And yet--like most related at all to social stigma, this issue is a ghost or other revenant, able to come back again and again and again. As I commented to fjm:
I should LJ about this myself: I'm still fine with being fat, but I'm having some issues with looking old. One problem is that age and dourness do many of the same things to one's face, such as smaller, tighter lips. My "no particular expression" face used to look much more happy, and now, unless I'm smiling (which fortunately is a lot of the time) I look kind-of tight-ass and critical, when I'm really not. Another is that I've gone from an hourglass shape to more straight up and down, as age (& I think diabetic metabolism) has caused gains around my waist compared to elsewhere.
Both age and the weight I've settled at do seem to detract from my attractiveness to strangers from, say, 20 years ago, when most of my self-presentation is the same or (due to yoga) better.
It's been a lesson confirming my beliefs about what doesn't determine physical attractiveness nearly as much as people think (weighing what the insurance charts say we should weigh) but challenging some beliefs about how much physical attractiveness matters to strangers (much more than I thought) and making me look at some aspects of physical attractiveness that I used to fit much more than I do now (youth, hourglass shape).
However, even with the changes, it's still obvious to me that (1) self-presentation does still count for a great deal, though not as much as I had thought,and (2) all of this is with people who don't know you as a person, and such knowledge does, as you say, surpass superficial judgments.
I'm now 57, unable to ignore the fact that I'm closer to 60 than to 50, and I'm coming to terms with that. (My unproductive 2014 so far makes this much worse.) But I also am having to come to terms with looking different. It's no revelation that I'm very vain about my appearance, in my own way. Just as age had led me to have to question some dogma about fat and health, it seems to be showing me the limitations to how much attitude and self-esteem can make a person beautiful. Fortunately, just as there is a lot a person can do to improve health besides lose weight, there are many factors of appearance to strangers that do seem still under my control or at least influence.