Every once in a while, I like to poll my readers on the NerdLove Facebook Page and on Twitter to find out what issues they feel are holding them back when it comes to dating. And the most common answer is: “I worry that I’m too fat to date.”
I’ll be honest: I’m not surprised. America’s a big country and we’re getting bigger. According to the Center for Disease Control, 69% of adults 20 years old and over are overweight and 35% are considered obese. And yet even when the number of people who are considered overweight form the majority of the population, obesity is in many ways one of the remaining acceptable prejudices. Last week, the #fatshamingweek hastag was trending on Twitter as numerous assholes and shitbags1 took to the network and decided to mock fat people – mostly women, but men too – from behind the dubious anonymity of their Twitter accounts.
Now we could dwell on the fact that these various winners are not gym-sculpted Adonnises themselves, but instead I want to focus on the positive and work on improving people’s lives instead of trying to stroke the hate-boner. Besides, the best revenge is living well and there’s nothing quite like seeing the underdog succeed despite all of his or her disadvantages.
I mean, c’mon. The cognitive dissonance alone can make people’s heads explode.
Now, I’m going to be blunt: dating can suck when you’re fat. Societal standards of beauty are not only arbitrary but often literally impossible to achieve without Photoshop and make-up and there are assholes out there who feel empowered to mock fat people with impunity. But being large and in charge doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to a life of being forever alone; in fact, you may find that you have far more options for finding love, sex and happiness than you’d ever believe possible.
Women Will Date Fat Men
Large dudes will frequently lament that their size automatically disqualifies them from dating – they believe that there is simply no way a woman could possibly like somebody who’s body isn’t rippled and shiny like a buttered ear of corn. Except… they totally do.
There are plenty of notable examples out there if you look around. Kevin Smith, for all of his fashion sins that I will get into in a second, is happily married with a lovely wife and daughter. Patton Oswalt, same story. Josh Gad, ditto. Seth Rogan is no Abercrombie and Fitch model but he’s also happily married.
It’s easy to forget this when the TV and magazines are showing you nothing but image after image of cut, veiny men with swimmers builds with women draped all over them like fur stoles, but women actually like a far wider range of body types than we’d think. Ask five women what their ideal male build is and you’ll get six different answers.
Take, for example, this image from a feature in the UK periodical The Sun; they flipped the script by posing ordinary men in underwear ads a la David Beckham or Christiano Ronaldo:
The gentleman on the left has ended up with quite the devoted female fanbase; many many women prefer large and burly even when society insists that they only like guys who look like they’re 3% body fat.
More importantly though, it’s important to remember that attraction is about more than just looks – it’s about personality, presence and what you bring to the table. There’s no denying that looks help. But not only are they not the only factor, they’re the one that’s the most mutable.
Fat Isn’t Simple
Part of being able to accept that women will find you attractive is to understand that being fat isn’t a cut and dry issue.
Weight in the US is a loaded subject; society often equates being heavy with being lazy and/or weak-willed. Being fat is treated as a referendum on your worth as a person – people see it as an implication that you’re only fat because you simply don’t want to change badly enough. After all, if they’d just apply themselves, fat people could lose weight easily! Right? Right?
Well… not so much. Some people can lose weight without barely trying while others can exercise and diet until their eyes bleed and barely see the scale shift.
As we’ve been learning over the years, weight gain and loss is more complicated than a simple issue of “calories ingested <= calories burned”. The most obvious issue is the simple fact that not all calories are the same; otherwise people could lose weight while eating a restricted calorie diet that consisted primarily of sugar and Doritos.
They’d be suffering from scurvy in short order, but hey, at least they’d be fitting into 32 jeans, right? Do teeth really look as good as skinny feels?
The societal disdain for heavyset people is so ingrained that even people who are fat feel ashamed about who they are and that they have to apologize for some personal flaw that leaves them with the mark of Canes2 when the truth about obesity is as much about external factors as it is about food consumption.
Over the years, we have been discovering that there are innumerable other factors that affect body fat accumulation and weight gain. Many people who’ve struggled with weight-loss have been found to have Celiac disease or other gluten allergies that prevent the body from absorbing vitamins and minerals properly, sending the body into “survival mode”.
Other scientists have discovered a strong link between the chemical Bisphenol A and weight gain; BPA is found in many consumer products, including bottled water and food packaging, making it an invisible but nearly unavoidable part of our lives.
Still more factors include the ubiquity of high-fructose corn syrup in our food, the negative side-effects from processed soy products and even just plain old genetics and evolution. Moreover, all fat people aren’t created equal; scientists have found that many people – as many as 1 in 4 – can be overweight without suffering from the health issues such as higher incidents of heart disease, high blood-pressure and type-2 diabetes. BMI is a profoundly inaccurate measure of just about everything and being skinny doesn’t guarantee good health.
Working With Your Body
The next key is simply to accept that your body is your body and your shape is your shape and there is only so much that you can do to change that.
Your overall shape is going to be controlled by your bone structure and genetics as much as is by your diet and exercise. Some people simply have long, skinny frames and will always be lean and lanky no matter how much they try to bulk up. Others are shorter and squatter and will always appear heavier.
Some people have shorter torsos and trunks, which will affect their visual proportions; a longer torso makes you look skinnier even if you’re overweight while a shorter one makes you appear wider.
Even if you do lose weight, it’s no guarantee that you’re going to look like the cover of Men’s Health; a visible six-pack is as much the result of genetics, dehydration and favorable lighting as it is eating nothing but broiled chicken breasts and steamed broccoli and five hundred crunches a day. A low-carb diet might help you lose weight, but it’s not going to change your underlying frame; if you’re naturally compact and dense, then you’re not going to jog that away.
Speaking for myself: I’m short and broad. I inherited the O’Malley shoulders and I’m naturally barrel-chested; no amount of dieting or jogging is going to make that smaller. I’m always going to look more like a beer keg than Henry Cavill no matter what I do or don’t eat.
Dressing Sharp For Larger Men
Once you accept your shape, then you can work within it.
Too many people who are concerned about their weight try to dress to conceal it, usually wearing clothes that are too big and loose. The problem is that all this does is draw attention to the fact that you’re trying to hide things – and making you look worse in the process. When you’re overweight, you’re already dealing with the stereotype of being sloppy and lazy; trying to get by in nothing but sports jerseys and relaxed-fit jeans just confirms it in the eyes of others.
You want to wear clothes that actually fit you. Even if you’re big, wearing clothes that fit properly will flatter your profile and make you look more attractive. Yes, I realize that you’re sensitive to people noticing your stomach or your nech. I realize that baggy clothes seem more comfortable. Trust me: clothes that fit right may feel odd at first but you’ll quickly start to realize how much better it feels when your clothes support you instead of trying to conceal you.
You want simple clothes that define your shape rather than just hang. Bold prints are a bad idea as they tend to draw attention to your size. You’ll do better to dress in solid, uniform colors that will unify your silhouette. Contrasting colors – a dark shirt over light pants, for example – provide a visual break and draw attention to the lines of your body, making you look even larger.
You want fitted shirts rather than simple box-cuts; these will fit your build better instead of looking baggy and shapeless. Whenever possible, you also want a spread collar; a narrow collar will just emphasize the width of your face. Similarly, you want straight-leg jeans instead of relaxed fit and everybody wants flat-front slacks. Whenever possible, you want thinner materials; cashmere sweaters in the cold are much better suited for the larger gent rather than a chunky cardigan. Jackets – especially dark wash denim or sport coats can help provide shape and definition. Opt for three-button blazers; they lengthen your silhouette nicely and avoid pulling at your clothes. Vests are also a good idea; the V shape flatters your torso and draws attention to your chest instead of your neck or midsection, plus add a bit of natty stylishness; it’s hard to call someone sloppy when they’re wearing a sharp vest.
Larger accessories also help by keeping everything in proportion; the trend to oversized watches works in your favor here.
Now having said all that…
Eat Better and Exercise
Yes, I realize that I said earlier that diet and exercise isn’t the ticket to being skinny. This isn’t about losing weight, this is about being healthy. The average American diet is fucking horrible. We eat far too much processed food, drink far too little water and on the whole don’t get nearly enough exercise. This doesn’t just contribute to weight issues but to depression, mood-swings, digestive issues, poor sleeping habits and a weakened immune system.
Plus: eating like shit? Makes you ugly. Beyond the common junk-food boogieman of acne, a shitty diet makes your skin look sallow while your hair gets lank and brittle.
Changing up your diet is one of the easiest and best ways to improve not just your health but your skin-tone, hair, energy level and mental outlook. Whether or not you lose weight is secondary compared to the other benefits.
Ideally, you want to eat as clean as possible; that is, you want to avoid high-fructose corn syrup (which is, admittedly, difficult as hell) and all processed food and beverages, including diet sodas – my own personal vice. You also want to avoid simple and refined carbohydrates as much as possible – this includes white flour and sugar while ensuring that your diet is heavy on green leafy vegetables, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates.
It can be difficult – most processed foods are specifically designed to be addictive and salt, fat and sugar have similar effects on the brain to cocaine and heroin – but the overall results are worth it. A cheat day per week, where you allow yourself to eat what you’d like makes it easier to eat healthily 90% of the time without losing your goddamn monkey mind.
You also want to exercise more. The average American lifestyle is profoundly sedentary; we spend the better part of our lives just sitting in place when we’re designed for movement. Just as with a healthier diet, increased exercise has benefits above and beyond simple weight-loss; exercise helps release endorphins into your blood, improving your mood as well as your creative output.
Also, I’m going to be honest here: the stereotype of a fat man is someone who gets sweaty just looking at stairs and can barely walk five feet without gasping for breath and needing a break. This is unattractive under the best of circumstances, but doubly so if you’re already large. If this is you, then you definitely need to hit the gym. Being active and exercising will build up your endurance and cut down on jokes about having a heart attack from the strain of picking up your mail. Making the transition between “fat” and “Large and strong” can make all the difference in the way you see yourself.
You don’t necessarily need to hit the gym three or four times a week – forcing yourself to do exercises you hate is only going to make you quit. You just need to find activities that you enjoy that provide a cardiovascular benefit whether it’s jogging, playing sports, kayaking, bicycling, walking or studying martial arts.
You also want to be doing more weight lifting. Most people who start an exercise program tend to focus on cardiovascular exercise without including a weight training regimen, which is a mistake. Weight training acts as a booster to the benefits you gain from cardio, adding intensity to your workouts and improving the overall results. Weight-training exercises do wonders for your physical health, improving joint function, circulation and muscle tone. If you’re heavier than you’d like to be, developing more muscle helps increase your basal metabolic rate, increasing the amount of calories you burn just by being awake and semi-active.
If you lose weight, then great. But whether you do or you don’t, a proper diet and exercise will help improve your life overall, making you feel better and giving you increased confidence.
And we know how women feel about confidence…
Don’t Hide Yourself
One of the common mistakes I’ve seen fat guys make is to either make excuses for their size or attempt to laugh it off by making jokes about cushioning or how much more there is for people to love. Both of these approaches are mistakes; they betray a sense of insecurity. Making jokes about your size is almost always a defense mechanism, trying to get the insult in before anybody else does to take the sting out of it… and it just calls attention to the fact that you’re big and you feel awkward about it.
The key is simply to not bring it up at all. You’re big, you know it, she knows it. Presenting yourself as though you’re simply not ashamed of yourself is far more attractive than trying to armor yourself up with jokes.
Don’t get me wrong: humor is attractive… but defensive or self-deprecating humor goes from “funny” to “really kind of pitiful” very quickly. The last thing you want to do is send off signals about how you hate yourself.
To that end: it’s important that you maintain proper body language. Big guys will tend to try to minimize themselves and hide their stomachs by slouching or curling in to not take up as much space. Standing up straight with your shoulders back will speak more to your confidence – a far more attractive trait – than constantly seeming as though you’re apologizing for existing.
Similarly: don’t hold back and try to fade into the background until someone approaches you. A wide, genuine smile and a hearty laugh and a willingness to make conversation makes you a more appealing figure; it turns you from “who’s that fat guy” to “who’s that fun guy everyone wants to talk to?”
Don’t Sweat The Haters
Cold hard truth time: there are going to be people who are going to dislike you off the bat for being large. There will be women who roll their eyes at you for “daring” to come up to talk to them. There will be guys who try to squeeze you out by making jokes about you being huge. There will be people who are going to mock you for the temerity for thinking that you can be attractive.
That’s actually a benefit in disguise. It’s always handy when the assholes self-identify so that you know that you can safely disregard their opinions as bullshit.
Yes, it’s easy to say “grow a thicker skin” in response to the abuse that gets heaped upon you… but that doesn’t mean that it’s not necessary. There are assholes out there who live for causing other people misery. There will be days when it seems like everyone is determined to shit all over you, personally. But in the end, their opinions don’t fucking matter. They’re showing themselves to be fuckheads, so why should you gift them with the power to hurt you? Why should you care about what some fuckhead thinks?
The women who reject you are especially giving you a gift – they’re letting you know right off the bat that you don’t need to waste your time on them. Each woman who reacts badly to you is one more person you never have to think about again, giving you more time to find someone who gets you and wants what you have to offer.
Look: you’re going to get rejected. That’s part of dating. You’re going to get rejected by women you approach, even women who may like you platonically. The thing is: this happens to everyone, fat or skinny, tall or short. Even the hottest men out there get shot down – I’ve watched legendary lady killers put their best moves on women only to see them go home alone.
The answer to haters is perseverance. The answer to rejection is to try more, to date more.
There are people out there who are looking for a guy like you. Don’t make it harder for them to find you.