She glanced her reflection walking by a store window, then suddenly clammed up and didn’t feel like talking much. She was watching a fit woman jogging on the other side of the road and her mood took an abrupt turn for the worse. She went into a changing room excited to try on a new outfit, but when she came out she seemed angry with herself as she hung the outfit back up.
She is one of the 80 percent of U.S. women who are dissatisfied with their body image. She might even be one of the 10 million who are suffering from eating disorders.
And, if you’re a woman reading this article, you are probably one of the 80 percent too.
I know the emotional stress you go through. I know what it’s like to feel cheerful one moment, glance in the mirror and have your mood flip. I know what it’s like to walk out of a movie theater with self-depreciating thoughts, having spent the entire show comparing the female lead’s thin body to your own. Please remember you are beautiful – the way you see yourself is warped.
To the wonderful husbands in our lives, we need you. When your wife hates the reflection she sees, she needs you to lift her up. When her frustration with herself mounts, she need you to comfort her. And when she breaks down from the emotional stress of it all, she needs you to squeeze her tight.
We know our body image issues can be hard to understand, but there are so many ways you can help your wife through it all.
1. Stop her from making comparisons
Little sirens should go off in your head if you hear her saying she wishes she could look more like that actress, that magazine picture or that woman at the gym. Comparison is the thief of joy, especially for women with body image issues. Gently remind her that she should stop comparing herself to others because she’s perfectly beautiful on her own. Beauty comes in many – but sometimes that’s hard for your wife to remember when she’s looking at a magazine picture of Blake Lively.
2. Show her you’re attracted to her
When your wife is struggling with body image issues, she’ll probably think others find her unattractive. Reassure her you do, indeed, see her as an attractive person. Tell her she looks great in those jeans, give her an extra long kiss before you leave and flirt with her. Little things will go a long way.
3. Remember it’s not a quick fix
Body image issues take time to improve. It’s definitely not a path of straight progression – there will be dips and bumps along the way. Keep in mind the complexity of your wife’s situation and don’t expect any instant cures.
4. Be a genuine listener
If you’ve never had body image issues yourself, it can be difficult to understand what goes through your wife’s head. You think your wife is gorgeous and can’t understand why she doesn’t see what you see. Gently encourage your wife to open up about what she goes through, then sit back and give her your genuine attention. The more you understand about her specific circumstances, the more you’ll know what kind of comfort and encouragement she needs.
5. Squeeze her tight
Sometimes, she won’t want to talk about it, she’ll just clam up. In these moments, instead of giving her guidance or pushing her to discuss things, what she really needs is quiet affection from you. So wrap your arms around her, pull her in, cuddle her close.
6. Love her
When your wife doesn’t love herself, she needs an extra bit of love from you. Make it a purpose to spend quality time with her, do little acts of service for her, give her physical affection and anything else that will make her feel loved.
7. Show her patience
At times, it can be frustrating to be married to someone with body image issues. You might ask yourself, why does she have to be so down so often? Or, why does she have to care so much about her appearance? Or, why isn’t she improving with my help? But in her darker times, the last thing she needs is an irked or discouraged husband. Be patient with her seemingly irrational problem, and continue to comfort her even if there’s no immediate proof that your efforts are helping.
8. Remind her what she sees is different
Though what she’s going through is most commonly called body image issues, another more accurate name is distorted body image – your wife truly doesn’t see the same thing you or others see when it comes to her image. She sees herself through warped lenses and she needs to be reminded of that once in awhile.
9. Watch for the signs
Distorted body image and eating disorders go hand in hand. While many women who are dissatisfied with their bodies do not have an eating disorder, there are some who do, and they need professional help. It’s important to watch for signs of anorexia, bulimia and binge eating in your wife, and if you see them, help her get treatment right away.
There are so many ways husbands can help their wives through the hardship of body image issues. With your comfort, she might slowly begin taking off those self-loathing lenses and get closer to a healthy and happier body image.