Over the last few months, I have been hitting the gym. I have watched as my endurance and strength and speed have gotten so much better in a very short time. I have also watched as my body fat has been stripped down and gotten so much more toned. It has been amazing and also very fascinating as I have watched my DMs get fuller than ever. I have always considered myself to be good looking and I have never quite been short on advances or people with interest in me but I must say, the interest in me, romantically or sexually, has never been higher than it has been ever since I started going to the gym. So I became curious to see how often this happened to men in particular. Over the past few weeks, I asked my personal friends as well as people I met at the gym and even random strangers I knew were once fat and aren’t at the moment how they were treated in the past versus how they are treated today after losing weight.
I grew up a fat kid and to an extent, I suffer from body dysmorphia so I’ll always feel fat. But the truth is, once I started working out, more people started sliding into my DMs – even people who I thought were “just friends” or “mentors”. Sometimes, I’m like are you just seeing me for the first time? Was I ugly? At first, it was very validating to have people compliment you, but down the line, I started to feel overly sexualized even when I wasn’t trying. I know it sounds like “oh I’m hot! woe is me!”, but it isn’t.
I started working out when I realized I was essentially the fat best friend to my friends. We would go out and people would notice everyone but me. There’s something about being fat that almost desexualizes you or makes women not view you as an option when it comes to dating or sex. I have lost a lot of weight but I’m still technically ‘big’ and that’s when I realized that there’s an acceptable type of big that can be considered sexy and a type of big that women can only be friends with. Today, people do see me when I’m with my friends. Now I’m the ‘tall one’ or the ‘big one’ not just ‘the fat one’.
People have this air about them when it comes to being with fat people, they’ll be like ‘you’re fine for a fat guy’ or ‘if you weren’t fat, you would be so fine’. The worst part is that they expect you to be happy or consider it a compliment. I think it might be worse in the queer community where there’s a stronger standard for how men should ideally look, I don’t know. But I had exes who didn’t want to be seen in public with me or didn’t want people to know we were together and I knew it was because of my weight. It took me almost two years to lose all the weight I wanted to. Suddenly, no one comes up to tell me I should be careful about my health and people at the gym no longer look at me with pity. But I think the biggest change is still people suddenly being able to consider me good-looking without a ‘but’.
I gained a lot of weight in my mid-twenties and it was a bit disheartening to watch the way people changed how they interacted with me or talked to me. People thought there was something wrong with me, there wasn’t. I was just eating and my job didn’t allow me to move around often enough to work it out. I started working out when I was twenty-seven and once there was enough physical change for me to be considered almost lean, it was like my life did a 360. People stopped seeing me as a chore. I think that’s the worst part, fatphobia is so casual that even a bus driver is fatphobic for no reason at all. Your friends, family etc. Everyone treats you like you have a disease or something.
At the risk of sounding vain, I think the biggest change is how I was being treated at the gym. Do you know what’s funny? People tell fat people to go to the gym and lose weight but we can’t. When I first started going, people would look at me weird and be helpful in a very patronizing way. I’m an adult male who is very healthy yet people would look at me with pity every time I was on the treadmill. When I go to the store to buy gym clothes, people would look at me and you could almost hear the ‘eeyah’. I hated it so much. It is better now but I wished it wasn’t a thing at all, ever.
- Names have been changed for the sake of anonymity.