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A Catch-22: Body image affects sex life as women age

Michelle Obama exercises her right to bare her arms.

Associated Press (2012)

Michelle Obama exercises her right to bare her arms.

I just got back from visiting my old college roommate in Monterey, Calif.

We were standing in the bathroom together, getting ready, sharing the mirror just as we had a lot of years ago in our Ohio State University dorm.

She said, "Isn't it great to be old enough to just accept yourself the way you are? Hell, I earned all these wrinkles."

In the interest of full disclosure: wrinkles, schminkles. She has one great body for an, ahem, older woman (because she inherited her metabolism, not because she knows where to find the locker room in a gym or even where the closest gym is).

She's one of the lucky ones. But, according to a recent book, just about every woman on the planet — regardless of weight — thinks everyone is lucky except her when it comes to their bodies.

A new book, Not Tonight Dear, I Feel Fat by Michael Alvear (a male author with some pretty keen insight into females), sheds some light on a topic most of us actually prefer would stay in the dark: the fact that we hate our bodies.

He wastes no time telling his readers that studies show underweight women are just as dissatisfied with their bodies as normal or overweight women. In other words, you're not going to shed your problems as you shed the pounds.

Alvear points out one really amazing Catch-22: Some women don't want to have sex because they feel bad about their bodies — but having sex actually creates a more positive body image. His comments are backed by statistics. Psychology Today surveyed 4,500 women, and 67 percent said good sexual experiences contribute to satisfactory feelings about their bodies. It kind of makes sense when you think of it like that.

But, if you're still not buying it, there are all sorts of nips and tucks and tightenings you can get for those areas of your body that really bother you — like those flabby, old-lady arms.

Upper arm lifts for women, which can include liposuction or removing loose skin from the back of the arms, have skyrocketed a staggering 4,378 percent in the past decade, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

They said it's a trend fueled by sleeveless fashions — and toned arms of celebrities such as first lady Michelle Obama, followed closely by Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Biel, Demi Moore and Kelly Ripa.

The bottom line is we are who we are. You can like yourself and have a great life or you can despise the way you look and hide yourself away.

I don't know about you, but I want to live, live, live.

Patti Ewald can be reached at pewald@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8746.

The naked truth

Women's Health magazine did a global survey of 10,000 women (3,500 in the United States) to better understand women's attitudes toward weight, diet and body image. Here are some of the things they found:

• 63 percent of women in the United States and 99 percent in Vietnam would not pose for a nude portrait, while 51 percent of Chilean women surveyed are totally game.

• 69 percent of U.S. women are comfortable with a male massage therapist, while 67 percent of women in the Philippines and 56 percent in India are not.

• 82 percent of German women said walking around naked in heels is sexy, but 61 percent of Chinese women think it's tacky and coarse.

• 50 percent of Vietnamese and Indonesian women said they've never slept naked with a significant other.

• What American women do naked: 82 percent put makeup on in front of a mirror; 71 percent talk on the phone; 31 percent eat a meal; and 22 percent cook.

• 84 percent of women in Turkey would never send their guy a naked photo, but 79 percent of Russian women would.

• 22 percent of Aussie women say they have gotten naked on the beach; only 5 percent in Thailand have.

• One thing all women agreed on: Their stomach is their biggest insecurity when getting naked: 48 percent in the United States; 52 percent in the U.K.; 58 percent in China; 51 percent in Chile; and 37 percent in India.

Source: Women's Health

A Catch-22: Body image affects sex life as women age 06/25/13 [Last modified: Friday, June 21, 2013 6:02pm]
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