How Do I Find The Confidence To Date After Gaining Some Weight?
I keep canceling dates but wish I wouldn’t.
Q: During the pandemic, I went from mid-size (12-14) to plus-size (18-20). Personally, I don’t feel like the extra weight looks good on me and I’m not in a place to change my habits right now. I also caught COVID, which caused some of my hair to fall out. Now that my hair is growing back in, I have some porcupine action happening. I’ve matched with a couple guys on Tinder who seem really cool and I would be interested in meeting in person. However, I have canceled the dates last-minute. Usually, when I’m getting ready for the date, I just can’t find anything that makes me feel cute or comfortable with my new body. This issue only comes up when meeting new people. — Sydney
A: Hi Sydney! I’m sorry to hear that getting ready for dates has been stressful lately. Fifteen years ago, if you sent this same kind of question to a magazine, you’d probably receive a silly quiz to determine which fruit you most closely resemble, and a boatload of tips about “flattering” styles and silhouettes. It would be a load of nonsense. Your body is not a piece of produce, and the F-word just implies there’s one right way to look: thin. But the truth is that beauty isn’t limited to a certain range of shapes and sizes. Any body can look amazing in any outfit. I think you know this, but feeling it is a different matter. You deserve to feel it, too.
I reached out to a crew of experts who shared ideas about how you can tap into your confidence and head out on those dates. For starters, Cristina Gonzalez, a certified life coach who specializes in dating for plus-size women, stresses that confidence doesn’t come from putting on a great outfit or seeing a certain number on the tag. It comes from the way you think about yourself.
“The first step is to notice if you’re sh*t-talking to yourself, like thinking, ‘I don’t like to look in the mirror,’ or, ‘I don’t like this part of my body,’” she says. When those thoughts pop up, neutralize them. “Like, ‘OK, you know what? A lot of people have things about their body they don’t like.’ Or, ‘I don’t like my arms in this outfit, but that’s OK. I can find something else. I have so much more to offer someone than just what my arms look like.’”
Katie Sturino, a body acceptance advocate, style influencer, and author of Body Talk: How to Embrace Your Body and Start Living Your Best Life, also swears by reciting mantras. She says, “You’re going to get in the mirror, and you’re going to feel ridiculous doing it, but you’re going to say that you look beautiful, or even like, ‘Damn, I love my shoes. They’re so sexy. They’re so hot. I look great.’”
Over time, these positive affirmations will help counteract negative feelings. Once you start learning to redirect your inner monologue, you’ll be able to see yourself in a new light. That perspective shift is important. “I think it’s really easy to tell yourself, ‘Oh, I’m the girl who doesn’t get the date,’ or, ‘I’m the friend who isn’t cute,’” Sturino says. But the more you dwell on those ideas, the harder it is to break away from them.
You say you’re on Tinder — do your photos reflect how you currently look? If not, consider swapping them out for a fresh set of pics. Nicci Nunez, cohost of the dating podcast Swipe Fat, says, “I make sure I have plenty of full-body photos showing all of my angles so there are no surprises when I go and meet somebody for the first time.” Don’t have any pics you love? Nunez suggests planning a photo shoot day with a friend, committing to take pics every time you go out with friends, or using the self-timer app PhotoBuddy to snap photos on your own.
Also, don’t limit yourself to just photos. Hinge and Tinder let you upload videos, too. Nunez likes to use videos in her own dating app profiles because she says it’s harder for her to dwell on her insecurities in moving footage than it is in still photos. “You can also show more personality in a video,” she says.
Let’s talk about clothing. If you think you can’t wear certain things — like horizontal stripes or crop tops — think again. “Somewhere along the line, you heard that messaging, and you took it in your little brain, and you made that rule for yourself,” Sturino says. But it’s not true, and with some work, you can side-step those thoughts. She explains, “I used to tell myself I couldn’t wear jeans because I wasn’t a certain size. And then when I finally did start to wear jeans, I had to ease into it. I had to try them on. I had to walk around. I had to realize that actually, no one ridiculed me on the street or was like, ‘You look so bad in jeans.’ It just wasn’t a thing. And then I got to play and find styles I liked.” You can use this same technique with your date-night outfits.
According to Sturino, you’ll have more fun getting dressed when you spend some time exploring your personal style. She says, “[Style is] really different than what you feel is ‘flattering,’ which is a word I hate. It’s much more about being inspired and using clothing as costume and fun versus, ‘How can I cover my body as much as possible today?’”
You might want to shop for a new outfit you feel amazing in, but the solution might already be hanging in your closet. Is there an outfit you always feel cute in when you go out with friends? Nunez recommends making that your go-to first date outfit. (For her, that’s jeans, a bodysuit, a leather jacket, and booties.)
As you’re getting ready for your dates, pump yourself up by listening to an upbeat playlist or a fun podcast. Nunez likes to scroll through plus-size TikTok. “Seeing other plus-size women looking confident and hot is so empowering to me,” she says. She recommends following Natalie Drue, Gabi Fresh, Marielle Elizabeth, Style Is Style, Mary Fran, Alex LaRosa, Natalie in the City, Jessica Torres, Raeann Langas, Alicia Mccarvel, Sean Taylor, Abby Bible, and Cassandra Voelker on that platform. Sturino likes CeCe Olisa, Nicolette Mason, and Kellie B on Instagram for fashion inspo and the Girls Gotta Eat podcast for dating advice. (And in case it wasn’t obvious, Sturino’s IG and Swipe Fat are pretty fab, too.)
Another way to gain a last-minute confidence boost is to call a supportive friend. Sturino uses this trick to hype herself up right before she does big interviews on TV. You don’t even have to talk about getting dressed for your date. Whatever you discuss, she says, “It puts me in a head space where I’m not just sitting there being like, ‘What if I f*ck this up?’” (Spoiler alert: You won’t.)
Finally, as you’re heading out the door, remind yourself: “If you act confident, eventually you will be,” Nunez says. She would know — she once felt “so closed off and insecure” because she felt nobody could be attracted to her. But as her confidence grew, she realized just how much of a babe she really is. There were actually lots of people flirting with her on a daily basis — she had just never noticed it.
I don’t want to downplay the ego boost that comes when your date compliments your ‘fit. Of course that feels good. But as Gonzalez puts it, “If you show up to a date and they don’t like your outfit, well, who cares? That doesn’t mean anything about your character or personality. It doesn’t mean they don’t like you.”
On top of that, the point of going out on a date is not to dazzle them with rehearsed jokes and a show-stopping outfit. “These dates are not necessarily for you to see who likes you,” Gonzalez says. “They’re to see if you like them.” Whomever you’re meeting up with, they’re lucky — they’re about to hear that hilarious story from karaoke night, learn about all the cool places you saw on your summer road trip, and discover your secret talent for trivia.
You’re hot at every size. People are attracted to all types of bodies, including yours exactly as it is right now. Trust in that. Gonzalez says, “There’s going to be somebody out there who can’t wait to spend all their time with you and want to know more about you, and the time will come when you meet that person. The more time you spend saying yes to dates and going out, the likelier it is you’ll find somebody.”
I hope you can give yourself a little grace right now. Nothing about the past few years has been normal. Most of us have changed in some way as a result of the pandemic. Some of those changes are visible, but some are invisible, and it’s likely the people you’re seeing on dating apps are dealing with something new and difficult, too. Maybe they’re grieving the loss of a family member or learning to navigate life with depression or anxiety. Maybe they’re nervous about dating again after a breakup. All of these things (and more) can take a major toll. When that self-conscious feeling creeps up before a date, remember that your Tinder match might not feel fully comfortable, either.
Take a deep breath. You’ve got this. You are so much more than just your body.
Dating, Decoded appears on Elite Daily every other Thursday. Have a question? Submit it here.
Cristina Gonzalez, certified life coach
Katie Sturino, body acceptance advocate, style influencer, and author
Nicci Nunez, cohost of Swipe Fat