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More to Love? Sex, Body Image & The Weight of Attraction

Why do we need a separate show for people based on their weight?
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Okay, I admit it. I did watch The Bachelor once upon a time when we were blissfully ignorant to the fact that almost none of the relationships survived. It is easy to understand why the show had to come up with a new version of itself. It got old, fast. So, let's review. The producers came up with various spin-offs. The new seasons matched people by factors such as height, wealth, and age. We should have braced ourselves on what would come, matching people by weight.

More to Love is a show about plus sized individuals looking for love. Here is the question I ask. Why do we need a separate show for people based on their weight? I think that matching people by weight is like matching people by their shoe size. Being the same size does not mean you have anything in common. Some of the contestants do share a sense of being excluded or limited by their weight, which is unique to someone who is curvaceous. However, these women are no different than any other women. Their personalities are diverse. They are just as charming and lovely (and at times catty) as any other women.

What is concerning about the show is how much it highlights the women's insecurities as if is something unique to these women. For example, in a recent episode, one of the women did not want to get into the pool and reveal her bathing suit. Who does love to parade around in a bathing suit? This is not always a symptom of your size. Unfortunately, this slant reinforces that your weight and size should define your level of self-esteem and confidence level.

When you listen to the women on the show discuss their experience dating, you get a sense that weight has played a part in their self-esteem. Several contestants gave examples of hurtful dating experiences and negative weight slurs from people that damaged their self image. It is true that your experiences do impact your self-esteem, but often doesn't determine it. The roots of your self-esteem are formed much earlier in your life. People with self-esteem are able to shrug off negative comments, no matter what they are about. Fortunately, there are many contestants who are very happy with who they are and what they look like.

The point, for all of us, is that we accept ourselves and are healthy at whatever size we are. As a psychologist who works with people at all ends of the weight spectrum, one thing that I have learned is that your weight does not correlate with your self-esteem. I've treated clients who were rail thin, verging on emaciation with a very troubled self-esteem and body image. I've also treated clients at the upper end of the body mass index range with a stellar self-esteem and vice versa. We want to believe that there is a perfect correlation between weight and body image. It gives the illusion that self-esteem is just a diet away. Kudos to Emme, the host of the show. Emme is a successful plus sized model who has done a lot of advocacy work with eating disorder prevention and promoting accepting and loving yourself at any size.

I wonder where The Bachelor-like reality shows are getting their dating advice? Why do they keep matching people based on superficial factors such as weight and height (i.e. the dwarf version)? Does it make good TV? What really underlies attraction? So many factors play into it. For example, the Propinquity Effect states that repeated exposure to someone increases their level of attractiveness (falling for a co-worker after you get to know them despite not having an initial attraction). According to Morry's attraction-similarity model (2007), attraction is based on similarities or the "birds of a feather fly together" approach. Another theory indicates that people are happiest when they perceive their partner to be of a similar level of attractiveness (not necessarily a similar weight). There are many other theories about why people are attracted to each other. At the end of the day, it's hard to explain why we fall for the people we do. Wouldn't it be nice if it fit into a nice, neat box?

My advice: Why not play on people's strengths rather than on the vulnerable parts of their self-esteem? For example, enlist contestants who have a similar, unique hobby such as people who run marathons or share a common job. I guarantee that The Lawyer Bachelor would have plenty of backstabbing drama while also stimulating the mind and finding two people who may have some similarities in their background and personality.

Again, what is important in finding a mate is that you are healthy and happy. Looking for love based on a single dimension of who you are, your size or anything else, won't get you too far. If you are single, look for someone who loves and respects you. If the number on the scale matters that much, run away, fast!

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