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Can a guy be just as attracted to a fat girl as a "hot" girl?

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Ash asks:

I am 21 and very pretty, but also very overweight. Close to 200lbs. I don't look TOO bad as my weight is well proportioned, very large hips, bottom and bust, but smaller waist and relatively slim face. Recently a guy has expressed a serious romantic interest in me. I know that he is usually attracted to much smaller girls and I find it very difficult to believe that he could really be attracted to me. Is it possible, for a guy who could very easily get a very "hot" girl, to be attracted to a pretty girl who is very fat?

Heather Corinna replies:

Who says you're not as hot as someone who weighs less than you, gal?

In other words, it's entirely possible this guy is attracted to a hot girl: you.

Not everyone shares the same aesthetics when it comes to who we're attracted to, nor does everyone subscribe to a given set of beauty ideals or standards. Some people are widely attracted to all types of people, others more or less to people of a given size, shape, coloring, style, what have you. But even when we see a pattern in the kinds of people we or someone else has been attracted to, that pattern isn't writ in stone. Sometimes it changes over time, and other times there are exceptions to those "rules," which isn't all that unusual when you consider that who we're attracted to is usually about a lot more than what someone weighs in at.

This idea that only thin women are hot or attractive, or found to be attractive by others, to everyone just isn't sound. When it comes to physical attraction and sexuality, if we know anything to be true of all of us it's that our tastes, attractions and desires are diverse, and that using a broad brush to classify what people are attracted to is rarely accurate. We also have to know that no matter our size or shape, the grass will always seem greener on the other side.

As well, general beauty standards are as changeable as the way a given population or generation dresses. For example, for quite some time in western history centuries ago, women of size were the beauty ideal: that size was seen as an indication of wealth and health, because for a long time, many very thin people were so because of a lack of means to feed themselves properly as well as due to the fact that they were often engaged in very hard labor. Royalty, on the other hand, or those of means, not only could eat well, but could live far more luxurious lives. In some ways, the opposite standard we see pervasively now about very thin people is pretty similar, as now it often takes money and leisure time to stay thin and look young.

And not centuries ago, but really quite recently in the whole of history, around the turn of the century, women could find themselves looking at advertisements to gain weight rather than lose it, since one of the reigning beauty icons of the time, Lillian Russell, weighed in at.... exactly the same weight you do. If you think back in our iconic history, you can remember that women like Mae West, Jennifer Hudson, Jane Russell, Anna Nicole Smith, Queen Latifah or Jayne Mansfield have not just been women who people made some sort of exception for to find attractive: women like these were and are idolized and drooled over in droves.

Sounds to me like the issue isn't if this guy could really be attracted to you, and isn't about his own ideas about beauty and what's attractive. Rather, the issue seems to be about your ideas. He's expressed interest, so there's really no reason to second-guess him or to figure you know better than he does about who he finds attractive. The person who appears to be questioning if you're "hot" is you, not him.

We can't measure a person's attractiveness with a ruler or a scale. Again, whether or not we find someone, or ourselves, attractive is a lot bigger than anything we can quantify or measure. Things we are made weak-in-the-knees by with someone else are endless, unpredictable and very variable. With one person, it may be that the sound of their voice, the slope of their neck, the way they walk, or how they look at us is what draws us. With another, we may find we're attracted to the color of their hair, the small of their back, the style of their writing and the way that they kiss. When we add in emotional or romantic attraction, what a person looks like is only one factor in a LOT of different variables: someone who is of a certain shape is not going to guarantee an emotional connection.

When we're just talking about bodies, all of our bodies are SO detailed and so diverse in some many ways that reducing any of us to merely a size dismisses a million different things about us, from your slim waist and wide hips to my muscled back and freckled face. Someone who finds you attractive is more likely to see you as a collection of your many details than they are as a size of body: hopefully, the same can be said for your feelings about yourself.

As an aside, I think it's important that we're realistic about the way we classify weight. 200 pounds on most body frames is not, by any means, excessively overweight, and for some frames and heights, it is a completely healthy weight by medical standards, healthier than a lower weight would be. Ultimately, pounds on a scale doesn't tend to be the best way to determine if someone is healthy or not, especially since fat can be fit: BMI is a better measure, but just taking someone's lifestyle, overall health and how they are feeling into account is even more accurate. Someone who is over medical guidelines for a healthy body weight and BMI (and understand that some of those guidelines have also always been suspect) can still be healthy: if you're at least moderately active and eating healthfully -- in terms of what you eat more than what portions you're eating -- and you feel balanced in your body and well, there likely isn't any reason to have concerns about your weight.

I get that it can be tough in an era when larger women are discriminated against and not often included in broad beauty ideals or standards, but so much of what the media, fashion and popular culture presents and how it presents "ideal" people diminishes, demeans or leaves a LOT of people out, be that due to size, race, nationality, proportion, gender identity, sexual orientation or social/economic class. It's sage to be very critical of ideals presented by anyone -- or even in your own head -- as universal and timeless, because they hardly ever are. Even in your lifetime, you'll probably see beauty standards change at least a few times. I know in my nearly 40 years of life, I've seen them change several times already.

So, yes: this guy could be attracted to you, and it appears that not only could he be, but that he is. If you also have feelings for this person and like and are attracted to him yourself, it'd be a big bummer to let a potentially great relationship pass you by because you somehow have the (false) idea that a given body size is an entry requirement to someone's heart or mind: it's not.

I'm going to pass you some links at this site and others that I hope will deliver a one-two-punch of positive body image your way.

Suffice it to say, at the very least, I'd strongly encourage you, the next time you pass by a mirror, to notice the hot girl staring right back at you.

written 11 Jun 2008 . updated 20 Jan 2009

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