A few days ago, I stumbled across an article on the Citizen Renegade blog about the effect of obesity on relationships. I’m not going to link to the article itself, because while I agree with the article’s general premise, I don’t approve of the obscene images that the author used to illustrate his point. Those who are brave enough to visit the blog may be interested in what’s over there, but be assured that most of the articles are not safe for work.
The premise is that high obesity rates are the sole factor responsible for the rise in pickup artists and the various commercial companies that prey on men who aspire to become like them. With 60% of women either overweight or obese, the number of available, attractive women has dwindled to the point where there are 2.5 men for every one woman of normal weight – and therefore, a large number of men are left out of the “game.” But I think that the article misses a key premise that makes the weight-dating relationship more complicated than simply stating that all men chase a limited number of women.
First, I need to point out that the author neglects that obesity rates rise with age. If we assume that the bars and clubs typically frequented by the pickup community tend to be populated by people between 18 and 29, the number of obese people in bars and clubs will be only half of the number obese people in a similar sample size of 45- to 64-year-olds. (Source: Gallup.) It seems that obesity, while present in about a fifth of young people, tends to become a concern to most overweight people later in life. It’s more likely that someone will gain weight after meeting someone than beforehand.
Furthermore, the author only claims that the problem with obesity is that women who are overweight are less visually attractive to men. While that’s certainly true, I find it hard to completely believe, simply from experience, that women are turned on by a fat man as much as they would be by a fit one. They may settle for fat men simply because they are too scared to approach thin men or because they believe in some “Rules” that they are not allowed to approach men, but just as the Renegade blog states that men deep down want to marry thin women, I bet that women deep down want to marry men of normal weight. However, is it possible that both women’s and men’s attractions to normal weight people could be for different reasons? If we adhere to the pickup artists’ assumption that women are more motivated by character than by appearance, then perhaps there is something else going on here that he missed.
The issue that he missed is that being overweight is a reflection upon the person’s character. It is true that the jury is still out on whether there is a genetic component to obesity – but the scale of the problem has led to many effective treatments for the disease. The most obvious one, to simply eat less, is an option for everyone. If we give the benefit of the doubt and make the unproven assumption that obesity is a genetic rather than willpower issue, then medications are available to reduce appetite. As a last resort, gastric bypass surgery, while dangerous, almost always results in profound weight loss.
To me, nothing is more attractive than someone who decides to take action on something and devotes themselves to accomplishing their goals, and when I see an obese person, I find myself turned away not because of ugliness, but because of that person’s lack of ambition to recognize their problems and take action to correct them. Some might say that since I have a BMI of 21 and body fat of 11%, I have no right to criticize others who are not “fortunate” enough to be of the correct weight, because losing weight is hard.
But life itself is hard. I hate going to the gym almost every day, and the first thirty minutes are painful because of a lack of energy. But I go anyway. I attend parties where there are brownies and chocolate cakes that I really want, but I don’t eat any. I don’t drink alcohol because it’s hundreds of calories of sugar. I love pizza so much that I could walk to the Papa John’s down the street and have lunch there every day, but I limit myself to once per week. Nothing goes better with that pizza than a Coke, but I buy a zero-calorie diet Sierra Mist instead. Making healthy dinners with vegetables eats up all your free time in the evenings, but it’s what you have to do to live a long time. Expanding to other areas of life, I hate how my company’s morale and working conditions have plummeted, and my job stinks. But I still get up every day and spend nine hours slaving away because that’s what one needs to do to live a decent life free of being a burden on other people. The hard truth is that you spend 90% of your life doing things you don’t want to do so that you can spend 10% of it doing the things you want.
My viewpoint in the hundreds of articles written for this blog are shaped by my experiences of so many people who have “let themselves go” by losing their drive to earn money, to experience new things, and to keep themselves in shape. While it’s difficult to be sure what effect obesity has had on the “game” of dating and relationships, I do know that personally, my bar for marriage is extremely high for the simple reason that the person I marry might “let herself go” a few years down the line. And yes, the general decrease in civility, increase in self-centeredness, and increase in laziness-inducing technology makes this possibility more likely now than it was for the previous generation.
In short, people who complain about obesity often criticize obese people for being ugly – but that is the wrong reason for criticism, and there are a few obese people taking steps to improve their lives who should be exempt from that criticism. While it may not be easy to lose weight, everyone can certainly take some small steps towards fitness, and a person who doesn’t care about his or her health is extremely unappealing for both short- and long-term relationships.