your own brain generates. The only person who can do that for yourself is YOU.
Is Wabi-sabi the same as Wasabi, the horseradishy condiment?
Wabi-sabi is an ancient Asian philosophy centered on simplicity. It focuses on acceptance of life as is. It celebrates the beauty of things that are imperfect, temporary, and incomplete. It finds beauty in things that are modest and humble and unconventional. It is present-oriented. It is the embrace and reverence for imperfection. It is the joy of flaws. It is nature and humanity, connected and real.
Its principles are:
- Nothing lasts.
- Nothing is finished.
- Nothing is perfect.
These ideas are contrary to the ones that govern life in the 21st century. We tend to focus on the end goal. We fear, and we resist. We build defenses. We are drawn toward the shiny, the glitter, and the gold. McBigger = McBetter is the motto.
Of course, McBigger = McBetter does not apply to girls’/women’s bodies. (Yes, this is sarcasm)
We tend to define beauty in narrow terms. Beauty is a commodity that is sold to us, products or services promising us a perfect this or perfect that. Air brushed and Instagram filtered images are the standard to which we compare ourselves. Any blemish or scar must be eradicated, pronto!
Goddess forbid a body has any cellulite on it. Photoshop that sh*t immediately!
Why is there such disdain for what is real? What shows age? What nonconforms?
Ragan Chastain, a Fat Activist, talks about recognizing worth in all body sizes as a skill. To see beauty and worth in what may not be culturally sanctioned as worthy. THAT is wabi-sabi! Advertisers and other industries would lose tons of money, though, so they prefer to sell us what they lead us to believe we need in order to be of worth.
Who decides the standards for whatever we are evaluating?
Imagine the ease with which water flows in a river. Imagine the freedom of birds in the sky. Imagine the warmth of the sun.
Imagine the exhale that accompanies body acceptance. FEEL it, even more importantly. LIVE it, most importantly.
THAT is freedom.
How many times have you said, or heard others say, they want to develop a habit or get rid of one?
Habits such as going to bed earlier, consuming less alcohol, exercising more often, or saving more money each month are examples of habits people tend to deem worth having. Habits like driving too fast, eating late at night, excessive spending, or interrupting people when they speak are examples of habits more likely considered worth losing.
For many of us, identifying what we want to change about ourselves is easy. Actually making changes and sustaining them – not so easy!
Entire industries are based on promises of change. Even a holiday, New Years, is about resolving to improve something about ourselves, ie to change a particular habit.
As a psychologist, I am fascinated by what motivates people to change and how they stay motivated.
There are lots of tips out there for how to improve your chances of successful habit change. Generic suggestions typically include the importance of consistency, daily practice, keeping it simple, hanging out with likeminded people who are already successful with the habit you are trying to build, and incorporating accountability. Setting realistic, measurable goals and rewarding the baby steps along the way are other common recommendations.
Ideas such as these are solid. They make sense.
But not for everyone.
In my clinical practice, I notice that generic lists are not necessarily helpful for every individual. There are no blanket suggestions that work for all of us. “It depends” is often the response to questions about personality. So many factors influence our behavior in ways that make it impossible to state hard and fast facts about our inclinations. History, experience, culture, expectations, genetics, and family background are factors that can’t possibly be accounted for in a generic list of how to develop and sustain habits.
Former attorney and now author Gretchen Rubin apparently agrees. She developed a cool rubric to help people improve their likelihood of making habits stick. She says that knowing how we respond to expectations can make the difference between success and failure. Each of us generally falls into one of four categories — Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel—depending on how we respond to outer and inner expectations. When we know in which category we fall, we are better able to understand ourselves. That works to our advantage, especially when it comes to goals we set for ourselves and habits we want to strengthen.
Here is the basic gist:
- Upholders respond to outer and inner expectations. They tend not to disappoint others or themselves.
- Questioners question expectations and will meet expectations only if the explanation makes sense to them.
- Rebels resist outer and inner expectations. This is the least common category.
- Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet self-imposed expectations. They benefit significantly from external accountability. This is the most common category of the four.
Recognizing which tendency you have (to do this, click here to take her quiz) will guide your approach to how to make a habit stick.
This column is not a review of Ms Rubin’s theory, nor is it an endorsement of it necessarily. Her theory though highlights a basic tenet: No one approach works for everyone.
My take home messages are:
Know(ing )yourself is an important requirement to making effective and lasting change. What works for you based on your personality, prior attempts, and/or reasons for wanting to make changes? This may shift over time and is going to be different from the person to your left or right.
Practice makes progress. If you fall off the horse, just get back on. No drama.
Perfection is the enemy of good. All or none thinking (“I have to do this perfectly or I am a failure”) is a setup . Throwing in the towel due to less than perfect execution or outcome will doom any possible success.
I will sign off now. My habit of being in bed by 10 pm must prevail. I am an Upholder, after all!
“To the Bone”, a recently released Netflix movie, has generated discussion on the topic of eating disorders. The New York Times reviewed this movie. Anything that promotes awareness is a plus.
The movie itself is no Academy Award winner. It reminds me of an after school special from the 1980s.
In a separate blog I will review the movie. For this blog, I have only one message.
One of the most heinous sentiments in the world is “I wish I had the discipline to have Anorexia.”
No, you don’t. Do not wish you had Anorexia.
Ask anyone with Anorexia or who has recovered from it, and you will know why it is nothing to wish for and glorify.
Why do I say this?
kills up to 18% of its sufferers,
takes a humongous toll on families,
completely sucks all the joy out of life,
causes the body to self cannibalize,
and takes over the mind, as in a TOTAL HIJACK.
Anorexia is NOT:
due to vanity,
a diet. (Although it often starts as a diet.)
I had Anorexia over thirty years ago. It was HORRIBLE.
Hope is valuable. So is proper medical, psychological, and nutritional treatment.
I am dedicated to being the change I want for the world, as hokey sounding a vision as that might be.
Today is the birthday of the guy who invented the graham cracker. His invention of the graham cracker wasn’t for the creation of S’mores, or for dunking in milk. In fact, the dude created graham flour, which later turned into graham crackers, with the hope of killing the sex vibe among teens and adults. He thought peeps needed to be sexually tamed because they were ADDICTED to sex, gluttony, and all things material.
The year? 1830…
Sylvestor Graham was a Massachusetts minister, born in 1794. His fellow evangelicals were focused on social issues like suffrage, slavery, and tobacco consumption. Graham’s mission was to eradicate carnal desire. Yes, his evangelical stance was that American’s desires were animalistic, and he had the solution.
Graham was certain that people were sex crazed, and their diet and sex lives were to blame. So, based on his whole grain “graham” flour, he prescribed a particular way of eating. By the way, this is also why he is sometimes known as the “Father” of dieting. Booooooo! (Two thumbs down.)
His diet recommendations called for very little meat and butter; no alcohol; no flavorings or spices; only the most minimal amount of milk and eggs; and cold, hard-to-chew food. He believed this type of diet, along with particular ways of bathing and sleeping, would keep internal organs healthy. The alternative was considered immoral activity (ie eating tasty food and having sex) and would cause poor health.
Graham was certain that sex more than once a month or any masturbation damaged the brain, and that recreational sex caused illnesses such as pulmonary problems, spinal disease, epilepsy, and insanity.
His bottom line: If people’s drive for sex and tasty food could be quelled, they would have better self-control and overall health. Society would be a better place for all.
So there is lots of irony here. One: When Nabisco began to mass produce the graham cracker in the 1930s, it contained both processed flour and sugar. Graham touted these two ingredients as causing sex addiction and insanity. Two: What he thought would cause the demise of society is responsible for the popularity of his cracker: mass production, sugar and ‘impure’ ingredients. Third: In 1878 Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, a Graham disciple, created cereal. Following its success, Kellogg formulated his recipe. The breakfast cereal industry was launched!
Let’s cut to the chase: To celebrate Sylvestor Graham’s birthday today,
- Have sex
- Eat some more s’mores!
- With extra chocolate and marshmallow!
- And maybe with some Trix (from a cereal box or in the bedroom) on top!
Chant to come?
Yoga is not just for the svelte, green tea-drinking, virtuous types. We can all benefit from down dogging it, even from the comfort of a chair. Chair yoga is a real thing. As a famous yoga master said, “If you can breathe, you can do yoga”.
The whole purpose of yoga is to unify. That is what the word ‘yoga’ means – to yoke, or bring together. Yoga brings together the mind, body, and the deeper aspects of Self called spirit.
There are at least a thousand benefits of doing yoga. One benefit of a regular yoga practice is better sex. The way yoga affects sexual desire, arousal, and orgasm has actually been scientifically studied. It is a tough job, but someone has to do it…
One such study was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. Women who did 22 yoga asanas (poses) a few times a week for 12 weeks reported increased desire and arousal and better (ie more intense) orgasms. The authors speculate it may be because yoga practice strengthens pelvic (mula bandha) and abdominal muscules (uddihana bandha). The improvement in mood associated with yoga practice is likely another reason for better sex. Being happier or at least less depressed or anxious, makes ‘getting in the mood (for sex)’ more likely. A third reason, and one of my favorites, is the internal shift in experience within the body that an ongoing practice creates. Ask any regular yoga practitioner about how her relationship with her body has changed after practicing yoga for at least a few times, and she will more than likely tell you something about improved body image. Yoga teaches us to tune into ourselves, our feelings, and our internal physical sensations.
No judgment, simply noticing and enjoying.
Happiness. Ahhh. The elusive pursuit. “I just want to be happy!” say friends, family, and strangers. Magazine headlines, book titles, websites, FB posts, BLOGS (hello!) – all promise happiness. “Do this!” and you will be happy, the lists say. Advertisers suggest that if you use their product, you too will be happy (and beautiful, and successful, and fill-in-the-blank). I have been thinking of what not to do in order to increase the likelihood of feeling happy. The bottom line, regardless of the type of list:
There is only one person in life who can create your happiness: YOU
Here are ideas of happiness “DO NOTs”:
1.DO NOT EXTERNALIZE
By this I mean to look inside of yourself instead of basing your happiness on what you believe other people say will lead to happiness. Looking outside and at the ideas of family, friends, society, how-to lists (like this one!) – or to products – is not likely to lead to sustained joy.
2.DO NOT “SHOULD” WHAT YOU FEEL, REALLY FEEL
This may sound super corny. Corny can still be true. Often we intellectualize, acting in terms of “shoulds”, and we trump what our instincts tell us. Our instincts tend to be accurate guides. Learn to trust your built-in compass. Feel what you feel. Be in it.
3.DO NOT resist darkness
Life contains both dark and light. It sounds counterintuitive, but when you embrace the darkness, you open the door to the light. That sounds like one of those feel- good mantras – and it happens to be true. I know that it is through these dark times that I learn the most. I breathe it all in, and I notice what it is that’s making me feel fear. I try to get curious about my internal reality and stay in the present moment. This is hard to do when I’m feeling down. I want to run away and distract. But when I dive in, I see that the darkness is a virtual reality created by moi. I look at the fear of not having enough, and I see that what I’m afraid of is a thought I choose to entertain.
4.DO NOT say “no” to the now.
The more I try to escape the present moment, the more miserable I am. This continually surprises me. When I stay right here, right now, even the most ordinary tasks become extraordinary. Washing the dishes even feels alive. But if I try to exchange the now for the future, I lose out on a lot of opportunity. Being in the now is simply about noticing what’s here, right now. As I write this, I hear my fingers tapping on the keyboard. I notice the hum of my desktop, and I feel my butt on the chair. And above all, I feel my feelings. I’m feeling a bit anxious as I write this. And that’s okay.
5.DO NOT BE afraid of making mistakes
If I am afraid of making mistakes, I assume that I have something to lose. I also assume that there is a perfect way of doing something. Yet, I do not and cannot know any of this. I don’t know if making a mistake helps me grow. Maybe making a mistake is the necessary path for me. We live in our heads. We manufacture a reality that we believe is real when it’s not.
6.DO NOT aim for perfection
We try to be perfect. We think it’ll bring approval from others. And then that approval will make us feel loved and feel good about ourselves. Yet, the act of trying to be perfect means dismissing ourselves. It means not loving who we are right now.
7.DO NOT chase happiness
I fall into the habit of chasing happiness. But to me, it’s more like I’m avoiding my feelings. I feel bad, so I want to be happy. I create an image of a future where I’m happy, and I long for it. I want it now. I think to myself, “If only I had that, I would be happy.” Yet, that thought keeps me stuck. The wanting happiness snatches me out of the present moment. When I let go of wanting to be somewhere else, I notice what’s right here. Sometimes it isn’t what I want, but even what I think I want is another thought. Each thought that says I need something else is an opportunity for me to stay in the present moment.
8.DO NOT try to control life
I can’t and don’t control life. Neither do you. I control my reactions and actions but not much else. When I try to manipulate life, people, and places, I end up exhausted. It’s not my domain. It’s not up to me to control outcomes. All I can do is follow my heart, my inner compass, and see what happens. I am here to experience both the good and the bad, and everything in between.
9.DO NOT put off your dreams
Dreams are scary. It can take years to muster up the courage to do the things you truly want to do. Dreams begin with one step. Start somewhere. And start before you feel ready.
10.DO NOT try to fix others
Let people travel their own path. We have mistakes we need to make. We have experiences to collect. When we see that life will take care of itself, we have no need to control others. This can been especially hard with loved ones. There is no fixing, because there is no perfection. There is only this moment.
One of the things I learned from being a psychologist is that we tend to take our thoughts too seriously.
We tend to take life too seriously.
Laugh! Lighten up on yourself!
You are worthy.
These ideas are adapted from the work of Henri Junttila
“All deliberate change first comes from denying the logic that most gives you comfort”
What is Mike Dooley, the author of the quote, saying?
My take is that he is reminding us that change is hard, and that we tend to take our thoughts as fact, especially when those thoughts have become automatic.
It is easy to convince ourselves with rationalizations. We convince ourselves with the familiar comfort of certain logic, even if it leads to maladaptive decisions.
Let’s say “Sara” wants to establish a workout schedule. Her goal is to exercise in order to feel more energized in her body. She decides on the third day, though, that it is really too cold to go for a walk. Rather than challenge that logic by asking herself, for example, if there is some other activity–perhaps indoors–she could do for exercise, or dress in clothing that will keep her warm, she convinces herself that it really is too cold to work out.
How do YOU know when you are rationalizing, allowing yourself to be deceived by your own convincing logic?
My patients and friends tell me they ‘can’t meditate’.
When I ask why they believe this, they often say things like:
“Because my mind is too…… (fill in the blank: active, crazy, wild, busy)”
“Because it is BORING!”
or something like
“That is not my thing” or “I am just not like that”.
In our fast paced, productivity oriented world, the idea of just sitting and being present with the breath seems lame.
It can be frustrating too.
Few of us have had much practice, and it may not feel natural.
The only way for it to feel more natural is to practice it.
Try it! Maybe for one minute in the beginning.
We all have one minute to spare over the course of 24 hours, right?
Let me know how it goes.