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Romance and Body Image

I hear the same story over and over from clients: I want or wanted to lose weight to meet a man. Although I haven’t heard this exact sentiment from male clients, they have said that they felt if they were to divorce, at their current high weight, they feared no woman would want them. Ironically, in the case of the women, their problem with romance was never really their weight; it was that they were consistently choosing the wrong men, which is a statement about their self-esteem, not their size.

These clients were so preoccupied with looking attractive, looking thin, and looking for love and approval, that they never stopped to ask themselves how they managed to unerringly find dates and mates who treated them poorly, showed little ability or desire for emotional intimacy, and who, to a person, ended up causing them to feel inadequate and rejected. They were paying so much attention to being attractive that they didn’t think about being emotionally healthy. And they mistook the rejection they suffered as meaning that they, themselves, weren’t good enough for their potential or actual partners, rather than that these men weren’t good enough for them. Get the picture?

Whether you’re male or female, whatever gender you prefer, if the above describes you, it’s time to jump off the do-I-look-good-enough merry-go-round and hop onto the path of internal self knowledge and healing. If someone mistreats you, especially if you have a history of attracting these kinds of individuals, it’s time to accept that you are choosing (yes, time after time after time), people who sport bright red flags that could be spotted from the moon and that most other people can see. But, what, some clients ask, if they were nice to begin with and then turned not nice? The answer is to stop longing for who they used to be (in order to get you to love them) and to start seeing what’s in front of your face: someone who doesn’t love you and tries to keep you from loving yourself.

Many people fall into these kinds of relationships. Some of them have eating problems and wonder why. They’re under the constant stress of trying to win their partner’s approval, engaging in incessantly raking themselves over the coals for not being good enough, and they’re too often focused on looking good rather than on making good choices about who to love. Being with a partner who doesn’t treat you lovingly is a recipe for stress eating. You don’t have to be thinner to be loved or lovable. You don’t have to be attractive in any particular way or look young or comely. You do need to be able to accurately discern who treats you well from who doesn’t and choose from the first group and run from the second.