U of T Study Finds the Amount of Weight You Need to Lose to Be More Attractive

Do you ever stand in front of the mirror and try to quantify just how much thinner your face should be in order for other people to find you attractive?

No? Good. That’s what researchers from the University of Toronto are for.

A group of intelligent U of T individuals recently set out to establish the threshold at which changes in an individual’s facial adiposity resulted in a change in perceived attractiveness. Here’s how it worked:

To determine at what point a change in the perception of facial adiposity occurs, Rule and Re digitally created a collection of photos of male and female faces between 20 and 40 years old. In all photos, subjects had neutral expressions, hair pulled back, and no facial adornments. They altered each image to produce sequences of images spanning a range of weights on a gradually increasing scale.

Participants in the study were asked to compare randomly drawn pairs of faces from each sequence and choose the heavier-looking one. After several trials, the researchers determined a change in BMI of approximately 1.33 kg/m2 is required to make a difference noticeable.

“We calculated the weight change thresholds in terms of BMI rather than simple kilograms or pounds, so that people of all weights and heights can apply it to themselves according to their individual stature,” said Re.

“Although perceivers recognized differences as small as 1.33 kg/m2, changes of roughly twice that size (2.38 kg/m2 and 2.59 kg/m2 for women and men, respectively) were necessary to alter attractiveness.”

The researchers also investigated the threshold at which changes in an individual’s facial adiposity resulted in a change in perceived attractiveness. Although beauty is to some extent in the eye of the beholder, a large body of research shows that there are some universal standards of beauty, and these tend to reflect whether or not someone looks healthy.

So, just how much weight does one need to lose in order to qualify as swipe right material? According to the research, around 14 pounds for the average woman, or 18 for the average man.

“Women and men of average height need to gain or lose about three and a half and four kilograms, or about eight and nine pounds, respectively, for anyone to see it in their face,” said Nicholas Rule, associate professor in the Faculty of Arts & Science and Canada Research Chair in Social Perception and Cognition.

“But they need to lose about twice as much for anyone to find them more attractive.”

It’s not all superficial, though. According to fellow researcher Daniel Re, weight in the face is an accurate indicator of a person’s body mass index, which is more closely linked to health than hotness.

“It is a robust indicator of one’s health,” said Rule. “Increased facial adiposity is associated with a compromised immune system, poor cardiovascular function, frequent respiratory infections, and mortality. So, even a small decrease can improve one’s health.”

So, could it be that the participants were merely more turned on by individuals who looked healthier rather than just skinnier?

It would be crazy to say anything other than ‘maybe’.