i want to stop feeling defined by a number on a scale.
April 7, 2019 11:02 PM   Subscribe

You're a fat person, but this doesn't interfere with your sense of self-worth, it's not constantly on your mind, it doesn't hold you back from putting yourself out there socially and romantically, and it isn't like, number one on the list of things that defines you to yourself. How did you get there?

I'm trying to figure out how to get the courage to put myself 'out there' romantically rather than hang around waiting for my emotionally unavailable crush to finally notice me.

The number one thing that holds me back from putting myself out there is this really deep-seated conviction that, while I have a good face and a nice personality, no one is ever going to want to date me because I am fat. I know this isn't true and lots and lots of fat people have successful romantic partnerships. But it's such a deep-seated conviction with me that it has affected very much the way I relate romantically to people. I have comparatively little sexual experience for someone of my age, and part of that is due to the fact that I can't imagine anyone really wanting to get up close and personal with a body that looks like mine.

Apart from this (!) I have a good opinion of myself and logically I know that when people think about me they probably think, "Oh yeah, they are smart and nice, also incidentally they're fat". But in my own head, I think of all of the good things about me (popular, financially secure, organised, intelligent, socially adept) as completely incidental. The main thing about me to me is that I'm fat, I look bad in photos, I have to navigate spaces differently from other people, I can't wear certain clothes, etc. And that's how I feel that people see me. I want to stop constantly thinking about my weight as the defining factor about me. I want to appreciate myself better. I feel like dating will feel easier if I learn to love and accept myself better. I haven't let my weight hold me back in any other aspect of life except for this one, because this is the only one where my weight feels like a factor.

A lot of my issues with self-image stem from a bad childhood (I was horribly bullied in school for my weight by the cool kids; even my friends criticised my body because my curves made me look 'slutty'; my family gave me a really rough time about my weight; the only time I felt socially accepted and romantically viable was when I had an eating disorder in my late teens and early twenties, etc). But since then I have tried to take charge and live life with intention and I am so different now to whom I used to be in many aspects but I just can't get over this hurdle. Any advice?

Some points: See eating disorder point noted above. Please do not advise me to lose weight. I've done a lot of work with a nutritionist and I'm ok with how I eat. My question is how to live comfortably with myself at any weight. Also, I exercise already, so suggestions to get exercising won't be that helpful either. I have a really busy and demanding job, so suggestions for volunteering won't help because I simply don't have the time to commit to that.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (35 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
My body has changed a lot in the last five years. Something that helps me with confidence: I have fat friends. They are wonderful people I'm excited to se. When I think of them, I think of their words of encouragement, passion, kindness, great stories etc. I don't think about how big their butt is, ever. Size is superficial and doesn't enter into the picture of how I define people I care about. I doubt it does for you either. So imagine other people see the world in this way with relation to your own body. It's great you are trying to be healthy emotionally and physically. Respecting yourself can be hard.
posted by Kalmya at 1:42 AM on April 8, 2019 [8 favorites]

My body has also changed a lot recently even though I'm still in the thin privilege category (I'm also disabled.) One thing that has helped me work toward accepting my body now is following fat-activists and body-positive activists prior to and during these changes. (I'm starting to be sized out of some clothing, plus fat-phobia definitely would have affected me much more had I not learned about the bullshit of society/marketing. I was also severely bullied about my body in my youth. Not to mention, again, disabled and chronically ill.)

One person who is amazing is Megan Jayne Crabbe (Instagram) She has a book out (that I have not read.) She also experienced an ED. Plus she shares lots of body-positive messages from other activists, including disabled activists.

Another is Dani Adriana (Instagram) She also experienced an ED and has some really good information and insights.

There's also Anna O'Brien (Instagram / YouTube) who does fashion blogging and activism, often through fashion. I watch her clothing hauls because I like her attitude even though we aren't in the same size range. So if you're looking for plus range clothing she has some amazing insights into price, fit, quality, etc from her hauls.

One of my favorite people is Imogen Fox (Instagram) She primarily focuses on disabled activism but also a lot on body positivity and fat activism. She also experienced an ED, is still continuing in recovery, while dealing with impairments that affect nutrition. She's an incredible spirit and a great voice for body positive activism regardless of body size as hers has gone through so many changes.

You're welcome to take a look at who else I follow on Instagram (link in my profile.) Those are sort of my top go-to's for recommendations of people who share this type of content regularly.

I can tell you, body acceptance of any kind is hard. It's especially hard to push against these societal ideals about bodies that have existed for centuries. It's also much easier to think these are good ideas in theory and apply them to others but struggle to apply them within ourselves. Surrounding myself with people reinforcing those ideas and pushing back against what is honestly lies told by society is very refreshing.

I hope these are some activists you can relate with and can point you a good direction for others with similar life experience and questions. As I can't answer exactly the question you asked. But I think "courage" comes from a lot of learning and applying what we've learned.
posted by Crystalinne at 2:18 AM on April 8, 2019 [12 favorites]

How did you get there?

I'm coming to terms with a 50 lb weight gain in 5 years, and there are 2 things that are working.

The first is noticing how I feel about other people and applying that to myself. When I first meet people, there's always a brief body scan and some type of mental note of their size, but it never goes beyond that. Of course I notice their size. I also note their shoes and their dog and their smile and their conversation. It all goes into that little impression file and their size is no larger or smaller a factor than their hair color. It's just a data point. I don't care.

I try to take that and force myself to remember that nobody out there (with the exception of my impossible mother) is thinking of me either positively or negatively based on my size. I'm the only one doing it.

The second thing is I'm lucky enough to have a friend who's been dieting for 20 years, and it's in the last year that she's lost weight, but she's been a miserable, body-centered whiner for 20 years. And now she's all obsessed about gaining a pound back.

I have always loved her exactly the same way. I don't care if she's fat or thin. I just want her to be happy, and I hate that for 20 years she's been so obsessed about a thing that nobody else cares about.

None of this is easy, but I can stop feeling down about my weight by remembering how little I care about other people's weight.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:17 AM on April 8, 2019 [9 favorites]

One of the things that's really helped me with this is having friends (of various sizes) who don't watch what they eat, and who don't judge others for what they're eating. While we talk about food, we're just talking about food--what tastes good, what we tried, what we wanted to try. I don't always love cooking, but talking about food with my friends is fun and interesting. When we talk about our bodies, if weight is mentioned at all, it's usually neutral, factual statements: "I'm too big for that clothes line," for example.

Sometimes I start feeling bad about my body, and then I consider the alternative. I consider my mother and her sisters, all of whom are very slim, all of whom have spent most of their lives calling themselves fat, claiming that they're too fat to wear [skirts, swimsuits, etc], and being careful not to enjoy their food too much. I think about how many people I know who eat a piece of toast for breakfast and a cup of yogurt for lunch so they can "earn" having a nice dinner with their spouses at the end of the night, or who can't go out to lunch with a friend without spending half the meal talking about how "bad" they're being, how having a coke twice a week is their "guilty pleasure", and I think, holy shit, I don't want that life.

The amount of time and energy and effort that people are encouraged to spend policing their bodies is ridiculous. I can't always muster the self-love to say that I don't want to live like that, but I can pretty consistently say that I don't want my loved ones to live like that. So I consciously avoid talking negatively about my body, or my weight, or my food choices, because I wouldn't ever want my friends to think that I think of them the way that I think of myself, sometimes. And after a while, I (mostly) stopped feeling bad about myself, too.
posted by mishafletch at 3:49 AM on April 8, 2019 [29 favorites]

Something that helped me was taking belly dance lessons. The women in that community are all shapes and sizes. Some of the best dancers I've seen (including my teacher, who owns the studio and has become a friend of mine as well) are fat. And still wear the bra top, fancy skirts and makeup and slay it onstage. I don't know if it was dance class or hitting the right " DGAF" age, but I'm fat and am now wearing bikinis as my default swimwear, and not feeling one bit self-conscious.

I have started dating again for the first time in 12 years, and have been pretty successful, at least in the first month. I look at it as my size is just a part of the package, people can take it or leave it. If they leave it, there's more people waiting to take their spot, and I bounce on over to them.

Also, listen to some Lizzo ('Tempo' , in particular). And also follow her on social media if you do that.
posted by Fig at 4:33 AM on April 8, 2019 [16 favorites]

Therapist. Work on self-esteem.
posted by Miko at 4:34 AM on April 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

the only time I felt socially accepted and romantically viable was when I had an eating disorder in my late teens and early twenties

My mother says I looked most beautiful when I simultaneously had an undiagnosed stomach parasite and a child undergoing a life-threatening mental health crisis. I was almost skeletal and to her, I looked better than I ever had.

WTF, right? So I can think back to how physically sick I was, how much mental despair I was in.

I was so unhealthy and I can clearly remember how terrible I felt. When I was thin, I barely functioned and people thought I looked wonderful. I try to remember that for me, being smaller comes at a terrible price and to remember that anyone who places a value on THAT is someone I don't want to ever be around.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:09 AM on April 8, 2019 [24 favorites]

Oh heyyyyy! I'm hella fat and also adorable and lovable and worthy. And so are you! I'd love to give you the magic potion to make you okay with that, but it takes work and it's not work you can stop. Things that help me are following so. many. fat. babes on instagram and twitter, reading fat-positive stuff, *not* reading the comments on mainstream articles about fatness, practicing gratitude for my body, etc.

In terms of romantic stuff, my favorite piece of advice that really seems to land with people for whatever reason is this: don't decide for other people whether or not they're attracted to you.
That, along with remembering that no one owes you attraction and it doesn't make them a bad person if they're not, goes a long way towards just approaching other humans in a way that puts no one on the defensive about possible attraction. The pool of people who are into you may be smaller than the pool of people who are into ScarJo, but there are plenty. Like so many.

Good luck out there, and if you ever want to chat about this, feel free to MeMail me.
posted by ferociouskitty at 5:16 AM on April 8, 2019 [14 favorites]

While I am not fat (although maybe I am according to some-- upper end of straight sizes) the thing that helped me with my body image issues was dating other fat people. Desiring their bodies was a way for me to short-circuit my brain into desiring mine. Not that they always desire mine back.... quite the opposite. There are fat people I've had hopeless crushes on, who were way, way out of my league. Guarantee there is someone or multiple someones out there who feels that way about you.
posted by coffeeand at 5:19 AM on April 8, 2019 [10 favorites]

I'm just curious, what would you say to me if I said this to you:

"The number one thing that holds me back from putting myself out there is this really deep-seated conviction that, while I have a good body and a nice personality, no one is ever going to want to date me because my face isn't pretty enough."

Possible food for thought?
posted by sunflower16 at 5:21 AM on April 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

So many images and storylines in my culture (USA) are 'thin 2 win', etc... So I've had to source out fat positive images and stories. I really enjoyed the audiobook of Shrill by Lindy West. She reads it and I was able to use the Libby app with my library card so it was free. Instagram some good fat positive hashtags.
On the other side try to avoid mainstream mags that fetishize skinny. Boooo on that shit!
It is hard and having self love is important.
Maybe get into a social hobby you've wanted to try - it can be a creative thing that gets your mind off size and romance and then you'll have something interesting to talk about. Maybe even meet someone (but that's not the goal). Volunteering feels really good too. (Edit: Nevermind/time may be limited)
You're awesome!

Editing to add - maybe you need to do some glamour shots with a photographer so you have pics where you look really good! Clothes that fit and make you feel good, etc...
posted by PistachioRoux at 5:37 AM on April 8, 2019

You mentioned that you "look bad in photos". I wonder if it'd be worth getting some really good photos taken of yourself? Maybe you have a friend you feel safe around who has a camera, or know of a fat-positive photographer in your area? Or just take a zillion selfies and delete all but the 2 you like.

Depending on your personality/interests, this could look like getting professional headshots where you look all confident and powerful, sexy boudoir pics, or photos of you enjoying hobbies with pals.

Your mileage may vary, but this can sometimes be a good way of getting to "oh shit, I'm hot/impressive/interesting actually".
posted by ITheCosmos at 5:39 AM on April 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Wear great clothes. Get a group of friends together, ask everyone to bring lots of different colored tops and scarves. Set up an area of white wall, put the phone on a tripod, see how you look with no makeup and different colors. Take a lot of pictures. Don't wear colors that don't look good on you. Go shopping. Try things on based on shape. More pictures. The fashion industry pushes certain shapes and colors every season but you don't have to participate. Developing an understanding of what works for you helps you feel great in your clothes. When I had a weight gain and was broke, I was pretty much buying clothes just to cover my body and it was depressing and miserable.

Great hair.

Get a friend who's a decent photographer to take a ton of pictures of you in different lighting, settings, outfits. Play music if possible, it helps you move and look happier. There's a trick to photographs: You see yourself in the mirror; that's a reversed image. Use an image editor to look at your pictures flipped. You will see yourself in a more familiar way and will hate photos less.

Think about how you feel about other fat people Accepting them, accepting the idea of dating a fat person, will help you accept yourself. Read Roxane Gay, get pissed at this unhealthy culture we're in. Forgive yourself for being fat, if necessary. The guys who never proceed out of dating sites can be fat-haters (haters in general) so you will need to be tough and fierce because you don't need guys, you want A Guy. You deserve love, great sex, happiness, fun, and someone to share your amazing life.
posted by theora55 at 6:21 AM on April 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Kate Harding wrote lovely essay on this, The Fantasy of Being Thin.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 6:23 AM on April 8, 2019 [6 favorites]

I didn't want to hop back in here but I want to say that everyone has an opinion and that's terrific, but the last thing I do--and therefore the last thing I think you should do--is to put ANY focus on pictures or clothes or great haircuts or makeup.

I work with young adults with disordered body images and food issues, and the work is to get them to STOP thinking about their appearance, period. We call it sure, but thinking.

Sure, but thinking is: Sure I'm not at my goal weight (or sure, I may be fat) but my clothes are adorable. You're still putting too much focus on your appearance.

The goal is to go out in whatever hair/clothes/makeup combination and feel great because it's a gorgeous day and you've got fun things ahead, not feel great because your outfit is on point and your hair is rocking. It's still the wrong emphasis, and it's part of sure, but thinking.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 6:34 AM on April 8, 2019 [14 favorites]

I'm fat. Like 280lbs fat. How I taught myself to put myself out there was I did it slowly. See you're going straight for hard mode by aiming for romance out the gate.

Put yourself out there, say Hi to everyone, make awkward small talk with people at work you normally wouldn't, if you're busy at work remember it's a great place for good solid basic social practice where you can retrain your brain. When you've comfortably assimilated the fact they didn't all run for the hills screaming "OMG A fat person talked to me". Up the anti and make some casual friends in a non threatening way. If not at work, join a group around a hobby (yes even an online one), take a class, hang out in coffee shops, make some casual no pressure acquaintances, then the hard step, make them into friends, some of them can even be people of the gender you prefer. Keep making friends with people where ever you go, then one day you realized hey I've stopped worrying what people think about me.

It seriously more about you dipping your toe into the waters of being accepted by people for who you are & getting used to that idea than it is about finding a romance partner. Once you can accept that people can like you for who you are, how you are then you'll be ready for love if it comes along, & if it doesn't then hey you've got people around you who like you and support you.
posted by wwax at 6:37 AM on April 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Your woo-woo mileage may vary but I find working with affirmations really helpful.

E.g. this yin yoga video but there are lots of other ways (journalling, etc). Even if I don't believe "I am worthy of love" and feel like an absolute idiot saying this schlock aloud, it does plant a seed in your mind--what would it take for this to be true? I wonder why this feels untrue to me? From there my brain kind of takes over and I find my self-esteem improving without having to be Suzy Sunshine about it outside of the actual practice.

Fake it until you make it isn't bad advice either, though. You could create a persona who asks your crush on a date, is not defined by her weight,but is just a super desirable babe in addition to all the other positives you know to be true about yourself. And then just-- pretend to be that person when you ask people out, dress up as that person when you go on dates, brush off haters like she would, etc. Easier said than done, of course.
posted by athirstforsalt at 6:38 AM on April 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

You're a fat person, but this doesn't interfere with your sense of self-worth, it's not constantly on your mind, it doesn't hold you back from putting yourself out there socially and romantically, and it isn't like, number one on the list of things that defines you to yourself. How did you get there?

I'm professionally and financially very successful and I dress extremely well. There's a lot to be said for good tailoring. Unshaven and in badly fitting clothes I look like someone likely to be helping the police with their inquiries, properly dressed I look like I'm about to turn down an invitation to join the Monetary Policy Committee because I have too many lucrative conflicts of interest.

I won't comment on whether this is necessarily healthy behaviour - since I do actually care a great deal about appearance which might not be good direction for you - but I certainly never think that I'd do X if only I weren't fat.
posted by atrazine at 6:42 AM on April 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

Just realised the fake it til you make it scenario sounds like that bad Amy Schumer movie. My alter ego is still fat, just a lot braver and more pro-active than I am!
posted by athirstforsalt at 6:42 AM on April 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Consider switching your exercise to weightlifting. Weightlifting is an activity filled with powerfully large people who do the opposite of fetishizing skinny. Weightlifting can change the concept of "weight" from being a number on the scale to a number you crush under the bar.

You could do this by going to your or a gym and talking to a trainer. Say something like "I'd like to start weightlifting for strength. Can you show me the basic barbell lifts and show me the kind of progression that works for beginners?"
posted by bdc34 at 6:47 AM on April 8, 2019 [12 favorites]

It’s not that some folks will find you attractive in spite of your size. Some folks will find you attractive because of it.

A few months ago I became friends with a tall, relatively slender man who is very attracted to fat women. It’s been absolutely delightful to talk to him about his love interests. He doesn’t date only fat women, but he is so excited when he matches with one on a dating app. I’m not fat, but my weight has fluctuated and I struggle with body image issues at time. Hearing someone have incredible enthusiasm for fat women has had a strange, unintentional effect of raising my own self-regard, I think in part because I’ve realized that what we find attractive varies so much.

Life is a rich mosaic, etc.

For what it’s worth, I was terrified to get on dating apps a few years ago for different reasons, and it’s been great fun. Good luck.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:19 AM on April 8, 2019 [4 favorites]

A technique I have used about this and other insecurities that were becoming really limiting: as part of a meditation practice, think about what it would feel like to you to not have that insecurity. What thoughts would you have instead of the limiting ones, that's part of it, but literally how would it feel to be you feeling that way?

And then try feeling that way. You might only be able to do it for seconds the first time. It's like riding a bike, you might only be able to take both feet off the ground for a second at first. But it's also a muscle, a neurological and mental muscle, and it won't get stronger if you don't train it. It's going to kick up some dust - you're going to be afraid you're going to be punished for the sin of feeling good, but then again that boogeyman starts to shrink the more you do it without getting struck by lightning for it, which of course you're NOT because it's not a sin to feel good or confident or armored/DGAF against the people who have their own bullshit reasons for wanting to put you in your place for it.

It's weird, real weird, when you first start trying it, I have to struggle against feelings like "this is really stupid and cannot possibly work" and just do it anyway to tick it off the list. But it feels so good that you want to come back to it and try it some more, it's a good kind of addictive. And you'll start to feel the results in your thoughts and actions and impulses. It's not perfect, and especially with this kind of insecurity that is weaponized in our culture there's going to be some dings and setbacks, but it does work.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:00 AM on April 8, 2019 [9 favorites]

I want to second the recommendation to watch Shrill.

In particular, Episode 2, at the strip club. That was a big turning point for me.
posted by witchen at 8:07 AM on April 8, 2019

For me it started with reading blogs like Shapely Prose (defunct but old posts still available, including the phantasy of being thin, linked above) and then continued when I realized how arbitrary weight gain or loss can be. I gained nearly no weight at all during my pregnancies, and not due to nausea or eating differently. I’ve lost and gained weight as a side effect of medications, again without any deliberate changes in eating behavior from me. That really drove home that it’s not a moral failure to be fat. I don’t tolerate fat shaming anymore; it’s not an issue that comes up much anymore.
posted by meijusa at 8:09 AM on April 8, 2019

Look into Jessamyn Stanley (link to her website). She is a bad-ass body-positive fat yoga teacher, and was an amazing inspiration for me to work on loving myself more. 'Every Body Yoga' is a fantastic quick read, even if you don't do or want to do yoga. Her Instagram account is worth a follow.
posted by Fig at 9:27 AM on April 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

It's easy to feel separate from one's own body, like it's this annoying, ugly THING that isn't really you in the way that your mind is. Just something that schleps around your brain. But really, your body is the only home you've got until you leave this planet. You are your body.

Please try to treat yourself well and really internalize how amazing your own unique body can be. I know you said you exercise, but do you enjoy it? Maybe try something new, like weightlifting, long walks, dancing, yoga, or riding a bike, that will give you appreciation for how your muscles move and how you feel when you've exerted yourself in a different way. Wrap up on the couch in a cozy, soft blanket. Slowly eat something delicious. Stretch like a cat. Lay in the grass on a sunny day and feel the warmth on your skin, the smell of sweet grass and soil. Indulge in sensory pleasures, basically, and appreciate the enjoyment you can get from your body and how you can move and see, smell and hear.

Often, we fat people try hard not to look at ourselves in mirrors or in photos, to try to deny the reality of our bodies. But that is futile. You are what you are. Maybe spend some time looking at yourself naked as honestly and lovingly as possible, to observe your body and hopefully to learn to appreciate it for all it is and can do. You are worth loving, internally and externally.
posted by zoetrope at 9:41 AM on April 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Virgie Tovar is a fat activist I follow and her articles are so brilliant.

I've gained 50 lbs in the past 5 years and am a size 18, which is considered huge for an Asian American person like me. My mother has extremely frightfully strong hate for fat people due to her own internalized fatphobia, and I feel sad for now miserable she feels about her own weight and eating habits. She tries her best to be accepting, but she's wired pretty harshly. Since I was a kid, I've tried my best to read only body positive books and media in order to offset the immense strain of growing up in a judgmental Asian culture that can't really handle sizes over a size 6.

I spend a lot of time with friends who are body diverse and are really beautiful and talk about their dating lives and professional lives. I draw and follow other artists who draw beautiful diverse representations of fat bodies doing so many fun things. I also make sure to buy myself beautiful clothes at my current size that fit well and make me feel really good, after one of my skinnier best friends pointed out to me that I wasn't dressing myself as stylishly as I used to after I gained weight, and asked if I was depriving myself because of that. Lastly, I focus a lot on building my confidence and self esteem and inner self and realize that I've never been attracted to people who cared about conventional body sizes, and a lot of my friends who are fat have the most impressive love lives, due to the sheer amount of wisdom, vulnerability, and personality they have. It's the way they make people feel that matters, because they work so hard on making themselves feel good, in a society that prioritizes terrifying them (and me) into misery. At the end of the day, resisting as an act of self love is what matters.
posted by yueliang at 10:03 AM on April 8, 2019 [6 favorites]

In this answer, I am making the somewhat presumptious guess that you are a woman (based on the reference to "slutty" and curves) and that you are heterosexual. If you are bisexual or lesbian, there is likely less value in what I wrote, but hopefully still something of use.

I am a man, and yet I could have written nearly every single word in your post. I do not know if that helps you, to know that someone in your desired gender could feel the same way. I say this because I know that, especially if you do not have much real-world experience, you can tend to deify your desired gender, especially if they are not your own gender. This was joked about from the male perspective in The 40-Year-Old Virgin when people kept telling Andy (Steve Carrell) that he was putting the "p–" on a pedestal – but it was an accurate observation of that tendency in those with inexperience. We (those with inexperience) tend to assume that the other gender is without flaw, and will size us up and judge us as unworthy or less-than. In reality, the other person is as human a soul as we are. They have their vulnerabilities and fears just as we do. Their experience may differ, but it is their first time with you — just as they are unknown territory to you, so you are unknown territory to them.

Additionally, you say that you simply can't imagine men being attracted to women that are your size. I understand that feeling very much, but I can also, with great certainty, simply state this: in reality, men have much wider parameters for what we find physically and sexually attractive than the depiction of "standard" male heterosexuality in mainstream media and fiction. As proof ... well, be forewarned that when men express their appreciation of female imagery in Internet forums, we're not usually at our most eloquent ... but you could go to Reddit and look at the comment section of several forums where men appreciate the larger female form (e.g., curvy, thick, BBW). These cannot be written off as "niche" fetish subreddits; they're well-populated and mainstream. There, many, many men are doing their own version of Ralph Kramden ("homina, homina, homina!").

And it does need to be said that, just like women, the emotional connection we forge with someone has the power to make them more and more beautiful in our eyes. I've had it happen to me, where a curvy woman became more and more physically attractive to me over the course of a first meetup as we found more and more in common. I began to notice a sparkle in her eyes, her smile, her teeth ...

Just because of how your wording mirrors my own thinking, I will say, though, that I suspect that, like me, you could read all the words in the world and yet find enough inside you to hold you back.

There was a psychological experiment in which a light shock was ran through the floor of dog cages (not enough to damage, but enough to hurt). Some dogs were given a way they could avoid the pain; some dogs were not. Another round was done in which all of those dogs could escape the shock. Those who couldn't avoid the pain before? They didn't try to escape; even though they could leap out of the cage, they didn't. This was called learned helplessness ... and it happens in humans as well, as a function of how we explain things to ourselves. Once those dogs experiencing learned helplessness started accumulating good experiences, they unlearned the bad and started re-learning the good. The point is to start accumulating good experiences, even when it is absolutely terrifying at first and you must mentally shove yourself out the door.

And, honestly, I should be taking my own advice in my own life. Believe me, I know what I suggest is not easy.

Anonymous, I wish you luck. And I'll also share links to Learned Optimism and Big, Big Love, both which may be of help.
posted by WCityMike at 12:05 PM on April 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

Therapy did me a ton of good, but we didn't focus on weight much in therapy (in fact, some of our worst times were when we did - no, I was not going to join Weight Watchers, Ever).

Helpful therapy was about how I related to other people, self-esteem (but again, not in a "what can we do about your self esteem?" way, more in a "why would you think you aren't worthy of love? Would you say that to similar friends?" way), and figuring out what I really wanted in life and finding my way there.
posted by ldthomps at 12:10 PM on April 8, 2019

Hi, I was you about a decade ago and I understand how frustrating it can be. I wholeheartedly nth the recommendation to surround yourself in as many ways as possible with amazing fat people. Instagram, blogs, books, tv shows (Shrill, as mentioned above, as well as Dietland, My Mad Fat Diary, Huge).

Fat bias is real in the world and in the dating world specifically - I didn't find it helpful to pretend it wasn't. What I did find helpful - learned after years of online dating (which, incidentally, led to my very happy marriage!) is that just like everyone else in the world, some people find me attractive and some people don't. I was absolutely not interested in dating the ones who didn't - who would be? I came to see that as one of the things I was looking for in a partner - someone who sees me as hot.

So yes, get some great clothes and great photos of you wearing them (professional photos are a good idea if you can afford them) and put plenty of pictures of yourself looking gorgeous and like yourself on your dating profiles. Then when people respond, you know what you look like is part of what they're responding to.

Wishing you strength and so much happiness!
posted by tangosnail at 1:18 PM on April 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I struggle with this, too (and to be clear I am very fat, not just a little fat), but I've always done okay romantically, because I am brave as fuck when it comes to relationship risk taking, and friend risk taking, I am basically good at chasing after the people I want around me.

Why? How? I'm sure some of it is just me being me, but if I poke at it, there are things I carry with me:

1. I assume everyone else is afraid, too, and mostly I've been right about that. By this I mean that most people are down on themselves, no matter what the size, and so my bullshit is very likely bullshit*. Like, do you ever just watch people in social situations (particularly with lots of new people) to see how everyone winces at themselves and says stupid stuff or makes jokes that fall flat, even the people that seem the coolest? Everyone struggles, we're all vulnerable and just want to be liked. Possibly you're just fine socially, but I find this kind of thinking extends well to dating.

2. LIFE IS SHORT LIFE IS SHORT LIFE IS SHORT (this is what's it like in my head). LIFE IS SO SHORT. Life is so short. What does it cost me to ask a cute girl out, really, when life is so short? Why would I never try, when life is so short? I feel this so powerfully it can blow away hesitation and fear. Social awkwardness and rejection are small prices to pay to find real connection in this brief life.

3. As far as bodies, I think this might be an individual thing, but: Sex is so not about skinny and fat, once you're in it, and that's something else to hold on to. I feel like most people who are worth sleeping with know this. It's about moments and bodies and softness and hardness and breaths and, like, I don't know, we all bring preferences into it, for sure, but in the moment? Sex is something you can lose yourself in, if you let yourself, and that can help with the body issues. I hope that makes sense.

4. Something that really helps me with confidence in these situations I used to get myself into is that I stopped asking do they like me and started asking do I like them. That was pretty revolutionary for me. Like, what do I think of this person's body? How do I feel about them? Instead of the question of whether someone liked me, I went from whether I liked them, and acted based on that (risks and all).

*THAT SAID, fat bias is a very real thing, for sure, and that makes things harder. But there are plenty of people out there who want to touch your fat body (in a good way, not a creepy way), and some of those people will be people who you want to touch.
posted by hought20 at 2:37 PM on April 8, 2019 [6 favorites]

For me, it was a combination of lifting and social dance.

The lifting because, as said above, lifters (and probably athletes in general) talk about body weight and diet in a very different way. Not always a positive or healthy way, especially among those competing in a sport that has weight classes, but not exclusively in a negative way. Which is different from what we get in some other circles.

Also because lifting is unlike many forms of aerobic exercise in that extra body weight often does not make things harder. Fat runners bang on their joints more. Fat cyclists have to work harder on every hill. Fat lifters often come in with surprisingly heavy leg presses, just from the passive exercise of carrying their fat around.

As for the social dance, I got into a number of folk dances where most of the 'in' crowd were nice retirees whom I reminded of their children. So I never felt like people were going to choose to dance with me or not depending on how attractive I was. And after a few years I got pretty good at it and people who I'm sure were initially dancing with me to be nice to the new guy started dancing with me because it was fun to dance with me. Which is a nice feeling.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 4:07 PM on April 8, 2019

Hiya, I'm cis bisexual female, 5'2" on a good day, and last time I was on a scale, 240 lbs. Part of it's health issues, part of it's medications to treat health issues, part of it's just, I'm fat. Health stuff also messes with diet and exercise. And has me living with caregivers, using a wheelchair, unable to drive, and all kinds of complications to dating anybody. So that's not a thing that's on my radar right now.

But in spite of all that, I'm still freaking awesome, and anybody would be lucky to date me because I'm amazeballs. So, in no particular order,

* Unfuck Your Brain. I adore Kara Loewentheil. I'm on her email list and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. I also, when I remember, listen to her podcast. (I don't remember a lot, I'm busy being freaking awesome.)

* I used to attend Arlington Metaphysical Chapel, and one of the pastors there mentioned a book in her sermon that was a brain-changer. What You Think of Me is None of My Business, by Terry Cole-Whittaker. I mean, really, why does somebody else's opinion have anything to do with you? That's on them. That's their hang-up. I've had this exact conversation with my 14 year old daughter about not letting what other people think have any impact on her life. She's a sweet, sensitive kid who wants to help everybody, and lets everbody's emotions glom all over her.

* A friend from the same church recommended another book to me that's had a positive impact: There is Nothing Wrong with You, by Cheri Huber. It's all about identifying self-hate and moving past it.

* A friend from a female business owners group I belong to recommended another amazing book that I've fallen completely in love with, and have recommended all over the freaking place: The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck, by Sarah Knight. It's a parody of the Tidying Up book, which I refuse to read, but it's amazing in its own right. No longer giving a fuck about what people think about you? Absolutely freeing.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 5:07 PM on April 8, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'm overweight. Quite a bit. But I feel like claiming fatness would be disingenuous. I'm tall enough that the weight hides some. Also, I'm not in or wanting a romantic relationship. Those are my disclaimers.

I've lately started to like how I look in the mirror. At 47. Finally. I haven't lost any weight. I've been swimming more, so some of the weight has changed. But really it's mostly just... kind of liking the softnesss I have, and not wanting sharpness. I think, someone would be happy to rest on me. I'm comfy. I look at myself and think, this softnesss is pleasing. If someone said, hey, you get a magic wish and can be 50 lbs lighter or even just 30 lbs lighter, I think I would trip over myself saying no. I don't think I'd be me. I don't think thin would look good on me TO ME, and fuck if I care if it would look good on me to anyone else.

I still look terrible in photos. I think when I was 18-24 I looked good in photos. But not before and not after. You can't have everything, I guess.

But I want to second Cheri Huber's book(s). They're fantastic. She has helped me for years.

I want to mention a friend of mine, who is also overweight. He said to me once that he spent many years thinking he could never have a romantic or sexual relationship because of how he looked. And then, when he started actively looking for one, he found that there were people who specifically liked people who looked like him. Not just willing to look past his weight because he's so great in other ways, but people who just liked or loved fat bodies. He's seems to have been very happy since, and has had fulfilling relationships.

(I absolutely recognize that gender and sexual orientation can play a big role here, and I don't know yours.)

Good luck to you. You seem like a fantastic person. I want good things for you.
posted by greermahoney at 8:50 PM on April 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

I third the suggestion of weight lifting. Getting strong is its own reward.

Lots of great advice here, but I don't think I've seen specific mention of something you can start to do, today: notice yourself thinking badly of yourself, and intentionally redirect that. Only you know what messages are bouncing around in your brain. Identify and rework them. Like, if you think "I can't do that because I'm fat", catch yourself and repeat another message that makes sense for you, like "I think I might like to do that and I can try it if I want to." Or if you think, "My body is ugly", redirect to "my body is my home, I'm glad to inhabit it, and a part of my body that is beautiful is (my hands/my eyebrows/the dimples on my knees/whatever you know to be beautiful)" .

You absolutely can learn to redirect those thoughts and you can start today. You deserve compassion and kindness, and you can treat yourself with compassion and kindness.

Hugs, friend. I'm glad you wrote and I hope you turn things around!
posted by Sublimity at 1:00 PM on April 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

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