RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD

Plus Size Dating – Beyond Appearance  

KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian

3rd March 2020

Dating seems to be considered an emotional experience, but a necessary hurdle if you want to find a partnership. And when you’re of plus size (or if your appearance doesn’t conform to mainstream beauty standards in other ways), dating can seem riddled with even more challenges. 

Maybe you’re fully aware of the damaging appearance-based nature of modern dating, and how it upholds patriarchal standards and oppresses people in many ways. But you’re still wanting to meet someone. And online dating seems to be the mainstream way of dating these days.

So how can you navigate the dating scene when your body doesn’t conform to societal standards?

Firstly, who am I to talk about this? 

I have never lived and dated in a larger body. But I have dated online and I have some perspective as a voice in the non-diet world. As a Registered Dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor, I work with many plus-size people who experience oppression because of their size. I provide training to university students on weight-based discrimination, and I have some resources and ideas that may be helpful for you. 

You’re not alone. 

It’s estimated that 35% of the UK population are single, meaning that 65% are in a relationship of some kind. Since the majority of UK adults (64%) do not have bodies considered to be thin, the majority of us fall outside the current concept of conventional beauty. Yet we still couple up!

So whilst you may feel excluded by not fitting into conventional beauty norms when it comes to body size, the main point here is that you’re not alone in feeling frustrated with online dating. There is nothing wrong with you, and it’s not just you who finds it challenging. Anyone that doesn’t conform to cultural norms can feel harm from these systems and it sucks!

When you’re feeling discouraged by dating.

Have you ever been ghosted? Ignored? 

Ghosting for those of you who haven’t yet experienced it is having someone that you believe liked you, disappear from contact without any explanation at all. No phone call or email, not even a text.

A 2014 survey conducted by Elle Magazine, identified that being ghosted is a phenomenon that approximately 50% of people have experienced—and an almost equal number have done the ghosting. Despite how common ghosting is, the emotional effects can be pretty devastating, and particularly damaging to those who already have fragile self-esteem. 

Ghosting and being ignored can encourage us to get caught up in our bodies. Especially if we have a lot of internalised issues that we’re dealing with.  

So what can you do?

Check-in with yourself. How are you feeling about your body, and/or sense of identity? Is it a good time for you to be online dating? Do you have the energy to cope if you are ignored?

The dating scene may suck the last bit of water you have from your energy tank, so how can you continue to work on feeling good about yourself (aka filling up your water tank)? 

As Vironika Tugaleva, The Love Mindset quotes: 

“Your relationship with yourself is and always will be directly reflected in all your relationships with others”

Now, I do not believe in needing to “love yourself before you can love others’. You can certainly be working on your body image whilst you’re with someone. But working on gaining confidence or acceptance in your body may result in you having a better experience dating. It may help you to build up resilience in the dating world and improve your body image, regardless of what others say.  

Plus, if you’re doing this work on yourself, you’re more likely to seek people who are aligned and end up attracting the people who are actually right for you. It will likely set you up to be in a partnership with someone who will treat you well and align with your values.

The need for human connection and companionship is real. I hear you. However, if we jump into something that’s not right, we can subsequently result in having a negative relationship, ending in pain and leaving us in a more difficult place than where we started.

How is your tank at the moment? Does it need topping up? Consider taking time out of dating if it’s not working out for you right now. 

Are you thinking beyond body appearance too?

The appearance-based nature of online dating keeps people from getting to know those who could actually be a great match.  

Are you clear on what you’re looking for in someone that’s beyond body appearance? 

I invite you to write a list of all of the things you’re looking for in someone that is not appearance-related.

And that list MUST include finding someone that is accepting of you as a whole human being, including the shape and size of your body. 

Remind yourself that you made a narrow escape.

Being ignored gives you magical feedback from these people that they are not right for you! You’re a catch, and you’ve not yet been found. When you meet the right person who is emotionally available to you right now, they will be responsive, present, and you won’t need to scramble for their attention. 

Love and relationships are available to anyone, and you are deserving of a partnership, regardless of your size. 

Additional Resources: 

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