How to help your partner love their body (even when they don't).
I met my husband at my heaviest weight. And he loved me (and my body), even when I didn't. He told me that I was worthy just as I was, without needing to lose weight.
As anyone with body insecurities would know, this meant so much to me. My husband and I have been together for six years and yesterday was our second wedding anniversary. My husband played a big role in helping me love my body. And I'll always be so grateful to him.
Nowadays, I truly love my body. But that wasn’t always the case. I used to hate my body. I never felt good enough. I would compare my body constantly.
Hating my body was seriously hard work. It made me obsessed with food, turned me into an emotional eater and I was so unhappy. At one point (aka my breaking point) I made a decision that I wasn’t going to sacrifice my mental health for the perfect body anymore.
In other words, I decided to love my body (because it's a decision)!
These days I love my strong, capable body. I’m really healthy, and this is what my body looks like naturally... I think we need to redefine what a healthy body looks like because it’s not always abs and lean bodies like you see in the magazines.
Loving your body in a society that tells you NOT to love your body is a radical act of self-love.
It's ok for my tummy to be soft and for my thighs to touch. It doesn't make me unhealthy. I can be strong and soft at the same time.
I don't need abs to be healthy. I have energy. I am happy. I am vibrant. That says a lot more about my health than my weight or body shape.
Body love is not about losing weight until you finally love your body. Body love is deciding that your perfectly imperfect body is worthy of love just as you are.
Try to lose weight to love your body? Well, you’ll find that your body never feels good enough, no matter how much weight you lose.
You can decide that you want to love your body, too. Like I did... it takes time and the right support. Luckily, I have a husband who helped me learn to love my body.
In light of this, I want to share some of the things that he did for me, and really helped me learn to love my body.
Here are some strategies that your partners can do to help support you learn to love your body more.
(NOTE: I'm not saying that women need a man to feel beautiful but knowing that the person you're most intimate with accepts and love you just as you are can help shift the way you feel about yourself).
P.s. You might want to share this article with your partner (or mum, dad, a sibling or friend).
Dear husband or boyfriend (or partner),
So you've fallen for a woman who isn't 100% in love with her body (yet).
It's not surprising considering every day she faces an enormous amount of pressure to have the perfect body.
The media portrays a painfully narrow ideal of beauty and this can make it really hard for her to feel beautiful and worthy.
It's tough on you, too. You don't know how to respond when she tells you she feels fat. When you tell her she is beautiful, sometimes, it feels like she's not listening.
The good news is that you can help her learn how to love herself. Here's a few strategies.
Speak up when something is not ok
Does her mother feel the need to comment on her weight? Is there a friend who makes her feel insecure? Does she spend hours on social media only to get stuck in body shame later?
As her closest (and probably favourite) person, you might notice the patterns before she does. It's ok to speak up. She might not be aware. You might try something like: "I've noticed that when ____ happens, you often feel worse about yourself and your body? Have you noticed this too?"
Resist the urge to judge other people's bodies
If you comment that her friend has lost weight or the TV presenter has 'let herself go', she will probably notice... By speaking about other peoples weight (either loss OR gain), you're reinforcing to her what society already tells her: "Your worth is based on your weight and appearance".
You can't change society alone but you can change how you talk about others. It's so tempting but try your hardest to resist the urge to judge other bodies including friends, family, celebrities or colleagues. Hold the comment inside. This simple strategy will also help you learn to love yourself more.
Try not to get angry with her...
When you are ready to leave but she is running late because she is struggling to get dressed and complains that 'I have nothing to wear', what she actually means is that she has nothing to wear that makes her feel good or beautiful enough.
She is hurting.
She's not trying to make you late. She feels unworthy. It has nothing to do with how she looks like and everything to do with how she THINKS she looks. She probably feels ashamed and getting angry with her doesn't help.
You'll need lots of patience (but she is worth it)
She has been dieting and hating her body for years. This isn't going to get 'fixed' overnight because you told her she is beautiful once or twice.
The best thing you can do is be patient with her. Appreciate how hard it is to love your body in a society that tells you not to. The process of loving your body takes time and constant work. Be patient with her. Be kind and gentle.
Focus on health (not weight)
So, your partner is complaining because she feels guilty for overeating and missing the gym again this week. It's tempting to say "don't worry, you'll lose the weight". Instead, the best thing you can do is bring the conversation back to how eating healthily and exercise makes her feel, not look.
Her: "I ate so much and haven't exercised this week. I feel gross and fat. I have to do better tomorrow".
You: "You don't need to feel guilty. Not every week will go to plan. But I know you feel so much happier and more energetic when you eat healthily and exercise. Why don't we cook together/go for a walk tomorrow"?
You might also like: What to do when you eat healthily but can't lose weight.
Aim for progress, not perfection
Progress comes like waves. Over time, those waves get larger and more frequent. The downs don't dip as low. As her relationship with herself changes, you may notice when she feels down about her body, she doesn't stay there quite as long and the words that she uses to describe herself aren't quite as harsh.
She will still have many moments of doubt but you can tell she is progressing when she is able to remind herself of her worth faster and with more ease. The waves will eventually become calm water.
Offer little reminders...
If your partner is feeling down, no amount of 'no you're not fat! You're beautiful' can turn the ship around. But I don't think it does any harm either. I think it's good to remind her that she is beautiful as it's easy for a girl to forget. Even if it seems like she doesn't take it on board, she does absorb those words.
Some body positive advocates will disagree with me here instead, recommending that you compliment her on things other than her appearance. I think that's also a great idea, and please do compliment her on her other assets. But...
I think reminding her that she is beautiful reinforces that she doesn't need to be thin to be beautiful.
Lastly, here are some positive words to help remind your woman that she is wonderful, beautiful and worthy just as she is...
"Losing weight is not your life's purpose"
"You are so much more than your weight"
"Accepting your body in a society that tells you not to is hard. You're doing so great".
"I love you exactly as you, whatever you weigh".
"You are enough just as you are".
"You do not need to lose weight to be beautiful".
Found this useful? You might want to share this article with your partner, mum, a sibling or friend.
Leave me a comment! I'd love to get to know you. Please let me know what you thought about this post by leaving me a comment at the very bottom of the page.
About the author (that's me)!
Hey there! I'm Lyndi Cohen. I'm a food-loving Australian dietitian known as The Nude Nutritionist. I used to struggle with my weight and body image big-time. But when I stopped dieting and hating my body, my life changed. So that's why I like to strip nutrition back to basics and keep it real. My healthy recipes are tasty and easy and I share heaps more healthy eating tips on my blog. Follow me on Instagram for updates.