Tag Archives: appearance

6 Tips to Improve Your Body Image

In Do You Have a Low Body Image? we talked about why women seem to struggle with our bodies while men confidently walk half naked on the beach. We also discussed why a low body image negatively affects your marriage and sex life. As promised, following are 6 tips gleaned from Dr. Patricia Love’s Hot Monogamy and my own experience for improving a low body image:

1. If you’re careless about your appearance—wear mostly sweats and a ponytail, baggy pjs to bed and don’t take the time to get your haircut and groom yourself, you may be communicating to your spouse and yourself that you aren’t worthy of the effort to look good. Make the most of what you’ve got; wear clothes that accentuate your positive attributes and make you feel good about yourself. Invest in a nice haircut. Get a massage if it makes you feel good.

2. If you’re obsessive about your appearance and spend hours each week at the tanning salon, hair salon and making sure your hair and makeup are perfect, it’s time to pull away from that focus on your appearance. What do your friends like about you? What does your spouse appreciate and enjoy about you? Focus on those attributes and spend your energy elsewhere. Spend energy on activities you enjoy.

3. Make fitness and healthy a part of your daily life. I feel better about my body when I’m exercising a few times a week. It may not change my body that much, but it shapes my frame of mind that I’m strong and capable, and I think we project that positive energy to others. Taking the time to plan and implement a fairly healthy diet for yourself and your family also shows you and they are worthwhile.

4. If your spouse has a lower-than-ideal body image, there are ways you can help. First, don’t point out your spouse’s faults, even if you think they need to lose weight or get in shape. Criticism about their body will only make them feel worse and probably won’t lead to any positive change. Instead, send out a continual message of acceptance. Support a healthy lifestyle yourself, and invite your spouse to participate with you. Compliment your partner on physical attributes you find attractive, and regularly share other characteristics you enjoy about him or her.

5. Visualize Body Acceptance. For many women, a healthy body image is not a matter of their appearance at all, it’s a matter of their perception of their appearance. Dr. Love has a long script in her book that includes language you repeat to yourself allowing you to become comfortable with your body and appreciative of its function and beauty just as it is. She also suggests viewing your body in the mirror while thinking positive thoughts about it. “This is my body. I love my body.” Repeating these exercises replaces some of the negative self-talk you may have been feeding yourself. I’ve heard women casually say, “Well, I’m a fat cow, so…” If you heard these comments from someone else, you would call them hurtful. They are still hurtful coming from you. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones like “I”m getting stronger.”

6. Don’t compare your body to others. Instead, think of all the things your body can do—dance, swim, jog, give birth, nurse children, walk through the woods, lie on the beach. Think of how much joy it gives your spouse. Think of all the older people who would trade places with your healthy body in a heartbeat. Listen to your husband when he compliments you. Repeat the compliment in your head, smile, and say thank you. See Loving a Woman’s Body for insight into how your man views you. Some husbands expressed their frustration at not being able to convey to their wives that they love their shape.

The key is loving your body the way it is right now, not after you lose 10 pounds and fit into your skinny jeans. Not after you’ve had plastic surgery to correct your “flaws.” Today. Just as you are.

For your homework assignment, write “I love my body” on a sticky note for your bathroom mirror. Compliment yourself while you get ready in the morning. Carry yourself with poise and exude confidence.

Do You Have a Low Body Image?

Have you seen Victoria’s Secret’s new campaign, “I love my body?” Too bad it’s far from reality, as few women would make that statement.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that both men and women had strong opinions after reading Loving a Woman’s Body, which addressed how we women should view our bodies more  positively, as our husbands do. But that is tough work, because women as a group tend to dislike our bodies, or at least have some “body image issues.” Men, on the other hand, generally do not have the same struggles.

When both men and women take the Sexual Style Survey in Hot Monogamy, author Dr. Patricia Love says she can almost always pick the husband’s or wife’s survey just by glancing at who has the high body image (the man) and who has the low body image (the woman). This is not due to the fact that men have fitter bodies, mind you, they just don’t seem to obsess about their flaws like we do. Dr. Love adds that unfortunately it’s young women, particularly in their teens, who have the lowest body image of all. So, if you are fretting about your body, your daughter or niece may be learning from your example.

Of course culture tends to contribute to our attitudes. We see “perfectly shaped” women in media promoting every product known to man—on TV, in magazines, in stores, on billboards, on sidewalk signs. Basically, you can’t miss them. I think these images affect women more than men. Many men appreciate the variety of female bodies and only wish their wives could see themselves through their husband’s eyes. Women may look at the airbrushed pictures and only see what they are not. There is no cellulite in the magazines, but more than 90% of women have it in the real world. We are taught to aim for abs and buns of steel, not to celebrate the natural curves (or lack of curves) we were given.

“One of the hazards of trying to measure up to our cultural standards of beauty, especially feminine beauty, is that they change from decade to decade,” says Dr. Love, citing the Twiggy trend, then the trend toward prepubescent bodies with large breasts (an anomaly achieved through harsh dieting and implants), and the popular “waif” look common in girls with eating disorders. It’s more than a bit sad that these are cultural ideals. My petite body doesn’t compare with the tall, leggy models. The funny thing is when we look at our friends and relatives—even those with similar shapes—we think they look just fine and even beautiful. But our negative self-talk says just the opposite inside our own heads.

According to research I recently read and shared with you, pornography can be another contributor to low body image. Some men were basically raised on porn, and it negatively shaped how they view real women. And for wives whose husbands regularly view porn, research shows this tends to lower the wife’s own body image, feeling that she is being compared with porn stars in her husband’s mind. Tony DiLorenzo of One Extraordinary Marriage describes in a podcast how he had previously (negatively) compared the images in his head to his wife’s body. He had to reshape his thinking and now views his wife as his ideal.

One way this body image issue plays out in the bedroom is in women covering up instead of celebrating their bodies and allowing their husbands to experience the pleasure of seeing them naked. If he is not allowed to look at your body, do you want him looking at another woman? It can also cause women to be inhibited in the clothing they wear or in their enjoyment of sex. Do you worry that your husband will touch or see the part of your body that you feel least comfortable about? If so, it takes your attention away from enjoying one another.

“When a woman is unhappy with her body for any reason—she thinks she’s too fat, too thin, too “hippy,” too short-legged, too thick-waisted, too busty, or too flat—it can have a deadening effect on her sexuality,” says Dr. Love, who points out a study that shows a very strong correlation between body image and sexual desire. Women who feel badly about their bodies “not only were less interested in making love, but were more restricted in their range of sexual activities and had more difficulty becoming aroused and reaching orgasm.” Some women even feel so badly about their bodies that they feel unworthy of their husband’s love and affection.

While healthy living and fitness is a positive goal, an obsession with thinness can be self-destructive. What most spouses want in a lover is not the perfect body, but someone who is passionate, confident, intimate, generous and caring—who can be in the moment.

News flast: Did you know men aged 60 have the highest self-esteem, and young adults have the lowest? Married folks also tend to have higher self-esteem.

There’s more to say on this topic and too much for one post, so stay tuned for 6 Tips to Improve Your Body Image. Do you think a low body image has affected your marriage? Do you have the secret to eliminate cellulite?  Have you learned to be confident at any shape, any age? Do your compliments to your spouse fall on deaf ears?

Photo credit: Jaimie Duplass