A couple months ago, I was mindlessly scrolling down my TikTok FYP when I found a video of an adorable plus-size woman sipping wine and calling out the complete lack of body size diversity on ABC’s The Bachelor franchise. She started out saying she had “a bone to pick” with the franchise, adding that she’s been watching “since Day 1” but had never seen anyone who looks like her on the show. She went on to explain that choosing not to showcase any plus-size people contributes to society’s idea that fat women can’t find love and a fairytale ending.
Her message was spot on, but it was her friendly, engaging demeanor that made me click through and see what she was about. As it turns out, the Swipefat TikTok account belongs to Chicago-area body positive lifestyle influencer Alex Stewart, and her self-described “fat best friend,” restaurant brand manager Nicci Nunez. Together, they host a podcast called “Swipefat” which highlights the complicated world of dating while fat.
To be honest, dating isn’t something I really think about. I have been married for a gazillion years, and I met my husband when I was eighteen. He was my first boyfriend, and that was that. I never had to do much dating.
But something about Alex and Nicci’s TikTok felt so approachable, so engaging, that I immediately headed over to Apple Podcasts and started listening to “Swipefat.” Even though I have never so much as seen the screen of a dating website, I found myself nodding along, fully engaged because so much of their content is relatable to me as a fat woman, regardless of my relationship status. I even felt myself getting a little jealous that they get to be friends in real life and I have to be just a listener. Alex and Nicci are the totally honest, funny “fat best friends” I’d love to have in real life.
As luck would have it, Alex and Nicci agreed to sit down with Scary Mommy to talk about their work, their bodies, their friendship and dating in 2021.
Here’s what they had to say.
On why Alex felt compelled to make that viral Bachelor TikTok:
“We’re starting to see more of ourselves in the media, but on any reality TV there are almost no fat bodies. How is that real? That’s not reality. It makes all the difference to see yourself represented [as part of the fairytale.] Essentially, that’s what we all want, right? We all want to end up happy and loved and in love and when you don’t see yourself in those fairytale situations on reality TV, it’s harder to imagine yourself in the fairytale in your life,” shares Alex.
On finding confidence while living in fat bodies:
“I’ve been fat my whole life basically. My background is radio, so I was publicly bullied on major market platforms for a long time, so it really traumatized me,” Nicci tells Scary Mommy. “I took it so to heart! I lost weight, and I still wasn’t happy with myself. I realized that losing weight and being a certain size wasn’t going to make or break my life, and I finally started doing the internal work to start actually, truly loving myself, and then it just bloomed from there.”
“I was not always confident,” Alex Says. “I was always confident that I have a great personality, ya know, all those things, so it was sort of like, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter if I don’t have it all. I have some things.’ My body positive journey started with Instagram. I first started as a food blogger, and honestly, it’s kind of uncommon to find a fat food blogger that will show their body and that they eat!” The positive feedback spurred her on. “I was late [to body positivity]. I was in my thirties!” Alex says with a laugh.
On their preference for the word “fat” when describing their bodies:
“It’s the same way that you’d describe someone as thin. Why is it a bad word? We’ve made it bad word because we equate it with being lazy or unhealthy. That’s what needs to stop. You can be fat and healthy. You can be fat and unhealthy. You can be skinny and unhealthy,” says Alex.
Lamenting society’s insistence that fat is the worst thing a person can be, Alex shares, “Our straight-size friends were so offended when we wanted to call [the podcast] ‘Swipefat.’”
Laughing, Nicci adds, “Even our parents were offended!”
On dating while fat:
According to Nicci, “Dating is hard for everybody, but when you’re dating while fat, that’s another layer. We’re conditioned to think that we have to put a warning label on our profiles, or warn them what our body looks like even though we are showing them what it looks like! We also have to think about our pictures way more than I think an average person does, just in case. We’re worried about being accused of being a catfish because even though we’ve shown guys that we’re bigger, we show up and the look of disappointment on their face is horrifying. Then you have the guys who oversexualize you and fetishize you. It’s hard. You have to find a middle ground.”
Alex sighs. “It’s a lot of navigation.”
On why being rejected actually helps temper the fear of rejection:
“I think rejection helps in any situation. Like, if you’re scared to be somebody’s friend, or go for a job you really want, once you’re rejected once, you’re like ‘Okay, it wasn’t as bad as I thought.’ It takes a while to get that thick skin, I think. It took me awhile. And I think Nicci… we’re both the same. Now, it’s sort of like, you have to prove to me that you’re worth it, too. I think we’re so worried about rejection that we forget we have power in that situation, too. We’re so scared about getting there and getting that look, but we forget that it’s a two-way street,” Alex says.
Advice for dating in a fat body:
1. Just do it.
According to Nicci, even if you’re nervous, “Ya gotta do it. You have to start somewhere. The fear of it is scarier than actually doing it. Know your worth. You’re beautiful, hot, sexy. You have more to bring to the table than just your body.”
2. Build your profile with your friends.
Drink wine and make a night of it. “It really hyped me up,” Nicci says.
3. Use honest photos!
“Use photos that make you feel confident, but also photos that look like you,” Alex says. “Be honest, so you don’t feel uncomfortable going into the date.”
In addition to their Podcast, Swipefat, Alex and Nicci star in a FreebieTV series called “Dating in the Modern Age.”
It gives a glimpse into their experiences trying to find someone to connect with while dating as fat women during a pandemic.
They also run a private Facebook group for fat women navigating the dating world.
“Girls will be like, ‘I’m going on my first date in a long time! Here’s what I’m going to wear. What do you think?’” Alex says with a smile.
“A lot of people do not have a fat friend. Us starting the ‘Swipefat’ podcast and building this community has really made people feel like their thoughts are validated,” shares Nicci.
Alex Stewart and Nicci Nunez are two beautiful, successful women who use their voices to let other fat girls know that they’re not alone.
“Just because you’re fat, doesn’t mean you’re not worth being in a quality relationship,” Nicci says.