Get Real! Fat Can Be Hot

Heather Corinna

This week in Get Real!, Heather Corinna's sexual health advice column, Heather explains to a young woman why "hot" and "fat" aren't mutually exclusive.

Editor’s Note: We’re delighted to bring Get Real!, Heather Corinna’s popular sexuality advice column, to you on Rewire, now every week! 

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 replies:

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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.

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