Ask Dr Nerdlove: Will I Always Be An Overweight Virgin?

Ask Dr Nerdlove: Will I Always Be An Overweight Virgin?

Welcome to Ask Dr NerdLove, the only dating advice column that knows how to fix things when your love-life gets the Blue Screen of Death. This week, we handle a question a lot of people have: how can a fat dude find love? Does a man have to be an Adonis before women will find him attractive?

Dear Dr Nerdlove,

I am a 40-year-old virgin (and I’m not Steve Carrell). I have a good job with a good salary in which I feel fairly secure and valued, I’m pragmatic yet not dully so, I’m clean and well-mannered, I’m a good listener and a good conversationalist, I’ve got a very kind heart, I routinely can make people laugh — but I am not physically attractive, because I currently weigh 346 pounds. I used to deal with some anxiety and depression, but that problem is falling by the wayside. What I’m left with, though, is a very, very firm belief that no woman could look at me with romantic interest because of my morbid obesity. And, while I swear to God I don’t desire to be a hypocrite, I can completely understand such a reaction, because I don’t think I look attractive and I don’t find women attractive who are proportionately as overweight as I am. (Mind you, I can most certainly be attracted to chubby or overweight women, but I do not find women attractive who are obese or morbidly obese.)

The answer, you and many might say, is to lose weight. I have been trying that for a very long time, and I will continue to do so (I am already 40 lbs. down from my highest), but I don’t want to continue to abstain from dating, loving, being romantic, and having sex in the meantime. Yet threads about dating men on the r/askwomen subReddit make me feel as if no one would be interested in dating a guy who is my weight, or that I might have to receive quite literally hundreds of “no”‘s before receiving even one “yes” — a rejection rate that would be very difficult to endure.

What do you recommend? Should I continue to remove myself from the dating scene until some far future day when I am much thinner? Even then, people who lose weight often suffer from a loose skin problem (a painful surgery rarely covered by insurance), so I sometimes despair of being one of those rare men who enter their elderly years as virgins.

Not Andy Stitzer

NAS, you have an issue that a lot of other love-lorn nerds deal with: the problem you think you have isn’t the problem you actually have.

But let’s start with the obvious issue: your weight and body size. A lot of guys are absolutely convinced that the only way they can get a woman to like them is if they’re built like a Norse God, standing 7 feet tall with abs like damn and pecs like phwoar.

Except… that’s not really the case.

Men have a tendency to convince themselves that women fall for big muscular dudes – the same barrel-chested piles of muscle that we’ve been worshiping in video games and comics for decades. However, while the bodybuilder physique of Kratos or Jin Kazama is indeed a fantasy, it’s a power fantasy… for men. When you actually ask women about an ideal fantasy body type, they tend to favour leaner builds – less Thor and more Nightwing.

You may have noticed that when you went through those subreddit threads – a lot of love for the lean swimmer’s build. But that’s where you make a couple classic mistakes that many people make.

First: you’re assuming that women are a monolith and all want the same thing.

Yeah, I know you’ve got those Reddit threads, but you’re dealing with what statisticians call a “non-representative sample”. Reddit isn’t a reliable measure of the populace at large; it’s a subsection of a subsection of a specific group. The echo-chamber effect just makes it seem larger than it really is.

Just as with men, women as a whole have a wide range of body types that they find sexy, from the skinny geek to big – not just husky but fat men. Look at how many women went absolutely bugfuck over Prince Fielder’s nude pictoral in the ESPN “Bodies” issue. The man is rocking a 50 inch waistline, and there are a lot of women who want to rub themselves all over that. Hell, check out the #huskytwitter tag and see how much love some big dudes are getting.

Second: The thing that you may have missed when you were reading that subreddit thread was that women were saying that they couldn’t date someone they weren’t physically attracted to. And yeah, physical attraction is a vital part of any romantic relationship – we may love our partners for their mind, but we want them for their arse.

The problem is that you’re assuming that women only want their ideal. This couldn’t be further from the truth; just because (some) women declare one body type as an ideal doesn’t mean that that’s the only type they go for. A woman may think Tom Hiddleston is sex on toast, but that doesn’t mean she’ll only date tall skinny dudes, same as how men may declare Kate Upton the pinnacle of feminine beauty, but that doesn’t mean that they will only date women with 36D breasts.

Yes, women (and men) want to date someone they’re physically attracted to, but that doesn’t automatically mean that anyone who doesn’t meet their ideal body type is out of the running. Ideal body types are like sports cars – nice to have if you can get it, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t be very happy with a sedan or a compact too.

(Yes, I realise this is an awkward metaphor. Ya’ll get what I’m saying, now quit trying to be Mr. Clever-Boots and pay attention.)

Here’s the thing: there’s a difference between good looking and attractive. Someone can be objectively aesthetically pleasing and yet not do a thing for people sexually. Meanwhile somebody may not be an Adonis but goddamn there’s something magnetic about them that you can’t look away from.

Here’s a secret: the key to attraction isn’t your waistline, it’s not your hair and it’s not your face… it’s in what you bring to the table. Are you someone who people like to spend time with? Someone who makes people laugh and feel good about themselves? Guess what: you’re going to be more attractive than tall, dark and broody. The single most attractive aspect in a man isn’t his body, its whether he is fun.

And this brings us to your real problem. It’s not your weight so much as your attitude.

To be perfectly frank: your attitude is what’s holding you back. You don’t believe that women can be attracted to you… so small wonder they aren’t. Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t some woo-woo, newage (rhymes with sewage) “wish hard enough and it will come true” bullshit. The way you feel about yourself directly affects everything else.

It affects your body language – you curl in on yourself, you slouch, you refuse to look people in the eye. It affects the way you interact with people – you hold yourself back because there’s no point in flirting or giving people the idea that you’re interested. And it makes it harder for people who would be into you to connect with you – you’ll miss signals of interest because you’ll have convinced yourself that there’s no way that she could actually like you, therefore you must be mistaken.

And the hell of it is that even when you fix what you think is the problem – your weight – you’ll still feel unattractive. You’ll find other reasons why women couldn’t possibly like you: the loose skin, the fact that you’re still a virgin, the not being Idris Elba, something. And even if you do lose the weight, you could always gain it right back and end up back where you are now.

By chaining your self-esteem to external factors, you’ve surrendered your sense of self to others; it can be taken from you at any time. Is that really the way you want to live?

I’m going to be bluntly honest with you: the way you’re going about things right now is only making things worse. Holding yourself back, intentionally exiling yourself from the dating pool until some arbitrary point in the future is actually the worst thing you can do. All you’re doing is creating more and more excuses as to why you can’t date someone… such as your fear of rejection.

Yes, you’re going to have to be willing to suck up some rejections. Even a metric ton of rejections. Because guess what: everyone does. Show me somebody who never gets rejected and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t try in the first place. Nobody is immune to rejection, not Brad Pitt, not Ryan Gosling, not Michael B. Jordan, not Michael Ealy or Morris Chestnut. No matter how hot someone is, there will be people who wouldn’t fuck them with a borrowed dick.

Dating is a skill. You only get better at a skill if you practice, and part of practice means being willing to fuck up. You’re going to get rejected. All being rejected means is that one person wasn’t into you. You’re now officially one step closer to finding someone who is.

So here’s what you need to do: you need to learn to love yourself. You need to recognise that you’re awesome and treat yourself that way. And a major part of that means being willing to believe that women will find you attractive and acting like it. Yes, you’re fat. Big goddamn deal, so is 70% of the country. Will there be women who won’t date someone your size? Yes. Does that mean all of them won’t? Hell no. But you have to take chances to find them and that’s never going to happen unless you put the work in.

By all means, continue losing weight; exercise and a healthy diet is good for your mental and emotional health as much as your physical health. But that’s not the only thing you need to do. You need to dress well – even as a man of size. You have to engage women you’re interested in. You need to flirt. You need to ask people out. You need to court rejection because in doing so you’ll learn that rejection isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Yeah, it’s going to suck at first. That’s true for everyone. But when you stick with it, you’ll find it sucks less and less. The more you unchain your self-worth from external forms of validation – your weight, your sexual experience, whether this person wants to date you or not – the more you’ll be able to improve.

I’m not saying it’s not hard. I’m not saying it won’t take a lot of work. I’m not saying it won’t hurt at times, or that there won’t be parts that will test your soul and your resolve. There will be days that you feel lower than a snake’s arse in a drainage ditch, like nothing could go right and everything is pointless, and you’ll want to give up more than you’ve ever wanted anything in the world.

What I’m saying is that when you hold on, when you power through it all, it will be worth it.

Good luck.

Have some tips on how to boost your self-esteem? How do you shake off the frustrations that come with dating? Share your thoughts and theories in the comments section, and we’ll see you in two weeks with more of your questions!

Illustration: Tara Jacoby

Ask Dr Nerdlove is Kotaku’s fortnightly advice column for matters of the heart, hosted by the one and only Harris O’Malley, AKA Dr Nerdlove.

Harris O’Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr NerdLove and the Dr NerdLove podcast. He is also a regular guest at One Of Us. He can be found dispensing snark and advice on Facebook and on Twitter at @DrNerdLove. Dr Nerdlove is not really a doctor.


  • It’s all about statistics. If you’re 346 pounds, sure there will be people out there that would want to be with you and ‘love you for who you are’, but the harsh reality is that statistically you’re much less likely to find a partner than if you had an average BMI.

    The tl;dr version of this should be: Lose some weight and you’re more likely to attract a partner.

    • I agree. Weight loss isn’t exactly something that’s difficult to do, either – you just need to want to lose the weight more than you want the shitty food that you’re eating.

    • I think the reply covers it mostly as a lot of people at that level of obesity have self esteem issues and dealing with those is going to help much more than just losing the weight.

      It would be a multiple pronged fork approach which emcompasses both working on the mental issues such as the self esteem and self worth as well as educating yourself in healthy lifestyle habits and also getting out there and meeting people.

      I would also suggest that people with these types of issues are maybe more successful when relationships are developed from other less intimate ones; for instance someone you may have worked with, someone you may meet at a group/club/school/uni etc. That way they arent immediately taken aback by someone who they may not traditionally go for romantically asking them out but can develop the attraction over time if the person has a good personality.

      But in the end; the dude needs to lose the weight for both his mental and physical health.

  • Yeah, I have to agree, it is so much harder if you are really overweight, part of the problem is that it is harder to love and respect someone if you feel that they may not love and respect themselves.
    I’m 45 and need to lose about 10-15kg myself, and I really don’t like myself anywhere near as much as I did when I was a healthier weight. You just aren’t as much fun to be around, can’t get as involved in things and quite often have a low view of yourself which isn’t a particularly attractive traight. It is hard to attract someone in this circumstance.

    Here’s the thing: there’s a difference between good looking and attractive. Someone can be objectively aesthetically pleasing and yet not do a thing for people sexually. Meanwhile somebody may not be an Adonis but goddamn there’s something magnetic about them that you can’t look away from.
    True, but if you are obese to the point that you are hard to look *at* and physically are restriced from being as involved in life, then it isn’t that you aren’t an Adonis, it is that there is just too much for most people to overcome to want to be in a long-term relationship.

    I know plenty of guys that aren’t attractive that do okay, one guy says it takes him a while ‘to talk his face away’, and women aren’t all so shallow that looks are the only thing, not by a long shot.
    I was badly burned when I was younger, my face was a mess, so it was nearly impossible to ‘talk it away’. I found that up to a point, people will overlook a lot of other things if you are a great guy, but there are limits for 99% of the population.
    160kg is morbidly obese for most people, the word morbid isn’t there for no reason, it is hard to hook up with someone that is that way.

    I wouldn’t remove myself from society, but I’d remove the pressure of trying to find a ‘date’, go out, have fun, chat and be friendly and charming, let people know you are having success in bringing your weight down, and go hard at achieving that, the success along the way is an attractive thing in itself. Enjoy life, keep getting healthier and you may find that a relationship blossoms along the way.

    • The last couple of paragraphs is what I would suggest also. The health and wellbeing of this guy should be his primary focus. The journey in doing that should also include some perks to his self esteem and as long as he is treating the whole thing positively then people around him will see that he has made positive changes in his life and that is an attractive thing in itself.

  • I usually don’t go for these Dr Nerdlove articles, but this one is actually very good.

  • By all means, continue losing weight; exercise and a healthy diet is good for your mental and emotional health as much as your physical health. But that’s not the only thing you need to do. You need to dress well – even as a man of size. You have to engage women you’re interested in. You need to flirt. You need to ask people out. You need to court rejection because in doing so you’ll learn that rejection isn’t the worst thing in the world.

    This is really the crux of the article for me.

    • YES. Rejection is not evil or traumatic, it is not the end of the world or even ‘a bad thing’. It’s fact-finding. “Are you interested?” The answer doesn’t even have to mean shit about you, it can mean far more about them and their circumstances.

      This goes hand-in-hand with overcoming ‘oneitis’. The syndrome where you nurse a crush on this one person to the exclusion of giving anyone else a chance, and take fucking forever to build up to asking them out, then when they (more than likely) reject, you’ve got months – YEARS EVEN – of hopes dashed, as opposed to having decided on the first day you saw them, “Hey, I like your hustle, wanna go out?” and knowing right then and there whether you were in with a chance, or could better spend your time getting to know someone else romantically.

      It’s especially dangerous when, out of sunk-cost-fallacy, some fools end up thinking that she’s playing ‘hard to get’ or that fate is simply testing them or other unhealthily delusional bullshit that turns them into creepy stalkers instead of moving on.

      …All because rejection is scary.

      People need to get used to rejection, see it for what it is: an incompatibility, a closed-off option, based on personal preference, which is totally OK and normal. Not a personal attack, or test of faith, or ‘yet another sign of dying alone’, to be avoided at all costs in case it becomes another brick in a towering monument to failure.

      Some even make the excuse that they don’t want to ask out randoms for fear of making someone uncomfortable with their approach, but as long as you’re casual, friendly, and not sleazy about it, it’s NOT the social offense fearful suitors think it is. It’s a compliment! It’s an honest, sincere expression of interest. Ask any girl whether they prefer to have a random stranger ask them out and move on with no hard feelings when rejected, or have someone crush on them silently for years, they’re going to pick the random.

      • Ask any girl whether they prefer to have a random stranger ask them out and move on with no hard feelings when rejected, or have someone crush on them silently for years, they’re going to pick the random.Hmm. Is this a viable method of initiating things? 😛

  • I’m glad this guy address his own hypocrisy in that he himself would not date obese women, yet still wants to be dated himself, because there’s his answer. (I don’t mean that to sound mean).

    • Its very obvious he recognises his physical issues; but he also has many more emotional issues that have caused him to arrive at this point in his life… he also needs to address those as well.

  • I really like these articles. I’ve got a few hangups with dating (who doesn’t?) and I can usually find something in the responses which speaks to me.
    Keep them coming, Kotaku.

  • A problem with those reddit threads is that it operates under the assumption that people know what they’ll be attracted to ahead of time; this is a false assumption. Attraction is not voluntary and it can happen for a myriad of reasons, even in spite of what people thought their preferences were.

  • Nice article! Well balanced and very reasonable.

    Thoughts from a girl:

    > Putting effort into maintaining your health (Eg committing yourself to losing weight/ having a better lifestyle) indicates self-respect <– attractive to anybody.
    > +100 on the attitude. Even on a social level, people that are closed down, gruff cold, etc don’t invite conversation. No conversation = no connections
    > While you can’t speak for everybody, generally people prefer to engage with people their own weight/size. That’s not just visual – usually you’ll eat the same sort of things, you’ll fit into the same sort of places (sounds obvious but I reckon it’s true), and you might find you have similar interests. (Eg overweight people might tend to have interests skewed in sedentary activities). In other words – if you only like thin people, make some effort to get yourself a little closer to that too, and you might find you get more attention from them. (I wonder if that would work for larger people?)
    > Most importantly, these points DEFINITELY work the other way. I reckon an overweight girl will have similar problems if they adopt the same attitude.

    NB: Nobody I have had long term relationships with have been with conventionally ‘hot’ at all.

  • What do you recommend? Should I continue to remove myself from the dating scene until some far future day when I am much thinner? I’d suggest that “the dating scene” probably isn’t the best place to be if you’re not physically attractive, simply because most of it is based heavily around visual first impressions. On RSVP or OK Cupid you’re likely to be overlooked immediately based on appearance, and approaching women in a bar is likely to get the same sort of reaction. When a person doesn’t know someone, of course they’re going to judge them first by appearance, it’s all they have to go on at that point. Maybe something that’s more of a social scene would be a better start? An interest-based group or physical activity, somewhere that you can get to know women in a friendly social setting, which gives you a chance to let attraction grow slowly based on your personality rather than just on how you look.

    My partner is quite overweight, and to be honest it doesn’t worry me (except from a health perspective). I’m rarely physically attracted to a man initially – for me it’s something that grows out of an emotional/personality-based attraction. Now I’m the first to admit I’m not a ‘typical female’, but surely there are enough like me to make social groups a possibility for you.

  • I’ve replied above but this would be my opinion, which mirrors the reply I suppose.

    Its good the guy is dropping weight; it’ll be good for his health both physically and also mentally. His self esteem is obviously shot to hell at this point. Continuing to address his emotional issues and losing weight will fuel his confidence and make the search for someone a lot easier.

    In saying that the ‘dating scene’ is never something I was ever really involved in, and I dont even think I really know what it is… For this guy it would be better to meet people in a less ‘hey I like you lets go out and eat then perhaps have sex’ kind of setting. By that I mean meeting females in groups or clubs with similar interested, or at school/university or to some lesser extend work.

    It gives you time to develop a relationship outside of the pressure caused by knowing someone is directly trying to get in your pants; because initially dating and asking someone out on the spot is pretty much saying you like the way they look and want to get it on. If there is a spark there then that will develop; thats not to say its as easy as meeting a woman at your book club and then 6 months later she’s yours though… there will still be some rejection.

    In the end this guy needs to play the long game; work on the emotional issues and lose the weight slowly (that should also help with the skin thing to a degree, take the weight loss slow and steady) and over that time he will get more confident, hopefully meet more people and with those series of positive changes then someone will come along.

    • It gives you time to develop a relationship outside of the pressure caused by knowing someone is directly trying to get in your pants; because initially dating and asking someone out on the spot is pretty much saying you like the way they look and want to get it on.

      It’s certainly one way of looking at it, but I think it skirts too close to this weird idea that some people have that, ‘you can’t have a great personality AND great looks’. Anytime I’ve mentioned filtering dates by looks, I’ve had this strange accusation from people who think I don’t care about personality, as if it’s some ‘either/or’ qualification. It should probably be more, ‘I like the way you look and want to get to know you’.

      Personality’s important, but it takes frickin’ forever to gauge. Looks you can gauge in a couple seconds. I’ve always figured that if you want BOTH qualities in your partner, you should definitely be sorting by the easiest criteria to filter, then investigating more in-depth from there.

      If you start with personality and ignore looks, you’re basically saying looks aren’t important to you. And for a really significant number of people (I’m tempted to argue ‘most’ people), that doesn’t hold true.
      (Most of the time. I know there have definitely been very rare instances where I’ve met someone who wasn’t ‘conventionally’ attractive, but who just had this certain way about them that drove me crazy.)

      That said, when looks aren’t in your favour, socializing with like-minded folks in club type situations is a fantastic way to let that personality strut its stuff, give it a chance to outweigh other peoples’ preferences for looks.

      • Yeah thats essentially what I meant 🙂 If you have the looks then going after both in that manner is perfectly fine; I didnt mean that each were mutually exclusive. I meant it could be jarring for someone who isn’t of our societies norms to approach someone and say “I like the looks of you lets get together and see how it goes etc.” Mainly because that person is likely to be confronted by the physical things.

        Whereas if something develops naturally over time, like you say there is the opportunity for someone to realise they like this person despite their physical appearance. Obviously I still think the dude needs to drop some kg’s as well.

        I know personally I’ve never had the confidence to just out and out ask a girl to go on a date. Its usually been a slow burn thing. I know it can and does work and its much less taxing on someone like the person in the article.

        • I’m no pick-up artist, but ever since identifying things I didn’t like about my interactions, I’ve been pretty eager to break free of constraints I know I’ve had, and it’s helped.

          I’ve made plenty of unsolicited approaches, usually without even really intending to go anywhere with it… sometimes you like the vitality someone has and they just seem like they’d be fun to play off. You smile, you make eye contact, and if they talk to you like a person instead of a script, and that means you’re already ahead and getting signals to go off-script.

          Instead of “how’re you doing? Not bad? That’s good,” you comment on something about them they’ve had some agency in – not looks, that doesn’t show off anything ABOUT them as a person, but if someone’s really killing it with the accessories or you think those glasses totally suit them, you say it. Most people love to get a compliment about something they chose for themselves. Or if they’ve just got some real pep to how they get about, you comment on it: “Someone’s full of beans! Good day, huh? Oh really… Hah. You should buy me a drink, maybe some of that luck’ll rub off on me. Sharing is caring and all.” Whatever, just as long as you’re engaging with someone as a person, and not one of the bog-standard interactions they write off and ignore several times a day.

          Stuff that works pretty well for me is taking pretty much anything said as a compliment, or making excuses for their mistakes, “It’s alright, I get lost in my eyes, too. Mirrors are my kryptonite.”

          As long as you’re having FUN talking to this person, asking for a number (or just handing over your phone with the ‘add contact’ open, and letting them do it) is just so much easier. “Hey, I gotta go, but…”

          No sleaze, no pretense, no mind-games, just… honesty and confidence can be really disarming sometimes. Probably for their relative rarity. I think the world would be a better place if more people tried being more forward. I don’t ever regret getting rebuffed when making an overture like that, but by GOD do I regret the times I reckon she wanted me to, but I was too afraid of over-stepping my bounds.

    • For me I think this skirts too close to pretending to be someone’s friend when you actually want a relationship. It’s really unfair on girls to go in with that expectation, even peripherally, which is why I’m a big fan of the direct approach or transitioning to one very early on.

  • Just grow a good beard and be confident even if u have to pretend and dress like a hipster.
    I started at ur weight did this and 17 women in 8 months later here we are.

  • I was in the same boat as you – I was around the 320 – 340 pounds, 34 years old, never had sex (closest I got was on very brief, very awkward encounter in my late 20’s that didn’t result in actual intercourse). And I got tired of it. I joined a dating site, within 2 months I was seeing a girl (she was more around the 270 – 280 pounds). I’m now 40, married and have 3 kids! I wasn’t actually as hard as you’ve built up in your mind (trust me – I know). Get on a good dating site (at least you know people there genuinely want to meet peope), find someone that will got have a drink with you, then maybe go for dinner and just watch how it goes from there!

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