Dating and Relationship Advice

I’ve struggled with body image ever since I was a kid. I'm not alone. When you consider society's obsession with body size, diet culture, social media comparison, it's no wonder 50 percent of Americans aren’t happy with their bodies. While therapy and body-positive influencers have helped me a lot, I’ll never downplay the positive impact of having a supportive partner. My partner never forgets to tell me I’m beautiful and that she loves both me and my body, which is so nice to hear.

If your partner struggles with body image, here are some supportive ways you can respond:

1) Appreciate their body regularly

Everyday, tell your partner you love them and their body. Express that you find them attractive and think they are beautiful. Appreciate their body because it’s theirs and because of what it does for them. Be clear that you appreciate their body regardless of its size, and keep your actions consistent with that. Remind your partner that their body helps them hug and cuddle you, or whatever actions make you both feel good.

2) Encourage their positive statements and behaviors.

When your partner appreciates their body or loves how they look, affirm those sentiments. If they struggle to eat enough and push themselves to do so, show how proud you are of them. Alternatively, when they feel guilty about eating a certain food or try to ignore a craving, encourage them gently and without judgment. Remind them that their body knows what it needs, that nourishment is never bad, and that food has no moral value.

3) Validate their pain.

Acknowledge that body confidence is hard for many, especially for people in marginalized communities. Avoid asking questions like, “well if you’re fat, what does that make me?” and know that the way they see their body differs from how they see yours. When you encourage them, be aware of your tone; belittling, annoyed, and judgmental tones may exacerbate your partner's pain.

4) Remind them their body doesn't define their worth.

Our society places a huge focus on people’s bodies, even believing people in larger bodies are always unhealthy, dumb, and incapable, which is far from the truth. Because of factors like these, your partner may need a reminder that their worth isn’t in their body, but in who they are. Our bodies are the least interesting part of us, so tell your partner how their personality makes them truly beautiful.

The intensity and lingering nature of body image struggles can be hard both for the person experiencing them and their loved ones. Try to stay patient with your partner一they'll appreciate it! All the while, don’t neglect your needs either. Practice self-care and boundaries so you can support others and yourself effectively.