Many women, especially young women, struggle with body image. Some women merely feel a little self-conscious or shy, while others experience significant anxiety or depression. Some develop eating disorders or other psychological problems because they dislike their bodies so much. You can’t be her therapist but if your girlfriend dislikes her body, you can do some things that may help.

Listen

Express your willingness to listen to your girlfriend talk about her feelings about her body. Let her know that you think her body is perfectly fine, but resist the temptation to tell her she shouldn’t feel as she does. Listen and acknowledge her feelings.

Beware of Media Images

The Kids Health website explains that many young women, after excessive exposure to unrealistic media images showing very thin women with perfect bodies, judge themselves harshly in comparison. Of course, you can’t make television and magazines start portraying women’s bodies in a more realistic way. However, you can point out how unrealistic and even unhealthful some of those media images are.

Praise Achievements, Not Appearance

You might be tempted to compliment your girlfriend on her appearance and tell her often how much you like her body. It is good to let her know you find her attractive, but compliment her on her achievements much more often than you compliment her on her appearance. Offer sincere compliments. Congratulate her for getting a good grade on a difficult test, for scoring a goal in a soccer game or getting that new job she wanted. Tell her she sounds amazing when she plays the piano, that her poetry is incredibly moving or that the beaded necklace she made looks great on her rather than constantly focusing on her physical characteristics.

Get Physical with Her

Physically active, that is. The Mayo Clinic website says that engaging in physical activities or participating in sports improves self-esteem and helps young women feel better about their bodies. If she participates in a sport, encourage her. Go to her games. Invite her to do physical activities with you, too. Take a hike together, go ice skating in winter or canoeing in summer, go out dancing, take a bike ride or go horseback riding together.

Suggest She Seek Professional Help

If your girlfriend strongly dislikes her body, causing her to feel sad most of the time, or if she refuses to participate in normal social activities because she feels too self-conscious and anxious about her body, she might benefit from talking to a counselor. If she doesn’t eat enough food because she wants to lose weight or if she makes herself vomit after eating in order to avoid gaining weight, she needs to get professional help. Let her know you care about her and are concerned for her well-being and suggest she see a counselor or talk to her doctor about these issues.