The science of the chubby chaser.

Before I go anywhere with this post, is the term “chubby chaser” offensive? If it is, you have my apologies, but I’m from Generation Y, and I think we view “chubby chaser” as something of a technical term for a person of any gender or sexual leaning who romantically prefers individuals with some extra meat on his or her bones. Y’know: thick, bootylicious, more to love, junk in the trunk…don’t act like you’re not familiar with these concepts.

Now that we’re all on the same page, what if I told you that recent research suggests that some chubby chasers (i.e. EVERY RAPPER EVER) might just be stressed out? That is, what if psychological stress leads one to chase the chubby? Let’s explore this hypothesis further in today’s post.

So, if I don’t state upfront that women of all sizes are beautiful (and they are), then the people of the Internets will yell at me. That aside – let’s be real. As a woman, I can tell you that there’s a not-so-subtle message in society that goes something like this:

Feel free to get into some kind of deep philosophical debate in the comments section about your own convictions and opinions on this matter, but I basically just called it like it is.

Women should either be thin but not too thin, or thick but not too thick. For the sake of this post, however, let’s focus on the thick ones. Women like Kim Kadashian and Beyoncé Knowles have done much to put “thick” women on a bit of a pedestal. The field of rap music would appear to concur:

With the exception of Drake, whose lyrics aren’t always what I would call self-explanatory, these rappers are all obviously concurring that bigger is better when it comes to women’s bodies.

Now, because I spin this as a science blog, let’s talk about science: what factors are influencing whether men (or women) go for heroin chic or pleasingly plump? This is quite the burning question in today’s society and, lucky for us, researchers from London published the results of their experiments on this very matter last month.


Eighty-one White British heterosexual males ranging from ages 18 to 42 were divided into two groups: Group One contained 41 men who would undergo a stressful experience, and Group Two contained 40 men who would not experience stress. And what exactly was the “stress” experience? It went like this:

You walk into a room where four people are sitting at a table with tape recorders and video cameras. Then you stand in front of them at a microphone and try to give a speech off the top of your head for five agonizingly long minutes, hoping to convince them that they should hire you for some fictional job. And, just in case this type of hideous task happens to be your thing, you have to stay up there at the mic and try to subtract 13 from 1022 over and over again (i.e. 1022, 1009, 996, 983…) as fast and as accurately as possible. I’m not making this up, kids; unrehearsed public speaking and mental math — if that doesn’t stress you out then I’d like to know what does.

Oh, and in the mean time, the Group Two guys were just sitting quietly and unknowingly while the Group One guys were being tortured. Unfair.

After all this stressing or not-stressing, all men in the study were told to look at women with body types covering everything in the range from emaciated to obese. The men had to rate the ideal body, and the thinnest and largest bodies that they would still consider physically attractive. Thus, the men established an “attractiveness range.”

The results were pretty straightforward: men who had been stressed gave significantly higher ratings to normal and overweight women’s figures, chose a significantly heavier women’s frame as their “ideal,” and reported a significantly wider attractiveness range, almost exclusively due to the inclusion of larger women. Awesome!

If I had to wave my hands around and explain this, I’d say: the male mind, being a product of evolution, knows that when things get tough, one needs a female who can handle the stresses of the environment. That is, women who have more fat deposits and can go longer with scarce food stores, women who are more physically apt to fight off bears and whatnot, women whose bodies are more likely to carry a fetus to term when the metaphorical, ecological s–t hits the fan.

I’m NOT saying that skinny women have any less inherent value than women of other sizes. Not even close. I’m just telling you the first thing that comes to my mind when I see an experiment that shows stressed guys preferring bigger girls. I’m not a medical doctor or a psychologist or anything beyond an overly flippant blogger and an MIT/Harvard trained biologist, ooooh snap.

In summary:

  • A lot of rappers are probably really stressed out from all the gun violence and drug dealings so evident in their lyrics, inclining them to lust after women of the thicker type.
  • Rosie O’Donnell could probably take down a bear before Lindsay Lohan could.
  • If you ask your man whether you look fat in your outfit and he says “no,” he’s either being honest with you, lying to your face, or so stressed out at work that he sees your fatness as an evolutionarily sweet deal.


Stay nerdy! :D

Oh! And did you like what you read here today? Then click around, especially on those social media buttons! Over to the right, look, along the side of the page — there are buttons to get to us on Facebook or Twitter, or to grab our RSS feed. At the bottom of this post you can share it, like it, tweet it, dig it — so many options! Heck, go crazy, buy something from the online store! Use the Donate button in the sidebar and have a blast! Remember, I’m just a lowly graduate student who is about to go have a bag of popcorn for breakfast+lunch and who chooses to skip work to make blog posts just for the pure love and enjoyment of it. And for the entertainment and edification of my dear, dear readers. :)

We at TryNerdy thank you!


P.S. That “we” is totally just for effect. There is no “we,” unless “we” is me and my three cats. Nothing like being painfully honest with your readership…love ya!


Swami V, & Tovée MJ (2012). The Impact of Psychological Stress on Men’s Judgements of Female Body Size. PloS one, 7 (8) PMID: 22905153


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10 Responses to The science of the chubby chaser.

  1. I like your blog, Kristin! Really interesting and fun to read.

    Have you considered installing Disqus for the comments? It would definitely make it easier for people to comment, and would help to drive traffic to other parts of your blog. :)

  2. Susan says:

    Remember “I like big butts and I cannot lie… unless you got buns hun……”
    HA! You are too funny Kristin! This was cute! What about the British and dental care? Just wondering….
    How’s the skin cancer studies coming? Still testing goldfish?

    • NerdyOne says:

      I try to get a laugh! Haha, I’m actually working with zebrafish and I’ve unexpectedly transitioned to studying melanoma of the eye, a very rare and poor prognosis form of melanoma.

      I hope my mom is keeping you posted on my wedding details!!! You’re mostly the reason we went with Breakers West :D

  3. Zac Perkins says:

    I disagree with some of the things said in this post. I think that when rappers say they like “thick” girls, they are mostly talking about a girls butt. I dont believe that they like “chubby” girls and I dont think them being stressed has anything to do with it. How can you even tell that a rapper is stressed? They are famous and making plenty of money, so there is no proof anywhere that says rappers are stressed.
    Also, I dont think when men are stressed they take into consideration “women who have more fat deposits and can go longer with scarce food stores”. This most likely does not even cross their mind. I dont know if there is any way to show what the reasoning is behing stressed men being more attractive to chuby girls. In my opinion, I think that men who are stressed might not be as confident and are therefor willing to “downgrade” their standards when ranking how attractive women are, but there really is no way to say what the reasoning is for sure.

    • NerdyOne says:

      A lot of this post was for the sake of laughs, especially all of the parts about rappers. But it’s not impossible to think that, evolutionarily, stressful environments incline men towards women who are “hardier” (e.g. more fat deposits). The authors do acknowledge the possibility that the men are downgrading their standards, as you say.

      I appreciate you giving this a close read, but bear in mind that it’s always ~50% sarcasm here at TryNerdy ;)

    • MST says:

      Right, you never see these (idiot) rappers with women that are heavy, but they (their girlfriends, baby mommas, jump-offs, etc. ) do have big azzes.

  4. karen kilmer says:

    i think alot of men pick heavier women because they feel that they wont cheat on them not because they can handle stress better. and some pick heavier women because they are heavier themselves and some it doesnt matter what is on the outside its whats on the inside i do believe that most men that took the test picked heavier women because that is what they thought was expected of them not because thats what all of them want.

  5. Kat says:

    Ok… and what if a female is a chubby chaser? I am a very fit a little bit skinny female and i always prefered guys with a little beer belly and some meat or fat on his bones. And I don’t really like very pronounced muscels I like to see that there is a little layer of fat under the guy’s skin. It is much nicer to cuddle with a guy if he is much bigger than you. I like to feel like I am so little in his arms. So what is the psycology here? I guess I have stress because I am very carrier oriented female…. but I am not sure stress effects my choice. And no I don’t chose them because it would be easier to cheat on or because i am more secure the would love my slender body… no, i just like to cuddle with a big fat guys.

  6. BloopBleepBlorp says:

    I found this article quite interesting! The finesse within attraction is always a fascinating topic.

    What I’m curious about, in addition to these specific findings, is the view of weight in attractiveness of other cultures. As you mentioned previously, there is a clear script of what is attractive or not attractive within our culture in relation to weight, but this also implies that other cultures think differently on this topic. Perhaps stress brings out a less culturally relative perception of attractiveness?

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