We’ve all thought it. How could we not, in this weight-biased world? All of us plus-size gals have wondered at one point or another:

Can anyone love me at this size?

As a psychotherapist and the developer of the Curvy Cupid Course, I can tell you that the answer is yes.

The problem with dating is that it can be complicated, frightening, and discouraging even without the added struggle against size bias. But for plus-size women, there is the added burden of worrying whether we are lovable at all, just the way we are.

Getting started can seem almost impossible. What dating site do you use? How do you put up a profile photo that shows you now, at your current size, when you don’t like pictures of yourself? What if no one messages you?

What good is it to put yourself through the annoyance and struggle of dating, only to meet some good-enough-but-no-prince-charming guy?

Here are 4 steps to get you started in the plus sized dating world:

Step 1: Know Your Why

I can list hundreds of reasons for you to put the work into finding your person, but you need to know your “why?” What is your reason for wanting to find your partner. Whatever it is, write it down. Make a vision board around it. Write it in lipstick on your bathroom mirror. Because when the going gets tough, you’ll need to come back to your why. A lot.

Step 2: Make Sure You’ve Got Your Support Community

Here is the one universal truth about dating: it’s gonna get tough sometimes. For many of us, dating is boring, annoying, sad, or even heartbreaking.  But remember your why. The process is tough, but the end result is worth it.

It’s hard to remember your why all the time, and having a strong community around you is important. You’re going to need to immerse yourself in body-positive media like FabUplus Magazine, and the messages of self-love posted every day by plus-size bloggers. Follow them on Facebook so their warmth and encouragement pops up in your news feed every day.

You’re going to need to lean on your friends, the ones who adore everything about you and who just can’t wait till you find your perfect-fit fellow.

Unfortunately, you may have to distance yourself from some of your usual supports who can’t be there for you in your dating journey. For the time being, put an arm’s length between your dating life and these people.

Step 3: Learn to Separate Myth from Reality

There are some myths about dating that are pretty entrenched, myths surrounding online dating, and that no men want to date fat women.

It’s important to know that none of these myths are valid.

David Frederick, an assistant professor at Chapman University, recently discovered in a study that 20% of men either have no size preference in their partners, or prefer to date plus-size women.  (That is one in five men!)

And online dating does work – if you’re willing to put the work in. As of 2013, over 20% of newly-marrying American couples had met their spouses online.

Step 4: Pick the Right Dating Site

Online dating should definitely be a part of your dating strategy. More specifically, there is one site that should be at the center of your approach to dating: OKCupid.

Millions of people use OKCupid because it’s free, easy to use, and incorporates a research-based model of matching couples based on personality.  They also use an approach that incorporates both personality and appearance.  Probably the best feature is OKCupid’s match question section. Every participant answers questions on topics ranging from dating preferences, to politics, to personal hygiene. And among these questions are a handful that cover weight and body size.

Dating is a marathon, not a sprint. You will have to experience some bad dates, boring dates, a couple of ghosters, a rejection or two, and dozens of email conversations before we finally meet our future matches.

But that’s what this is all about. Remember your why. Put yourself out there. And know that the answer is yes: you are lovable just the way you are.

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