Do I Have to Lose Weight to Land a Date?

Ask Demetria: Being comfortable in your own skin matters most, but dropping a few pounds can help.

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Just read an article that mentioned the essay "Weighty Matters" in your book, in which you wondered if black women's weight was holding them back in their dating and relationships. Do I really have to wait until I drop 50 pounds in order to happily date? That seems to be the case. I'm over guys making weight comments or grabbing me like a piece of meat because I'm larger than some.  --B.B.

No. You don't have to wait until you lose weight to find a date. There is someone who will date you and love you, too, no matter what size you are. And it's not as if all smaller women, even the ones shaped like video models, have their dating rosters packed to the hilt with high-quality and interested mates. Anyone can find a date; it's in finding the best match for you where things become tricky.

But if you're unhappy with your size, know that it shows up in how you interact with other people, and it often reads as lacking confidence and low self-esteem. You can't expect anyone else to accept you until you accept yourself, and that is true for women of every size and whatever issue they may face internally. Get a membership to a local gym and actually go, or get fit in your living room by popping in a Jeanette Jenkins fitness DVD (I recommend Bikini Bootcamp).

If you're happy with your appearance, work out to maintain or improve your health, not to get a man. An active lifestyle is something that everyone -- man or woman -- should adopt. No matter what size dress or pants you wear, you should include two hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) into your weekly schedule, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Unfortunately, a lot of black women don't do this, whether they're trying to get more dates or not. Fifty-five percent of black woman are physically inactive, as in they do no spare-time physical activity, according to an Aetna study on women's health.

The result? Sixty-nine percent of non-Hispanic black women are overweight or obese, according to the Office of the Surgeon General. Lastly, 82 percent of African-American women over age 40 are overweight or obese, according to data gathered by the CDC. Yikes!

The guys aren't doing much better on this front. Fifty-eight percent of non-Hispanic black men are overweight, according to the surgeon general. However, in all my interviews with women about what they're seriously looking for in a mate, his physical fitness and appearance, though a factor -- since women are also visual -- doesn't chart nearly as high as his "security," financial and otherwise.

It's not popular to say (and I'm sure I'll be e-stoned for saying it anyway), but if you're overweight and serious about expanding your dating options, it may be worthwhile to shrink your waistline. I've interviewed thousands of men in my career as a dating expert and journalist, and I've noticed that on every rundown of what it is that men are looking for in a woman, weight inevitably sneaks high on the list, usually in the form of "She works out" or "She stays fit" or "She is concerned about her weight and personal appearance" -- i.e., she's not fat.

Experts give varying tips about how to land a date, and what most agree on is that dating is a numbers game. The more people who approach you -- or, for the bolder among us, the more people you approach -- the higher your odds of getting a date and, if you want (not everyone does), eventually finding a partner. And if you want to be approached or get a positive reaction when you approach someone, the odds are further tipped in your favor when you look like you work out.

Many people like to deny that or insist it's what's on the inside that counts more (it does overall), but no one approaches dating prospects because he or she wants to know more about their personality. People -- men and women -- like what they see, then head over to find out if the person they are attracted to has something useful to say. The more confidence and personality you have when they get there, the more likely you are to keep that interest. But you have to get that interest first. 

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