I heard you appear on the Rebel FM podcast and love what you are doing so I figured I’d write in. First off, I think I have a lot of problems. I am a 20 year old male, college student in home town, overweight (I’ll be honest, I’m just plain fat), am shy and introverted when it comes to girls, have had anxiety and depression issues recently, have little to no dating/relationship experience, and am a virgin. My only girlfriend was short term in high school. I was young and clueless due to the fact that she came on to me and I just sort of went along with it. This leads to one of my problems. Since I have virtually NO confidence when it comes to girls and the only girl that ever did like me came after me, I tend not to pursue girls and just sort of hope someone will notice me one day and I’ll magically be in a relationship. I know that is irrational, but I can’t help it. I have this overwhelming gut feeling that due to my weight problems nobody could ever truly love me for who I am. All I see is this disgusting thing in the mirror and wonder, “who the hell could love that?” I never put myself out there and never really make any sort of move to get something going with a girl. I feel helpless.
I am a commuter student at my college since I live in town and feel no need to stick around when I’m not in class. Also, most of my high school friends have moved away so I tend to stay fairly secluded. I want to make more friends and ultimately meet a nice girl to have a relationship with, but I feel trapped in this lonely overweight body that won’t let me experience a partner in my life. I don’t know what to do.
It boils down to this: I don’t love myself for the way I look, so I am overwhelmed with the thought that nobody could love someone who looks like me. I am doing what I can to work on my weight problem (gym, watching what I eat) but it is really hard for me and I feel stuck. I feel lonely and alone in my struggles and don’t know what to do. If you could help me with ways to get out there and meet more people and ultimately a nice girl, and how to learn to be more confident around girls despite my weight, I would appreciate it. Thanks and keep up the great work.
No Car No Body No Hope
You hit it on the head right from the start, N3: you don’t really like yourself right now. That, more than anything is going to make it harder for you to date anyone. To quote the ever-excellent RuPaul: how’s anyone going to love you if you don’t love yourself?
Your biggest issue seems to stem from your self-perception around your weight: that nobody could possibly love you because you’re fat. This is rather demonstrably not true; if you go to your local Wal-Mart or Target or grocery store on any average Sunday, you’re going to see happy couples comprised of men and women of all shapes and sizes going about their day. Despite what many guys tell themselves, women can and do date men with a wide range of body types attractive. There are plenty of women out there who find larger men attractive on a spectrum from husky lumberjack to obese.
(In fact, women tend to be much more flexible about sizes that they find attractive than men tend to…)
But, let’s be honest here: the objective reality doesn’t necessarily negate the subjective feelings… that has to come from inside. Recognizing that you have options – more options than you realize – doesn’t help if you don’t believe that you are attractive.
The first thing you need to do is to separate the idea that your weight makes you unworthy of love. Being fat isn’t a moral failing, nor is it an indication that you’re somehow flawed or inferior or that you deserve less love or respect than someone who’s got a 32 inch waist. Your weight does not equal your worth.
The next thing you need to do is learn how to make yourself feel better about who you are. As I mentioned before, attitude is going to influence dating success much more than just skill or looks. If you don’t like yourself, nobody else is going to like you much either and the last thing anybody wants is to be entirely responsible for somebody else’s self-esteem. That’s an unfair burden to place on another person; they’re struggling enough just trying to maintain their own lives without having to be responsible for somebody else’s as well.
Now this doesn’t mean simply standing in the mirror and repeating positive affirmations (although that can help). It means taking proactive steps to improve your life and craft a life that brings you satisfaction and happiness. The good news is that you’re already starting on this path. Working out and eating clean (which, I want to point out is a very different thing from dieting) is great not just for addressing your issues with your weight but also your overall health and well-being. Exercise in and of itself is an excellent antidepressant – it promotes endorphins that travel straight to the pleasure centers of your brain as well as helps you sweat out the toxins in your system, improves your lung function and helps you sleep better at night – all of which is going to make you feel better overall. Eating a clean diet (that is, avoiding processed foods and beverages as much as possible, limiting simple carbohydrates, drinking more water and eating more green leafy vegetables) helps not just with your health but your mood and cognition. Plus: you’re doing something that’s good for you and that in and of itself can make you feel better.
On a practical level, I’d suggest adding weight-training to your exercise routine – it’s great for your heart, increases your metabolism and compliments the effects of cardio. Plus, it feels goddamn amazing when you realize you’re lifting weights you never thought you could achieve or doing pull-ups when you never could before.
Now the thing to keep in mind is that the exercise and diet should be about your health and feeling good, not about trying to turn yourself into the cover of Men’s Health. You don’t need to look like a fitness model to be attractive or lovable.
The next thing to do: spruce up your look. Clothes very much make the man. The way you dress and present yourself doesn’t just affect how you look to others, it affects how you feel about yourself. A lot of overweight guys tend to dress badly in exceedingly loose-fitting clothes (Kevin Smith, I’m looking at you!) which makes them look sloppy and ill-kempt. Being large doesn’t mean that you can’t be a snappy dresser, and dressing up sharp makes you look and feel much better. You don’t need to be wearing three-piece suits (but hey, if you can rock it…) but you should dress well, with shirts that fit rather than hang and pants that support to your body instead of trying to hide it. There are a number of archetypes that work well for men of size; finding yours can make all the difference in how you see yourself. On a basic level: a lot of big guys do well with a nice button-down shirt, slacks and a vest. It’s a natty look that’s easy to pull off (even on a budget) and can easily be dressed up or down as needed.
And finally: get out there. You don’t necessarily need to leap into the dating pool before you’re ready, but you should go out and be social. Making friends and building a social circle is important for your self-esteem and emotional well being. Right now you’re cooped up with your ideas that you’re inherently unlovable and that nobody could want to be around you and you’re reinforcing that belief by hiding out on your own. The best thing you can do is just go out and get involved in your own life. You’re in college right now; you will literally never be in a better place to get involved in new activities and meet people who’re in the same place in life that you are. Take full advantage of everything that college offers you right now – join some clubs, investigate on-campus groups that interest you, find some volunteer opportunities, go to lectures. You are surrounded by opportunities to explore yourself and your interests and meet people who you have tons in common with. Don’t let your self-limiting beliefs about your weight cause you to miss out on what can be an incredible opportunity for self-discovery. Meeting people just for the sake of meeting cool new people, making new friends… all of this will help you realize that you’re not unlovable, that you’re not doomed to be lonely and that there’s an incredible world out there waiting for you to take part in it.
You have far more to offer than you realize. There is more out there for you than you’d ever believe. You just have to go out and experience it.
You’re on the right path. Learn to feel better about yourself and get involved in your life and you will be amazed at how much your life will improve.