Abridged Gainer History Project

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Before 1988: Community Origins

In 1976, the first Girth & Mirth chapter was founded in San Francisco by a chaser named Charlie Brown, providing the first-ever organized group for chubby gay men and their admirers. Other Girth & Mirth clubs launched soon after, in Boston (in 1977) and New York (in 1978), eventually spreading to every major metro area by the late 80s.

While Girth and Mirth clubs did not have an explicit gainer identity (the terms “gainer” and “encourager” had yet to be coined), at the time they provided the only outlet for gay men who were interested in weight gain. Many Girth & Mirth clubs were founded or led at various times by men who would later come to identify as gainers or encouragers.

In 1982, a man named John Stone began printing what was the first ever publication explicitly for men into weight gain: Dragongate. Printed on a mimeograph in California, Dragongate featured stories, personal ads, photos and re-prints of a comic series called Judge Dredd, a sci-fi comic featuring obese characters quarantined on their own island.

By the mid-80s, there were two ways for someone who was into weight gain to discover others like themselves: By attending a big men’s meeting like Girth & Mirth--where a handful of attendees might share their interest--or by finding personal or Dragongate ads in gay publications.

During much of this time, the terms “gainer” and “encourager” didn’t exist, so personal ads tended to specifically describe what the poster wanted. “Have you ever fantasized about eating?” read one ad placed in the New York Native (now defunct) in 1983.

Around 1985, the first-known gathering of gainers and encouragers began in New York City, when a group started meeting informally after Girth & Mirth meetings. One of the group’s members, John Outcalt, would go on to be one of the gainer/encourager community’s leading voices in the next decade. It was at one of these informal meetings that the terms “gainer” and “encourager” were proposed as standard terminology.

1988 - 1996: A Community Forms / The Analog Era

The late 80s were a formative time for the emerging gainer/encourager community, marking the widespread standardization of the terms “gainer” and “encourager”, the first regular organized gainer/encourager meetings, and the launch of a series of newsletters that would define the community in the pre-internet era.

In 1988, the informal group that had been meeting in New York City started holding regular meetings and events open to the public, branding itself the Encouragement Group and advertising their events around the city. That same year, the Encouragement Group held the first-ever weight gain discussion at the annual chub/chaser event Convergence.

Sometime in the mid-80s, John Stone ceased publishing the Dragongate newsletter, leaving a hole in the nascent gainer/encourager community. In 1988, John launched a new newsletter, called XL, however he was forced to end it after only a year of publication due to his failing health. John passed his contact list to Ollie Lee Taylor in Florida, who then launched XXXLNT in 1989.

In 1990, John Outcalt launched Encouragement magazine from New York, having been inspired by John Stone’s efforts (going so far as to borrow John’s last name for his publishing pseudonym, Ben Stone). Encouragement regularly featured artwork by Warren Davis and would go on to be the most popular and influential of the gainer/encourager newsletters.

While common household internet access was still several years away, communications technology was improving rapidly in the late 80s. In 1988, Internet Relay Chat (IRC) was created, allowing those knowledgeable enough to create chat rooms and exchange text messages in real time.

On March 3, 1989, Paul Casey founded Waka Waka BBS, an online messageboard for the Seattle chub-chaser community. Because it included a gainer/specific section, it quickly became the first website where gainers and encouragers start congregating online, preceding the AOL “big belly M4M” chat rooms by several years.

In 1990, a 976 Gainer Hotline ad appeared in Big Ad magazine (a publication featuring chubby men) and ran for a year before lapsing into obscurity.

During the early 90s, only three cities are known to have had regular local gainer/ecnourager gatherings: New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The first regular, organized west coast meet ups were dinner parties hosted by Randy Sumner in San Francisco starting in 1990.

After several gainers re-located from San Francisco to Southern California, they spawned the very successful Dinner Group there in 1993. The group became so popular, it started publishing its own newsletter.

In 1992, John Outcalt started the first-ever convention for gainers and encouragers, EncourageCon, which would remain the only such convention until the last one was held in 2003. As one attendee, Rick (Desertshore) described his first EncourageCon: “It was definitely like arriving at Mecca.”

The first EncourageCon in 1992 was held in New Hope, PA, with the 1993 EncourageCon and 1994 EncourageCon held in Guernville, CA and the 1995 EncourageCon held in Provincetown, MA.

In 1992, America Online began bringing the internet into homes of those significantly less tech savvy than the early adopters, with other companies following suit.

Because the internet was still a new phenomenon, print outlets remained king during this time.

In 1993 another gainer newsletter, The Oinquirer, was launched out of San Francisco, focusing on erotic stories, tabloid articles and tales of celebrity weight gain.

The same year saw the first-ever publication of gainer/encourager content in a bear publication. In its March, 1993 issue, Big Ad published two articles on gaining: “Deliberate Weight Gaining and Encouraging” by Randy Sumner (BigGutnTits); and “The Anatomy of a Gainer: Life Begins at 300” by Phil (Blubrboy). In 1995, Big Ad began to run a regular column by Randy, under the pseudonym “Averill Dupois,” called “Sliding Scale.”

By the mid-90s chat rooms became a go-to place for many gainers and encouragers. Chat rooms like #gaygainers on EFnet and “Big Belly M4M” and “Fat and Gaining M4M” on AOL brought together many non-tech-savvy gainers for the first time online.

An earlier generation had discovered gaining and encouraging by attending Girth & Mirth meetings or by stumbling on a personal ad or newsletter ad in a gay publication. Now, even before the launch of the first gainer website in 1996, a new generation was discovering that they were not alone through chat rooms and bulletin boards.

1996 - 2003: The Early Internet Era

1996 marked the beginning of a seismic shift in the center of balance--from the once dominant printed newsletters and magazines to the ascendant internet. In April 1996, John Outcalt published the final issue of Encouragement, which had become the most influential of the gainer newsletters. One month later, GainrRWeb.com--the first website dedicated to gainers and encouragers--was launched by FatJeff.

Print media, though on its way out, was not dead yet. Two gainer newsletters launched launched in 1996: Porkers and Gainers Gazette, and GainRNews--the latter launched as a companion piece to the newly-launched GainRWeb, but ceasing publication within a year, due to the prevailing ease of online publishing.

Two years later, in April 1998, BellyBuilders.com was launched by DarkHorse, forming out of a discussion thread on the Korbel Microbrewing discussion board. Then in June of 1998, FatNats.com was launched, providing a space for a new generation of underage gainers and encouragers to explore their identity.

Together, GainRWeb, BellyBuilders and FatNats ushered in a new era for gainers and encouragers. Through them, thousands of men with access to the increasingly user-friendly internet discovered that their desire to gain or encourage had a name—and was in fact shared by many others.

Despite the demise of the Encouragement newsletter, John Outcalt continued to host EncourageCons during this period, including official events in Lake George, NY (1998), Reno, NV (1999), Bolton Valley, VT (2001) and Palm Springs, CA (2003).

There was also an unofficial EncourageCon held in Guerneville in 1997, hosted by Randy Sumner. In lieu of an EncourageCon event in 2000, GainRWeb hosted a one-time Cruise for the Pounds.

In 1999, researcher Alex Robertson Textor from the University of Michigan authored the first-known academic paper to discuss gaining and encouraging. Published in the Journal of Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Identity in July of 1999, the paper focused on the big men’s movement, but dedicated several pages to outlining the gainer movement, paying particular attention to the purported link between gaining and masculinity.

2000 saw the first-ever article about gaining and encouraging printed in a mainstream publication, when Time Out New York ran a full-page article on John Outcalt and others from the New York gainer group.

By the year 2000, the newsletter era officially ended when the very last of the printed gainer newsletters, Ollie Lee Taylor’s XXXLNT, ceased publication, with Porkers and Gainers Gazette and The Oinquirer having ended sometime before.

After several years with little change in the online landscape, three new websites joined the mix in 2001: BallBellyBears.com; BigGuts.com; and TheOinquirer.com. Although none became as prominent as GainRWeb or BellyBuilders, they added alternative perspectives and experiences for the community at a time when the internet was still growing and being defined.

2001 also saw the launch of Yahoo! Groups, which quickly became one of the most popular platforms for gainers and encouragers to share photos and stories. Each group could focus on a different topic—ranging from personal photo collections to groups built around admiring certain physical types.

In August of 2002, the first ever documentary about gaining was released and began playing at gay and lesbian film festivals across America. HardFat, a 23-minute documentary short by Frederic Moffet, featured iconic gainers Rick (SFGutmuscle) and Mike (CMBigDog), and won the HBO Juried Award for Best Short at the 2003 Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and the Audience Choice Award at the 2002 SinCiné: NYC Erotic Film Festival.

Hard Fat from Frederic Moffet on Vimeo.

As the early 2000s progressed, the internet was moving forward at lightening speed, but the most popular gainer websites were run by volunteers who kept the sites afloat in their own free time and with the help of donations. The sheer amount of time required to make regular updates to Bellybuilders.com (which had to be done by hand) led Alan (DarkHorse) to transition the site to a simpler forum format and to pass the baton to Anthony (Lrgrthnlf).

2003 - 2011: The Mature Internet Era

2003 ushered in a new era for the gainer community with the launch of a single website: Beefyfrat.com. Launched by MattHess, in partnership with BradYates, BrianShifting, Bryan and TreyBien, Beefyfrat quickly became the most widely used website for gainers and encouragers.

For the next six years, there was very little disruption in the gainer/encourager website space. But the rest of the internet was experiencing disruption writ large. The launch of Skype (in 2003), Facebook (in 2004), YouTube (in 2005), and Twitter (in 2006) all profoundly affected the gainer and encourager community, connecting people over vast distances and in ways that were far more efficient and social than before.

2003 was also a transition year for gainer events. The the last EncourageCon was held in 2003 in Palm Springs, gainer group meet ups in Los Angeles and San Francisco had lapsed and New York gatherings became sporadic. Small groups of gainers still met informally, but the larger community was in a state of flux.

That was thanks in large part to the emerging power of the internet to bring people together virtually, thereby reducing the demand for in-person meetings. This same trend was seen in the chub/chaser community--by the early 2000s, most of the Girth & Mirth clubs that had once thrived in every major U.S. city had lapsed or disbanded.

In 2004, a new gainer convention called Belly Weekend Atlanta began, largely picking up where EncourageCon left off. The event was led by Clayton (CigarChomp) and lasted for three years until, in 2007, it was re-branded as Expansion. This marked the first time that a gainer event was organized by someone who was not a part of the original core group of community leaders in the 90s.

Bolstered by the success of Expansion, several attempts were made the following year to establish gainer conventions internationally. Those included Southern Expanse in Melbourne, Australia (2008) and My Big Fat Birmingham Weekend (2008). Though both events were successful and proved there was regional interest, they were not attempted again.

Unlike the EncourageCons, which had exclusively been held in the northeast and California, Expansion stuck to locations in the southern U.S. After Expansion 2007 in Atlanta, the event started rotating, first to Orlando (in 2008), then New Orleans (in 2009) and Ft. Lauderdale (in 2010).

In 2009, a three-minute segment called “Eat, Gain, Love Fetish” appeared on G4TV, a U.S. cable and satellite network, marking the first time gay gainers were openly discussed on mainstream television.

In October of 2009, GrowingGuys.com was launched by Dave (SFBig4Big), ushering in the social media age for gainer/encourager websites. The site utilized a generic social network template, bringing common social features (such as “walls” and comments) to the gainer/encourager community for the first time. Shortly thereafter, BeefyFrat added similar social features to its platform, expediting the social media shift.

After a year in service and with 6,000 members, GrowingGuys was forced to shut down following the end of the service that provided its template. However it was around this time that larger numbers of gainers and encouragers were becoming comfortable enough to become “friends” on Facebook, providing yet another social community experience online.

2011 - Present: The Social Era

2011 was another inflection point for the gainer community. On March 29, 2011, Grommr.com was launched by PupKilo, SFBaydude02 and TreyBien. By 2012 the site had become the most widely used among gainers and encouragers with over 50,000 members.

Gainer events were also seeing another shift in 2011, with the arrival of a second annual gainer convention (Belly Rub Weekend in Chicago), as well as a new, program coordinated by Grommr’s founders for fostering local meet ups around the world (called GrommOffs).

Belly Rub Weekend Chicago grew out of a gainer picnic held in 2010, and provided a new model for gainer events. Rather than focusing on a hotel venue—as EncourageCon and Expansion had done—BRW focused on events and meals held throughout the city, quickly becoming a popular annual event.

By early 2011, regular local meet ups were sporadic and most were organized privately, among friends. Shortly after the launch of Grommr in March, 2011, the GrommOff program began, marking the first attempt at coordinated local gainer events since the Encouragement movement in the early 90s.

GrommOffs were designed as informal gatherings organized by local leaders or visiting coordinators, oftentimes featuring bar nights, dinners, brunches, picnics or other social outings. By the end of 2011, 53 GrommOffs had been held in 27 cities in four countries on three continents.

2011 also saw the launch of the first-ever gainer podcast. Hosted by Pete (GainTirade) and his partner Matt (NojoArtist), the GainTirade podcast featured regular guests and address various issues affecting gainers and encouragers. Just over a year later in December 2012 a second podcast--The Gaining Life--began, hosted by Russ (Fatfanplus) and his boyfriend Steve (Munchy).

2012 saw both a second BRW in Chicago and a fifth Expansion (held in New Orleans), as well as another 101 GrommOffs held in 38 cities in six countries on three continents.

Also in 2012, a new gainer event model was established: Gainer Camp in Seattle. A selective, all-expenses-paid week-long experience, Gainer Camp was organized by Stuart (TipTheScales) and provided a custom, small-scale approach to gainer events—the first two camps, held back-to-back, had five attendees each. Stuart would go on to start Gainer House--a private home in Seattle that became a hub for many local gainers.

In 2013, a sixth Expansion in Austin, a third BRW in Chicago and a second Gainer Camp in Seattle were held. Also, a total of 91 GrommOffs were held in 34 cities in eight countries on five continents. Two GrommOffs that year became the first-ever gainer gatherings in South America (in Buenos Aires in February, 2013) and Asia (in Bangkok in June, 2013).

On January 16, 2013, the results of the most comprehensive survey of gainer/encourager sexual habist were released by Paul (Fatnesse) on his blog, Fatnesse Follies. The survey’s large sample size (290 respondents) provides a rare insight into gainer sexuality, including preferred practices and sexual interests.

In 2014, BRW continued on in Chicago with a fourth event and Expansion held its seventh event in Nashville, TN. 2014 also saw the first-ever large coordinated gainer event in Europe. Hosted by the founders of Grommr, EuroGrom established a new model, with most meals and activities based around a party loft and several sightseeing excursions. The event brought together over 90 people from 12 countries.

2015 saw a fifth BRW held in Chicago and Expansion returned to the Hotel Provincial in New Orleans (its third and final time at the hotel).

In January of 2016 a new website called Gainrtube appeared--the first new website for gainers and encouragers since 2011. Run by a webmaster who insisted on anonymity, the site allowed members to upload videos without the content restrictions and flagging of sites like YouTube. On March 2, 2106, Gainrtube disappeared without any explanation, though it is believed the high cost of hosting so much video content quickly became unsustainable.

2016 was also the end of an era. After 12 years of event organizing--and being the only large gainer event for six of those years--Clayton (CigarChomp) decided to retire Expansion. The ninth and final Expansion was held in Tampa.

BRW also held its sixth event in Chicago in 2016, promising to continue on as the sole large U.S. gainer event. And the Grommr Team organized a second EuroGrom in Berlin in 2016, bringing together over 85 people from 20 countries.

Gainer Community Report & Takeaways

Access the report

The Gainer Community Report utilizes data from Grommr and was compiled as a service to the gainer-encourager community. The goal of this report is to collect and analyze publicly available data to help foster a deeper understanding of who we are as a community—how we identify, what we like, where we live and what we want for ourselves.

We realize that this report only scratches the surface, and we hope it will be a precursor to future efforts to quantify and analyze this complex community of ours.

All data has been filtered to exclude old and inactive profiles, as well as recently created ones. The data within the report shows information only from Grommr profiles that have both been members for at least 30 days and have logged in within the last nine months.

All data available in this interactive report is drawn from profile information provided by Grommr members that is publicly visible within Grommr. No private or sensitive member data was used in the creation of this report.

The following insights are drawn from the Gainer Community Report.

Find Gainers Here

If you want to maximize the odds of meeting nearby gainers and encouragers, we’ve got a list for you. The top 10 cities with the largest number of active Grommr members are:

  1. New York
  2. London
  3. Los Angeles
  4. Chicago
  5. Berlin
  6. Toronto
  7. San Francisco
  8. Paris
  9. Boston
  10. Seattle

If You Like Fat Guys, Try Texas...

Grommr is much fatter than the average community, but if you like your men really chubby, you may need to go south. It turns out that whether you like paunches, big beer guts or huge flabby bellies, the place to be is actually Texas. Among the top 25 cities for active Grommr members, the 10 cities with the fattest of fat men are:

  1. Houston
  2. Dallas
  3. Seattle
  4. San Diego
  5. Orlando
  6. Portland
  7. Austin
  8. Boston
  9. Atlanta
  10. Chicago

...Or Check Out UAE

With a media BMI of 34, fatboys abound in the United Arab Emirates, the chunkiest country on Grommr (second-place-tying Finland and the U.S. lag behind with a median BMI of only 31). Here’s the top 10 countries with the fattest men and biggest bellies (among countries with more than 10 profiles):

  1. United Arab Emirates
  2. Finland
  3. United States
  4. Canada
  5. Thailand
  6. Hungary
  7. Australia
  8. Brazil
  9. Germany
  10. Ireland

Grommr is a Single, Obese 27 Year Old

OK, not literally. But the median age on Grommr is 27, the median BMI is 30.1, and single people make up 76 percent of all active members. What does that mean? It means Grommr skews young, obese and single. Half of Grommr is under age 27 and three out of four Grommr members are single, two factors that are related since younger Grommr members are disproportionately more likely to be single (the share of single members decreases among older members, reaching a low of ~60 percent among those over age 55). A median BMI of 30.1 puts Grommr just over the edge from “overweight” to “obese.” That also means that half of Grommr is well into the obese or morbidly obese category. Good job fat guys, now who’s up for a buffet?

We Like Working with Our Hands

Gainer sex is complex. When it comes to sexual interests, four of the top five interests are non-normative activities with an emphasis on touch and tactile experience, with “belly play” leading the list. The top five sexual interests are:

  1. Belly play
  2. Cuddling
  3. Mutual masterbation
  4. Oral (receiver)
  5. Feeding (feeder)

That’s not to say Grommr doesn’t enjoy anal sex, just that we as a community appear to be more likely to enjoy what could be termed “gainer sex,” centered around rubbing bellies and exploring our growing bodies. Go figure.

It Turns Out, We Really Like Big Bellies

Like really. Among the body parts we like, bellies rank as the clear winner (almost 50 percent), with asses trailing a distant second (38%). This will come as a surprise to no one who’s spent even 10 seconds in the photo feed, which features prominent round or flabby bellies more than any other body part. We like big butts we cannot lie, but it’s big guts that really seem to rule the day.

Not Everyone Want to be Immobile

While immobility remains a fantasy for many on Grommr, we can finally put to rest the myth that all gainers wish to gain to immobility. Based on profile data, the vast majority of those with a weight goal on Grommr have one well below 160 kg (~350 pounds) and very few have real-life goals to gain beyond 230 kg (~500 pounds) into superchub territory. This isn’t to kink shame anyone who fantasizes or wants to be an immobile superchub--that fantasy is shared by around 10 percent of active Grommr members--simply to point out that such goals represent only one part of the wide spectrum of weight gain goals. Some of us want a little belly flab, some of us want a huge beer gut, and some of us want to be superchubs. It’s all good.

Gainer Dating is Complex

Even though Grommr is partly a dating site, the results are split among what Grommr members want. Just over 75 percent of Grommr members say they are single, yet only around 28 percent are looking for a relationship and 31 percent are looking for dates. By contrast, 52 percent of Grommr members are looking for friends and 41 percent are looking for online chat. That means a lot of single gainers and encouragers are looking for dates and relationships, but some are simply looking for friends or online connection. Gainer dating, it appears, is as complex as gainer sex.

College Towns are Tough

College can be a time when novice young gainers first begin the journey to becoming fatboys. So it’s not a big surprise that the locations with the lowest BMIs among Grommr members are disproportionately college towns, which make up six of the 10 skinniest Grommr cities in the U.S.:

  1. Ithaca, NY (Cornell and Ithaca College)
  2. Palo Alto, CA (Stanford)
  3. Madison, WI (UW-Madison)
  4. Berkeley, CA (UC Berkeley)
  5. Irvine, CA (UC Irvine)
  6. Bloomington, IN (IU Bloomington)

That doesn’t mean the freshman 15 is a myth, just that it appears to be dwarfed by the post-college 50.

Growth-specific Kinks Rule the Day

Among kinks it’s no surprise that the top five is dominated by ones that deal with growth explicitly:

  1. Tight Clothes/Button Popping
  2. Belly Buttons/Navels
  3. Underwear
  4. Bloating
  5. Muscle Growth

As the list goes on, though, many non-growth kinks have a strong showing, with daddy-son role play; uniforms; businessmen; immobility; and wrestling/singlets rounding out the top 10. Beyond that, popular growth kinks include messy eating (11th); belching (13th); and stretch marks (14th).

Less Popular Kinks Dominate Newsfeed Searches

One surprise was how relatively low on the kinks list certain kinks fell. Kinks that often dominate the “Top Newsfeed Searches” (e.g. mpreg, vore, exploding bellies) on Grommr represented a relatively small share of overall kinks. It appears that the prevalence of newsfeed searches may actually be an indicator of a kink’s rarity, more than its popularity: If it’s harder to find content or people related to mpreg or vore, the newsfeed search represents one of the only ways to find it.

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