Do Stressed-Out Men Turn Into Chubby Chasers?

A preference for heavier women while under stress may be due to biology, not aesthetics.

Being under a stressful situation may make men more attracted to heavier women, researchers found. (Photo: Dan Hallman/Getty Images)

Aug 8, 2012
Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal and got in a boxing ring.

When men get stressed they might do more than reach for a beer. They might also reach for a plump woman.

A study released today in the journal PLOS ONE found that when men are in tense situations they’re more attracted to heavier women than are calmer guys. We’ll have the why in a minute; let’s start with the study design.

Researchers started with 81 men, about half of whom were put in anxiety-producing situations. The other half chilled out. The stress group were subjected to a mock job interview (who hasn’t been a mess during one of those?) and had to do tough math problems as quickly as they could.

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Both groups were then asked to rate the attractiveness of several photographs of women who ranged in size from emaciated to obese.

Those in the high-stress group gave higher ratings to photos of normal and overweight women than did the non-stress group. The stressed guys also found a wider range of shapes attractive than did the calm guys.

A preference for a chubbier physique may have more do with environment and biology than aesthetics, the study authors said. Something called Environmental Security Hypothesis suggests than when the going gets rough—think drought, starvation or a tanking economy—we tend to favor people who are heavier.

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That’s because a bigger, sturdier body pretty much screams, I’m strong, I’m healthy, and I can probably reproduce.

Being under stress, the authors wrote, “may lead to a general preference for more mature physical traits in a potential partner because such traits are associated with improved ability to handle environmental stress.”

Something to think about in these tough times.

What factors do you think play a part in attraction? Let us know in the comments.

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