I've always struggled with my weight. Growing up I was always "bigger," and even when I was a size eight, I still seemed to weigh more than everyone else around me. Although I was extremely self-conscious, it didn't hold me back from making friends. It did, however, hold me back from dating. And that wasn't always by choice. When I was in 7th and 8th grade and other girls were being called pretty, I was hardly acknowledged as anything other than the "funny friend." I told myself that when I got to high school and around new faces that I would attempt to try harder, which at that time meant applying makeup and losing weight, so that I could finally get a boyfriend. I thought that was the one thing that would finally make me happy.
I dated a bit in high school and plenty in college. It was around that time that the "curvier" body type was starting to become more popular. It got to the point where if I wanted someone, I could get them, and that shot my confidence to a place it had never been before. Once I got into my first long-term relationship my sophomore year, I got really comfortable and both of us started to gain weight. When we broke up senior year, I was the heaviest I had ever been (at the time). I lost about 90 pounds after that breakup, but that's truly where my real struggles with dating began.
Men looked at me not because they thought I was pretty, funny, or smart, but because I was overweight and they thought I was a sex object.
Even though I was smaller than I had been after my weight loss, I was still bigger than some of my friends and I constantly compared myself to them. Men were attracted to me but didn't want to date me. I was their best-kept secret. I know that I'm beautiful - and I can say that now because I'm genuinely learning to love myself - but I knew men didn't want to tell people about me because they didn't want anyone to know that they were attracted to someone my size.
The problem is that many men fetishize bigger women. I've had guys tell me they like "bigger girls because they are better in bed." And when I was trying really hard to get men to pay attention to me, I really thought that was an OK thing for them to say to me, which I know now it absolutely wasn't. It made me really resent my body and feel immensely insecure to know that men looked at me not because they thought I was pretty, funny, or smart, but because I was overweight and they thought I was a sex object.
I watched men I had flings with start real relationships with new women who were smaller than me, which convinced me that no one would ever want me because of my weight. As a result, I started to slip into a deeper depression, which caused me to gain more weight. It's what I knew how to do.
When I eventually started to get back on dating apps, I uploaded recent photos of myself but still worried that guys would see me and think that I didn't look like my pictures. But I still tried to put myself out there. I went on a date with a medical student a few years ago and was so excited because I thought, "This is it, I'm going to be with a doctor." When I got to the restaurant, he seemed pretty uninterested. I ordered a meal and he said, "I was just going to get a salad." The date was super uncomfortable and he ghosted me right after.
I went on two more dates with guys that definitely weighed less than me and I found myself feeling guilty. I worried that if I started dating someone small or fit, people would criticize me: "Why is he with her?" So I made the decision to not pursue them.
Flash forward two years later after gaining more weight, I finally went on another date. It was going well until he said, "I love your big boobs." He continued to say more inappropriate things about my body in the restaurant, which I think he thought was flattering. After dinner and drinks, he invited me back to his place but I was so repulsed by the entire experience that I went home and bawled.
I am now the biggest I've ever been and I'm single. For a while I was telling myself that I'd get back out there after I lost weight. I saw most of my friends getting into relationships, getting married, or having kids, while I was sitting there thinking, "I'll start dating when I feel better about myself." But that's the thing. Even when I was smaller I didn't feel better about myself! So as scary as it sometimes is, I'm choosing to put myself out there right now . . . exactly as I am.
I'm getting back on dating apps and posting the most recent pictures of me knowing that what these guys see is exactly what they're getting. Someone is going to swipe right on me and they're going to get a bright, funny, confident woman who is so much more than just a body type. If that's not what they're into then they are not the right fit for me.
If this is something you struggle with as well, I want to remind you that you deserve love. We all do. No matter our size, we deserve to be loved by good people who want every part of us. It's not an easy journey to be on, and truly loving every part of myself takes a lot of work, but I will do whatever it takes to put in that work because I'm worth it. And someone — the right someone — will see that too.