Ladies, please post honest pics on your online dating profile, OK?


My friend Marc — a single dad my age — and I like to share dating war stories.

Recently, he giddily kept me posted on the pre-first-date chemistry he shared with a woman he met online.

“Extremely promising,” he texted me. “We talk every night on the phone and it is frightening how much we have in common. I hope I don’t screw it up.”

Fast forward a few days: “She was much larger in person than her online pics lead on. Not gonna happen.”

Because he’s a nice guy, Marc’s telling of the scenario was polite. I’ve heard the same story — usually not as kindly — from lots and lots of guys.

What your online dating pics say about you

Pics posted online depicting a woman who is much smaller than the one who walks — shockingly, 30 lbs heavier — into a bar.

She’s a great girl, really nice, but, uh … well … yeah. Not so much.

>>Find cute, nice guys on eHarmony

On the one hand, what are you thinking? Of course people lie in their online dating profiles every day of the week: Men say they’re younger and richer.

Omissions of children and spouses — not to mention STDs and bad breath.

But suggesting you are much smaller than you actually are is the dumbest lie in the world — the jig is up the second you walk into the Starbucks.

I know exactly what you tell yourself:

a) “Those  pictures really are me, so it’s not a lie.”

b) “Dating profiles are advertising, and advertising always shines the most flattering light on a product.”

c) “He just gets to know me and then he’ll fall for the real me — which has nothing to do with how I look.”

Read: Which online dating sites should moms use?

a), b) and c) … all lies you’re telling yourself, sweetie.

A pic from 5 years ago is a lie, no matter what.

Yes, you should depict yourself in the best possible light, but the SEC has laws against misleading advertising for a reason.

Re: c), He’ll learn to love the real me. My soul.

Real life: your looks have everything to do with how a guy feels about you.

I don’t make these rules. Men are far more visually driven than women for all kinds of anthropological, biological and cultural reasons.

Just accept that. Yes, there are times when men fall in love with a woman who is completely not his physical type because her beautiful soul shined so brightly that it blinded him to her overt physical shortcomings.

But that is not likely to happen when his first impression is that you are a liar who wasted his perfectly good happy hour with your manipulation.

All this is reason enough to keep things real.

But wait! There’s even more!

Post honest dating pics for feminism.

Yeah, men can be pigs. Check out this online message a 35-year-old software developer (with cute pics) sent me:

Your profile is awesome, but I don’t think I’m at a point in my life where I can get involved with someone who has kids. I hesitated to write this, since I could have just said nothing, but decided to write you as encouragement. You’re foxy, and your profile is foxy, too.

He then offered to give me a guy’s POV on my profile, to which I gladly accepted.

You look slim and in good shape, but aren’t showing your body at all. Crass, I know, but even dudes who are down with kids want to know you’ve still got it, so show it off.

‘Nuff said. [I then added a couple full-body shots to my profile, and thanked him for the tip. Radio silence. Maybe he found me too big to bother to reply?]

Now, I get that you’re not feeling good in your body.

You’re lonely and you know very well that few men like very heavy women.

I sympathize with women who find it hard to meet men — even online — for this reason.

If you live in a big market like I do — New York City — there are so many people, and so many classically beautiful people.

How can you connect with a guy in person when they won’t even click on your profile pic?

Misleading a guy into dating you isn’t the solution.

In fact, posting misleading pics only perpetuates the societal message that only thin chicks are datable.

While there are so many unrealistic expectations of women to maintain a certain body type, lying about your real body type only sets the movement backward.

Post honest pics to be honest with yourself.

The second you start lying, you shame yourself and block your ability to find love.

When you post selfies from eight, pre-baby years ago, your opening line is: “I am ashamed of who I am. I am unlovable.” When you market yourself with shame, you deny your ability to be vulnerable — and connect with a man in a real and intimate way.

The more you are true to yourself, the more likely you will find someone who loves you just the way you are.

Very cliche, and also very true: There is someone out there for everyone.

I’m not immune from this pickle.

Before any particularly promising first date with someone I meet online there is always at least a glimmer of: “I hope he’s not disappointed when he meets me in real life.”

When I first started dating in earnest five years ago, I was headed out on one such date with a hot movie executive who spent his vacations traveling around the world surfing with his kids — and also seemed super-cool and smart.

Pre-date flirting was high, and before I headed out, I fussed in front of the mirror. “I think he’s out of my league,” I fretted to the babysitter, a friend.

Early in the evening, as I rose from the table to head for the bathroom, I was sure he disappointingly checked out my thighs, squeezed into a pair of black jeans.

Was this all in my head? Maybe. Maybe not.

But had I posted a swimsuit pic of myself when I was 27 and in top shape, well, then I could know for certain that he was checking out my sqeezy thighs, scratching his head and wondering: What was she thinking? Because that would have been the normal thing to do.

How to chose the best online dating photos

Online dating site Zoosk conducted some research about what kind of pics attract the most attention from men.

  1. Full body shots. Include at least one.
  2. No car shots. Skip the pic taken inside your Honda.
  3. No hats. Both men and women were less likely to be attracted to others wearing headwear. Same with shades: no sunglasses.
  4. Sports, apparently. Zoosk: “People wearing a jersey, t-shirt of their favorite team, or sports outfit in their photos get 32% more incoming messages and 17% more responses.”
  5. Vacation shots are good. Softball for a conversation starter, plus you look fun and probably relaxed.
  6.  No group shots (for real: I can’t tell who is the main attraction, and sometimes the other guys are cuter).
  7. Get a closeup: In a recent survey, 53% of men said that the first thing they notice about a woman’s profile picture is her eyes. Then, 32% of men said they notice a woman’s body, 12% said her hair, and 3% said they notice a woman’s lips.
  8. At least 4 pics. More photos = more responses and longer conversations, per Zoosk.
  9. Get the gear: Step up your photo game with good lighting (like this ring light I actually swear by) and this clip-on lens to give your iPhone camera that professional edge.

Thinking of getting back into dating again, but not sure where to start?

Check out Get Back Into Dating Again For Single Moms, my bestselling video course has helped hundreds of moms fulfill the guarantee: get on one quality date and jumpstart your romantic life. On sale for $99 for a limited time.


Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour,, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.

Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.

A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.

About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour,, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list. Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer. A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.


  1. Marc on November 30, 2013 at 2:01 am

    There’s a flipside to this, Emma. Girls who are extremely beautiful in real life are often snobbishly condescending and/or woefully retarded.

  2. Emma on November 30, 2013 at 9:07 am

    Hmmm ….. stereotypes abound! But, cliches are cliches for a reason, alas.

  3. Amanda on November 30, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Men do the same thing. I can’t tell you how many dates I’ve been on where the guy has a lot less hair and a few extra pounds. I always post recent photos as to avoid the awkwardness. Transparency is a must.

    • chris on March 31, 2014 at 7:15 pm

      I shave my balding middle head if you dont like then tough on you sister. I could careless

    • Melissa on September 17, 2016 at 9:31 pm

      So true!!! I’ve been burned more than a few times. Is it too much to ask that they take care of themselves? Work out regularly? Ditch the “relaxed fit” jeans? This “men are more visual” stereotype doesn’t mean women are willing to date slobs.

  4. Hassan Aljaber on December 2, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Larger?? what is larger in term of weight. She might be larger but has a better sex appeal than slim girl..also it is about chemistry ….but thing is different when she is over weight with waves of met. By the way I use to have a cameraman colleague who asks me to take him a head shot to show it to a girl he met on Facebook…

  5. Ranger Rick on December 7, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    Indeed, it is a war zone out there in the online dating world.

    While it works for some people, I really think there are better ways to go about dating, such as joining a club of some sort. Hiking groups etc. etc. Keep joining new ones until you find a good mix of guys/girls. Once you’re out of college/university and single, you have to get creative with how to meet people.
    Surely your friends can put out the word that you’re single and looking. There’s going to be somebody you know along the way, that knows of a single good looking guy/girl to date. Put the pride away and ask for help from your friends in finding dates.

    That way you avoid the rampant liars and weirdos that just make people become jaded cynical online window shoppers. There’s a mouthful. Anyway, good luck to all. It’s a zoo out there.
    P.S. Emma – you’re very cute with that killer smile.

    • Emma on December 9, 2013 at 9:25 am

      Rick – sure, blind dates and joining clubs are great ways to meet people, but so are eHarmony, OKCupid, Jdate etc. It’s simply a numbers game — you can connect with a dozen men in an hour online, while more traditional methods are far less efficient. Clearly online dating works — plenty of people have found partners, love and fun there, present company included!

  6. Launchtime on November 4, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Deception is just bad in general. We can argue the finer points of WHY a lady would post older pics, but the bottom line is it’s bullcrap. Even lying about your age or your income doesn’t necessarily have a direct relationship to your LIFESTYLE. If you are 30 pounds heavier that simply means you don’t treat yourself the way you did in those earlier pictures.

    And as for it getting harder and harder to stay in shape as you age, cry me a river. Age is a trumped up measuring system that doesn’t even remotely describe who we are as people. I will not date a girl bigger than I am, and I shouldn’t have to lol; I’m 39 and I stay fit, and it really ain’t that hard. Cut out refined sugar and you’re 90% of the way there.

    Yeah I recently met an absolutely stunning amazing girl, but she doesn’t really know how to listen, and has let herself go since the pictures. Too bad when that phone chemistry evaporates by the second date. I just don’t get it… she even admits that she’s out of shape, and she goes running a lot, but it has affected her whole personality. I can see that her self esteem is very low despite the fact that she is naturally gorgeous. It’s the LIFESTYLE and the IMPACT on her self esteem that I find much more unattractive than the 25 pounds she put on.

    Be honest, be free. And ffs stay active- it’s just a much, much happier way to live XD

  7. james on March 15, 2015 at 11:05 pm

    So you literally want us to believe you dated a hollywood movie executive?

    Is there a link between intirnsic lying and obese women or something going on here?

    • Emma on March 15, 2015 at 11:08 pm

      Not Hollywood. Indy. What’s the issue, James?

  8. Heath on August 24, 2016 at 7:54 pm

    lol “its wrong but i don’t blame them” so in other words you don’t think its wrong XD

  9. Kev on October 12, 2016 at 11:11 pm

    It’s very simple and it boils down to one simple fact. Why wouod anyone date someone they aren’t attracted to and if you honestly think that’a shallow ask yourself this question. How would you feel if you found out your partner didn’t find you attractive? I’m almost certain most if not all would be very hurt. Starting a relationship with someone you aren’t attracted to is beyond stupid.

    • givingup on December 1, 2016 at 5:08 am

      I’m 40 , In great shape (100 miles a week cycling and gym daily kind of shape) 6’2″ with two STEM degrees and I gave up on online dating.

      I didn’t date in high school or in my 20’s as I looked so much younger and women just weren’t interested in a 24 year old who didn’t shave yet.

      I did my diligence, created a good profile and posted some recent pics. I don’t consider myself picky to begin with but after a few weeks of reading profiles and writing well thought messages that got no response (seriously can’t you women take the time to just write “no thanks.” to someone who spent a half an hour reading your profile and composing a message?

      So I did what most guys do, I lowered my standards to go with my now lowered self esteem.

      Still nothing…


      OK now I got some responses from women I really don’t have anything in common with that I find unattractive but I kept lowering my standards. I finally got a date. We spent about a week txting she seemed nice and we had some common interests. So I take her to a nice restaurant spend about $250 on food drinks etc …


      She tells me she is not over her ex, I’m kinda relieved as I realized that I was settling for someone I had no attraction to .

      I hate to think of myself as shallow, but I was married to someone who put on a lot of weight right after we got married. I loved her enough that I was willing to stay, but simply put I physically can’t have sex with a person I’m not attracted to and I’m no more attracted to obese women than I am to a tree. We divorced and I have stayed single ever since.

      I have a large group of good lifelong friends, looking at them I realize that most of them are single dads, some rising children that aren’t even their own, none of them date anymore and many haven’t dated but the one women who left them with their children and split for some guy with a neck tattoo..

      No I don’t think all women are like this,yes there is a lot of hypergamy and lets face it online dating is a sausage fest and most women only go after the top %1 so the few decent ones get bombarded with so many messages you never make it through the cut. Unfortunately for me men outnumber women in my area and have standards so high (must be 6’10” supermodel with 700K income) and nothing to offer but sex so I just stay single.


      I would never insult or even comment about someones weight, and I don’t mention it in my profile I’m very sensitive towards other peoples feelings and think that behavior is awful.

      I’m just going to go MGTOW like millions of other guys.

      • Jus on August 22, 2018 at 11:21 am

        Yep, I wouldn’t insult someone for their appearance either but having sex with someone you’re not physically attracted to is awkward.

        Been there, done that. Not to mention the women get insulted if you can’t get it up.

  10. Leslie on June 22, 2018 at 2:46 pm

    Wow, you all are a bunch of shallow assholes. I will be unfollowing this blog.

    • Ed on July 21, 2018 at 4:05 pm

      ha, keep lying to yourself. Would you have sex with someone you are not attracted to?

    • Krystal on September 4, 2018 at 1:41 pm

      Lots of men were assholes to me when I was. Bigger. Now I just use them .. morons :)

  11. GuyorGirl on July 7, 2018 at 4:54 am

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article. You are right about men and women posting deceiving photos. It’s unfair and a waste of time when someone shows up and are just overweight and not as advertised. The people angry in these comments are fat themselves and toxic in their opinions towards people in better shape. You don’t buy a Cadillac and settle for a Toyota when you paid for a Cadillac. Why would you date a man or woman who is 30 lbs more than they advertised? Liar, shallow, lazy, deceitful, disgraceful, dishonest, disrespectful, time wasting, and PATHETIC.

  12. Susan on July 31, 2018 at 10:00 pm

    All my pictures were taken within 2-3 months from the date they were posted, everything I wrote in my profile is 100% true, even more, all the pictures I posted are with little or not make up and wearing regular clothes, with jeans, with a dress and with golf shorts, trying to show the REAL “ME” because I am only interested in finding a man who will like me for who I am, why would I lie? If I post unrealistic photos of me I would be embarrassed to meet the other person…and I will hate if they do that to me, and not because I am a shallow person but because why in hell would I like to date a person who 1 is a liar and 2 has emotional or mental issues to the point of not accepting himself just the way he is?

  13. Justin on August 22, 2018 at 11:16 am

    Great read. If I had a dollar for every time this happened, I’d be a millionaire.

    I just don’t see the point in misleading anyone, whether it’s through pictures or info. Both genders are guilty of this. People will either like your appearance or they won’t so might as well just get it out of the way. There is a fine line between taking your best photos and flat out misleading someone.

    I’m never going to insult a person for how they look, but I also shouldn’t feel guilty for not being attracted to someone anymore than someone feeling guilty for not finding me attractive.

    Now is appearance everything? Of course not, but it still matters. Personality matters too. I’ve had dates who were knockout gorgeous or cute but either they were toxic or just flat out boring. Point being is, you can’t completely lack physical attractiveness or personality. It just won’t work out. I’ve settled before and I felt guilty because I was lying to myself and the other person.

  14. Krystal on September 4, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    I’ve seen men post older pics much more than women.I was shocked!.

  15. Sharon on October 12, 2018 at 11:04 pm

    I am done with this online dating – its a smorgasbord –

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