Helen Fisher, PhD

Why do men lie about their height and women lie about their weight?

Courtship is not about honesty; it’s about winning.  Don’t get me wrong:  honesty pays off—big time.  But I’m not surprised that men lie about their height and women lie about their weight.  No courting moose tries to make his antlers look smaller: he shows them off.    So it is with us. We lie to win life’s greatest prize: a mating partner.  And around the world women are more immediately attracted to taller men; while men are more instantly attracted to women with a particular body shape — for good reasons. A woman whose waist circumference is about 70% of her hip measurement has the right balance of estrogen, testosterone and other hormones to produce healthy babies; whereas those who vary considerably from these proportions find it harder to get pregnant and have more miscarriages, as well as more chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and circulation problems.  Moreover, women are unconsciously attracted to taller men (an indication of testosterone) because tall men tend to get better jobs, make more money, and are more likely to become powerful in business or politics.  For millennia, women sought men who could provide for them and their forthcoming young.  And to this day, tall men are more likely to acquire the resources to do this primal job.  Moreover, tall men look intimidating, and thus potentially more protective.

But why lie about height and weight–such obvious deceptions!  Because, as Mae West said, “It’s better be looked over than over looked.” So throughout the animal world, males and females hope to get past this first (false) impression to captivate with their more winning traits. And they succeed.  Intelligence, playfulness, sense of humor, a person’s values, their interests, their compassion and myriad other qualities play vital roles in “mate choice.” Hence a hefty woman and a short man are just as likely to find a partner as a Number Ten. Nature excludes almost no one from the mating dance.