"Rationality is the master lifehack which distinguishes which other lifehacks to use."
Applying that principle to a major life challenge: becoming sexier.
Context: Why do I want to be sexy?
I am newly out of a relationship of two years and am back on the great American meat market. It is an exciting time. It is a terrifying time. Relationships and intimacy are a great source of happiness for me as a young man, so it is worth investing time doing this right.
I may do a post series as I figure this out, starting with how to become sexiers, then how to show off my sexiness, proceeding to how to meet women, and finishing with how I will pick my next long-term partner. Since researching how to do all these things from scratch would take way too long, I have borrowed heavily from Geoffrey Miller's excellent book "Mate".
This current post is just on how to actually be sexy. In other words, how will I acquire the traits that women find arousing in men. These traits include physical health (toned muscles, stamina), mental health, intelligence (emotional, mechanical), conscientiousness and agreeableness/assertiveness.
Constraints and resources
I have two jobs and a modest income. I am also very ADD and low-conscientiousness. I need to limit the time I spend researching new behaviors, the time behaviors take, and the willpower required to stick with them. The key here is finding the optimal life changes given my limited resources and the increasing marginal costs of more interventions.
To conserve will-power it is especially important to turn these behaviors into habits. For that reason, I am taking a week focused on each "trait", working to build consistent habits for each.
Week 1: Physical Health
First, I have started working out. This one is obvious, no need to justify. My workout is focused on building a few key muscle groups ASAP in short sessions. I don't know if I'm bulking, but I am sore!
10 pushups + 20 squats + 12 arm motions => wait 30 seconds > repeat 5 times > do workout other day
Second, I have reduced the carbs in my diet. I don't have the money or time to go "full keto" or anything. Instead I will heavily reduce pasta and rice in favor of nuts/meats/cheese/veg. I'm also buying creatine because it's $20 for a years supply, so why not.
Lose 5 pounds by reducing carbohydrates and replacing with proteins and veg. Only need to think about this while at Trader Joes.
Week 2: Mental Health
I'm improving my sleep by buying a sleep mask. I tend to wake up at first light, which cuts an hour or two of sleep each day. This is by far the most cost-effective intervention because I can get 3 for $10 and reduce the bags under my eyes. It'll make me smarter and more attentive on dates, and give more willpower to deal with all the other stuff. A no-brainer intervention.
Buy sleep mask > put them beside bed > put my phone in a charger across the room > Put a book on my bed stand > read until sleepy > put on mask > wake up > put mask beside bed
Otherwise improving my mental health has been difficult. As I said, I'm currently doing two jobs. One is famous for its terrible mental health outcomes, and the other is at a company on the edge of collapse. I'm working on disconnecting my emotional wellbeing from those respective shitshows.
Week 3: Conscientiousness
(Time of writing is the start of conscientiousness week)
The above habit-building exercises should all increase my conscientiousness. After all, it will take willpower to work out every other day, and willpower is like a muscle (I hope!).
Next, I'm replacing my guilt-based self talk with self-compassionate self talk. The idea is to avoid videogames not by moralizing to myself, but by thinking about how happy my future self will be if I write that new piece about Yemen instead. Habits of the mind seem tougher to build, but I'll give it the old college try. Incidentally, there's a sequence on EA forum about this, so I'll listen to that.
Finally, I have one more advantage. I've recently moved in with a clean-freak roommate, who I love dearly. She has gently reminded me of regular cleaning responsibilities, so that I build a habit. Not only is a clean apartment sexy to the ladies, it is also practice for my willpower. The key is to think about how fun the sex will be while I'm scrubbing the counters.
Week 4: Intelligence
Like many people on this forum, I am smart, just not in a sexy way.
Specifically, my emotional intelligence is a weak spot. I don't spend enough time modeling other people in my head. I can get "out of touch" with the people I'm talking to, like a comedian practicing his routine in a closet.
Once I finish the other habits, I will practice more empathy in my daily conversations. Dates are great for empathy. Ask yourself what your date is thinking at any particular time. After each date, think about when your partner was most and least engaged. But dates are high stress and I only do two a week. So I should practice this in pedestrian interactions throughout the week.
There it is: a sketch of my sexy scheme. I mostly wrote it mainly as a planning document, but I'd love to get feedback! As always, don't be an asshole in the comments.
Ok, now for some nontrivial advice if you're actually optimizing for sexiness as a man:
Pardon my speaking the obvious, but I feel like the key missing element is 'status'. If you have more status, you will be more rewarded for your progress in each of those areas. A person who is giving a widely-attended lecture is much more rewarded for improvements to their wit and charm than the person quietly watching in the audience.
Optimizing for status is very difficult since that is the thing everyone else is also optimizing for, and it is also a positional good. Pursuing other goals that have higher positive flow-through effects such as exercise is probably more useful on the margin, unless I'm overlooking flow-through effects from status.
Temporarily gaining status is very doable though; there are many communities where I believe I’m high status, but i don’t tend to interact with them much. Some of them would be a good fit for me if I were in OP’s position.
Exactly, this is the ring everyone else is optimizing for. So it’s tough to get relative to the other interventions.
Haha yeah status is sexy!
The main reason is just that status is ambiguous between a "trait" and a "proof". Status is attractive partly because it mentally healthy, socially intelligent men will rise in status faster. But there's also an element of status being intrinsically useful because it's a resource to provide for a family.
The most efficient status-increasing interventions are all about presentation. Like I could get a white-house job to increase my status, but that would be super hard work. Earning the respect of my friends and advertising my career successes would also increase my status and is way easier. So I'll address it in the "proofs" post.
Presentation is like a 100% bonus to the actual trait. When you are low on skills, it is better to focus on the actual skills, because beginners can learn fast, and the skills are useful for things other than signaling. But when you become good enough (not perfect, just at the point when doubling your skill again would take way more time than learning how to present it), it's time to think about how you display your skills.
Also, consider how much your audience can measure your actual traits. If they can, too much exaggeration can backfire. If they cannot, sky is the limit. Or rather, the limit is their priors on "how likely am I to meet a person with trait X" rather than your actual trait.
status is not ideally a hierarchical variable. "status" is better evaluated as a relationship-status-per-person, ie "will interactions with this person be good?" as an ongoing prediction variable in each person's mental relationship tracker, combined with some sort of reputation variable (predictor of whether the person is honest and kind), some sort of respectability variable (predictor of whether a wide variety of people will find a person impressive quickly), and maybe a few others. reducing "status" down to a single dimension is a reduced model that only works if you want to date fools. people are allergic to the word for a reason, and it isn't that hierarchy isn't real, it's that hierarchy is bad.
certainly impressing a lot of people can make you look more impressive, because impressing a lot of people gives evidence that you are impressive.
however, the low-dimensional "status" variable seems to me to be a key confusion in the process of encouraging toxicity in relationships. imo, it's incredibly important to tightly track connection state per person, and focus on connection state variables that are updated by individual interactions being fun and etc. see also my old (and somewhat low quality) post on the topic back from when I was trying to figure out what it is that dent brill had done to confuse everyone so badly.
There is a failure mode here of overinvesting in status signals and underinvesting in being a pillar of your friend group.
I already have a good "status" so it's not a priority anyway, relative to the other areas.
If you are a piller in your friend group and people rely you that's status. If you introduce a woman to you friends it's attractive if those friends consider you a piller of the friend group.
If status is "ideally not a hierarchical variable", then ignore what I said, and replace it with "Playing a key role, high up in a social hierarchy, will cause your existing attractive traits to be better seen and responded to".
I'm saying that trying to optimize for being "high up a social hierarchy" is, structurally, the kind of thing one does when their social network is hierarchical, and having a hierarchical social network is something to ideally optimize against. far better to have a distance-based attention hierarchy-of-distance, which is optimized to spend more attention on those who don't currently have an excess of attention. "social hierarchy" is another term for the same thing as "status" - my point is that healthy social networks only appear to have "hierarchy" of who's closest, not a tapering as you go one direction. optimize the aesthetics you accept into your life to be ones that build community networks, not ones that build top down control structures. down with all -archy.
This in conflict with my personal strong prior that all institutions function better the fewer the number of people required to make decisions for the group.
I suspect basically all healthy groups will function well if there's someone with the power to improve it, and accountability in place so that they will lose power and respect if they do a bad job. This is true of even very fun/social groups (e.g. sports groups, interest clubs, shared housing, towns, web forums, etc).
This leads to many many social hierarchies, so I disagree that social hierarchies are not worth the costs.
hierarchical control is fundamentally unstable for what amount to incentive corruption safety reasons. while it is important for there to be people who know it is their job to take an action, it is also critical that nobody be given authority over another being, under any circumstances. the only kind of hierarchy that could be imagined to be acceptable is a temporary skill hierarchy. if we are to create a world worth living in, we're going to need to move past this obsession with hierarchy. and to keep it on topic - since women are more often on the losing side of zero- or negative-sum play of authority-power games, I'd expect that as a man, you'll be more successful if you make an effort to remove authority-status from yourself and instead make yourself independently capable and able to produce positive-sum cooperation in groups. ie, don't attempt to take power over others via "status", simply take actions to make things better.
I have tried both approaches at different points in my life, and I have found in my experience, your expectation here does not hold
It seems to me that you assert that a world with hierarchy would be better without providing an argument for why you believe that. Given Ben made an argument just saying you disagree without arguing why is not what I want to see on LessWrong.
What channel do you have to set up two dates per week?
Bumble, Hinge and Tinder.
I averaged that last time I was single. Should be able to get back there.
What was your age last time and now? Might make a difference.
There is one ingredient I highly recommend from my personal experience: stop watching porn and stop masturbating.
We have an incredible drive to procreate and in my experience this is dampened by watching porn and masturbating—which makes a lot of sense. We're stilling our drive to connect in an intimate way with a poor substitute that presses similar buttons.
I notice myself becoming more outgoing, more confident, motivated to do sports, etc. It makes sense that we would have a build in drive to be sexy.
Instead of asking yourself what your date is thinking asking yourself what they are feeling is more straightforward when you care about emotional intelligence.
Jacob Lagerros likes to say it isn't a question of how hard you work, but whether you're pouring your energy into things that are 'life-affirming' or not. If you are, then the reward signal for effort is positive ("look at what great things I've achieved!"), if you are not, then the reward signal is negative ("Now I'm more tired and still I don't have any of the things I really care about").
Sam Altman has similar startup advice ("A winning team feels good and keeps winning. A team that hasn’t won in a while gets demotivated and keeps losing.") where effort that turns into a victory is effort that a team wants to reinvest in more victories.
See also the Relationship Advice Repository.
FWIW it's still possible to me you could do it with your constraints. When I went "full keto" and lost a bunch of weight, I ate mainly these sausages, these pecans, and cheese strings, (also a lot of these pork-crisps) and that's a lot of calories for a little food. I don't know if it's in your budget, or tolerance for repetitive food.
That's helpful, thank you.
Do you know a trustworthy and concise source about how to Keto? The time to find a non-terrible guide via google sucks.
Is there much more to it than sticking below 10-20g of carbs per day (not counting fiber)? If I recall correctly the recommended amount of fat-to-protein-to-carbs is 8:4:1.
(Personally I am genetically lucky (plus a big guy) so I stay in ketosis up to 40g of carbs.)
The only other obvious note is that often you get flu symptoms for a few days as you enter ketosis, which will be within about a week of you going under ~10g/day.
The biggest change to my diet isn't actually the cutting carbs, it's the focus on eating legible foods (i.e. foods where I can read the macronutrients off the box), so I have to turn down most random foods people offer me in favor of my from-home foods.
Added: The online source I learned the most from was the wikipedia page.
I recommend you focus instead on getting people to laugh as your key metric. It's much easier to tell whether you are doing well or poorly or merely ok, and succeeding at it gets you very far.
I don't think laughs should be the only metric, or even the "key" metric, but it is a great metric to be paying attention to
I think most sleep masks that are that cheap don't fully block the incoming light. It might be worth to spend more on a better sleep mask.
Taking a t-shirt, folding it over a few times, and tying it around my head works better than any sleep mask, even the expensive ones, in my experience.
Creatine is an incredibly powerful intervention. It improves energy management and decreases fatigue at the cellular level, in every single one of your cells. I expect you will notice cognitive enhancements as well as improved energy. However, I personally experience sleep disruptions if I take it on days when I do not exercise. Your mileage may vary, just a note that you might experiment with how much you take and how often you take it if you experience sleeplessness, night sweats, and/or vivid nightmares :)
In my personal experience, cutting carbs makes strength training harder. Strength training uses the anaerobic metabolic pathway, which must run on glycogen, not ketones. Technically your body will use gluconeogenesis to create glycogen from fat to supply your muscles, but this is not a fast process, and in my experience it feels pretty bad the longer you try to do it. I recommend checking out Dr. Mike Israetel on YouTube, specifically his video series “Fat loss made easy” and “muscle building made easy”.
This is helpful. I started taking creatine but got lazy about it, I'll get back on it.
As far as strength training, I started getting great female attention before I put on much muscle. I've become much more time constrained because I work like 55 hours a week anyway, so I only work out once or twice a week. Thanks for the recomendation on the youtube channel.
You can convert money into height, through limb lengthening surgery. About $50K USD for additional 8cm in Europe. Double (or close) that price for the US. Also the process takes 1-1.5 years (lengthening alone - about 3m).
Hahahaha that sounds like the worst value for money intervention I could possible do to become sexier. I've heard the surgery is super painful and debilitating when you do it.
(You also sometimes die, which considering how extremely rare this surgery is, some number of reported deaths becomes alarming.)
Is sexiness like beauty? In the eye of the beholder?
While I agree that most of what you're suggesting will increase your attractiveness to some women the bigger question you might want to explore is at those the women you are interested.
I also have a sense that some of your view on what women find attractive is from a male perspective and, as such, a bit suspect. That said, I think you can follow your plan, but be sure that what you're molding yourself into is actually who you are. Women are not (well, some might but do you want to date them?) going to find something that comes across as a front or facade sexy. You'll get farther with being yourself, being comfortable with yourself and being genuine about it.
Shifting a bit, lots of diet theory out there and everyone's metabolisms are a bit different. But I found that when I shifted to a more "eastern" diet with much more rice that I used to eat I actually started loosing weight. My thinking is that steamed rice (or at least rice cooker rice) is actually very low calorie for it's bulk. So I think I felt like I was eating a lot but not taking in as many calories are before.I also found just using one of the health apps that help track caloric intake was helpful my own understanding of just how much I was consuming on any given day.
With regard to exercise I would suggest adding a low level cardio type portion to your routine as that (from what I've heard/read) is better for actually burning fat than a true cardio workout. Heart rate target is age dependent but I would guess low 130s is probably good for you. You'll probably only need about 15-20 minutes 5 days a week.
I totally agree with the beginning of your comment. It will definitely help, but if the OP thinking is "When I will be sexier, I will finally be worthy of love from women", then I would be cautious, and address that feeling of unworthiness too.