[Review] XL Love: How the Obesity Crisis Is Complicating America’s Love Life

Posted 13 October, 2014 by DLWhite in Reviews 0 Comments

XL Love-How the Obesity Crisis Is Complicating America's Love Life Book Cover XL Love-How the Obesity Crisis Is Complicating America's Love Life
Sarah Varney
Social Science
Rodale Books
August 19, 2014

With two out of every three Americans overweight or obese, it’s all hands on deck—scientists are studying how excess fat changes physical and mental health, demographers are calculating how it’s shortening life spans, and economists are debating the impact it has on America’s productivity and global competitiveness. But how weight affects intimacy and sexuality is barely discussed. Yet it’s a question of high importance for the tens of millions of Americans who are overweight or obese and having difficulty sexually and romantically. It is changing and complicating the mating game and married life alike; stunting the ability of young people to find happiness; and tipping some heavy, but otherwise happy, couples into divorce. For many, a larger body has meant a more troubled mind: a decline in sexual quality, an increase in self-loathing, and a tendency to let these factors stand in the way of love. In XL Love, Varney travels the country and tells the personal stories of men and women who are experiencing what millions of others feel every day, along with the stories of those who are in the business of helping them: physicians, researchers, scientists, psychologists, sociologists, and more. Analytic and immersive, personal and eye-opening, XL Love tackles the question: How is sex changing in America as the shape of Americans changes?

I’m not much for non fiction… if I read it, I have to sit down and read the entire book in one sitting. I’m never going back to it later. Doing that with XL Love was no problem. I have highlights on every page. I nodded and mmhmmm’d through every story, seeing myself and my life throughout the pages of this book. And I agree with a reviewer on Amazon that said reading this book was like reading the transcript of a really interesting episode of This American Life.The author intersperses some beautiful, descriptive writing around anecdotes from people who are overweight and want to lose weight. Coupled with the stories is the science behind weight loss, sex and obesity.

I was drawn to this book by a recent snippet posted at Salon.com about dating after weight loss, being concerned about your partner wanting you after either being refused for so long while your libido went dormant, or because you have so much loose skin as to actually feel uncomfortable and unattractive. There is a phenomenon, which Varney writes about called The Whore Syndrome, in which a person presented with so many new choices doesn’t know which one to choose and so, eager and energetic, they choose them all. This happens frequently after weight loss surgery, when a patient might be feeling new found confidence, attractiveness and a return to lustful thoughts and feelings.

I was most interested in the section on teens- what’s considered fat vs thick among black girls vs white girls and black boys vs white, Latino and Asian boys. Forming relationships at a young age helps us mature into healthy young adults, but 2 of every 6 Americans being obese affects this rite of passage. Everything from the shallow attitudes of teen boys (even those who are heavy themselves saying NFC– NO FAT CHICKS) to risky behaviors that heavy teen girls might engage in. Are fat girls really easy?

Varney explores this, in depth. I found her description of a college girl with normal self esteem being destroyed after going away to school to find that men valued her less and felt she deserved someone less attractive because she was overweight. I, too, would fall for a young man– even an average looking young man and just when I thought he might reciprocate, he asked me for a phone number for one of my thinner, pretty, whatever-er friends. That’s a tough lesson to learn and hard to UNlearn.

She goes further to discuss weight gain and loss and how it affects marriages. What does it mean when a husband or a wife loses weight? Is the need to lose weight not simply about healthy but inherently tied to the desire to find a mate?

I find myself relating to so many of the stories in this book, specifically those about dating post extreme weight loss. I understand the science of attraction– people go for what they think they can get and either they think very highly of themselves or they’re self aware enough to ‘stay in their lane’. So when a person feels like they could attract someone good looking… but they don’t… *sigh* I was hoping to read some anecdotes about a person that had to look past dropping a ton of weight to find love and happiness. Those that had post weight loss intimacy issues were already married or dating.

This book is only six chapters long but six LONG chapters. She covered so much and yet I felt she could have covered more. I could have done with a few breaks but over all this was an incredibly enjoyable, entertaining and educational book.

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