Why Are Gay Men Skinnier?

gay guysOver the weekend, I visited a very gay gym in Palm Springs, California. Though most of the exercisers were well into their 50s, 60s and 70s, they were in better shape than most 20-year-olds. It raises the question: Why are gay men in better shape than straight men?

To answer that question, we must first examine whether or not it’s even true.

Certainly, the stereotype is that gay men are fit and muscular. But in reality, gay men come in all shapes and sizes. As a community, we’re not defined by a single body type.

However, when comparing gay men as a whole with straight men, it is statistically clear that gay men have a lower average body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight - and, on average, gay men are thinner and a third less likely to be obese. This has been confirmed time and time again including an article in the American Journal of Public Health.

Of course, a lower BMI doesn’t necessarily mean that gay men are in better shape. It does mean that they’re skinnier. But skinny isn’t a synonym for healthy. I have many skinny friends that couldn’t run a mile.

Instead of asking why gay men are in better shape, it’s more accurate to ask why they’re skinnier. So why are gay men skinnier?

It’s a great question with no clear answer, especially given the breadth and depth of our community’s diversity. Based on my experience, here are a few possibilities:

  1. Gay culture is very body-focused. Pick up a magazine that targets straight guys. On the cover, you’d probably see a deer in cross hairs, a football player or a woman in a swimsuit. Pick up a gay magazine and it’s probably a dude in his underwear. This isn’t to say that straight men aren’t body focused, but much of that attention is directed at women - and not themselves. If a straight guy sees a bikini-clad woman on a magazine cover, his first thought is probably not that he needs to lose 25 pounds to look like her.
  2. Gay men can be overachievers. If society - or your family - treats you like you’re a second class citizen, you may feel like you need to prove your worth by becoming an overachiever. Being an overachiever isn’t just about working 70 hours a week and getting promotions. It can also translate to other areas of life, including the gym. Working out can become an obsession in the pursuit of perfection.
  3. Your body is a currency in the gay community. Some things feel beyond our control. Like getting older or how smart you are. Or even your job or how much money you make. But you do have control over your body. And in the gay world, a good body can open many doors. It can help you do and get the things you want. And it will definitely help you get laid. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but it’s a true thing.
  4. You create in yourself what you are attracted to in others. If a straight guy is attracted to large boobs, he’s probably not going to try to create large boobs in himself. But in the gay world, you have the opportunity to create in yourself what you’re attracted to in other men. If you are attracted to large pecs, you’re probably going to want large pecs on yourself. It’s a uniquely gay experience, but certainly a possible motivating factor.

At the end of the day, we don’t really know what drives gay men to be skinnier. While we can discuss gay men’s motivation until we turn blue, what’s equally important is expressing those motivations in a healthy and productive way. In a culture ripe for eating disorders and body image issues, it means building a healthier relationship with your body.

In the comments below, please share why you think gay men are skinnier. What motivates gay men? What motivates you?

P.S. If you’re looking to lose weight through nutrition, exercise and an improved relationship with your body, I recommend downloading Davey Wavey’s Weight Loss Program; I co-wrote the program with a psychotherapist, a nutritionist and another personal trainer. It’s the last weight loss program you’ll ever need.

About Davey Wavey

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  1. I don’t like using BMI as a means to determine how much body fat someone has, or whether someone is overweight. If you work out, muscle weighs more than fat….so someone who is 5’8 and weighs 170lbs and works out daily is going to have the same bmi as someone who is 5’8 and weighs the same but doesn’t do any type of weight lifting. However, their body composition will be different due to the difference in how much muscle and fat weigh.

  2. mostly agree with you.. although some gay men are just as obese as the rest of America, but we call them bears and fetishize it..
    i have noticed a growing number of the gay men i gym with smoke cigarettes “to keep themselves from restless over-eating”..
    also, dancing in a club is great cardio.. but alcohol and cigarettes will eventually lead to diminishing returns at the gym and in life..

  3. Calix Quan says:

    I think it is because many don’t know how to change their bodies or don’t want to put the effort into it. Also, if they’re bottoms, they know that there’s tops who like skinny guys. And as someone else said, you also have your typical guy with crazy fast metabolism that thinks eating junk won’t catch up with him. They are still human after all.

  4. Gays are skinner because of the lack of legal marriage for gays. A gay guy has to stay in shape to attract and hold on to a guy. Straight guys stay in shape long enough to get married, then it all falls to pieces. Wait until gay marriage takes hold. You won’t be able to tell a gay guy from straight one.

  5. It is #1, #3 AND #5 for sure. It is for me anyway.

    What? There is no number 5 you say? Sure there is:

    5. Some gay men simply enjoy fitness and being lean is a beneficial by-product.


    I cannot quote statistics, but it is my observation that gay men are USUALLY not encumbered by children and the typical family responsibilities that come with child rearing. As a result, gay men potentially have more time for fitness endeavors. This may be a trend that is changing with recent advances in same sex partner marriage rights, but I wouldn’t discount this observation. 🙂

  6. I think you are correct. If you are attracted to certain things then that’s what you are going to try and be yourself. But there is another side to it too. I know there are some fat guys that like skinny guys and skinny that like fat. But the main thing is you are going to take better shape of your body while your trying to attract the other person. After getting married people let themselves go. I don’t its that they get lazy i think its cause you know that the other person actually loves you no matter what. They are with you for the long run.

  7. #4 leaves the general public with a stereotypical view of gays as shallow, vain glorious, heartless superficial brain dead losers. Diversity is what brings true depth in our relationships, friendships and enriches our lives…the gay mans constant search for men that look just like him shows a true need for less time in the gym and a need for yours on the psychiatrists couch learning to love himself first and foremost if he ever wants to develop a healthy self image and to eventually build a long term relationship that withstands time, richer or poorer, sickness and in health etc. etc. etc.
    p.s. I’m 6foot1, rail thin and over 50years old it’s eating right, not too much and keeping active.

  8. I’m a type 1 diabetic, that’s the real reason I’m thin. I was diagnosed almost 9 years ago now, and I had weighed a little less than I do now. Before being diagnosed, over the course of a couple months I had lost about 30 lbs. it got to a point where you could tell there were 2 bones in my lower arm. Luckily after being diagnosed I gained it all back and more, because losing weight is not something my doctors would like me to do.

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  9. I heard somewhere it all dates back to the time when AIDS was seen as prevalent in the gay community. The gay community wanted to prove to the straight faction that they were still in fact well, and healthy. So they started to work out more, and made people recognize them as such. In the latter years we have seen it as more of a focus on vanity. But what gay man isn’t a little bit vain?

  10. Something that hasn’t been mentioned: i’ve noticed not just a fitness and exercise focus in the queer community, but a high occurrence of eating disorders. Probably contributed to by #2. It’s a struggle and we need to be working to address it.

  11. Another reason gay men stay fit as they age is because they don’t usually have kids. Kids take a lot of time and energy, especially when they are newborns, and that can break healthy habits quickly.

  12. You’re all full of crap … while there are a lot of guys that appreciate buff guys there’re also buff guys that really appreciate chubs - overweight big dudes - look at bears for god’s sake - more that just a few are certainly NOT skinny. Buff and skinny are beautiful but so are gays in other shapes and we’re in DEMAND.

  13. Jim Johnson says:

    When I integrated into the gay community at age 27, I quickly learned my popularity and social status depended on looking “hot”. I quickly became more body conscious and clothing conscious as a result. Straight women learn the same thing when competing for a guy’s attention. Lesbians and straight men don’t feel the same degree of pressure. The rules are a bit different in the Black community where a woman can have extra curves and weak-looking guys don’t get the girl.

  14. To be honest i think that men should be happy with who they are, if you want to exercise then that is great for you, but dont make me feel bad because i dont have the 6 pac abs…

  15. Clearly gay men value looks over straight men. It’s not a health thing, since gay men smoke and drink more.

  16. When I see a dude in a gay targeted magazine, I tend to think more that I want that in myself that that I want it in my partner. I guess it’s true that we are kind of narcissistic for the very fact that we’re attracted to people of our same gender, which means that when looking at the mirror, we’re looking at someone we can potentially feel attracted to.

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  17. huegosilva says:

    todos os gay são muito descriminado pro sua opção sexual

  18. huegosilva says:

    vamos ser mais forte do que esses preconseituosos

  19. Various reason why & you have mentioned those above but I think it also has to do with gays not involved in sports/fitness & genetics generally and they don’t develop extra muscle/defined bodies unless they are interested to improve themselves for physical attractiveness to others.
    At the other end of the scale you have Bears (gay men that like fat hairy bodies) and they are certainly not skinny & there are a lot of those around.

  20. I think that this is the best article I have ever read. Mind= Blown

  21. DoodleBubadoodles says:

    Let’s not Firget to mention the secret deca/test… HGH/test… Tren/test or masteron/test cycles 99 percent of trainers and prob 45 percent of the gay men are running . Of course they will flat out deny it. I know 6 trainers who a great and knowledgable . However none of their clients will get those results w/out the roids. And they run around the gyms “like it’s all diet man” lmfao . So if ur ever feeling bad because you don’t look like “those guys” now u know why

  22. asexyguy4u2 says:

    The obvious, the practice of anal douching! Keeping a well moving intestines increases metabolism. Cleanses. Less absorption, take breaks. Also agree with paying attention to our bodies more cause appreciate a male body. The feminine side of a male makes one more attentive, sensitive and caring and that can also translate into our care for our bodies.

  23. Some are skinny; some are fat, some are obese; some are fit; some are muscular.

    Why would sexual orientation determine your body type?

    It gets tiring when some homosexual men try to define everything according to sexual orientation, even if there is absolutely no evidence to back up such statements.

  24. It’s because gay men tend to gravitate towards messages directed at women, and women are always being told to change their bodies.

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