Before I answer the question, I am clarifying what amount of fat is considered unattractive. This is subjective and can be different to various people. I am focusing on people who have 50lbs of fat or more to lose. I think most people in our society would view this amount as unattractive. The people who have 10 to 20lbs to drop may just choose to be a bit chubbier because it does not bother them and they choose to enjoy some of life’s pleasures rather than kill themselves working out all the time. Society would not even notice the fat on them because of the clothing they wear, which can hide many imperfections.
At some points in human history, being fatter was sought after. It represented prosperity, wealth and, for women, it represented good biological conditions to bear children. Even in some countries today, those we as North Americans consider over weight and unattractive, are viewed as beautiful by the opposite sex. I personally consider a lean muscular build on men and women as attractive. Some people believe that a skinny person is more attractive than an overweight individual. Some models who weigh less than 100lbs in our society are considered better looking than women of the same height who weigh 200lbs. It is not because the model is healthier or fitter. The 200lbs female could be healthy and more fit, but just carries more body fat. Just because you are skinny does not make you fit and healthy but for some reason it makes you attractive. It must have something to do with the fat, or is it something else?
Darwin focused on humans having an instinctive desire to procreate and evolve the species. Evolution would mean to have our children be better than we are. Throughout history, humans looked for the healthiest, strongest, fittest and most attractive person to mate with. It is unlikely a lean healthy male or female would choose an overweight, unhealthy, unfit mate. Most people date and mate close to their own attractiveness. It is rare that someone really beautiful would mate with someone considered below average, unless that person had another variable in their arsenal such as a great personality or a lot of money to cancel out the looks. I think it is why many married couples look similar. At the beginning of mankind’s existence 40,000 years ago, the strongest, fittest, healthiest mate did not carry much body fat. Some fat was good to ensure survival in case of famine, but not so much that the fat made them slow, sluggish and unable to move and migrate efficiently. That genetic instinct could still be within us today.
Fear of Aging and Death
What human would not want to drink from the fountain of youth? Being young is associated with health, strength, energy, firm muscles, tight smooth skin and low fat levels. Being old is associated with disease, brittle bones, saggy skin, wrinkles, weakness and excess body fat. As we age, the body naturally decays eventually returning us to nothingness. We naturally seek out the features of youth because it makes us feel we are delaying death. Our natural fear of death has shaped society to covet youth and regret aging.
The media and fashion industry cater to the young. We are told daily that youth is good and that being old is bad. Models are in their late teens or early twenties. The old, male fashion designers of the 20th century (most of them gay) made clothes that would mostly fit young boys. Even the female models looked like young boys, with lack of hips and breasts, just to fit into the clothes. Their fear of aging and death shaped how the rest of society dressed and looked. Youth and thinness were in.
Being Fat Is Easy, Being Lean Is Hard
Our population admires what is rare or hard to get because it makes us different and special in a positive way from the norm. Anybody can become obese, lie on the couch, eat ice cream and watch Oprah on television. This is very easy to do. It is not special in any way. Developing a lean, fit, hard body takes work. It takes dedication, sacrifice and will power. It is rare to do in the present world. The stress of working, taking care of kids, and paying the bills, with the technological conveniences and fast food outlets everywhere make it near impossible. If you walk down the street in any city in North America the chance of seeing a muscular, fit, strong body is miniscule, maybe one or two chances in a hundred people. The obesity epidemic is now becoming the regular physique you will encounter. We pay millions of dollars to professional athletes, and billions of people watch Olympic athletes perform at the highest level. We admire their bodies and what they can do. Their lean physiques can do things that the rest of us mortals can only dream of. We watch in amazement, cheering them on because we realize that their accomplishments are rare and hard and we can not do what they do. Last week Usain Bolt from Jamaica shattered the world record in both the 100 and 200 meters in track and field. He showed an evolution of mankind. He showed what is possible. He showed that there are no limits to what the human body can do. What many thought would be impossible, he showed is doable. Every one of us has a genetic limitation. Most of us will never know what it is. We would have to give up our regular lives, have unlimited financial resources and focus on training eight hours per day, eat perfectly, get adequate rest and recovery to do it all over again day after day. On the flip side, allowing ourselves to gain 50 plus pounds and dealing with all the negative consequences associated with the weight gain is like giving up on life and being satisfied with mediocrity. Maybe its not the fat that is unattractive but the attributes associated with the fat.