A while ago, I was a slovenly and overweight 31 year old man. I was also single and and looking for love. Something had to give.
My self-esteem was low, I felt I had little to offer in a relationship, and that some women were simply out of my league. I settled for girls that I knew weren’t right for me because I didn’t have the confidence to pursue those who were.
Given that women are awesome, my lifestyle blinked first. I vowed to overhaul my health and began exercising regularly and making better food choices.
Although the process of losing weight took discipline, and some days back from the gym I felt exhausted and ready to chow down a Big Mac, this simple formula did the trick relatively quickly.
I’ve shed a lot of body fat over the last nine months. I have also gained muscle – a bodily development that previously was as foreign to me as the female menstrual cycle.
Compared to my slouched shouldered, big bellied former self, I’m not exactly a delicious piece of man meat. However, I can finally wear a singlet with my head held high.
From bleakness to a happy hunting ground
My attempts at romance as an overweight man looked something like this.
I would lay on the couch at night and unenthusiastically swipe on Tinder. I rarely socialized. I didn’t exercise much and only ever half-heartedly. No effort was made with my appearance – I dressed like a slob and my patchy beard was a crime against facial hair.
Needless to say, I didn’t date much, and when I did it was without conviction.
When I moved to a Thai island to work on my online business, I was still thoroughly overweight and unhealthy. I started hanging out with bar girls and alcoholics. Although having a wallet enabled me to meet girls with relative ease, the better looking ones needed convincing (or at least be paid a premium).
Even my Thai girlfriend at that time, who seemed to have hit the jackpot with me and my open wallet (“what operation for which family member am I paying for this time?”), cheated on me mercilessly.
I wasn’t a particularly happy person, and it certainly wasn’t life affirming to lose the interest of a girl who I was effectively paying a salary to.
When I began making some inroads along my journey to good health, women seemed to respond positively to it. Naturally I made the link between increased female interest and a better physique. Women are notoriously shallow after all.
Tinder became a happy hunting ground. Female acquaintances on Facebook who had largely ignored me started liking the muscle pics that I would gratuitously post, and sent me flirty, unsolicited messages. In coffee shops, women became far more amicable.
Most importantly, however, my tastes in women improved. I started courting the upbeat, conquer the world types. The same women I felt I didn’t have access to as a fat man.
One particular woman, who is now my girlfriend, caught my attention in a big way. At the time we met, I still suffered from residual ‘fat man syndrome’. As a result, I wasn’t fully myself around her.
When she initially resisted my advances, I assumed it was because I still had some distance to travel in obtaining a better body. Fast track 5 months, when we finally did get it together, I realized it wasn’t about that at all.
The real reason my luck with women changed
The reason I had more ‘luck’ with women after losing weight was not the hypothesis that I had clung on to for so many years – that women don’t like fat men.
Although there was a correlation in time between the weight loss and my bourgeoning love life, the weight loss was just the catalyst for something a lot bigger – the change in how I felt about myself.
When I lost weight, for the first time in a long time I was happy, and therefore morphed into a guy that women actually wanted to be around. In other words, I became confident.
According to my girlfriend, I am a more attractive man now simply because I am confident. Reflecting on how far I’ve come, I know she’s right, and that we would’ve been together from the start if I were as confident then as I am now.
A better version of myself
Having confidence gave me the freedom to be a better version of myself. The other parts of me were enhanced – or at least they started to be conveyed more authentically to others.
Never one to miss an opportunity to crack a joke or get a cheap laugh, I became a funnier person because I was relaxed and not trying as hard to compensate for being overweight.
Another change was that I became more sociable. I began networking, even tapping local talent for my business. I’d strike up conversations with people in coffee shops because I was genuinely interested in talking to them. To those who knew me previously, this was a startling development.
There’s a clear parallel between marketing a business and successfully pursuing women.
A business needs to pitch themselves to clients. To do so successfully, they have to demonstrate trust, offer value, and stand out in a crowded market.
The same for men with women. A man has to pitch himself and convince a woman that they’re worth the leap of faith a romantic relationship (or even a one night stand) invariably involves. To do so, trust, value, and confidence are key crucial ingredients.
Just as a customer would see through an inauthentic business, I think that women had seen through me as an inauthentic man.
Presence – you only have it when you’re not focused on yourself
Being more comfortable in my own skin, I also offered women (and everyone else I met) something else of great value.
I was self-centered fat man, constantly fretting about how I was being perceived. As a result, I was awkward, less funny and not as positive to be around, simply because I was an overweight man who dwelled on it.
After losing weight, I focused less on my shortcomings, and more on the positive traits of the women I wooed. I starting acknowledging and validating their humor, achievements and stories in a way I never did before.
It became more about them and less about me. As I was making women feel good about themselves, it’s no surprise that they were drawn to me more than when I was overweight and inward looking.
A valuable lesson
As an overweight man, I thought the world discriminated against us, in the same way that black people get a raw deal in America and free thinkers in Muslim countries. By the world I mean pretty girls, but to many guys, girls are the world.
I assumed that women didn’t warm to me because I was fat; that they were as superficial as men, and prioritized an attractive partner above all other qualities.
However, I failed to see that being visually unattractive was leading to more serious flaws in the way I was interacting with women. I wasn’t confident around them, and therefore they weren’t compelled to spend time with me.
I can’t fault them for that.
How does a fat man become confident?
To meet women, all men have to be confident.
As there are many ways to skin a cat, there are also many ways for a fat man to boost their confidence. However, there was only ever going to be one way for me to become confident.
I could have tried to focus on my positive qualities, such as humor, and display them earnestly to women. I didn’t have to navel gaze about my weight as much as I did, because women probably weren’t focusing on it anyway. And a shave, cologne and nice shirt – all of which I resisted – wouldn’t have hurt.
However, they are all weak alternatives to being fit and healthy. Considering how great a healthy lifestyle makes me feel, it would’ve been impossible to manufacture my current confidence through any other means.
I now wake up optimistic and energetic, my business is performing better because I’m working harder and more creatively, and exercise releases endorphins (the brain’s happy chemical) that are damn addictive. These are all interwoven with the confidence I have.
So what did I learn about women after going from fat to fit? They dig confidence in a man, not a chiselled physique. However, the truth is that I couldn’t have become confident without it.
A version of this article originally appeared on Art of Wellbeing.