Is there a weight limit on dating
December 29, 2006 1:52 PM   Subscribe

Just wondering what weight/BMI (considering height) is the dealbreaker for most straight men when they date a woman? Mine is 25 which is overweight but sure as hell don't feel like it!

A skewed sample from the Tom Leykis show audience (they're nutty I know) and other media seems to think that about 135 pounds is the limit for women of just about any height! I think this is bizarre but hey, I'm not a guy. This number seems to get mentioned alot in other media (more mainstream than Leykis).

Do they not realize how that actually looks on people who are average or taller height? I'm reluctant to link to look up celeb weights since they may not be accurate and they're usually under 135.

Has anyone ever dated someone outside of their limit or who had low image of their body in general?

(I checked BMI at the CDC site)
posted by Freecola to Human Relations (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience, men are generally useless at telling how much women weigh. Probably at my thinnest I weighed 125 lbs and wore an American size 6. Supposeably for a woman of my height, I could weigh as little as 102! If I weighed in at 102, you would be forcefeeding me. I would look like Nicole Ritchie at the end of a a serious heroin binge.

The other thing is, though, that depending upon one's age and height, there is a range of BMI and/or body weight that is appropriate - I forget exactly but my range is 102-125 - at five feet I have no idea what the BMI is there, but anyway - point being, A) I wouldn't have ever been with a guy who asked me my BMI on any date; 2) men generally underestimate women's weight, unless you are quite overweight, in which case they probably over-estimate, but I don't have any first-hand experience with that last one.
posted by Medieval Maven at 1:58 PM on December 29, 2006

You'll get all sorts of direct answers to your question, on either side, but there are studies about symmetry and waist-to-hip ratios that actually have some biological merit, in terms of what us humans are hard-wired to look for.

Body shape is of course important, too. And scientists have some numbers to prove it. Psychologist Devendra Singh of the University of Texas studied people's waist-to-hip ratio (WHR).

Women with a WHR of 0.7—indicating a waist significantly narrower than the hips—are most desirable to men.

And an analysis of hourglass figures of Playboy models and Miss America contestants showed that the majority of these women boast a WHR of 0.7 or lower.

In general, a range of 0.67 to 1.18 in females is attractive to men, Singh concluded in a 2004 study, while a 0.8 to 1.0 WHR in men is attractive to women, although having broad shoulders is more of a turn-on.

posted by frogan at 1:58 PM on December 29, 2006

Best answer: I have no idea how to answer your question--I'd never thought of BMI as anything other than a health tool, certainly I've never thought about it in terms of dating.

I will say that I've dated women with all kinds of body types, as I'm sure have many heterosexual men, and the biggest issues have come when the women weren't secure with their own bodies. There was certainly no way to provide enough external validation, and constant doubting on the part of those partners sometimes made me feel as if was wrong to be attracted to them. I've got as many things I'd like to change about my own body as most people, but I decided a long time ago that by the time I was getting naked with someone, it was too late to actually make the changes I was dreaming about, so I might as well enjoy what I've got. Life's too short...seriously.

Louis Aragon (who couldn't get an erection) was once asked how he felt about his impotence. His response was that he felt no worse about it than about the fact that he couldn't lift 500 lbs, or run faster than all other men. (That's a paraphrase.) I've often thought that his point, which is that physical attributes are impossible to compare, and there's always someone out there better, etc, is a good thing to keep in mind.
posted by OmieWise at 2:00 PM on December 29, 2006 [2 favorites]

You might not know this, since it appears from your profile that you're new to Metafilter, but this is a real hot-button issue that generates more heat than light, and also the way you phrased it is dangerously close to chatfilter. The admins might delete it and ask you to rewrite it so the question is much more clear.

The way you've phrased it, it's unanswerable. There's no such thing as "most straight men". Some only date thin women, some only date fat women, some date women of all body types. "Chatfilter" means it can only be answered with anecdotal evidence, and this is frowned upon by the admins.
posted by matildaben at 2:03 PM on December 29, 2006

The BMI is a (useful) approximation. This is obvious as it takes mass over height2 rather than something more like height3, but on the upside it takes numbers in standard units and churns out numbers in easy to remember ranges using operations that are easy to do on a calculator (or with pen and paper if needs be).

So it applies less well at extremes - taller or shorter people than average. It's a guideline to let you quickly figure out if you're likely to be in an unhealthy range, not whether you're body is going to have attractive proportions.
posted by edd at 2:04 PM on December 29, 2006

This doesn't directly answer your question (b/c I'm a girl), but I don't think people really use BMI as a method of determining body size/type/shape. Yesterday I had a conversation with a close guy friend about why I'm single and we concluded that guys date girls who are skinny and put out. But there's no magic number for what skinny is...
posted by echo0720 at 2:05 PM on December 29, 2006

My observations of straight men have led me to the conclusion that what they say is a dealbreaker, or "not my type," has very little to do with the people they actually date. I've known people who expressed a preference for skinny dancer types and fell for short, solid women, people who said they liked zaftig ladies and ended up with slim athletic types, people who claim to be attracted to large breasts but discover themselves lusting for women on the other end of the spectrum. (This may apply to women too, but I've heard fewer women state explicitly that they're looking for a particular physical "type.")

Basically, I think that what men say they like is affected by societal expectations--if you ask them, they'll tend to describe conventionally attractive females so that other people won't think they're "weird." Their bodies, however, have their own ideas and are not so influenced by these external concerns. So don't take it too seriously if some subset of males insist they'll only date women under 135 lbs; their behavior is unlikely to reflect this.

Of course, I'm sure there are some men who have a more accurate self-assessment, and some men who let societal concerns override their genuine attraction. This is a subject for which there are few if any universals--the studies frogan cited probably come closest.
posted by fermion at 2:17 PM on December 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yesterday I had a conversation with a close guy friend about why I'm single and we concluded that guys date girls who are skinny and put out.

Guys also date women who are of average weight who put out, slightly overweight women who put out, fat women who put out and morbidly obese women who put out.

Hmmm, I wonder what the common thread is...
posted by MegoSteve at 2:32 PM on December 29, 2006 [4 favorites]

I don't think men know how much women weigh, not really.

Men seem to think things like "Well, this woman I find attractive seems to weigh this number of pounds, and I find this OTHER woman attractive, so... she probably weighs about the same! In fact, [X pounds] is probably the standard-issue weight for attractive young ladies!"

I'm not sure if you were asking for hard numbers, or more general reassurance, but: I think it's really helpful to stop fretting about what some nutbag with a pulpit wants you to believe "all men" want and recognize that preferences are just preferences.

People like all kinds of things. If you like your body, I promise you, there is someone out there who feels the same way. But it's a lot harder to meet that person if you're sitting inside feeling awful about your thighs.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 2:58 PM on December 29, 2006

I'll have to second that no good can come of this question. When you're single and frustrated, it's tempting to look for these Grand Dating Theories of Everything, but they're total bullshit smoke and mirrors. You're not trying to date "most straight men," and you're certainly not trying to date "the Tom Leykis show audience," you're trying to date an individual with individual preferences, hopes and desires. If you ever meet some schmuck who cares so much about this kind of thing that it's a deal breaker, do the gene pool a favor and kick him to the curb. Once upon a time, the popular male incarnation of the Dating Theory of Everything was Jumping the Ladder. Remember that one? GAh.

But... If I had to venture a stab at the universal deal breaker, I would have to say that insecurity (in body, in intellect, in abilities, or in worthiness, etc...) is a real common deal breaker. The corollary of this is that anybody who is attracted to insecurity is automatically suspect. Those people are bad news.

So, the best way to improve one's attractiveness towards good parters and decrease one's attractiveness towards scumbags is to do whatever you need to do to improve your self-image and to project that confidence out into the world. The real trick is that confidence must come from within. I don't mean this in a self-help book kind of way, either. I mean you get your butt out in the world and you do something you're good at that feels good or you put yourself somewhere where you're needed. If you have legitimate health issues regarding weight, then you need to take care of yourself. Ask your doctor, judging one's own weight is no different than any other unhealthy self-diagnosis. Confidence does not come from external sources. It comes from believing that you are a worthy person and people who know their own worth know their self is worth taking care of: Mind. Body. Spirit. However, it helps to have passions that aren't totally same gender dominated. If you have psychological issues that make you feel unworthy, like I used to struggle with, then, to borrow another cliche, you fake it 'til you make it. That is to say, ask yourself, "What would a confident person do in this situation?"
posted by Skwirl at 3:17 PM on December 29, 2006 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for responses so far. I seriously just wondered how men thouht about the issue. We hear so much about what women think of this, but not the other way around. I've never heard women throw any "hard numbers" around for men expcet their height, 6' tall, which is also unrealistic.

I enjoy reading things about the science of beauty, health, etc so the question wasn't meant as flame bait or fishing for compliments.

I especailly like the comment that if one attractive woman weighs a certain amount, then some people think others must weigh exactly the same. Kinda funny in its own logic.
posted by Freecola at 3:58 PM on December 29, 2006

I've never heard women throw any "hard numbers" around for men expcet their height, 6' tall, which is also unrealistic.

I have a friend (5'4") who will only date men over 6'. She also won't date men of her own ethnic background, or men she deems too skinny or too fat. I don't think she's being all that unrealistic. She's found plenty of men to go out with.

When I was on the market I was really only interested in guys between 5'7" and 5'10", mostly with glasses, skinny-ish but slightly heavier than me. I found one and married him (though it was his other features that kept my attention past the first glance).

Lots of folks have "types." Fortunately, there's a big enough range of types that odds are good you meet the physical requirements for thousands of guys out there.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 4:12 PM on December 29, 2006

You know, I hate to get in the way of this feel-good moment, but I have a sneaking suspicion that real life exists somewhere in between what this thread suggests and what the popular media pushes -- perhaps closer to the latter. As already noted, this is a bit of a sore subject around these parts, so you're rather unlikely to get a fair representation of what most folks think due to what I suspect is a major selection bias.
posted by drpynchon at 5:02 PM on December 29, 2006

Different strokes for different folks, etc, but I think the key element is the HWR, as mentioned above: when I think of women I've found attractive, I've never considered the weight per se, but the overall 'shape'. A woman who's built like a brick shithouse, but with those general hints of hourglass proportions (her bust and hips wider than her waist), is a-ok for most straight men. The Tom Leykis/Howard Stern types aren't actually as interested in "115lb. women" as they say they are: it's all an insecure bluff, pretending that they are picky and that women must adhere to a numeric standard, when in reality they'd go crazy for a normal looking woman who was simply interested in them. We know this is true, simply because the human race has not died out. :) They're so terrified of women, and rejection, that they invent these degrading spectacles as a way of making themselves feel better in their neediness.

As such, the BMI is unimportant, probably more so for men judging women than vice versa. Women are very harsh in their judgments of men's bodies (the six-foot line being one example): they only say they aren't because it's part of the myth that women are less superficial than men. Men, as MegoSteve noted, are very easy to please and will gladly accept most any body type, provided the woman inhabiting it is a) reasonably cool and b) interested in us. We also are less interested in weights/sizes as a metric in general: for example, men trying to lose weight tend to not care about their actual weight as opposed to the look of their body, while women might obsess about the size of their clothes or the number on the scale, even when other people are telling them they look great. So again, I think you'll find the 'average man' has less "dealbreaker" numbers.

If your waist is narrower than your hips and chest, or even if it isn't but not too off, you're probably good to go, no matter your BMI. Some women drive men wild who have 40-50" hips but 35" waists; or who have relatively slender, square hips but large chests, or who have relatively small curves overall but the general hint towards narrowness in the hip. They're all good, and most any straight man will be happy with the bodies of any of them.

I think morbid obesity is the only consistent (if not universal) deal breaker. And even that is sketchy: there was some thread in the last few months where this type of subject was broached, and a youngish Mefitette posted her pictures. The thread quickly became a lot of people saying "Um, but you're super hawtt!", even though the poster was adamant that she was technically "morbidly obese (>40 BMI)" according to her BMI. Yet from her pictures, she looks good, with healthy curves that just happen to be wider than some other women. But the "feminine" curves- the general narrowing at the waist in relation to the hips and chest- are there, and far more men than Sir Mixalot would consider that body type plenty attractive.

So yeah- there is no deal breaker BMI, in general, as someone might have a lower BMI than the poster I linked above, but deposited in less "attractive" ways.
posted by hincandenza at 5:02 PM on December 29, 2006

For this guy, slender is attractive, but it's not about weight or BMI. Muscle and fat look, move, and weigh differently. The one who is in shape can be considerably heavier - or considerably thinner (into a range that would look terribly unhealthy on the other person) - and still look better. (Also, in the physical attractiveness department, posture counts for more than it is given credit for)

As for "dealbreaker", it's a sliding scale. The less physically attractive someone is, the more attractive in other ways they'd want to be. I mean, sure, I guess it gets to a point of diminishing returns, but the point is that there isn't a magic number, the only time I can even think of numbers potentially coming into play might be as a vague indication on an online dating site, when the photo only shows the face.

As to dating someone with a low image of their body, it's really really annoying - and is probably more likely to be the "dealbreaker" than the weight itself.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:09 PM on December 29, 2006

I don't think many men have that mental picture what each size/weight is "supposed" to look like in the way that many women seem so aware. That could be because men's sizing is different from women's; my husband's weight has fluctuated within a 30 lb. range since we've been together but he still wears the same size in everything across the board. In that time I've had two children and have fluctuated myself just as much (*not* counting pregnancy), and I can't wear the same clothes if I gain or lose 5-10 lbs. I know what I looked like at a size 6 and what I look like at a 12, so from my own reference point I have a concept of different sizes/weights on other women in a way I don't think a guy might. (I just ran this past my husband and he agrees; he says that his concepts of size/weight for both men and women are very fuzzy, and run only in general categories like "too skinny", "athletic", etc.; that he has no concept of specific sizing/weight.)

I remember reading some magazine where they had a group of men guess what size different women wore. The men consistently guessed smaller sizes than actual. I have a feeling the images of women that are out there contribute to this sort of unrealistic guess at size/weight - a Playboy model's biofold probably isn't going to list her weight as being anything over a certain number, no matter what she really weighs; and as for celebrities, many strive to be very skinny because "the camera adds 10-20 lbs.", and wear very high heels because that makes a woman hold her body differently, elongates it, so it looks thinner. Also, I think that "135" could be that "magic number" simply to fulfill the idea that "an attractive couple is a smaller woman with a bigger man": most adult men aren't 135 lbs., and most adult women aren't 6' tall, so perhaps using those numbers are more about establishing traditional masculine/feminine benchmarks more than anything else.
posted by Melinika at 5:44 PM on December 29, 2006

I've a preference for short, skinny blondes and redheads, but end up most happy when dating tall brunettes or short, stocky brunettes. Go figure. And I've dated a *lot* of women.

The one thing that's been in common with the short skinny girls is that they all were very insecure about their body, and worked very hard to keep themselves in a shape they found 'acceptable'.. and that I thought bordered on anorexia half the time.

On the other hand, there's the side where I dated a girl on and off who was very secure as a larger woman, and the sex was great because she'd do anything. But she was -so- secure that when she got a little bit older and her metabolism slowed down, she kept eating the way that she did when she was 18 ... and then became unhealthily obese without seeing anything wrong with it.

So, um, somewhere in the middle? All I care is that I get to grab your ass whenever I want, and that you'll just grab back.
posted by SpecialK at 7:07 PM on December 29, 2006

I'm the "youngish Mefitette" (not that I want to encourage that label) that hincandenza's referencing. That thread spilled over into MeTa, and there's some discussion there that should also be relevant.

Do they not realize how that actually looks on people who are average or taller height?

Bingo. Actually, I think almost everyone is just horrible at guessing weight and size in general, and particularly when it comes to other people. I mean, like Melinika's husband said, people have individual ranges of "normal," "plump," "fat," "gross," whatever -- but that doesn't mean people have any idea what those ranges are in pounds or sizes. (This, by the way, was why I didn't post my height -- pretty tall for a woman -- in the other thread.)
posted by booksandlibretti at 7:18 PM on December 29, 2006

Male preference is individual but mostly they same to care about your breast size as compared to your figure.

As for BMI itself, looking at it, "overweight" looks to me like "OK maybe slightly" and "underweight" I would probably want to check into a hospital. A lot of studies have got press saying people who are "overweight" are as or more healthy than "normal weight" and I think partly this is because normal weight includes people who are far skinnier than is healthy for most people.
posted by dagnyscott at 8:16 PM on December 29, 2006

There are so many variables in this it isn't even funny. Trying to break it down to a single number (BMI) or even two numbers (height, weight) doesn't even begin to approximate the complexities.

Men typically have height limits (no girls taller than me), which in turn affects the weight limit. Some guys say, "If I can't carry her, she's too heavy." It varies by culture and by time.

Now, that having been said, there are some trends, and that would be hip to waist ratio. That's been a fairly stable measurement of what boys like, but even then, it's a very broad range. In short, it's where that weight goes. Is her chest proportional to her hips? Etc. I found this gal who was 170lb attractive. She was tall, it went all the right places, and I thought, "Hey, I'd like to wrestle with her some."

Rather than the purely visual, there is probably some algorithm that could be determined per individual, if you fed in enough variables, but I'm guessing that the number of said variables would be at least a dozen: rib cage, chest, pelvis, hips, waist, height, thigh thickness, body fat ... you get the idea. I'm not one of the "looks matter not one iota crowd," but you'll find that the amount they matter varies wildly from male to male.
posted by adipocere at 1:18 AM on December 30, 2006

There's a few different levels here.

1) The vast majority of people are much hotter with clothes on; there's far less surface area to examine for imperfections. Learn how to dress and groom yourself properly, and as long as your face isn't malformed, you can be hot.

2) After the initial reaction, personality is forefront, whether you're super-hot or not.

3) Long-term is somewhat more hazy. An excellent personality can overcome most anything, but the rest of us are obviously held to some physical standards. The "ideal" varies quite significantly in the eye of the beholder, but also depends considerably on how you wear the weight and your level of fitness. A single weight number is somewhat ridiculous, but I have to agree that, for most men, slimmer is better up to a point.
posted by trevyn at 2:55 AM on December 30, 2006

As some other people have said, security is a plus.

As someone who dates and lives with both morbidly obese women and very skinny chicks, I have to tell you that attraction matters but weight is not necessarily a component of attraction.

For example, my primary is morbidly obese with red hair (now rapidly vanishing due to chemotherapy), freckles, and perfect teeth. I love her immensely and I would not trade her for someone who weighed less. I am also in a polyamorous relationship with some other women, and those women are of a wide range of body styles.

I tend to prefer my girls "healthy", which isn't necessarily to say that I tend to prefer them "skinny".

I like to think that most average guys prefer a girl with some love handles. Having been on both ends of the spectrum, sex has tended to be easier with skinnier girls but there is a point of diminishing returns.

I like looking at skinnier girls and I find that skinnier girls most often satisfy my criteria about being healthy and secure.

There are plenty, plenty, plenty of places you can find men to date where initial attraction is more about what's in your head than what's between your skin and your heart.

Hope this helps.
posted by arimathea at 5:09 AM on December 30, 2006

A friend of mine likes very large women. Not fat to the point of immobility, but not borderline either (not even close). He's never actually mentioned this preference, but it's pretty obvious from his dating history. The man dreams of large women. Why? "Because they're hot-t-t with three T's," he would say.

drpynchon wrote: You know, I hate to get in the way of this feel-good moment, but I have a sneaking suspicion that real life exists somewhere in between what this thread suggests and what the popular media pushes -- perhaps closer to the latter.

The same popular media that thinks all gay men are flamboyant fruits? The popular media doesn't know shit.
posted by ryanrs at 4:22 PM on December 31, 2006

I think that a lot of the callers to the Tom Leykis show are single frat boys. Perhaps their demographic likes twiggy women, but they're merely a percentage of society.

I like all kinds of women, and my current girlfriend is great. Her BMI isn't under 25 either.
posted by drstein at 6:14 PM on January 1, 2007

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