It’s a given that physical attraction matters while finding a romantic partner. And while online dating, it can often seem like the most important thing—if not the only thing—that matters to people who are deciding whether to click yes or swipe right on someone they may be interested in. If you’re online dating while overweight, the fact that your first impression is primarily based on looks can dramatically change your experience.
To get a better idea of what it’s really like to online date while overweight, I talked to a variety of daters and was surprised by the diversity of experiences and opinions. How did they make online dating work for them? There were a few key takeaways that shaped their experiences and how they approached meeting someone online:
Learning to Address the Realities
Many of those who are considered overweight go online knowing that there are some people who have already decided not to be with them, even before seeing a single picture or having a single conversation. But they aren’t just dealing with the reality of people rejecting them because of their weight, they’re also handling interactions with those who pursue them because of it.
“If you are an overweight person doing online dating, you have to have a pretty good self-esteem to survive it,” said Jessie, an online dater. “Even for a good-looking person, the process of having people analyze whether or not they want to date you based almost strictly on a handful of pictures and a few words is intimidating. For an overweight person, you go into it knowing that your choices are going to be limited and that you are probably going to experience a good bit of rejection.”
Many of the men and women spoke of getting less attention than others do. Some also received insulting messages or overly sexual come-ons centered solely on their weight.
“The vast majority utterly ignore you and the rest see you as a fetish object,” said one online dater, Julia, about her experience.
However, despite the drawbacks and difficulties, a few daters felt hopeful that their dating lives would change as the pounds came off. And many found success—and loving partners—staying exactly as they were, weight and all.
Picking the Right Photos
We all want to look our best while trying to attract our potential dates and mates. When it comes to picking photos, though, those who are overweight have a split in philosophies regarding how much of themselves to show.
“I get more matches by putting up pictures that somewhat downplay my overweightness, while still not giving the impression that I’m thin,” said one dater, Shawna.
“I used flattering selfies, usually with an Instagram filter on it,” said another dater, Melanie. “I had one with my dog because she’s important to me. And then one full body shot, but it was from the renaissance fair and I was wearing a bodice, so I looked smaller than I am. I sort of wanted to give them an idea of my size without trying to instantly put them off. And if the pictures got their attention, my personality could win them over.”
But others, like Rachel, emphasized the importance of being forthcoming from the outset.
“It’s been beaten into our heads that people don’t want to date fat people. They will hide their weight with clever angles, with their cleavage up or with face-only shots, and by using fuzzy euphemisms like ‘curvy,’ ” Rachel said. “I found the most success when I was the most honest about it.
“I used multiple full-length, recent body shots,” she went on. “I probably got fewer messages than the average woman, but that was OK because the messages I got were usually of quality. There was no ‘Does he like fat chicks?’ worry in my head. I was confident he knew what I looked like—and that he chose to message me.”
One dater Kevin mentioned that he looked different in his photos since he lost 100 pounds over the course of a year. But it wasn’t just the obvious weight loss that made a difference in how he looked.
“My self-confidence increased exponentially. I was happy to have photos taken of myself and share them on dating sites,” he said. “The photos I’d use would be of me doing more activities. As opposed to just a cropped face picture or sneaky angles to hide my weight, my new photos would include me, my full body visible, and I’d be genuinely smiling. The traffic to my profile increased. Women were more willing to meet up with me, and I turned a handful of them into decent relationships.”
Navigating Early Conversations
Online dating is more than window shopping. As many pretty faces as there are, ultimately the point is to talk to someone else and find out if you want to meet them.
Melanie made sure her conversations mentioned her weight at some point so that it was out in the open early.
“I’m not one to beat around the bush about that kind of thing,” she explained. “No sense in false advertising. If you don’t want to meet me because I’m fat, that’s your problem. Plenty of guys don’t care. Especially ones who just want a hook-up.”
But there are plenty of men who message women specifically because they are overweight.
“There are men who will contact me with the sole pickup line of ‘I like big women’ or some variation,” said Laurie. “No real introduction. No real attempt at connection. No presentation of any other value they might add to my life. It’s as if merely being sexually attracted to a body like mine should be enough to sweep me off my feet!”
Jessie said comments like those can be taken two ways and that how she interprets them depends on what’s said, and how it’s said.
“On the one hand, you know up front that talking to that person is not a waste of time,” she said. “On the other hand, mentioning that they like big women nods a little toward the idea that they may be looking for something purely sexual.”
Similar to what all woman face while online dating, some men don’t take rejection well and decide to lash out.
“It happened almost every time I rejected a man,” Rachel said. “They’d say: ‘You’re fat anyway, I didn’t want you,’ or ‘You should be grateful anyone even wants to talk to your fat ass.’ I expected that and blew it off.”
“When I’ve met someone and can tell we’re not a conversational fit and tell them ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ they seem shocked,” explained another dater, Laurie. “I think the implication is maybe a fat person shouldn’t be so picky and shouldn’t have high standards of our own.”
Finding Someone Who Values You
Despite the ups and downs of dating, there’s still good people out there genuinely interested in connecting. That rings true for most of us who have gone through frustrating periods while online dating, only to discover good connections, have good dates, and find good candidates for both hook-ups and relationships.
“You can meet your soul mate online,” Melanie, who met her partner in 2014, said. “When I met mine, my first thought was he was so out of my league because he is so fit and tall and just so very handsome. I never thought I would be with someone I thought was a 10. I always thought I would have to date someone physical flawed because I myself am ‘flawed.’ I have learned to love myself and accept my body.”
“We’ve now been married five years, and he’s completely supporting my weight loss efforts and eating the healthy dinners I’m making,” Penny, who met her husband in 2007, said. “For everyone struggling, please keep trying.”