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Are Some Women More Attracted to Men Who Are Overweight?

Body weight predisposition predicts visual allure.

Key points

  • In many areas of life, there is a preference for things that are familiar.
  • Exposure to obesity changed women’s perception of what normal, healthy body weight looked like.
  • Women who were exposed to heavier men reported being more attracted to men who were overweight.

We have all heard that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But how does it work? And does personal preference include preferred body type? This question is particularly significant in a day and age when we actively promote healthy eating habits over dangerous diets and remind ourselves that too thin is not in. But is the opposite true?

Some people are attracted to others who are heavier than normal, assuming we can define normality. We first decide what type of weight charts to use, given that some seem to promote an impossible standard of fitness, and then we factor in the reality that cultural differences impact judgment as well, influencing personal preferences as well as societal standards.

In terms of physical attraction at first glance, however, we may be firmly set in our preferences. A subjectively desirable body type might involve both what we see and what we are used to seeing.

Familiarity Breeds Contentment

Source: Pixabay/Pexels
Source: Pixabay/Pexels

In many areas of life, there is a preference for things that are familiar. From people to products, we are predisposed to be partial to what we recognize and to view whatever we consider to be normal as good. According to research, this might include physical attraction.

Researchers E. Robinson and P. Christiansen (2015) studied the circumstances under which women were more attracted to overweight men than healthy weight men.1 Specifically, they explored the question of whether exposure to obesity would create an attraction to heavier men. They found that, sure enough, exposure to obesity changed women’s perception of what normal, healthy body weight looked like, resulting in more attraction to overweight men. They also found that women who were consistently exposed to heavier men reported being more attracted to men who were overweight. And, finally, they found that after being exposed to obesity, women participating in an online dating study were more likely to select an overweight dating partner than a man of healthy weight.

How did this work? Robinson and Christiansen suggest that exposure to obesity impacted participants’ perception of “normal” body weight, causing them to perceive an overweight man’s weight as closer to the midpoint. But therein lay another cautionary point regarding the scope of their research. They remind us that their studies focused on the attractiveness of men who were overweight, not obese.

Health and Healthy Relationships

Getting to know a prospective paramour involves more than examining physical attributes. But, while beauty may be skin deep, in many cases, physical fitness results from healthy habits. Eating well and exercising can reflect broader priorities, discipline, and a commitment to personal wellness, which can include attitudes toward relationships. But there is more to the analysis. Love, respect, kindness, compassion, honesty, and many other positive qualities factor into the mix and are more important than physical beauty in predicting long-term relational success.

So, according to research, even if you do not believe in love at first sight, personal preferences apparently impact first impressions, regarding whether we like what we see.

References

1. Robinson, E., and P. Christiansen. 2015. “Visual exposure to obesity: experimental effects on attraction toward overweight men and mate choice in females.” International Journal of Obesity 39 (9): 1390–1394.

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More from Wendy L. Patrick, J.D., Ph.D.
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