“Portion control” has a very different meaning for stuffers. Also known as “gainers,” stuffers are part of a growing subculture of people who fetishize weight gain and even obesity, purposely putting on the pounds to fulfill their sexual desires. Many gainers chronicle their journeys to their ideal weights on online forums (including websites, subreddits and YouTube), where revealing photos of fresh fleshiness are revered, and where before and after shots can inspire their viewers to keep eating.
Take Crystal, for example, a young gainer whose story was spotlighted after she posted photos of her determined weight gain to Imgur. “I’ve wanted to be fat since I was a little girl,” Crystal wrote. “It wasn’t until earlier this year that I had the ability to do so. So I did. And here I am.” Her story is one of lifelong hunger, Vocativ notes, and also of serious determination:
Crystal started out at relatively petite 157 pounds, and within a year the 5-foot-4 brunette was weighing in at a rotund 275. She ate as much as she could stomach, supplementing her daily diet with heavy cream and milkshakes, and plowing through carb cornucopias like a dozen donuts in a single sitting. “I keep nonperishable food by my bed and make sure that every time I wake up in the night, I eat something,” she writes. “And I drink anywhere from a quart to multiple quarts a day of heavy cream. Luckily, I am able to handle it.”
There’s very little clinical precedent for stuffing behavior like Crystal’s, although the fetish seems to be increasingly popular online. Expectedly, there’s concern over the health risks involved with intentional overeating and excessive weight gain, about which many gainers claim to have consulted physicians. For the most part, scientific and public reception of stuffing subculture has focused on sexual fetishism and not psychological abnormality, which might be a good thing. After all, stuffing is all about people (often women) feeling good about themselves and the way they look. And, on top of that, it subverts the thin ideal, which can be equally physically harmful as being overweight. Either way, it involves people actively making choices about their bodies, and that’s nothing to scoff at.
“Many of us do risky things with our bodies, and nobody complains about it unless it involves sex,” sexologist Gloria Brame told Vocativ. “A lot of people feel they are at their most beautiful when they are fat. They like being Rubenesque, and it turns them on, too.” And, Brame pointed out, erotic relationships with food are a whole lot older than the Internet forums where people talk about them.
The ability to fulfill a sexual desire like stuffing still raises questions, specifically pertaining to a person’s access to such huge quantities of food and to medical care. But it also brings up another point worth considering: If getting fat in a healthy way fulfills someone sexually and emotionally, how much should we really care?