With swimsuit season upon us, questions like: “Does my bum look big in this?” or “Do you think I look fat?” are guaranteed to send a chill down the spine of most men.

A new study has scientifically established there’s a good reason for this fear, particularly for men whose partners have poor body image. (Let’s face it, this is most of them.)

La Trobe University researchers have found women who don’t like their bodies much want the honest truth rather than flattery from their partners.But there is a catch: honesty will not make women happy, but it will make them feel closer to their men.

The study of 192 women found most want their low body image affirmed by their blokes, as it makes them feel like he understands them.

But flattery will make them feel better.

The research team, led by psychologist Jennifer Brown, conclude that the issue is “very complex” and there are “costs and benefits” of both agreeing and disagreeing with women who don’t like their body shape.

In an upcoming edition of Body Image journal, they suggest either path will have “implications for his partner and their relationship”.

Gee, most guys would feel they didn’t need someone with a degree to tell them that.

Any guy with a girlfriend with a pulse has to deal with dreaded body image issues from time to time.

The way I see it, there are three main types of women.

There are some women who continually battle with their weight and always feel bad about the way they look. These women don’t need a comment from their partner to make them feel bad: them own poor self esteem guarantees a regular round of “fat days”.
This involves cowering under the doona for hours, with only a a family pack of Magnum Ego Caramel icecreams for company. (Hint: if the only ego you have is a brand of icecream, there’s a problem).

Sadly, anything her man says - even if it’s one hundred per cent positive - doesn’t make one iota of difference.

Other women are mostly happy with their figures, but something like trying on swimsuits fills them with self-doubt. Suddenly being confronted with their white, hairy bodies - and a back view of their arse from an angle they have never ever seen before - sends them psycho.

They become convinced they’re Caspar the Friendly Ghost’s obese sister who will die alone and have to have a wall of their house removed to get the body out. Most men will know reassurance is what’s needed, and lots of it. (Either that, or stay clear until she’s had a spray tan.)

Most of us have perfectly normal bodies. We’re never going to be supermodels, but we don’t have to shop at big girl shops either. Trust me, we’re the worst. Our normality tricks our guys into thinking they can say what they think (“Oh, I’m surprised you’d wear a dress that tight” or “I’m not sure you can really pull off the yellow bikini”) under the assumption that they are dealing with a rational person who will calmly acknowledge they are right. Possibly she made the same point herself half an hour earlier.

Don’t be fooled for a moment. What this woman wants is reassurance and praise, not an honest appraisal of her bodily shortcomings (which she is well acquainted with anyway).

So why do so many women hate their bodies? A recent Glamour magazine article reported 97 per cent of women think negatively about their bodies at least once an hour. It’s no wonder London writer Samantha Brick became the most hated woman in Britain after she asked in a newspaper article: “Why do women hate me because I am beautiful?” People didn’t hate her for being beautiful; people hated her for boasting about her beauty in a mass-selling daily newspaper.

Most of the people I know who love the way they look are either under 25, and beautiful because they are young, or over 45 and had quite a lot of work done.

Often the latter women might feel good about the way they look externally, but all the energy, money and time they put into their turning back the clock stems from an inner hatred of who they are as a person.

I remember being that younger woman.

When I was in my twenties, my great achievement was not getting a little food baby after eating a big meal. Boy, I felt good when people praised my flat stomach.

Nowadays, I’m sorry to tell you, elastic is my best friend - but I wouldn’t like my husband to remind me of the fact.

It’s no wonder that unless guys are dating Heidi Klum or Miranda Kerr, it’s best they tread carefully at this time of year.

As the La Trobe researchers found, lots of women really want their low opinion of their own body both challenged (“Your stomach looks great in those bathers”) and reassured (“Probably a caftan to match would be a good idea, though”).

Don’t let anyone tell you beach season is a breeze. It’s not; it’s a battlefield.

Comments on this post will close at 6pm AEDT.

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    • Gregg says:

      05:17am | 09/12/12

      Nearly seems men ought to do a psychologist course for just the right answers to please a woman eh!
      Maybe our inherent protective instincts is what has enabled us to mutter and grunt if giving an opinion at all and should it not be their poor self esteem and not a ” them ” that kind of has an M like bum.

    • nihonin says:

      05:48am | 09/12/12

      No those jeans don’t make your bum look big, but you bum does make the jeans look big, honey!

    • Gregg says:

      06:26am | 09/12/12

      What looks worse is when those jeans made to look so big are still not quite big enough and only get up so far and tops only come down so far, kind of like more a frightening than a wakening at the crack of dawn!

      Though maybe it’s sexy in a kinky kind of way for those that do kinky.

    • ronny jonny says:

      06:13am | 09/12/12

      It is a minefield and truth is not your friend in this case. I would only ever say something looks bad if it is truly mind bendingly horrid and then I wouldn’t say her arse looks big, I’d go with something like, “the cut of those shorts is all wrong”, blame the garment, not the body, never the body.

    • Mouse says:

      08:27am | 09/12/12

      iansand, what a great article! I want the author at my next party. LOL

      Everything he says is basically true and if you fellas live by the LT1 and LT2 rules, your life will be so much easier. Just a little hint when you are asked “What should I do?”  Even if the answer is obvious to you,  always give at least 2 options, then she can be the one that chooses the solution. That way she is in control and you have just been there for support.  She will love you forever!
      Remember though, as frustrating as we may be at times, most smart women already know about this theory, will know when you are using it and will love you all that much more for taking to time to use it on us.
      But smart men already know that, don’t they?  lol ;o)

    • expat says:

      09:58am | 09/12/12

      Haha that is priceless!

    • Martin H says:

      11:04am | 09/12/12

      Example 1 - Trouble at work…hahaha LOL

      Classic iansand.

    • Kim Possible says:

      01:50pm | 09/12/12

      Loved the article, but I have to ask, can men be linear as well? My husband and I often go through example 1, but with the roles completely reversed, I.e he rants, I listen and empathise!

    • Unicron says:

      07:54am | 09/12/12

      So you tell the truth but risk giving her self cofidence issues or you lie to her (your life parent and mother to your children) to make her feel better. Yet she is teaching the children to tell the truth and to be comfortable with who they.

      Goooooooooo Logic.

      The book on ‘how to tip toe around every facet of a woman’s life’ just got its self another few chapters. The only book exclusively available in ebook form because the weight and size of the physical copy would be too impractical to read or stock on store shelves.

    • hammy says:

      07:55am | 09/12/12

      It’s not the suit that makes your arse look fat…

      (I refuse to play women’s stupid power games)

    • hammy says:

      07:59am | 09/12/12

      “It’s no wonder that unless guys are dating Heidi Klum or Miranda Kerr, it’s best they tread carefully at this time of year.”

      Funny how the advice to men is to put up with women’s poor behaviour.  Your arse is fat because you overeat and under exercise, that’s nobody’s fault but your own.  You can make your husband the scapegoat for it, but it’s still you responsible.

      Oh and if you catch your husband looking at a better arse, it’s probably best you put up with it at this time of year.

    • Dave C says:

      08:15am | 09/12/12

      I would say yes your bum does look big…..... and I love it and dont change a thing.

      Sir Mixalot was correct and many many guys love (and are.. um attracted to in a way you cant say around children but Sir mixalot said it best) to curvy babes with big chests and rumps.  God/Nature intended female humans to have nice big chests, child bearing thighs and big behinds. Women with these assets need not worry.

      Now excuse me while I am going to look at another website that promotes this sort of thing that it not allowed for children .... LOL

    • Xar says:

      08:58am | 09/12/12

      everyday is a fat day for me, I am fat, I shop at the “big girl” shops that you equate with being “the worst”, no way in hell do I want a spray tan or a real one (nor do I want to shop elsewhere), I am perfectly comfortable picking out a swimsuit and I think if you looked closely you’ll find you are perpetuating some of the reasons why some women hate their bodies, even though I’m sure you don’t realise it. That is the problem, women forget to challenge the messages they are given about their body, they need to know that not being the perfect example of what fashion editors have decided is sexy IS NOT A PROBLEM, there is no need to appraise faults, because there is NOTHING faulty with not fitting the current prevalent beauty ideal. Stop thinking that what you look like is something that makes you either good or bad, perfect or flawed - you just are you and there is someone out there who will fall in love with you for good, forever, regardless of how likely you are to make the cover of vogue. A woman’s worth is not in how many people are sexually attracted to her based on largely arbitrary standards for goodness sake. It is simply nobodies business if I have pale thighs at the beach, I’m not there to make a bunch of strangers turned on, I’m there to swim and anyone who has an issue with it can leave! I don’t want or need my partner to lie to me about my outward appearance, I’m quite fine with the fact I am fat, it isn’t a dirty word, it just means I have more fat cells than some other people *shrug*

    • Jackson says:

      11:14am | 09/12/12

      Xar, I congratulate you on the fact that you can acknowledge your body and be be fine with it. This is a rare thing in this day and age.

    • bec says:

      11:44am | 09/12/12

      Do yoga. When you’re wearing the equivalent of underwear in a room of 30-40 people of either gender who are trying not to pass out from the heat or crack their skull on the mirror in front of them, you forget who is lardy.

      Seeing a fifty-seven year old truckie who has a gut the size of a woman pregnant with quintuplets pull off a perfect headstand makes you feel pretty zen with having a fat arse.

    • BJ says:

      09:20am | 09/12/12

      Most people don’t look great in a swimsuit, yet society tells women that they cannot possibly hope to be happy unless they genuinely believe that they do look beautiful all of the time. The idea of body image issues is making women unhappy. Why tell people that their happiness depends on acheiving an unatainable goal? Why tell people that they have a mental problem called low self esteen when they are thinking rationally?

      I choose not to participate in this paternalistic over-protection of women’s self esteem. It is nice to be polite, but my wifecan cope with a bit of honesty.

    • Sickemrex says:

      09:35am | 09/12/12

      I just heard on the radio that a line of larger ladies clothing are relabelling size 16 as S. Am I a bad person for pissing myself laughing?

      I do find people who bitch and moan about their body then post a photo of the skull sized cupcake they are about to devour. I suppose the advice of dressing in what suits you and not eating more than you expend is boring, however logical it seems.

    • LaDiva says:

      11:17am | 09/12/12

      I have a fat arse. I know I do so why would I bother asking how it looks when I already know the answer?

    • -28 says:

      12:08pm | 09/12/12

      this is easy…. dont marry or even date australian women. They are fat,, ignorant, hairy, self entitled, over opinionated, selfish and now apparently insecure. What sort of masochistic idiot is interested in that?

    • marley says:

      01:30pm | 09/12/12

      @-28 - “self entitled, over opinionated, selfish” - indeed. I gather from your comment that you must be a woman, then.

    • Nick says:

      01:38pm | 09/12/12

      It’s ok to be a 30yo virgin, you don’t need to be so angry

    • bec says:

      03:58pm | 09/12/12

      Man, this was my problem. So I married an overseas man, who is by no means “fat, ignorant, hairy, self-entitled, over-opinionated, selfish and insecure”.

      Life has never been better!

    • expat says:

      12:23pm | 09/12/12

      Why is it such a difficult concept for people to get out and do some exercise on a daily basis? (This applies to both males and females!)

    • John says:

      01:40pm | 09/12/12

      My wife has never asked me that question.  She knows the answer quite well enough already.

    • ramases says:

      04:08pm | 09/12/12

      Any man who has been in a relationship for over 5 minutes realises that this question is loaded. The best way to answer, turn it back on them with “what do you think” as breath a sigh of relief. This questions and many others are traps set for the unwary and those that fall for the truth are on a hiding to nowhere and those that lie ditto. Its like when she asks you if her sister/ girlfriend is pretty, same answer applies, she’s not interested in what you think, she’s interested in if you have been perving on her sister/ girlfriend, another hiding to nowhere.
        The list of attack questions is a long one and only years of parrying them make most males aware of the traps presented and along the way most males make the mistake of actually answering one of them and you will never be forgotten and even after 40 years it will still be used as ammunition against you in any disagreement that you may have with your loved one. Males beware.
        I ‘ve heard Sickmerex that up at Bundaberg most clothes are now being made by tent makers as they are the only ones with the room to make the sizes needed.


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