By Natasha Liviero

Mostly, we focus on our perceived faults. Ask any women and she’ll list at least five things she would change about her body in a heartbeat. But, things are not always as they seem. We investigate further to reveal surprisingly positive results.

The truth is it’s exhausting carrying this emotional weight around. I have a love-hate relationship with my body. I am reasonably slim, and at a healthy weight, yet I often feel frumpy in my own skin. I think my bottom and thighs could certainly be smaller, and I wouldn’t mind bigger boobs either. I often say I wish I could slice a piece off each thigh and add it to my boobs! Fortunately, my husband of five years does not see what I see. He likes my body, and the parts that I complain about are actually his favourite. Go figure… And, when I threaten cosmetic surgery, he tells me he honestly wouldn’t change anything about me. Nice, but I’m not sure I always believe him. Even my mother climbs on the bandwagon, as mothers do. “I think you have a normal, healthy woman’s body and should be happy,” she tells me in an authoritive, slightly irritated tone. “I know you think your bottom is too big, but you’re ridiculous. Without a shapely bottom clothing doesn’t fall nicely so I can’t understand what you are complaining about! Look at Kim Kardashian if you want to see a big bottom!” she growls. While, it’s apparent my mother watches too much reality television, the truth is neither she nor anyone else in my life see the faults that I do.

Clearly some reflection is required. It’s time to embrace health and wellbeing over flawless beauty, especially when the important people in our lives are much, much more forgiving than we realise. Don’t believe me? Read on and hopefully you’ll change your mind.

Mariska uncovered:
Mariska, 33, is a Pre-school Teacher and husband Nicolaas, 43, is a Plant Manager. They have been together for 14 years, live in KZN and have two children aged 8 and 3 years.

Mariska on her body: “Before I started Weigh-Less I hated each part of my body. After losing 10kg I am partially happy. I think I will be completely content with myself and comfortable with my body once I have reached my target weight. My legs are my favourite part of my body. I never have a problem finding skinny jeans or boots to wear. My least favourite part is my stomach. Even though I know it’s due to my caesarian operations, it’s still alarming for me. I want to have a tight, firm stomach and would like to wear tank tops.”

What Nicolaas thinks: He is proud of how far Mariska has come with her weight loss, and how committed she is to reaching her target weight. His favourite parts of her body are her legs and face. He was honest to mention that she has a flabby stomach, which although upset Mariska, motivated her to join a gym to get into better shape.

What her friends think: While Mariska’s friends disagree with the faults she sees in her own body and think that she looks perfect just they way she is, they are none-the-less impressed with her achievements, and how her hard work has paid off.

Mariska on cosmetic surgery: ” I would consider a tummy-tuck if I’m unable to tone-up my stomach. “My husband would not be very happy about this decision as he does not approve of any cosmetic surgery.”

Best of all: We asked Nicolaas to comment on model looks versus good conversation and he gallantly chose conversation! His love for Mariska didn’t change when she was overweight and now he is proud of her perseverance and efforts to lose weight. What is most important to Nicolaas is that Mariska is happy and healthy.

Jackie uncovered:
Jackie, 38, is an Account Director and husband Mark, 37, is a Sales Manager. They have been together for 21 years, live in Gauteng and have three children, including a son, 10, and twin girls aged 4.

Jackie on her body: “I would love my body to be firmer and I would like a flatter tummy. I hate my flabby thighs. I always tend to put on weight on my thighs, and also the cellulite doesn’t help. I do, however, like my calves; I have always had shapely calves.”

What Mark thinks: Mark loves Jackie’s body, any shape or size. He can’t understand what she doesn’t like about her thighs because they are his favourite part of her body!

What her children think: “Seth (10) says ‘you’re slim mom’, while twins Sarah and Hannah (4) say ‘we like your body, Mom’. I’ve lost 8kgs on Weigh-Less, so my friends are very proud of me and say I’m looking so good; I get compliments all the time and I’m loving the attention!”

Jackie on cosmetic surgery: “I think I would love to have my breasts lifted and perhaps go up a cup size. Mark would not be opposed to the idea. He is always disappointed when I lose weight because that is the first place I lose it!”

Best of all: We asked Mark if Jackie’s cellulite and stretch marks bothered him at all, and it turns out that he barely notices them! Furthermore, he comments that her stretch marks, mainly from her pregnancies, are actually special to him!

Maya uncovered:
Maya, 24, is a Personal Assistant and husband Kuban, 29, is an Aquatics Safety Officer. They have been together for six years, live in KZN and have no children.

Maya on her body: “I have put on weight over the last two years, which is sad as I really used to look good! I don’t really have a favourite body part, but if I had to choose, without being conceited, it would be my face. My least favourite part is my tummy – I don’t feel it’s flattering when I wear figure-hugging clothes.”

What Kuban thinks: “He does not have a problem with my body as he says he loves me for who I am and not what I look like!”

What her friends think: “Well, according to them my body is well proportioned, but I could do with losing a few kilograms.”

Maya on cosmetic surgery: She is not considering plastic surgery.

Best of all: Many women are conscious of eating chocolates and sweets in front of there partners, so we asked Kuban if it bothers him when Maya eats sweets or orders dessert at a restaurant? Turns out it doesn’t bother him at all. He’s likely to join in with a treat for himself too!

Expert analysis
So, should we really worry about the shape of our body if our partner is happy with us? We ask the experts to shed some light on this controversial issue.

Psychologist, Andrew Verrijdt, feels that many of us have an unrealistically negative view of our bodies and that positive feedback from a partner can help build a healthier self-image. He also points out that the person who ultimately has to be happy with your body is: you. “If there is something about your physical appearance that you don’t like, then there is nothing wrong with trying to change it,” says Andrew. “However, as with all things in life, one can go too far. If your dissatisfaction with your appearance stems from emotional difficulties or insecurities, then the truth is that you may remain unhappy, no matter how good you look on the outside. So, before doing something drastic, first ask yourself: am I doing this because I am happy with whom I am, but want to be better? Or, am I doing this because I think it will make me happy?” says Andrew.

Joanna Kleovoulou, Clinical Psychologist and Director of PsychMatters Family Therapy Centre echoes the same sentiments and says that being in a partnership will mean that we care about our partners opinion and what they say will have some influence on our overall well-being, including our appearance. “Ideally, it is a balancing act setting realistic goals and regimes for healthy living for our selves, and at the same time hearing what our partner thinks and feels about our body and appearance for your and his/her benefit. Having a supportive partner rooting for you on the sideline and encouraging you to look and feel good can have a positive impact on you. However, if your partner makes you feel belittled, degraded, worthless or forced to look a certain way to meet only his/her needs, then you both may need professional assistance to address the negative effect this may have on your relationship, and your sense of worth. Remember, learning to love your body begins by letting go of those socially imposed ideals that are supposed to make the “perfect” human being, and to work within yourself to address any insecurities you may have that limit your self-love,” says Joanna.

*Source: Andrew Verrijdt; Joanna Kleovoulou (Clinical Psychologist) Psychmatters Family Therapy Centre, Bedfordview, Gauteng

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