Members of the global dating site BeautifulPeople.com might think twice in the future before indulging in devouring sugary, fatty holiday spreads, after the site's administrators kicked off more than 5,000 members for appearing too heavy in post-holiday photos.
The online dating site, which launched in Denmark in 2002 before going global in 2009, announced this week that it expelled thousands of "fatties" in an effort to maintain its status as "the sexiest Web site in the world."
"Five thousand members have been let go," said Miki Haines, a spokeswoman for the site, which asks on its home page, "Do you want to guarantee your dates will always be beautiful?"
"Basically they all posted photographs on the site between November and the New Year, and these photographs were a little less flattering than their previous photos," said Haines.
While membership on BeautifulPeople.com is free, Haines said that people who wish to join must upload photographs of themselves and allow other members to rate them.
Members rating others can click options such as "Yes, definitely" or "NO definitely NOT" when deciding whether a hopeful should be accepted to the site. Prospective members with too many low scores on their photos are denied admission to the site.
In a written statement, the site's founder Robert Hinze wrote, "As a business, we mourn the loss of any member, but the fact remains that our members demand the high standard of beauty be upheld. Letting fatties roam the site is a direct threat to our business model and the very concept for which BeautifulPeople.com was founded."
Members of advocacy groups supporting overweight people say that the site is "just wrong" and adds to the stigma against fat people.
"I don't think [this site] is appropriate, and I think that people need to be looked at for more than just what's on the outside," said James Zervios, the director of communications for the Obesity Action Coalition.
Of the 5,000 who were expelled from the site, the majority came from the U.S., which saw 1,520 members let go, followed by the U.K. with 832 booted members, and Canada with 533.
"We tend to lose people from countries where it's cold over Christmas and where it's a big part of their culture to eat and drink a lot over the holidays," said Haines. "So countries with hotter climates still maintain the same standards that they joined with because they're outdoors more and active."
"I think that some cultures just lend themselves to overindulging, and any weight gained by binge eating or drinking can be unattractive," said Haines.
One of the site's members, London-based Catherine Cooke, says she doesn't mind the harsh restrictions on who can and cannot be a member.
After all, it's beautiful people, she says, and not fat people, who she wants to date.
"The thing is, you're looking for beautiful people if you're on the site to start with, and if you're not [beautiful], well, there should be some kind of monitoring," said Cooke, 23.
'Fat Acceptance Movement' Unhappy With BeautifulPeople.com
Members of the "fat acceptance movement," a grassroots effort to eliminate much of the stigma against people who are overweight, say BeautifulPeople.com is only reasserting what they say is a flawed assumption that looks are all that matters when it comes to finding true love.
"The site itself is kind of a gross idea," Carrie Padien, the president of FatRights.org, told ABCNews.com. "It promotes a narrow idea of beauty -- there are millions of chubby or fatter people who are happy with their partners."
Padien, who says that she herself is overweight, said that overweight people have never been seen "the same as everyone else in terms of being deserving of love and participating in dating."
"Fat people certainly don't need this Web site to find people who will love them for themselves," said Padien. "Being fat doesn't limit you in dating as much as our culture would have us believe."
Today, the site, which exists in 190 countries, boasts 550,000 members. About 20 percent of all applicants get accepted to the site, said Haines, and anyone over age 18 can apply.
Those who are kicked off are sent an e-mail informing them along with information about nearby health clubs.
But BeautifulPeople.com isn't apologetic to its critics, either.
Haines said that those members kicked off are welcome back on the site but would have to again go through the same process of submitting a photograph and allowing others to rank it, hoping to get a high enough rating to get accepted.
"The site is very harsh," Haines admits. "To want to put your photograph forward you have to be a bit tough and willing to accept criticism."
BeautifulPeople.com Member Says Restrictions on 'Fatties' OK With Her
Cooke said she's been on one date since joining the BeautifulPeople.com late last year, and that had the man she went out with appeared "chubbier" than he advertised in his photo, she would have been "disappointed."
"When I look on the site I do expect to see pretty hot people," she said, "It's BeautifulPeople.com, that's what you want."
Cooke admits that if she were ever kicked off the site she'd be insulted.
"I understand [why the site did it], but if it happened to me I would have felt like it was a massive kick in the teeth, and probably would have said I wouldn't eat anymore and was going to get to the gym," said Cooke.