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The Great Weight Debate


How big a deal is it to be big when dating online—and off? And just how honest should you be in your profile? We get the skinny on the subject.

By Dawn Yanek

PARTICIPATING IN OUR ROUNDTABLE:
Stacy Kravetz, author of The Dating Race
Robert Rosenwein, Ph.D., sociology professor at Lehigh University
Jeff, 29, teacher, New York
Heather, 30, social worker, New York
Diny, 31, student, Massachusetts


Let's face it: Weight is a hot button when it comes to dating. Let’s hear what your experiences have been like.

Stacy: There is such a weight phobia in this culture! People are so used to the images on TV and the models in magazines that their perception gets a little skewed.

Heather: In my experience dating as a woman who is not thin, I think guys are more obsessed with weight than women are. If you look at my dating history, you’d know that I’m not just into looks. But with guys, sometimes their online profile will say, “I like a woman who takes care of herself physically, spiritually and mentally”—and “physically” is underlined. And you should see the guys who have the nerve to be so concerned about that!

Jeff: I have an average build but have a little bit of a belly. However, I like to surf and be active, and I want to be with someone who likes those things. If someone’s on the bigger side, they’re probably not going to be interested in that. It’s not only about attraction to a certain body type—it’s also about lifestyle choices.

Heather raised the issue of online profiles, so let’s talk about that: What’s online dating like for people who are overweight?

Stacy: Online dating gives you an opportunity to not be eliminated right off the bat because of weight and general appearance. If you build a rapport with someone and you don’t measure up to what you’ve described, there’s always the chance that it won’t matter.

Diny: If you meet someone at a bar, you’ve seen each other, so there won’t be any disappointment the next time you meet. I had a great rapport via email with one guy I met online, but when we met, I guess he thought I looked different than my picture, and his face fell. The whole lunch was uncomfortable.

Heather: It can be hard, because for some guys weight can be a critical factor in whether they want to date you. I’ve found that since there are so many prospects online, guys feel like they can be really selective.

“I have good pictures: They only show my upper body, and they’re taken from a flattering angle.”
Do you ever fudge the truth about your weight on your profile?

Heather: I never lie about my weight because I never want someone to be like, “Ohhh, I thought you were thin.” My friends say that I go too much in the other direction; I’ll check a box that might describe me as bigger than I am.

Jeff: I’ve never lied. I want them to know what they’re getting. If a girl’s not going to like me because I have a belly, I’m not interested.

Diny: I have good pictures: They only show my upper body, and they’re taken from a flattering angle. But I feel like everybody looks at a picture, bumps it down by 20 percent and thinks, “She’s probably less attractive than that.” Since I’m overweight, I don't know how to accurately represent myself without taking myself out of the running.

Have you ever met someone online and then gone on a date and found that they’re heavier than you thought they’d be? Was it a deal-breaker?

Jeff: I met a woman whose picture was a little dark and far away, and she looked much heavier in person. She just wasn’t my type physically, and I would’ve known that if she’d posted a more accurate picture. I didn’t make future plans with her. You’re on a dating site to make your life easier and because you’re busy, so you don’t want to show up on a date and be like, “Who are you?” It's a waste of time.

Heather: I've met guys whose pictures looked like they'd been taken years before. It's like, “You’re not giving me credit. Maybe I would’ve liked you.” And I think it says a lot about a person — especially their confidence level — and that’s what’s unattractive.

Dr. Rosenwein: You know, the common view is that people will lie, but I truly believe there’s a lot more self-disclosure online, so you get deeper faster. And if there is some exaggeration when you meet, since you know more about this person, you might be more willing to give it more time and see where things lead.

Do most people fudge their weight on a profile?

Stacy: Having interviewed online daters for my book, I think it’s pretty common to make yourself sound a little better, especially since there’s such a weight phobia in this culture.

Dr. Rosenwein: But there really isn’t really much of a benefit to exaggerate a lot if you’re going to meet the other person. There’s a disconnect, and it also communicates that you can’t trust that person.

What’s the solution? Are there acceptable ways to bend the truth?

Stacy: There’s a continuum of lies. If you say you’re 10 years younger, you’re Catholic if you’re not or you're significantly less heavy, those are pretty big deceptions. But if you say you’re five pounds lighter, it’s kind of like lying on your driver’s license about your weight: Everybody does it.

Jeff: I’m all about being honest. A lot of people go into online dating with the attitude of, “I have to talk myself up, sell myself.” I just put myself out there and say, “This is me.” Different people like different things, so you never know what will click.

Heather: I use humor to deal with my weight. If I don’t describe myself as cuddly, I might say I eat a few too many hot dogs on Saturdays. I look for a guy who gets my sense of humor and has one himself.


Dawn Yanek is the author of Women's Best-Kept Secrets. She now realizes that publishing a book on that topic probably wasn’t the best way of keeping those secrets hush-hush.
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