3 Diet Don’ts for a Healthier Sex Life
By AUGUST MCLAUGHLIN
With a new year ahead, many people are setting their sights on dietary shifts that will help them feel more confident and attractive in their skivvies. More than 105 million Americans dieted in 2012 alone, spending $20 million on weight-loss products.
While eating healthier and staying fit are terrific goals, restrictive diets have a 95-percent failure rate. They also bring significant risks, many of which make physical intimacy a lot less appealing and your body less able to perform sexually.
1. "Cleansing" Away Toxins
Cleansing plans involve guzzling juices or water and taking supplements, all geared toward detoxification. Typically, you bypass solid food while fasting on liquids for a few days or longer.
While the premise appeals to many, there's not a shred of science to support it. Given sufficient food and nutrients, the body cleanses itself. Starving it by fasting can cause numerous side effects, such as lethargy, nausea, irritability and dizziness, all of which can make sex unappealing. Many of the recommended supplements are simply laxatives, which raise your risk for gas, cramping and other unsexy problems.
2. Skimping on Carbs
Low-carb diets have turned "carb" into a four-letter word for many healthy-lifestyle enthusiasts. While eating too many low-nutrient carbohydrate sources like pretzels and white bread isn't healthy, skimping on carbs overall could be even worse.
Carbohydrates are the body's main energy source, and your brain -- your most sexual organ -- needs twice as much per cell as the rest of your body. In other words, carbs fuel your sex life. Skimping on carbs can cause low levels of feel-good chemicals associated with arousal, such as serotonin, and make you feel blah, tense and agitated -- in other words, not exactly in the mood.
3. Eating Too Much or Too Little
There's no precise amount of food you need daily, but going to extremes can hinder your wellness -- sexual health and function included. Eating excessively routinely is a major contributor to obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease, all of which can cause low libido. Undereating consistently reduces sexual sensations by lowering levels of sex hormones. Both scenarios can cause emotional problems, such as heightened stress, depressive moods and anxiety.
Rather than follow a cleansing plan or restrict food overall, feed your body well. Whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish and whole grains, promote overall health and improved circulation -- keys for sexual arousal.
For positive energy levels, stay on top of your hunger by eating when you're hungry and stopping when you're comfortably full. This often means eating every three to five hours. Limit distractions, such as watching TV, while you're eating to more easily recognize your body's cues.
Aim for balanced meals and snacks, emphasizing nutritious carb sources, such as low-fat yogurt, fruit, vegetables and whole grains. When you do indulge in a less healthy treat like candy or fried food, practice moderation. No one food will make or break an overall healthy diet.
Stay well hydrated, especially when you're outdoors or active in hot weather. If your urine appears clear or translucent, you're probably doing OK. In addition to water, herbal teas, milk and fresh fruits and vegetables promote hydration.
Engage in physical activity you like, or find ways to make exercise enjoyable -- such as working out with a friend or to your favorite music. Regular exercise promotes overall health and stronger sexual function.
While you're at it, embrace your body as it is. Aiming for society's depiction of a "bikini" or "beach" body can spur negative self-talk and tinker with self-confidence. None of that makes dietary shifts or weight control easier. Confidence and self-embracement are not only sexy, they're also powerful ways to inspire self-care. If you appreciate and respect your body, you'll be more likely to nourish it with healthy foods and relax and enjoy yourself in the bedroom.
Readers -- Have you tried eating certain foods for sexual health? Did you feel like they worked? Do you notice a difference between poor diet and your sex life? Leave a comment below and let us know!
August McLaughlin is a nationally recognized health and sexuality writer and creator of the empowering brand Girl Boner®, with work appearing in DAME Magazine, the Huffington Post and more. Known for melding personal passion, artistry and activism, August uses her skills as a public speaker and journalist to inspire other women to embrace their bodies and selves, making way for fuller, more authentic lives. Learn more about her at augustmclaughlin.com.