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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Men Weigh In on Bodies: Thin Wins

WASHINGTON -- U.S. researchers confirmed on Monday what every woman already suspected: Young men would rather date an anorexic woman than one who is obese.

They said their findings show that when it comes to dating, looks are still more important than substantive factors like intelligence and personality -- at least to young men.

The Cornell University researchers surveyed 752 university students on their dating attitudes and beliefs, focusing on eating disorders and obesity. They found college men are more likely to want to date a woman with an eating disorder -- and, thus, who is very thin -- than one who is obese.

Women, on the other hand, show no distinction between the two.

"We are still a weight-obsessed society. Though eating disorders are stigmatized, obesity is much more so," Jeffery Sobal, a nutritional sociologist who conducted the study, said in a telephone interview.

Sobal found that both sexes seem to equally avoid relationships with people who have either anorexia nervosa or bulimia, eating disorders that are often stigmatized in this society. But given a choice, a man would rather date a woman with anorexia or bulimia than a badly overweight woman.

Anorexia nervosa, a psychological condition in which people starve themselves, and bulimia, characterized by binge eating and self-induced vomiting, affect 8 million Americans. This number is rising, Sobal says, because of society's portrayal of the ideal body.

At the other extreme, about 55 percent of adult Americans, or 97 million adults, are overweight or obese, according to government standards issued in June.

Sobal found that 53 percent of the men and 59 percent of the women said they would not want to date someone with an eating disorder. But 74 percent of men and 60 percent of women prefer not to date an obese person.

"This suggests that rejection of obese individuals remains a powerful value in contemporary society, especially the male rejection of obese women," Sobal and his co-author, Mark Bursztyn, wrote in their report in the journal Women and Health.

"Men emphasize appearance, whereas women emphasize other factors such as intelligence, social status and personality," Sobal said. "They are classic gender differences."