The Right Words to Say When You’re with a Guy Who Criticizes His Body

Despite all the ‘dad bod’ talk, there are plenty of dudes who’d rather not champion their beer gut, bald spot, or man boobs. In fact, they kind of hate them. One poll indicates that, over the past three decades, the percentage of men who are dissatisfied with their body has jumped from 15 to 43 percent, and around 81 percent have griped about their flaws and imperfections. “These numbers are similar to those associated with women’s body image, but men are less likely to seek help with body challenges,” says sexologist Jessica O’Reilly, Ph.D. (So while women might be the OG recipients of fat-shaming and other insane cultural body pressures, we hear you guys—you’re dealing with it, too.)

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Like all insecurities, body issues can put pressure on your bond, not to mention impact your satisfaction between the sheets. (Shocker: The male ego is a fragile thing.)  So whether he’s worried about the size of his package or the shape of his pecs, use these tips from O’Reilly to get his self-confidence back up.

Skip The Fat Talk
Misery loves company, but going one-to-one (i.e., complaining about your thighs to make him feel better about a soft belly) does more damage than good. “Don’t talk disparagingly about your own body," says O'Reilly. "Body-shaming is contagious. Surrounding yourself with people who are body positive can change the way you feel about your own appearance."

"Shocker: The male ego is a fragile thing."

Give (Honest) Compliments
Yup, he craves them as much as you do. Let him know what you find attractive about his body, and be specific. “Say, ‘I love the strength of your arms,’ or, ‘I love the way your body feels wrapped around mine,’” says O’Reilly. Then show some love for his other attributes—how he makes you laugh, his killer style, etc. “If you boost his overall self-esteem, a boost in positive body image may follow.”

"Body-shaming is contagious."

Sweat in Tandem
You know healthy decisions will help him feel better, but instead of nudging (‘I thought you were going to the gym?’), make a date to do something active together. “Research shows that exercise changes the way we feel about our bodies, even if our bodies don’t psychically change as a result of exercise,” says O’Reilly. Plus, “Couples who work out together are more likely to stick to the program.”

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Find yourself tongue-tied when he starts complaining? Try one of these responses next time.

1. “I think you look great.”
2. “You don’t like your ______? That’s one of my favorite parts about you because ________." (Be honest)
3. "I love you—all of you. You should, too."
4. "You have nothing to worry about."
5. "If there's something I can do to help you feel better, just let me know."

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