Home Beauty Dating While Fat And Feminist, And The Nasty Things You Learn When You Lose Weight

Dating While Fat And Feminist, And The Nasty Things You Learn When You Lose Weight

by Erika Nicole Kendall

First, let me preface this with a thank you to The Crunk Feminist Collective – yes, you read that right – for even existing… ’cause I might not be here, in this form and fashion mentally, if it weren’t for them. I also love environments where women of color can come, converse, and be in support of women and vociferously defend their stance as such in a realistic fashion. I’m sad to say, there isn’t enough of that out here.

And, apparently, many of my readers hang out over there, as well, because like four of y’all sent this to me apparently within hours of it coming out. (Never stop sending me stuff, though. I can’t keep up with everything, especially now with all the studying for my certification.)

Now…on to the business.

The following excerpt appeared on the CFC’s blog:

Because desire is socially constructed (no matter how much folks justify their limited dating choices based on ‘natural preference’), the fact that we live in a fat-hating culture greatly affects who we’re attracted to, and what we find attractive. The idea that we’re only attractive within a range of sizes is absurd. And narrow. And it is absolutely a function of patriarchy. And yet, I live daily with those realities.

Some (admittedly anecdotal) examples:

Several months ago I was in a bar/lounge type spot, with a group of 7 or 8 homegirls. We ranged in size and skin tone, from short and petite, to tall and lanky, from light-skinned to dark-skinned, from skinny to fat (me being the fat one), and everything in between. The homeboy of one of my homegirls happened to be in the club. Now in many ways, he was my type. Mid-height, stocky, dark-skinned, bald-headed. My girl gave us his vital statistics and it turns out the brother is highly intelligent and very accomplished. He was also a natural flirt. This I discovered, as I watched him at different points during the evening, strike up a conversation and flirt with every single girl in the crew—except me. My homegirl indicated to me at some point that I should make sure to meet him, because she thought we’d have similar interests. Not one to be shy, I did at some point attempt to strike up a conversation. He barely acknowledged me! I mean he literally didn’t look me in the eye, made no real attempt at conversation, and pretty much gave me the brush off. And starting talking to another one of my homegirls!

It was clear to me that he wasn’t really that interested in a serious thing with any of the girls at the bar that night. He was just doing the bar/lounge thing, as was I. But why the cold shoulder, from a brother I’d never met? Why the unique snub reserved for the one fat girl in the crew? I wish I could say that this experience was isolated, but it’s been more the rule rather than the exception for me.

(Two)

I think of all that CRUNK club-hopping I did in ATL back in the early days of the CFC. Nothing can make me dance with abandon like a smoke-filled club strung out on CRUNK. And when me and my girls would go and shut the club down, routinely, I’d be the only chick that hadn’t been approached, danced with, hit on. Now I never thought I’d find my prince charming in a club. But everyone likes to be desired. So no matter how much Big Boi proclaimed back in 2003 that “Big Girls need love, too,” I don’t think the other ATLiens got the message.

(Three)

And of course there is that story of the time that Crunkadelic and I went to one of those Big Beautiful Women parties. But um, I’m not trying to date a dude with a fat fetish. No hate on fetishes, but being the object of that particular one feels…objectifying. I want to date a man that has a range of desires wide enough to see a big girl as attractive. Just like I find a range of men attractive.

Getting back to Big Boi, the reality is that Big Girls do need love. This big girl anyway. So as much as I resent the limited range of desire that it seems (Black) men have and the ever-present male privilege that allows them to never have to interrogate their sexual and romantic investments, I hate my limited partnering prospects much more. As un-feminist as I’m sure it is, and as much my Sagittarian self wants to say f**k the world and embrace my life of singleness in a blaze of principled feminist big girl glory, the #truestory is that I’m seriously trying to figure out how I can get my J.Hud on. (Well, maybe not to that extreme!) In my thirties, I’m prioritizing self-care and that includes being loved on and getting my groove on. Regularly. And I know for sure that those things are feminist. I also know being thinner won’t guarantee me a date, but I’m willing to bet it’ll improve my chances.[source]

It’s a really hard thing to admit, and it’s a really nasty realization that one of the things you stand against, as a feminist, is also one of the things you still have to live with and grapple with in order to live the life you want.

I’ve written about it before – the fact that, the smaller I got, the more likely it was that men who weren’t even trying to hear me like that before now wanted to “be down” in different ways. In the Huffington Post feature on me, I talked about being at a sorority event (which, after a 7-month and 90lb disappearance, was a bit like a “big unveiling”) and men were touching me in entirely different ways. I spoke about this on my appearance on Michael Baisden’s show. In both the HuffPo comments and on the show, the sentiment was the same: “they didn’t want to touch you like that before because you were fat. Duh.”

It’s kind of soul crushing. As a big girl, you’re often shielded from the kinds of things people say about big girls because the people who love you [and, assumedly, want to see you happy] aren’t going to say any foolishness like that to you. No one wants to hurt your feelings like that.

Dating while considerably smaller is… interesting. Especially when, as I’ve had to do, you explain to someone that you blog about weight loss because you used to be over 300lbs.

“Wow, I could never see you as being so fat.”

“Were you single during that whole time? Or….what?”

“Soooooo… you’re never gonna gain that weight again, right?”

It’s hard to be oblivious to the change in the tone and context that people use to discuss weight – or fatness, rather – at a smaller size, because the conversation is much less about “health” and much more about “these fat b-tches are so unappealing to my precious eyes! Get them treadmills, stat!” As a big girl, whenever you hear “weight” it’s about “health.” It’s always [insert list of diseases]. But, the smaller I became, it was more about “Oh, so you’re out here getting these fat Black women into shape, huh?”

In fact, when you’re in a position like mine, you start to notice a lot about people’s dating habits. You also wind up making friends with guys who admit their dating preferences freely, knowing that – since you’re no longer fat – they won’t offend you. I’ve had men admit to me that they get chewed out for dating so many non-Black women, but they don’t seek out women who are simply non-Black – they seek out women who are fit. They seek out women who work out. They meet women and make friends in the gym, the one place where they spend all their non-work time, and want a partner that not only understands that but will be right there with him…working out. They don’t want a partner who complains about how much time they spend “up in the gym, just workin’ on their fitness.” You and I might know that now, but I certainly didn’t know it before.

You also start to notice the pairs on the subway, late on a “date night,” out together. Him, in his cardigan, bowtie and hat… her, in her cute dress, jacket and heels. Neither one overweight.

You also start to hear stories of how some men only “use” overweight Black girls as a “last resort,” meaning that if a guy can’t pull a more socially-approved-as-sexy-looking-woman, he’ll go to her because at least he knows “I’ll get laid tonight, and breakfast tomorrow.” You start to find out how some men manipulate society’s fat-hating culture into a way to skate by without accepting any responsibility for anything: “if fat Black women are considered the least worthy of love and affection, then if I choose one, she’ll do anything and tolerate anything to keep me.”

How do I hear all of this? People often misjudge me as one of those people who loses weight and now “hates” fat people to the point where I would high-five them for telling me these things.

Big girls have to live, date and eventually love in this environment. It’s especially difficult as a feminist – admitting you’re doing it because you want to benefit from the patriarchal bargain of being more of what men want to look at – because during 22.5 hours of the day, you’re fighting the patriarchy… but there’s an hour and a half of the day you’re working hard to increase your ability to benefit from it.

Hard as a feminist…hell, it’s hard as a Black person, period – the higher up the assimilation scale you go, the more you realize there are fewer and fewer people wo look like you period, let alone overweight people. With upper-middle-classdom, ostensibly, there is the time required to commit to your fitness, or at least the money available to make sure you “don’t gain weight,” whatever that means.

The point, truthfully, is that dating is far more complex than that when you’ve got the advantage. Think about it. We’re beat over the head with the idea that there are only twelve “Good Black Men” out there, and we’re all clamoring for them. “Good Black Man” is never defined clearly, and any dude with a job, a car, and a studio apartment think he’s “good” and has the right to choose who and what he wants… and he wants the thing that society says is most desirable. Unfortunately that means, for certain men in certain cities with certain careers, certain traits get you sent straight out of the window.

Trust me… I know. When I’m in NYC, men love my ‘fro (which extends well beyond my shoulders in width.) I took my ‘fro to Indianapolis? Um…let’s just say that there were plenty people in general giving me the gas face. Men in finance, as opposed to, say, a man in customer service? A man with a higher-up position in a company as opposed to a peon? I’m just sayin’…holding up society’s standards start to matter more, the higher up you get. Messy, messy, messy.

Do I think the blogger is right to make this decision? I don’t think it’s my place to determine right and wrong for someone else… because, just as I can judge based on what she’s written, I also have to remember that for every word written, there’s almost always five other words not being written. I think a few things will happen, though: I think, for starters, she’ll be pretty grossed out by how quickly men who have always been present in her life will start to approach her differently; secondly, I think she’ll be annoyed by the new-found “thin-privilege” she may experience depending upon how much weight she chooses to lose; and thirdly, I think she’ll be more skeptical of the men she does encounter in wondering if they would like her if she was heavier…and what that says about their character.

The comments over there are full of gems so, please, do check it out and see what they’re saying. I’m also interested in what experiences y’all have had with dating and what you’ve heard people saying about dating and size preferences. Think I’m off the mark, here? Let’s hear it!

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217 comments

Keiji April 19, 2012 - 12:31 PM

Oh what a post. It is so sad that this is the truth, and it’s even worse that growing up as a perpetually-larger-than-everyone-else child/teenager/young adult, I had to figure this all out on my own. I remember once, after I had gained 40 lbs in a year studying abroad, I came back to ATL and went to a party with a friend. Not even a club, just a house party. The only guys who would talk to me were drunk, and then they wanted to motorboat me. Like, whenever I went out partying, it was some kind of “Oh look at the big girl go!” like my weight stops me from being able to pop it (I also do ballroom and belly dancing, but I guess no one cares about that), or that they would get drunk and motorboat me (even female friends!) in public whether I wanted to or not. Anyway, I asked my male friend why it was that guys only hit on me when drunk, and he said it’s because the men (I’m just gonna say boys here, they were all college-age dimwits) will shame, tease and belittle each other for even liking a big girl. And yet, who were they always trying to snuggle up to when drunk to feel the t**ties?

I have since lost 60+ lbs, and the gym says I should aim for another 60. But when losing the 60 I could tell based on whose eyes I was catching on the street. I sadly joked to my mother that I would know I was skinny when white men began paying attention to me.

It’s just sad sad sad that it’s the truth, and it sometimes feels so shameful and like a never-ending struggle.

CO April 19, 2012 - 12:36 PM

This is spot on. I only lost 30 pounds in my journey – and was never what you’d consider a “big girl,” just needing to lose a few – and I get tons more attention. I guess now I’m that “fit bitch” who looks good in a ‘kini, it’s cool to do a double take and smile. I can’t even imagine what it was like for you and others after losing 100+ pounds. Crazy.

Rakesha April 19, 2012 - 12:59 PM

I totally relate to this article, I am the fat woman out of my group of friends. You are easily looked over or considered the cool one. It’s a constant battle. I been loosing weight, that is the first thing my friends and people I know say you have really lost a lot of weight..What are you doing? It is frustrating because weight becomes the focus of the conversations… I can honestly say I have never been on a date or a relationship (casual sex yes).. I make excuses that it’s because of the shortage of men and I haven’t been doing much to put myself out there. In reality when I do go out I don’t get the stares like my other friends who are all skinny or have nice bodies. When I speak it’s generally like hey and then the men are moving on to someone else. The article spoke volumes..

Grace @ Healthy Dreaming April 19, 2012 - 1:10 PM

Totally interesting points being raised here. I definitely feel when I was at my higher weight, men didn’t give me the time of day. Now that I’m thinner, I get hit on a lot more but I’ve had a boyfriend through thick and thin and he loved me through my highs and lows. Now that I’m fit, he’s very supportive and not jealous at all. He has nothing to worry about though because guys who only see me NOW aren’t worth my time.

honey April 19, 2012 - 1:21 PM

Soooo. I have something to add/expound upon. In Crunktastic’s blog, she mentions that she is BROWN-SKINNED and big. She definitely mentions color in her article. As a medium-big light-skinned woman, my experience has been somewhat different. Men – and women – I am bisexual, and can I just say that, surprisingly to most women, WOMEN are far more BODY-CRITICAL than men are – respond not just to the roundness of my body, but to my light skin, “pretty face”, and “good hair.” I think colorism is relevant to this discussion on what is considered to be attractive in Black America. As disgusted as I am by the fact that potential mates are attracted to the fact that I’m the closest thing to white that they can get without going Caucasian, it’s a fact of my life that I get positive attention for these attributes. My curves are not met with the same disgust because I have other things that supposedly make up for them. And I get GOOD LOOKING, IN SHAPE MATES AND SEXUAL PARTNERS. I know, I know, it’s really disgusting. But like Crunktastic, my taste does not tend toward out of shape people. My dating history is full of military, firefighters, personal trainers, sports enthusiasts, etc. Very attractive, fit BLACK people. I am interested in continuing this conversation with the inclusion of the light-skinned “advantage” with regard to dating while Big, Black and Feminist. Crunktastic?

Q April 19, 2012 - 1:34 PM

Hello! Great post. I was always a big woman. After graduating high school the fall of 2004, i was 315 lbs. I would constantly have headaches and chest pain. I went to the doctor about a year and a half ago and noticed I was down to 296 lbs. I had no idea when and how I lost 19 lbs, but just seeing that I COULD lose weight (by this time I just convinced myself i was big boned, and was just meant to be a big woman). I started by dieting and walking on my lunches at work. The weight started coming off. 26 lbs, then another 36, now im down 104 lbs. I am currently in a size 11, and I feel great. It is sad that men who never looked at me then, most definitely want me now. I wouldn’t dare! Why would I let you have me at my best when you couldnt even look at me before. I am still very much in denile about my weight lost I will get looks, and approach by men and think its a joke. In my mind Im thinking, “am i really that attractive now?, he must be looking at someone behind me). In a nutshell it is very sad how people treat you when you are big and looking for love. If someone can judge you based on your weight, you don’t need them around.

T. Dixon April 19, 2012 - 1:36 PM

Thanks for sharing. We need to talk about this – often and honestly. I have body image issues from being to “bony” as a girl and now from being to big now. And I can honestly say that I only occasionally have an accurate or objective view of my body. It’s nice to have discussions other than “I’m too” or “not enough” – to get to what the actual experiences are and what they make us think and feel about ourselves and others.

This is my first time reading your blog and it’s wonderful!

Christina April 19, 2012 - 1:42 PM

This is so amazing and HONEST, fighting patriarchy yet wanting to be a part of it. I would love to see this from a lesbian/bi perspective.

TheBarberLady April 19, 2012 - 1:44 PM

I think weight is a hot button issue in general. I have also always been unhappy with my size and the comfort level others had when they would comment freely on my weight. I wasn’t accepted. When me and my girls hit the club, I got no love. I was basically a last resort for the men there and its kind if embarrassing when dudes get your attention, just so you can help them holla at your friend but the real problem for me was that NONE of the other women understood. Even to the point of belittling me for not being more grateful for “what I had”. Being black and southern, there is a very small window of physical acceptability. You can’t be too small or too big, but right there in the middle. Video chick size…booty model size. I was skinny…just damn bony…and tall. Graduating high school I was 99 lbs. I don’t think people know how often I heard “DAMN, You need to eat!!” “Are you sick?!”. Followed immediately by “you are lucky to be that size.” What the whaa??!!?? Guys didn’t talk to me. They would, however, discuss loudly how I had “no body, no butt, no boobs” to approving laughter and jeers. Btw, none of the girls was telling me how lucky I was at that time. I was so grateful for the emergence of Cross Colors apparel because the baggy clothes hid my lack of a womanly body and for some reason, society seems to have accepted that an insult about your body is not an insult if you can shop in the Juniors department. I spent most of the 90’s trying to get thick to no avail. I’m not trying to belittle what bigger women go through because it is real and it’s cold blooded but being singled out because your body doesn’t meet someone’s unrealistic expectations can be soul crushing.

T April 19, 2012 - 2:04 PM

Its not an easy thing to admit, but my efforts are, in part, for said ‘thin privilege’. My dating history is virtuously nonexistent, guys barely notice me and if being thinner changes that then I’m going to at least give it a try.

Trenia April 19, 2012 - 2:07 PM

I wish there was a way to speak to all of the big girls who are healthily and happily married, because they do exist. The article was fraught with so many real issues and challenges but the reality is there are lots of thin women who are single and don’t want to be, and losing weight is no guarantee of finding a mate. So while losing weight will most definitely enlarge your dating pool, will it matter if it takes 5 men or 50 to get to the right one?

I’ve been a big girl most of my life, with the exception of a 100lb weight loss, then regaining it all 3 years later. I could relate to some of the experiences of the writer, but for the most part I’ve had positive dating experiences. I really think a lot of it is a confidence issue and the ability to feel that you belong in the space that you occupy. And either they will love you or they won’t.

Jazzy April 19, 2012 - 2:20 PM

Thank you for posting this. This hits very close to home for me. It’s amazing how invisible you become in the eyes of the opposite sex once you put on weight. I’ve been a small woman, slightly overweight to now obese and the larger you become, the more invisible you become to men. At times it hurts because my weight does not tell if I am a good person, if I’m honest or hardworking and I believe every human has a desire to love and be loved.

anr April 19, 2012 - 2:33 PM

i am having the same reaction to this blog as i did to the original one and that is, tears welling up in my eyes. i have and continue to encounter this situation although i have moved to an area, atl, where being a thicker chick is more accepted. and to make matters worse, my bff and main hanging out partner is considered to be “perfect” in society’s eyes…light-skinned, petite, attractive. i can’t think of a time that we’ve been out that she HASN’T been approached. so i find myself feeling invisible, insecure, and questioning “what’s wrong with me?”

i have come to two realizations: 1. the pool of men that find her attractive is larger than the pool that find me attractive and, 2. we all have things that we need to work on. fortunately, most people’s are internal and unfortunately, one of mine is external for ALL to see.

i will accept responsibility for the choices that i’ve made or haven’t made when it comes to eating and exercise. i am now resolved and committed to do better NOT for a man to approach me, BUT for me to live a longer life! If and when God decides to send my helpmate, i know that he will love me for who i am regardless of size. Regardless of what my status is, i know that in the words of my boo, I LOVE ME SOME ME and that’s the MOST important love of all under God’s love.

anr April 19, 2012 - 2:35 PM

and that’s my boo, T.O. (forgot to credit the originator) 🙂

Allhoney April 19, 2012 - 2:42 PM

WOW!!! Thanks for eye opener! At least I’ll get laid and get breakfast in the morning?

Ricky April 19, 2012 - 2:45 PM

I.LOVE.THIS. BLOG! I am 261 pounds, I was once 150 pounds…There wasn’t a man that I was attracted to I couldn’t have…Now, men dont even look at me, open a door, nothing…My friends treat me differently AND my man who I have been with for 12 years doesn’t even try to please me anymore, I guess he thinks why should he cause don’t nobody else want me…I have lost 24 pounds so far, my goal is to be back between 150-160….At thirty, its about a lifestyle change and healthiness but promise you that I will remember all of my offenders…thanks for talking about this…

RayRay April 19, 2012 - 2:51 PM

You said it. I went down about 4 sizes a few years back, and although I’m still not some wispy waif (nor, frankly, do I care to be) the male attention I began to receive (and still do) was way different than it had been before. In point of fact, in some ways I wish for the fat days again… it’s a great repellent for some of that disgustingly inappropriate male attention that is sometimes inspired just by sporting a pair of tits and a “non-fat” body.

Tiffany April 19, 2012 - 3:06 PM

Co-sign all of this. This has been my exact experience. When freinds of mine ask me whyI don’t to sign up for online dating or putting myself out there, my first response (in my head) is “I’m fat, duh”. Because they’re my freinds I know theyd be like “you’re beautiful” blah blah blah, but I’ve been in this body my whole life and I know most men are not checking for the fat girl. Now that I’m losing weight it makes me leery of ALL men.

Mark April 19, 2012 - 3:26 PM

Oh man. I just find the whole slant of this article to be misguided. I understand the policing of desire inasmuch as it related to historical oppression around race, ethnicity, and culture — I’m somewhat on the fence about policing desire as it relates to gender performance.

But this? It’s an expression of patriarchy for a heterosexual man to have a preference about the type of woman he’s interested in? Or for a heterosexual woman to want to meet a man at his preference? That doesn’t make any sense to me. This isn’t a historical manifestation of patriarchy, after all: in medieval Europe and still in some non-Western cultures, a fat woman is seen as healthy, prosperous and fecund — therefore, desirable. It’s a modern preference shaped by American concepts of attractiveness rooted in fitness, measurable health indicators and, yes, lifestyle.

Why, exactly, would a man who spends significant time in the gym want a woman who doesn’t share his lifestyle? That’s counterintuitive.

What’s most telling to me in this article, though, is the invisibility of fat men. You don’t explicitly say what these anecdotal men in the article look like, except for the skinny man with a skinny woman in the subway. Do you want a fat man or a fit man? If the latter, why do you get to exercise a preference about the type of man you want, but not vice versa?

Jeff April 19, 2012 - 3:32 PM

The article makes many important points and observations but misses a very important issue; one that I find easiest to explain with an example.

A friend completed his masters in chemical engineering. I asked him what the most difficult part of it was. He said it was that he constantly had to remind himself that he WANTED to do it because he wanted to DESPITE the fact that his very overbearing parents WANTED him to get the degree because it would reflect well on them. They didn’t care about his happiness, they wanted to be able to brag to their friends.

That was 20 years ago and he has enjoyed a very fulfilling and satisfying career that almost didn’t start because the desire to rebel against overbearing pressure almost got in his way of doing what was best for him.

Resisting “unloving” pressure to do something is a sign of self respect. Doing something for your own healthy reasons despite unhealthy pressure to do it takes a lot of fortitude and extra ordinary self respect.

I am both sad and angry that woman in our society are put in such a horrible position.

Annette April 19, 2012 - 4:08 PM

I say do it for yourself. Be honest about how you feel about yourself. It is all about you, the attention and whether you get guys interested is the icing. Being smaller doesn’t make sure you get the right type of partner. There are still other emotional issues that she needs to deal with.

Losing weight will give you choices that is true yet you still have to deal with the emotional issues and habits that got you there. My mother always harped on the vanity of it and to be stubborn and rebel I didn’t listen.

Whenever I approached it from a health aspect didn’t pressure myself to lose so many pounds a week it worked. I just eat balanced meals with a lot of fiber, veges, protein, fruit. But worked on the things that triggered me, trigger myself to help clear away emotional issues that I have hung on for too long. It always surprised me how the men I worked with all of a sudden decided I was worth a holla.

That irritated me cause now he is interested. Yet I was the same person he used to talk to. I was so angry I shut him down.

I say do it, having a healthy body, and an even healthier lifestyle is the best. But do it for you, it is always about you. Always change it up. There have so many specials. I want to try a boot camp workout, Zumba and Pilates to keep it interesting. Just start to move take a good multivitamin..nothing wrong with caring about yourself.

Erika Nicole Kendall April 19, 2012 - 4:21 PM

It’s not “slant” as much as it is a “different perspective.” What looks like a tan to you could look like a sunburn to me.

Considering the fact that there is so much pressure on women to look like a specific manufactured ideal that is intentionally difficult to recreate (without purchasing someone’s products), and considering that men have historically tended to take their cue from this pressure in regards to what their “ideal” woman does and/or should look like, it THEN becomes an expression of patriarchy to feel like your dating options are limited largely in part because of the way this all plays out, with women’s bodies being up for discussion/dissection. Size performance is directly related to “the male gaze.”

Is it counterintuitive to be a gym rat who mates with someone who isn’t? Absolutely. If you’re not a person who has ever been a gym bunny or has ever dated one? You would never give that a second thought. That’s why this post also includes the phrase “The Nasty Things You Learn About People After You Lose Weight.”

Fat men aren’t invisible. Fat men are everywhere. Particularly on TV, y’know – the fat, bumbling man and the hot wife? So, let’s not act like fat men are cast off in the same way that many fat women are. Let’s be real.

Erika Nicole Kendall April 19, 2012 - 4:23 PM

With all due respect, there’s a reason I didn’t address “confidence” and “happy big girl relationships,” mama:

So posts like this make folks uncomfortable, often leading to three kinds of reactionary (and unhelpful) comments. The first will be from those folks who insist that I must really have low self-esteem about my weight and that it must be coming through to the dudes I’m meeting. Um, that would be a Negative. That ain’t it. Even though we all have insecurities, self-confidence is not my major struggle. The only way to live in my body, doing the work I do, is to be confident.

Others will come over and lecture about weight loss and health.

Before you do it, don’t.

I know that we have huge problems with obesity in Black communities. I have thought long and hard about my relationship to food (and exercise), and I have started to make some changes in order to remain healthy. I also have both short and long term goals for doing so. I made those choices for myself, not for a man. So please save the condescending lectures (and arm-chair therapy) for someone else. This big girl (and I suspect every other big girl with access to a TV) doesn’t need it.

And a third, fundamentally more well-meaning group, will come over an give anecdotes about all the thick chicks they know who have male partners. The number will usually total up to no more than 2 or 3 mind you. Those stories ring hollow, because they ultimately amount to a futile attempt to amass enough exceptions to disprove the rule. Moreover, perhaps folks aren’t considering that the partner-less fat girls simply remain invisible to you, and the thick girls with guys are visible, precisely because they are an anomaly.

That’s a part of the post that I didn’t quote.

Erika Nicole Kendall April 19, 2012 - 4:24 PM

I actually am sad to admit that I agree with this.

Jenn April 19, 2012 - 4:45 PM

I read and really enjoyed your post. It gave a very honest, open perspective about how bigger girls are viewed and treated, which is honestly quite sad. I appreciate you sharing, because many people are not comfortable with airing out their emotions which then leaves people not experienced in that particular issue in the dark about how to feel and in turn react. Having never been a “big girl” though, there are a couple of observations and questions that come to mind when I read this. One observation is that most big girls (that I know, at least) tend to be just as or even far more judgmental/harsh/rude towards other overweight people (men and women). Why is this? And how can anyone hope to be judged less harshly than they openly judge others? Two, a lot of my friends that a bigger girls are constantly bringing up the issue of their weight and their insecurities surrounding it, which puts the person listening (usually me) in an awkward, no-win position. They will shoot down an honest, good-hearted invitation towards any activity promoting better health and at the same time almost blame you for being thin and “not understanding”. If this is how they are treating men, honestly it’s no reason they’re getting overlooked. It may not be that the man is turned off by their physical appearance as much as he is the lack of confidence and self-hate they exude. I really, really do not mean to sound callous or to offend anyone, but speaking from a friend perspective, if I love you for you, regardless of your weight it’s rude and unfair for you to retort by putting your own insecurities and negativity off on me. As a woman, and I imagine if I were a man, I would not enjoy spending a great deal of time listening to the self hate or the fishing for compliments/reassurance that many bigger girls (again, I only speak of those that I know) engage in. It’s hard to ask others to accept you when you don’t accept yourself. You also mentioned that guys seek out “fit” women, because they want a partner that is not going to complain about their devotion to fitness, but rather be right there with them. Is this a negative? I think it’s reasonable for fit men to seek women out that are also fit (and vice versa), because it means they most likely will have a more compatible lifestyle. It may be out of practicality, rather than shallowness or prejudice.

Erika Nicole Kendall April 19, 2012 - 5:33 PM

I’ll leave your post to others to address, but in terms of my own words regarding men seeking out fit women, I said earlier in response to someone else, “Is it counterintuitive to be a gym rat who mates with someone who isn’t? Absolutely. If you’re not a person who has ever been a gym bunny or has ever dated one? You would never give that a second thought. That’s why this post also includes the phrase “The Nasty Things You Learn About People After You Lose Weight.””

Listen. I am a pretty fitness-minded person now. I spend an embarrassing amount of time in the gym, in my blog and in my CPT books. I couldn’t have a partner that complained about this. I understand. I “get it.”

I’d also be remiss in failing to acknowledge that the old me wouldn’t have understood why it mattered. We’re talking about “fat people,” but this is much more of an issue of “not understanding the commitment to fitness,” and that can be found in “fat fat” as well as “skinny fat” people. It IS out of practicality as opposed to shallowness. It’s also something you “learn about people AFTER you lose weight.”

Michelle April 19, 2012 - 7:29 PM

Hi Erika!

I read this and it definitely struck me. So many interesting perspectives in the comments.

In college, I reached a high of 406lbs. I dated.. a LOT. Got hit on.. a LOT. Had a lot of sex, great sex, with extremely attractive men. Sure, there were men who weren’t into big women, but I never seemed to have a problem having men in my life. In fact, when I got married, I was 375lbs. For whatever reason, I always seemed to attract men who liked not just bigger women, but all women.

Now, I’m 241lbs… and I don’t get nearly the same attention I did then. One theory is that men were turning to me as the fat girl last resort, or they felt I was desperate so I would do anything. I can’t say I was desperate or that I did/tolerated anything. I think that I was carefree as many women in their early 20s are. Reflecting on that time, though, makes me wonder if maybe that’s what THEY were on. Another theory is that, at 6’0 tall and 241 lbs, I look kinda “normal”, if that makes sense… or maybe there is an intimidation factor? Like, if men were confident approaching the morbidly obese fat chic, maybe they aren’t as confident approaching the more fit, beautiful amazon that I am? *shrug* I don’t know. I’m also 10 years older, so age might play a role.

There’s definitely the insecurity that comes with weight loss. I find myself often wondering about people and their intentions. Would this person have even acknowledged my presence 165lbs ago? I often say that fat people are so invisible in society, and people don’t get what I mean. We’re often not seen for who we are because we’re dismissed. People *do* treat me different now. People are nicer. They offer me more help with things, especially men. There is a “thin-privilege” that I’m starting to experience. It makes me reflect on how poorly I was treated before, just for being fat. Like you, I’m not a fat-hater and still align myself with women in the struggle. Hell, I’m still in it. But the things people say when they don’t know you used to be much bigger? Man….. smh

When I tell people I don’t get approached anymore, they don’t believe me. Street harassment aside, I really don’t. And.. I admit.. it is beginning to mess with me. I thought that with the weight loss, I’d get more attention. Now, I feel more invisible than I ever did. Maybe it’s age. Maybe it’s intimidation (friends say I actually look even taller now that I’ve lost the weight). Maybe it’s simple a product of me looking “average”. I don’t blame certain men for being attracted to me now who didnt know me back then. But the ones who knew me then, and trying to holla now? I don’t know man… I get preferences. But, just leave ME alone. It makes me feel like crap.

Just offering that other perspective.

Rich April 19, 2012 - 8:42 PM

In truth there are alot of guys out there that like bigger women, and it is not just a fetish because in truth you could make the arguement that wanting a fit women is also a fetish. I know that people will disagree but some of it does have to do with self confidence if you believe that guys will not pay attention to you, then they won’t part of the reason you get more attention from guys after you lost weight was because you had more confidence in yourself. In truth certain body types of guys get the same reaction, even some times from the same women that complain about how guys don’t like big girls. For instance how much attention do you think a guy that is 5’6 and overweight gets?

Keren April 19, 2012 - 8:43 PM

Absolutely NOTHING more needs to be said girl!!!! …except for oKAY?!!!!

frank April 19, 2012 - 8:57 PM

I known about this I’m slender and tall and whe onen I’m out with my guys they for the thin I’m been down that road. I have more fun with the biger ones that knows how to move shake it up and known I’m a gooding man but let’s keep it really all women have good sex and if your a real man you will known how to find it I do all the time no problem.

Angela April 19, 2012 - 9:27 PM

I’m going to try to keep this short. Why can’t a man have standards? If a guy wants a woman who can keep her appetite under control, he’s probably wanting to know what else is gonna be out of control? I know, everybody has issues but when a person just simply SHOWS their issues on the outside, you just know what to steer clear of. Everybody is entitled to their own standards. I mean, I don’t want an overweight man. That’s just MY STANDARD. Why should he want to be with you JUST because you exist? I just think to each his own..

Chae April 19, 2012 - 9:30 PM

I really appreciated reading this post. I have been thin for the majority of my life. My weight spiked in 2010 and I gained about 65 pds. As you can imagine, becoming a big girl launched me into a completely different world. The funny thing is I was self-conscious when I was thin, so the issue was all in my head. When you aren’t happy with yourself it is evident whether you are big, small or in between.

I went through a spell where I had severe insecurity, but luckily that is cured (Thanks be to God). Knowing that men have extreme size bias I am cautious in my relationships. Men with poor character pick on insecurity whether you are big or small. If you aren’t insecure you won’t allow the mistreatment to happen. I am still overweight, but I treat myself with love and respect. I will be back to normal one day, but this has taught me a great deal about love. Weight is conditional, but poor character isn’t. If you don’t want me now… please don’t look my way later. Men like what is appealing to the eye, but I want something that is appealing to my soul/spirit.

I agree with the man who commented on big men. I actually dated my first big guy a year or so ago and ironically it would have likely never dated him if I wasn’t big myself. I really enjoyed who he was, which showed me something that my skinny self would have overlooked. Maturity & character.

Lioness April 19, 2012 - 9:34 PM

This is very heartbreaking to read. As Black women the dating pool for us is very small to begin with. I have always wonder if my best friend resents me because she is the fat dark one while I’m the brown skin fit one. I’m not skinny just very athletic and tone. When we go out, I’m the one who gets approached. One time she met a guy and they seem really into each other so of course as her best friend she was excited for me to meet him. All 3 of us went out and when she went to the bathroom he turned to me and said “damn your fine, wish I had met you before her. ” Then he had the nerve to ask me for my number. When we got home I told her what he said and that was the end of that. She put on a brave face and said she didnt care but deep down Im sure she was devastated. There was another time she forced me to go speed dating with her and we found it hilarious that we both wrote down the names of the same 4 guys. The next day we checked out emails together to see if we got any suitors and 3 of the 4 guys we like chose me. No one chose here. I felt so uncomfortable because it was the elephant in the room. She was not chosen because she was fat. I really think it has affected our relationship because we dont hang out like we use to and if I ask her if we are ok she says yes just busy. I would hate to lose my best friend because of society’s obsession with shallowness

Stephanie April 19, 2012 - 9:34 PM

I’m so grateful to find this article…I’m in the process of losing weight now and I think about how I’m going to feel once I reach my goal…I feel like men are so evil, shallow, and inconsiderate now and I feel like once I lose weight I’m going to hold a grudge…I’m going to keep following these articles so I can get tips and encouragement….thanks!

Shy April 19, 2012 - 9:41 PM

Yes!! We are practically the same person, but different name. I am experiencing the same thing. Twenty-five and have never been in a relationship. While I would like to, I’m too wary to date. As stated in the post, I don’t want to be anybody’s fetish nor do I want to be perceived as, the woman that will allow anything. I know the perception of females and I think of that each time I am approached with a lame pick-up line; by men who clearly only want sex, masking it as genuine interest. I will be single before I allow such disrespect. Although, my esteem isn’t too high, it’s not low enough to permit disrespect, because I should be “appreciative” that I can get a man.

And even the regular “good” man, doesn’t want the big black woman. He may have values and stable employment, but he would rather have a relationship with a non-black woman (big or otherwise) than a “fat black woman” any day.

Chae April 19, 2012 - 9:42 PM

As a BG, I will give it to you …You are right. That is why I stopped talking about it to my skinny friends lol. If you have a friend who you want to support, consider motivational interviewing. This allows you to not try and be the solution, yet be a motivator and help a person come to their own solution which of course will be more actionable than your affirmations. In my experience, God’s love invites Self love and these were the game changers for me and really the most powerful. Even on days that I am down, I love myself enough to know I am worth it and remain optimistic about getting myself back to normal.

Charlese April 19, 2012 - 10:02 PM

Thanks for that example. I have never heard it put so plainly or succinctly until now.

I will think of this when I forget that I’m doing this to broaden my life and NOT simply to broaden my dating prospects.

Jame April 19, 2012 - 10:30 PM

This was a really great post. Because I feel the same way. I have never been small. And right now I am working on losing some weight. I have about 60 more pounds to go. And I’ll be honest, it is totally a vain goal, so I can it into more clothing options and have more dating options.

I wish I could say I was doing it for health. Because it isn’t really true. Before I embarked on my journey, I was already eating 80% clean. Just because I believed in it on principle. I didn’t exercise regularly since I didn’t prioritize it. But I wasn’t completely inactive, I walk 10ks, walk for errands. I am healthy — with very minor health issues (hypothyroid). I eat my veggies, I have normal blood pressure, low cholesterol, and low blood sugar. So nothing to worry about. I don’t have mobility issues. So I am losing weight to look better.

I started to realize, where I live, if you are bigger than maybe a 12, you pretty much don’t exist. Especially as you move up in class. I get attention sometimes. Usually from older people. Or you know the sketchy catcalls. And I realize losing weight will open up a lot more options for me. Sad but true. And right now I am down 30 pounds, and I notice a difference. We’ll see what happens when I get to my goal. But frankly, it was either lose weight or move to another part of the country. I chose the first option.

janelle April 19, 2012 - 11:56 PM

The point of view is from a used to be fat brown skinned woman . Not a used to be fat man. I’m sure if u insert male the experience would be similar in this fat hating society. One exception to the rule :rich fat men. Forget the criticism, what this article reads is real straight truth and fact. It is more fat or used to be’s experience than not. Well said and awesome perspective. Im in awe at reading my own tesimony. Dont tell my boyfriend this, but i wish i was skinny because im tired of broke men. Im sure most of u understand me when i say this.

BrainyBabe April 20, 2012 - 12:42 AM

This post sooo GETS it. It completely validates the “truth” about being a big girl that I have long tried to explain to my closest friends and family who tell me I’m crazy and — yes — say things like “You’re beautiful blah blah blah.”

I am beautiful. Unfortunately, too much of the world in which I reside doesn’t see it that way. Their loss. And mine.

I have been heavy since I was a toddler. I suffered the slights, insults and cruelties from classmates and society in general. But I had my pride and I refused to lose weight to “please them.” My feminist attitude was definitely “eff ’em. if they don’t like me for me, i don’t need ’em.”

But I have matured and come to realize that I have been cutting off my nose to spite my face. I am the one taking meds for hypertension, suffering early onset arthritis in my knees due to my weight, and putting myself at great risk for [insert other disease here].

I need to lose 50 percent of my weight, so says my doctor. And I have had periods where I’ve gotten half way to my goal only to get terrified — in part from ALL the male attention coming my way — and regain it all back and then some. But with therapy to help me overcome my demons, I am on track once again and determined to go the distance with exercise twice a day on most days of the week and a diet low in fat, salt and simple carbs that I cook for myself for the most part.

I will not forget the frenemies and outright enemies I faced as a big girl, but this weight loss is about me and for me and will be doing what’s best for me.

Sadly, what families, especially with children, and communities need to know is that there is so NOT a need to call anyone fat. Trust. They already know. And making someone feel bad just drives a person to eat more to soothe the pain.

I am not naive enough to think that reaching a healthy weight for the first time in my life will be the panacea for all my ills, but I am completely curious to learn how PEOPLE engage with ME without this moat called fat surrounding me.

I have no doubt that I will learn a LOT more about THEM than they will about Me.

Courtney April 20, 2012 - 2:28 AM

“One observation is that most big girls (that I know, at least) tend to be just as or even far more judgmental/harsh/rude towards other overweight people (men and women). Why is this?”

You’re asking other people to explain your anecdotal observations? How is that possible? Personally, I can’t speak to sharing this observation but from a psychological perspective, it’s pretty common that we’ll hate in others what we most hate about ourselves. This plays out in a lot of different ways regarding several different issues.

“And how can anyone hope to be judged less harshly than they openly judge others?”

This reasoning doesn’t make any sense. You’re still talking about your limited experience with a limited number of overweight women whom you’ve concluded all judge other overweight women worse than the rest of society, yet somehow extrapolated that to every overweight woman everywhere that they can’t reasonably protest against having their entire value judged (and subsequently dismissed) because of how much gravity it takes to keep them to the ground. And furthermore, we all judge people to some extent or another – that is basic human nature. That still doesn’t negate the fact that we all deserve to have our worth based on the internal and not the external, and when people are judging these overly judgmental overweight women you know – there’s no way for them to reasonably know that said overweight women are also judgmental before they judge them. This is by and large being done without any sort of acquaintance whatsoever with the actual women.

The rest of your post I understand and agree with to some extent… but I think discussing weight with female friends is kind of a common topic REGARDLESS of what weight you’re at, simply due to the fact that we live in such a ridiculously patriarchal society where womens’ worth is so often determined by how ****able she is. Maybe you notice that your overweight friends talk about weight issues more – and maybe they do – but this really is a topic that many women tend to discuss with friends. I can understand that it would make you uncomfortable if you feel compelled to offer suggestions that are constantly rejected, but at some point you have to realize they will make changes when they want to. It seems like they may just be more negative people in general – I wouldn’t necessarily attribute that to their weight, but more their personalities. If that is bringing you down, then you need to limit contact and/or cut ties. Life is too short. And it’s not unreasonable for fit people to want relationships with like-minded partners but that’s not being argued against. Regardless of how fit I am, I cannot help but realize that the pressure is much heavier on women to look physically perfect and attractive than it is on men, and our appearance impacts us socially more than it does for men. If you are a straight woman, generally your male prospects will put more value on your appearance than you will put on theirs, and this patriarchal oppression affects all women, regardless of size. One can have “thin privilege” and you can have “beauty privilege” but you’re still hurt by it, because it’s conditional and it can be taken away or used against you if you age, lose your looks, etc. One of the main points of this post is that everyone deserves to have love, REGARDLESS of size.

LBrooke April 20, 2012 - 4:17 AM

I want to say this article hits home, but I say that with EVERY article! I’m on my journey.. still at the freakin’ beginning, but I too wonder and have a problem with this body hating attitude towards people, especially females. I decided that I didn’t really want to date until I got to a comfortable weight, because like she says in the article, I fear being with a fat-fetish kind of dude (lol).

However, I do feel ready for a boyfriend a lot of the time– but like most, I’m not finding one. I can always strike up good conversation with a cute guy in class, but then he goes and sits next to, or pays most attention to the skinny chick who wears ripped daisy dukes and a belly shirt to class. And I feel like, I don’t blame him, I’d pick her body too.

This has also left me kind of angry though. I’ve often thought about scenarios when I lose weight, and people being nice to me, that I’d put up a big Facebook status that’s like “If you didn’t like me before, don’t like me now” (someone needs attention). Because that’s how I feel. I’m who I am, but defined by my body *loath*.

When I was younger, and lost weight due to a battle with bulimia and anorexia, I saw this first hand. Guys touching me in places I was never touched, and frankly, was uncomfortable being touched. And I hate to say it, even family members paid more attention to me.. or played favorites with me when I was thin. Once I gained my weight back, plus another 50 lbs, I really saw the dynamic shift– it’s a lonely world for some of us. I just feel like I’ll be mad if it turns again, especially because I am older and wiser, and DEFINITELY a feminist– this time around, I definitely won’t be open to people whose demeanor changes towards me.

Nona April 20, 2012 - 6:53 AM

I nearly cried when I read this post because it makes me so sad to think that plus size women have to feel this way just to find love. I’m a size 18 and recently engaged to a white man, and he loves me as I am. He also knows I want to lose weight for my own personal reasons and he completely supports me in that. He’s not overweight nor a gym rat but we take walks and hike together and he doesn’t mind trying my new recipes.

What’s interesting about this conversation is that there seems to be these two opposing sides setup, the fat woman and the fit man, but there’s an entire world in between. The number of obese people in the United States is growing everyday and so is the wedding market, so there is no way it’s only the thin women who are getting married. In my experience, there is an entire group of men out there who like bigger women even if they don’t necessarily identify as such, but they like you when they see you. I have many much thinner friends who couldn’t find a decent man if he knocked down their door with roses. Maybe I’m just an optimist but love is quite possible, even for a fat woman.

Erika Nicole Kendall April 20, 2012 - 7:48 AM

Find where anyone said a man – or any person – can’t have standards, and maybe I’ll respond.

Also.

Find where I said someone should want to be with you just because you exist, because I’m pretty sure no one said that.

Annette April 20, 2012 - 8:29 AM

“Weight is conditional, but poor character isn’t. If you don’t want me now… please don’t look my way later. Men like what is appealing to the eye, but I want something
that is appealing to my soul/spirit.”

Exactly the way I feel no trust level there when all of a sudden you turn to me.

Couldn’t have said it better.

Annette April 20, 2012 - 8:35 AM

Love yourself enough to allow someone to truly love you!

Dominique April 20, 2012 - 10:35 AM

Oh girl, the first time I lost weight in college, I had this one guy in particular try to strike up a conversation with me and would try to give me hugs all the time. Dance with me at parties, everything. I was always pretty short with him because months earlier when I was bigger, we were working on something together and he barely wanted to tell me his name. Keep it mind, I was not trying to “holla” or anything. I just introduced myself and asked his name because we had to do something together. He clearly didn’t remember acting this way towards me but like Mike Jones, I don’t deal with “back thens”.

Weight and hair length are the two main reasons I prefer dating at specific points. Weight, when I’m bigger and hair when it’s shorter because (in my head) I feel that it helps weed out the superficial ones….at least a little bit.

Jenjersnap April 20, 2012 - 10:54 AM

Thanks for interjecting about the colorism point. One thought comes to mind… “You can get rid of the fat, but you can’t totally get rid of the ugly”

Nicole April 20, 2012 - 10:56 AM

I’m interested in thoughts on this aspect of the conversation as well. I didn’t even consider the aspect of skin color in this conversation and how that would impact experience. I’m all ears… errr, eyes on this one.

Mayotte C. April 20, 2012 - 11:50 AM

I find that comment offensive. I had been pleased with the heartfelt comments I read thus far until I read yours. Clearly you do not read Erika’s blog as being “fat” vs. being successful at Weight loss is so much broader than simple “appetite control”.

I always thought the “but/purpose” of dating was to find someone who accepts for who you are, rather than what you can provide them, whether it is a hot meal, financial security or bragging rights.

We’re all entitled to standards/preferences but seriously… I am doubtful that most (good) people are so in denial that they would choose to hide behind the guise of “standards” in order to uphold and remedy some sort of superficial agenda. And if in fact they are, may God help them.

honey April 20, 2012 - 2:23 PM

Jeff – That example was very explicative and has caused me to think of several things in a different way (as I am very rebellious). Thank you for adding that to the discussion.

Vee April 20, 2012 - 4:00 PM

Wow Barberlady talk about being on the other side of the fence….it’s like you can not win or lose.

Eloquence, Inc. April 20, 2012 - 8:48 PM

I don’t think it says anything about the men’s character…if she didn’t like the extra weight why the heck should they? Come on we want them to act like they don’t have eyes to see. Black men are the most forgiving bunch where weight is concerned and the most status conscious given the constant reminders of how low on the world’s totem pole they are (at least here in America)..and the appearance of whoever they commit to have a relationship/marriage with tends to reflect “the best they could get”…so if they don’t want us, might as well suck it up and hit the gym or whatever because no other group on earth is as lax in the body fat tolerance department as the black man, so don’t take it as a diss, take it as a wakeup call to get yourself more competitive on the dating market. And I say that as a very overweight person who still gets attention from them, but when I was in shape the quality and quantity bordered on insane, now it’s just…average.

Some of this is instinct and some of it is society…but considering all the health issues tied to being out of shape…it’s not like people have to say it for it to be true…yes it’s unhealthy (the pc reason to lose) and it’s unattractive in a general sense (the non-pc reason) even though some can still have a feminine shape with it and carry it well (but looking good fat doesn’t mean she shouldn’t still lose it). What you should do though, is remember the men who wouldn’t give you the time of day and when they try to talk and you say no and they ask why, remind them they dissed you when you were big… I notice though a lot of big women don’t give fat men the time of day…they more want a guy with a perfect body than the slim women! Let’s all keep it real the best looking man in the club deserves the best looking girl in the club…if that’s not you be real within yourself and get on his level physically or bat in your league. Same to all the average looking and average-pocket men who think the fact that they stayed out of jail and don’t live with their mother entitles them to the next Stacy Dash or Megan Fox…if looks didn’t matter to even us females, we would all go find the next lonely ugly or 500 pound dude that all the other females are ignoring in the club or elsewhere, and have a happy ending…but we all want an attractive man, by our standards…well, the men want the same. A black man told me despite how men have “sh*t” to talk about black women, all black women have to do is lose all the weight and they would have black men eating out the palm of their hands. That’s it. Harder than it sounds for me, but I congratulate you and everyone else who gets it done regardless of outside pressure. Men are visual creatures.

Monique April 20, 2012 - 9:59 PM

Reading this brings back a lot of memories….it seems that, in my experience, men have been more truthful with why they dated me when I was larger versus when I was smaller. Granted, I was told that I was considered as more likely to do whatever I to, i.e. sexually, in order to get some attention–but it was the truth. I dealt with more lies from men when I was thinner. Part of the reason that I gained weight back was the invisibility that I get from being overweight…less drama to deal with, I guess. And now that I am walking with a cane due to an accident, I have been rendered even more invisible. I am now working on losing weight solely for health reasons now, since the only person that I have to–and can–please is myself. Part of me wants to have a relationship, but on the right terms and for the right reasons–because of who I am on the inside.

steve April 21, 2012 - 6:22 AM

“The idea that we’re only attractive within a range of sizes is absurd. And narrow.”

This would seem to imply that it is absurd to have standards of attractiveness at all. Why ought size not to be considered, if any physical traits are to be considered at all? Why is it *bad* that fat = ugly for many people?

Erika Nicole Kendall April 21, 2012 - 9:52 AM

“This would seem to imply that it is absurd to have standards of attractiveness at all.”

…except, it doesn’t. Stop reaching.

Critiquing personal preferences is nowhere near the same as critiquing societal preferences, though it is clear that society influences personal preferences.

Toni April 21, 2012 - 2:53 PM

Wow, this is exactly were I’m at. I just don’t have the courage to try and date right now. I’m usually the fat one in my group and yes, I usually get completely looked over when at a club or party. It’s soul crushing, for me anyway. But this idea that I must lose weight to find love is also soul crushing because I just don’t know if it will happen or if it’s true. I know plenty of beautiful women of average sizes that are single. Love shouldn’t be contingent of your size. I don’t know what to do. losing weight means a complete change in the way I eat and my overall lifestyle. That a hard ass thing to contemplate much less do.

Cristina April 22, 2012 - 8:36 PM

Here is my (somewhat abridged) story. Growing up….I was a chubby girl (since the age of 10). I attribute my being overweight to emotional eating. Emotional eating is what I chose to deal with a lot of my internal issues. I was molested. Not once, but on four different occasions and food is what I used to deal with my feelings. I figured as I continue to eat and pack on the pounds the more invisible I became and it worked. I didn’t mind. It was my protective cloak. My armor if you will. I believed that I was the one in control….that I was going to be the one in control from hereonout….by “controlling” both the male and female attention or lack thereof that would come my way.

At 22 I reached my heaviest at 270lbs, realizing that I was holding myself hostage, I made a decision to start tackling my demons one by one. I had to decide which reasons I loathed more, was it the unwanted attention, the invisibility factor (the times I actually wanted to be visible) or was it the self sabotage/the missed opportunities and declining health? As much as I may have been in denial about this, I realized how I viewed myself and how I chose to deal with my feelings, as good as I was at compartmentalizing, my skewed/jaded outlook spilled over in all aspects of my life in how I related to men and “being visible” with regard to the attention I received. It was evident in my career, romantic and social lives. I realized what I thought I wanted, what I believed to be in my best interest, well, was no longer and a change needed to be made.

So I started my journey, It wasn’t until I lost 80 pounds did I see and fully experience how different things were on the lighter/thinner side. At 190, 5″9 and a size 10 (medium brown complected and rocking the bald look). I was getting more attention than I had ever had. I mean, white men, asian men, hispanic men, Indian men, Arab men (this somewhat surprised me), black men, AND women. I was getting approached and hit on by wide variety, from different ethnic backgrounds and sexes. The peak in my self confidence and my self esteem was short lived (seeking/needing validation from others, makes it temporary). I mean men were falling over themselves to open the door for me, I was getting discounts/freebies, VIP access, favors. If there was a man interviewing me for a job opening, I was getting the job (and that was every interview I had). I definitely was not getting this preferential treatment 80lbs heavier. As shallow as this sounds, not only had my dating pool expanded so did my career opportunities, because of how I looked. Women who knew me pre-weightloss either fell in one of the two categories…trying to befriend me or viewing me as straight up competition. I used the attention from both men and women, the favors, the discounts, the freebies, the opportunities as a way to validate (stamp) my value on the attractive/beauty scale. My confidence which was at an all time peak begin to decline, I was constantly worrying/concerned about the “new friends” I had acquired and was second guessing their motives, their agenda for wanting to be my friend or getting to know me better just because of my outer appearance. This was something I wrestled with constantly. The men who saw me as the funny fat chick, or the cool home girl, now were giving me “the look,” whereas before, I would be lucky to get any sort of acknowledgment. You know that look all men get when they are about to approach you. THAT LOOK.

When I was thinner, I would hear “I just can’t be friends with fat people, I just don’t get down like that. I roll with a certain group of girls,” and “I just don’t hang with ugly people.” What is sad, is a lot of people have that same type of mentality, the only difference is some choose to be more vocal than others.

Currently, I am back on my weightloss journey and in midst of getting my body right, I am working on getting my mind right (thru therapy). Losing weight is scary for a multitude of reasons. It is a sad realization that people can be extremely superficial and shallow. Being on both sides of the fence, I am a lot more cautious on who I choose to get to know and the lucky few I will allow to get to know me better. Great Post!

Side Note: When it comes to dating nothing is wrong with preferences. Shoot, we all have preferences. I am just left scratching my head when I hear an overweight/fat dude (270lbs+) saying he won’t date big girls/fat girls (bigger than a sz 14) if they have a gut? True story.

Spiderlgs April 22, 2012 - 9:37 PM

These comments are difficult to read, but have been very enlightening. I’ve never been overweight, and of the people I know who are overweight, even those who have accepted their size, aren’t overjoyed with it and most attempt to lose it. I think it’s interesting perspective, and something that I needed to hear so that I can be more compassionate and more understanding, and more everything. Just in understanding the hurt and rejection that is felt.. regardless of any valid or invalid reason..

I dated an overweight woman for over 2 years, and that was a struggle for many reasons… and I loved who she was, but besides our lifestyles being incompatible, I struggled to find her physically attractive, and that kind of intimacy is important in a relationship. I don’t know if it’s society that narrowed my ideas of what’s attractive. I wish I was one of those people who found everyone attractive, but I don’t. I’ve tried to expand my horizons.. and have always felt it unfair for me to experimenting with them when I wasn’t really all the way there. I was with another woman who gained weight while we were together, and that created other issues because she brought in food into the house that triggered me.. and I felt like she wasn’t supporting my life and my goals.. and the way she felt about worse about herself, without doing anything about it, made it difficult to support her.

I hope this doesn’t make me sound like a jerk because I would never be rude to someone who was not physically my type for any reason.. that’s just a hot mess, as humans we have to treat each other well. I just thought I could throw in my experience from another perspective.

I think from my POV, I also worry about health. I work out because I dont want to have a heart attack, diabetes or stroke, like many many of my family members.And as a control freak, I work out to keep all of that under control. AS i’ve been thinking about this for the past few days.. I think one prejudice I might have is that someone obese doesn’t have that under control. And I realize that’s unfair, and I realize that i have my own shiznit, you just can’t “see” it.

Tons to consider. Thank you.

Mike D April 22, 2012 - 10:19 PM

I see nothing in this article about being a fat man and women finding you unattractive. Of course that must still be a product of this ‘patriarchal fat-hating society’. I’ve got to say that truly I feel bad for you. You will most likely end up alone – of course you’ll find some slight comfort in imagining yourself as some kind of martyr fighting against patriarchy and societal constructs or somesuch. When really the truth is that you are just so self-obsessed that you cannot handle the fact that people will always judge others on their appearance. You’d rather believe the problem is with society than with yourself, and that we are just one women-led crusade away from utopia. The fact that your complaint is something as arbitrary as the perception of overweight people just makes it even more sad because it’s something readily corrected by excercise and dieting. Try being someone with a true deformity living in this world.

Your problems are so trivial but because of your victimization complex you make them out to be some kind of conditioned problem with men – a giant conspiracy led by a male-dominated society that mostly exists in your mind. One day you’ll realize your error, I only hope for your sake that it is sooner rather than later. I’m sure than in reality you are quite a nice, possibly even intelligent woman.

Feel free to delete this comment in what appears to be your personal echo-chamber for not fitting in with your worldview.

Erika Nicole Kendall April 22, 2012 - 10:50 PM

A few things:

1) I’m always amazed by people who say unbelievably rude things, then end their comment with “feel free to delete… [insert foolishness that implies you only approve comments that agree with you]” – “possibly intelligent?” Whether you think someone else is nice or intelligent has nothing to do with the fact that you entered MY house to discuss a topic *I* laid on the table and if you cannot show respect then you SHOULD expect to be deleted. Don’t “dare” me, because I can delete and probably will continue to do so and will think nothing of it.

2) I don’t know why, in discussing being overweight women and dating, “fat men” and their feelings have to be considered. I’m wondering what the hell television shows you people are watching. King of Queens. According To Jim. The Simpsons. Fresh Prince Of Bel Air. Family Guy. Family Matters. George Lopez. Every time one of you wants to remind me that “fat men need to be considered here,” I feel like it’s my duty to remind you that THE MEDIA ALREADY HAS YOU COVERED. You’re not only dating, but you’ve got hot wives with giant racks and great figures POST-kids!

I’m not going to re-mow a freshly-manicured lawn. Sorry. I, quite frankly, would rather talk about this and how it affects overweight women. That is today’s perspective.

3) I’m not sure any person here needs you to “feel sorry for” them. I certainly don’t. I don’t see any problem with being “self obsessed,” especially when it sure as hell beats being an Internet troll.

4) You insist on reminding me that “my problems are trivial” but you want fat men to be considered here… why should it matter who I consider if the topic is so petty? Pick a side – either its worthy of exploration and inclusion, or not.

5) I’ve been at this for far too long, son. My only error is giving this the five minutes it took to respond to it. Especially when you use words like “dieting.” ROFL

How’s that for an echo chamber? *wink*

Oh, and as for “Try being a person with a “true deformity.” Repeat after me: this is not the Oppression Olympics. That is the epitome of petty.

Bella Figura April 23, 2012 - 12:24 AM

Erika, I’m going to clarify things for you.

Would you date a midget? A homeless man? A high school dropout? A man missing all his teeth?

If you said no to any of these, then maybe you can understand why men with options avoid fat women. You have your mate preferences, men have theirs. Those unattractive men I described are simply the male analogue to fat women. You can vent all you like about it, but that’s the reality of male desire and it ain’t changing any time soon.

What seems to really bother you is actually that the MAN is doing the choosing, and not YOU. How dare these men snub you, how dare these people pass on your afro, when that should be your prerogative, you seem to be saying. Honey, you’re not the only one with free will.

Gegee April 23, 2012 - 6:31 AM

I agree with Q. If you couldn’t look at appreciate me nor find the time to speak to me while I was big then when I’m smaller please keep it moving. I’m at my heaviest now 230lbs. I’ve gone from being the attractive one to being the overweight one.

I put on the weight to protect myself from men after being hurt by them. Now that I want to lose the weight it’s hard because I tend to self sabotage. Therapy has helped but I’m not about to lose weight and get with someone who is only interested in my size.

There is so much more to me then my weight. Yes for health reason we should all be active and conscience what we eat, however no one needs to be made to feel less than due to their size.

Some men are very shallow.

Erika Nicole Kendall April 23, 2012 - 7:17 AM

To clarify something for me, you’d have to have a better understanding of what I’m talking about here. You don’t.

I’ve said at least three times in these comments, this isn’t a slam at “having preferences.” I didn’t even say whether or not I agreed with the original blogger’s decision to do what she’s doing for the reasons she’s doing it.

This isn’t about “the MAN is the one doing the choosing.” My post is heteronormative because I am heterosexual. There are women in these comments who’ve said they experience the same issues in lesbian relationships. I’m not “bothered” by men passing on me. Men pass on me for tons of reasons (another commenter mentioned colorism, that’s a huge reason), and that’s okay. The point of bringing that up is that preferences exist in a multitude of combinations in different regions, and they all affect who approaches us on that level and who doesn’t. What’s acceptable in one place isn’t acceptable in others. The weight that might be “acceptable” in one part of the South CERTAINLY wouldn’t be “acceptable” in a place like Miami.

This isn’t even entirely about dating. What if I brought up the salary gap in white collar companies between the thin and the not-thin? What if Crunk was saying that she believed her income was being adversely affected by her weight, so she was going to lose? We’d all be like “Hey, do what you’ve got to do to get that money, but damn if it doesn’t suck that this is the reason why you have to do it.” THEN, this blog post would be all about the things you learn about how people’s perceptions of the overweight affect the salary they offer them, or whether or not they’re offered a salary at all…and if you DO lose weight and find out just how much money you were missing out on, you might be so crushed that you decide to work someplace else, instead.

This isn’t a man-hating diatribe. This is “Hey girl, hey…this is how it is and you might not’ve known that before, but understand that your weight may matter far more to others than it does for you… and, even if you DO change it, it might not yield the desired results.”

Hope I’ve clarified a few things for you.

vee April 23, 2012 - 8:44 AM

Erika I agree with your last post.

I never got any indication that this was a man-hating post/thread.

I so agree with your last statement:

This isn’t a man-hating diatribe. This is “Hey girl, hey…this is how it is and you might not’ve known that before, but understand that your weight may matter far more to others than it does for you… and, even if you DO change it, it might not yield the desired results.”

Excerpted from “Dating While Fat And Feminist,” And The Nasty Things You Learn About People After You Lose Weight | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

Cristina April 23, 2012 - 10:09 AM

Just to piggy back on what Erika said with regards to preferential treatment when it comes to career opportunites.

“This isn’t even entirely about dating. What if I brought up the salary gap in white collar companies between the thin and the not-thin? What if Crunk was saying that she believed her income was being adversely affected by her weight, so she was going to lose? We’d all be like “Hey, do what you’ve got to do to get that money, but damn if it doesn’t suck that this is the reason why you have to do it.” THEN, this blog post would be all about the things you learn about how people’s perceptions of the overweight affect the salary they offer them, or whether or not they’re offered a salary at all…and if you DO lose weight and find out just how much money you were missing out on, you might be so crushed that you decide to work someplace else, instead. ”

She realy did hit the nail on the head. I have experienced this first hand and witnessed it second hand. For those individuals, who do not feel weight and perceived attractiveness doesn’t play a role in salary, promotions, or even getting a job offer are sadly mistaken and strongly in denial.

Case and Point: I have a girlfriend who works for an engineering firm. She is a Marketing Manager and countless of times, the Vice President and President of the company, has hinted they only seriously consider “attractive” candidates to come work for them. She has said herself, everyone who works with her looks like they stepped out of a GQ magazine and this is at an engineering firm. I had to see it for myself in order to believe her and let’s just say, she painted a very accurate picture. I didn’t see one person who would be considered overweight nor less than average.

Second example, I worked in management with my previous employer, I lost count how many times I overheard colleagues of mine (on the management team mind you), mention how attractive a candidate was and how they planned on hiring her to benefit from some extra eye candy in the office. It does happen folks and these aren’t companies/positions where a certain look/level of attractiveness is a requirement to get the job done, it boils down to preferential treatment….based on looks. Some make the cut (the aesthetically pleasing) and some just don’t (the overweight and the less than average) and it just so happens, the decision makers (hiring managers) just so happens to be the judges. Sad but true. I don’t believe this happens everytime nor everywhere, but I believe many would be surprise by how often it actually does happen.

CJ April 23, 2012 - 1:17 PM

“I feel like it’s my duty to remind you that THE MEDIA ALREADY HAS YOU COVERED. You’re not only dating, but you’ve got hot wives with giant racks and great figures POST-kids!”

That’s ridiculous. As an fat Black male, I can tell you I am not in demand. And while TV may portray fat white men with hot wives, walking through any Walmart will show you that reality stops outside Hollywood.

Using TV as what’s acceptable in the real world doesn’t work.

Other than that, good article.

Drea April 23, 2012 - 1:19 PM

I agree with you 100% on everything you stated in your original post….my only gripe is with the part of the post that wasn’t published…in particular the last paragraph that states that the total number of big girls with partners could only total up to 2 or 3. I think the assumption that the total number could only total up to 2 or 3 sexual partners is highly presumptive and inaccurate. As a big girl who has been in a committed relationship for over 6 years and has had a significant number more than 2 or 3 sexual partners I believe confidence and a great personality are just as important as physical appearance. This is in no way disputing the prevalence of fat discrimination…it is all too real in the dating world, as well as in healthcare and career settings….i can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard ” Dre A’s pretty as hell and mad cool, I just wish she was in better shape”…but for every one of those, there were 5 waiting in line to holla at me. Just saying….you can be big ( I’ve been in the 230-240 range for a good 10 years now) and have to beat them off with a stock. Love this blog….down 20.lbs because of you and haven’t had red meat soda or anything processed in months…yay clean eating!

Gloria April 23, 2012 - 1:25 PM

In my life I’ve had a serious crush on two fat guys, and the fun thing is that in both cases I was quite the slender one in comparison.

In both cases, my friends asked me what I saw in them, and I would tell them that I found that they had a nice personality and a charming smile… Still, never got a chance with any of them: apparently I wasn’t the “queen of the prom” slender type they were after.

Of course they have the right to have a “type” of woman, and if I didn’t fit it, well, there isn’t much to do… But then, talk about standards

Erika Nicole Kendall April 23, 2012 - 1:39 PM

Not entirely.

1) TV CAN be used as a gauge of what the real world finds acceptable: if society finds a show or its topic unacceptable, the show gets cancelled. Fresh Prince of Bel Air was a HUGE show for a long time, and I’m pretty sure that I could argue that the lack of shows like it has a lot to do with the lack of Black shows (especially ones that have to do with families) on TV period, than it has to do with anything else. You couldn’t tell me that Fresh Prince would’ve been just as popular if it was Aunt Viv who was the heavy-set one. (Edit: Family Matters, Meet The Browns, Still Standing…?)

2) Walmart isn’t, for a number of reasons, an accurate portrayal of all “overweight white men.” It’s actually interesting that you’d use that as your sample. It’s similar to saying “look in the projects!” to describe Blacks. I’d sooner use a mall or a restaurant as an example, both of which I’ve worked at in my day.

3) Is it about being “in demand” or is it about receiving repeated messages that who you are in the body you’re in is wholly unacceptable and you must change or be considered forevermore unworthy of anything? Are articles being written about Black men and their weight, their inability to mate, their everything? Have Black men ever been the virtual Hottentot Venus that Black women are today? They’re not.

I’m not interested in playing the Oppression Olympics, so please don’t take my comments as saying “what you deal with is nothing compared to us!” But there are plenty of discussions and images of overweight men in the media. This simply isn’t one of them, and it doesn’t need to be. Y’all will do just fine without it.

Drea April 23, 2012 - 5:23 PM

I may have misunderstood you…perhaps you were stating that if we count the number of thick girls we know with partners that number would equal no more than 2 or 3….still presumptive in my opinion…I think its very possible to have a healthy fruitful dating life as a big girl…but if I misunderstood you I apologize and digress.

Erika Nicole Kendall April 24, 2012 - 4:31 PM

I just re-read this and felt the need to say…no, it is not “disgusting” that you have/have had in-shape partners. I, even at my heaviest – right after my pregnancy – was in a long-term relationship with a man who was Military-style fit. As in, wake up, run 6 miles before breakfast type fit. I also was long-term with a man who was well into the 400lb range at 6’5″, but he was brilliant, civic-minded, clever, great to my daughter and made me feel like I floated on air.

Even though there are people to whom body-size matters a great deal, there are many who find other traits more valuable. There’s nothing “disgusting” about that, IMO.

Eloquence, Inc. April 24, 2012 - 4:54 PM