When Weight Gets In The Way

Are extra pounds coming between you… and love? Read on for expert advice on what a dater can do.

By Margot Carmichael Lester

andy Oates of Newark, DE, refused to date until she lost 10 pounds. “I decided my dating failures were related to my weight and therefore, I wouldn’t bother dating till I lost it,” she recalls. “I never did lose the weight, and at some point I figured out that the pounds weren’t keeping me out of good relationships, I was.”

And she’s not alone in putting this kind of pressure on herself. Taneesha Harris of Las Vegas says she didn’t feel confident dating in such a body-conscious town. “I assumed
Can you accept yourself at your current weight?
nobody would want to date a ‘traditionally built’ woman, so I didn’t even try when people paid attention to me. Seeing all those showgirls around town really sapped my confidence.”

If you’re reading this, you probably have had some of the same feelings about your weight and its effect on your dating life. It’s not uncommon, especially for women.

Dates and weights
Body-image issues can impact your love life in a couple of ways. As you’ve seen from Mandy and Taneesha’s stories, it can keep you on the dating sidelines. And even if you do get out there, issues about your weight can keep you from success. “Body image problems almost always occur in conjunction with low self-confidence,” explains Maximillian Wachtel, Ph.D., of Cherry Creek Psychology in Denver. “If you are feeling self-conscious about how you look, you are going to exude low self-confidence. That is not going to be an attractive quality to which most ‘healthy’ daters are drawn. It could, however, draw unhealthy people to you and get you into some negative dating situations.”

What’s more, body-image problems are frequently associated with anxiety. “Overwhelming anxiety can turn a decent date into a nightmare, especially if you start panicking half-way through dinner about how much you’ve eaten just in case your date ends up seeing you in your underwear.”

Dealing with it
So how can you beat these bad habits without beating yourself up? Start by realizing that, unless you have a medical condition that keeps pounds on, you’re in control of how much you weigh.

Action step: So the first step is to make a decision. Ask yourself if you want to lose weight or if you can learn to accept yourself at your current weight.

If you choose to lose weight, find strength in knowing that “you have the power to burn more calories than you consume every day and lose weight,” Dr. Wachtel says. “You may
Date a broader cross-section of people.
not have complete control over exactly where the weight comes off — you might still be frustrated that your thighs are too big while your stomach gets smaller — but you can control when and how you choose to lose your weight.”

Action step: See your physician to develop a plan for healthy living.

And if you don’t want to lose any weight right now, that’s OK, too, says Dr. Wachtel. Don’t beat yourself up about it. “Just say, ‘I’m not ready to lose weight right now. I will be in the future, but I’m not ready right now.’ This will give you more of a feeling of power and control, rather than feeling like your weight is being dictated by unknown forces.”

Action step: Create a network of support people who see you in a positive light and who will help you accept yourself. If you want to seek professional help, ask your primary-care doctor for a referral.

Facing the facts
While you’re dealing with your weight, spend some time thinking about the people who are attracted to you, advises Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D., a Los Angeles psychologist specializing in relationships, body image and self-esteem. “If you are being rejected in the dating world because of your weight, be aware that these are the wrong matches for you and most likely would never work out in the long run,” she notes. “Relationships that are based more on physical attraction than on other more significant qualities, such as common interests and values, often are ‘skin deep’ and short-term without the staying power of a relationship built on a more solid foundation.”

Action step: Review your past relationships and look for similarities in the people you dated and the way you behaved. This will reveal clues about people and behaviors to avoid the next time around. Look for new kinds of people online and in your everyday life.

Reflecting on your past in this way will also help you determine if you’re attracted to the wrong kinds of people. “If you are unknowingly involved in a repetitive pattern in which you keep trying to make things work with partners who aren't into you, it’s only demoralizing and hurtful to your self-esteem,” Dr. Thomas says.

Action step: Break out of your pattern by broadening the range of who you’ll go out with so you can experience dating a broader cross-section of people. “You’ll have a greater chance of finding the right one and in the meantime, you’ll be meeting a lot of interesting people you previously wouldn’t have been exposed to.”

Body weight doesn’t have to weigh down your spirits—or your potential for romance. Following these tips can help you improve your self-esteem and your overall health and well-being. And that’s sure to improve your chances at romance.

Freelance writer Margot Carmichael Lester lives and works in Carrboro, NC. Her articles on healthy living and wellness have appeared in the Public Service newsletters.
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