Couples often shy off to protect their partners and draw a clear boundary in front of their relatives. But the repeated damage to your psyche, by these so-called sarcastic comments, is often irreparable. 

How to Strengthen Your Relationship by Combating Body Shaming: Image Coach Speaks

anu mittal, image coach, body shaming, couples

‘You don’t look like a mother, darling!’  ‘Lose some fat, see other’s wives how fit they are!’ ‘I thought on your Birthday let me gift you a gym membership, post our baby you have grown so huge’

Did you know all these are more statements, are all about shaming your partner, whether in person or public? Did you know all such comments which you might think are normal, are actually very harmful for the mental health of both the partners?

So this week at Baely, Consulting Editor Mahima Sharma holds an EXCLUSIVE interaction with Image Coach Anu Mittal, who shares deeper insights into “How to Love Your Body and Each Other- Expert Tips for Couples to Build Confidence." Take a read…

MS: What is Body Shaming? 

AM: Look at your nose! It is like a fritter. This is what I had heard about my face, during my growing-up years. A woman at my in-laws ' place once said that my father should have given one lakh extra for that round nose, in front of my husband. In such cases, the couples often shy off to protect their partners and draw a clear boundary in front of their relatives. But the repeated damage to your psyche, by these so-called sarcastic comments, is often irreparable. 

So body shaming is not just limited to fat shaming. It can be thrown at you in varied ways, by people who are most precious in your life, and even by strangers. Body shaming is like bullying when the person who is bullying is behaving in a superior manner and trying to dominate you, making you feel lesser or making you feel insignificant. 

Common statements made by people at their own self, like I hate my hair texture, or my feet are so ugly, are examples of how we unknowingly body shame ourselves and thus allow our ecosystem to speak to us in the same language.

MS: What is the psychology behind people body shaming others or the partner? 

AM: With my experience in the Image consulting industry, there are  three reasons why people body shame others or their partners. 

  1. A person who has been hurt in the past might hurt others, whenever he/she gets a chance.
  2. If they have been raised in an environment where making jokes on body/face/coloring is considered funny or entertaining.
  3. A dominating or an authoritarian person will try to assert his/her authority by making another person feel worthless 

One of my friends was body shamed whenever she tried to start a conversation with her husband's friends. Friends who used to gather at her house for weekend parties. With time she understood that it was a way used by her partner to tell her that her place is in the kitchen and she is not considered equal to sit with so-called knowledgeable people. So body shaming can be a symptom of deep seated misogyny. 

MS: How do you know that you are being body shamed? What are the signs or statements that might seem normal but aren't?

AM: Body Shaming by people you love the most is the most dangerous one and leaves permanent scars on the victim. For instance, if you call your wife fat to make her lose weight, that is also body shaming. Or suppose your husband develops some illness where his skin has some patches, and you try to cover those for him when out for parties or panic when his makeup blurs away, that is also another kind of body shaming, One of my clients who had darker skin than her brother was often told (obviously in the form of a joke) that she was picked from a temple. The client had deep scars from her past, and her reason for hiring me was to look fairer. So this is also body shaming, which we pass of as jokes.  

Yes, Mahima…fat shaming among couples is considered very normal and it is knowingly unknowingly, and even widely accepted. But the partner facing repeated fat shaming starts losing self-confidence and in some cases starts avoiding social gatherings. Women often put themselves on various untested diet programs, which might be dangerous to their fertility or their overall health.

MS: Body Shaming is an age old issue. But do you think Social Media comparison and comments have aggravated this issue? If yes, how must couples stride ahead to ensure the sanity of the relationship and not get under the weather due to external pressure?


Even if you own a rational mind, being active on social media will lead to unhealthy comparisons. We women often share our feelings of being inadequate, but boys/men find it very tough to share their emotions or their insecurities.  

Once a middle aged female client asked me for advice on how to achieve washboard abs, as her partner admires Kareena Kapoor too much (days when Kareena introduced size zero). It took me a few styling sessions to make her understand that these trending fitness terms are not always healthy and can cost you your health. Rather invest in wardrobe pieces which will give you body confidence and uplift your personal brand.

Couples should understand that whatever is visible on social media platforms is a part of a filtered story. for example princess Kate Middleton walking out the hospital just after her delivery, with her baby in arms, looking fit and fab, has another dimension too. she adopted a technique called hypnobirthing (unavailable to commoners) and in addition the couples should realize that the rich and famous are fortunate enough to have tons of helping hands in form of a costume stylist, a hairdresser, and variety of beauticians. So any comparisons with celebrities is sign of ignorance, and is not healthy for self and the relationship.

MS: How can body shaming affect your partner's mental health and also your relationship? 

AM: Whenever a partner body shames their partner, it weakens the bond of mutual respect between the couple. As we have no control over our physical features or our body structure, the shaming pushes the victim partner into a space where they feel too alone. The lone suffering might not be visible from outside, but the pain is often unbearable, with a feeling of helplessness. 

One of my female clients had a round body shape, and after her son's birth she gained a few more pounds. Her shopping experiences turned into big nightmares as whenever they were in a showroom, her partner started body shaming her in front of sales staff, and even rejected whatever she picked for herself. This behavior created a big rift between the couple, and even resulted in temporary separation. The woman who was working for a MNC came to me to regain her confidence. I suggested a wardrobe strategy which helped her to work on her strengths, and camouflage whatever she felt was not desirable. In a year or two she lost a few pounds and was back to her usual self, but the past hurt and pain often lingers with her. 

Let me share another case. There was a doctor couple where the wife was very beautiful but the husband was an average looking guy. The husband was at the receiving end from the relatives as well as friends, who often mocked him for being super lucky to be married to a beauty, as if he didn't deserve her. I noticed that the wife never took husband's side, rather enjoyed the jokes. This casual behavior of the partner, which looks quite harmless, often becomes slow poison & kills the love & intimacy between the couple. 

Partners should understand that body changes are inevitable. Few changes are temporary and few permanent. Like a woman will experience weight gain and figure changes once she conceives a child.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding are the most challenging jobs for a woman and she will need unconditional support not just from husband but also from friends and relatives. Weight gain during pregnancy is often temporary and couples should treat it as a phase, and not as something for which they should feel embarrassed.

MS: As per your work experience, is body shaming primarily a women-specific issue or does it happen on a similar scale with men also? 

AM: I have consulted more men than women in my eight year journey, and I have noticed that Indian men primarily face two issues. The first major issue they face is hair thinning/balding, and the second is beer belly/round abdomen. One of my clients was worried about losing his youthful appearance and wanted to look younger as he felt that his spouse looked much younger than him. And he didn't want to be a joke material among his friends.

If I try to pinpoint the difference between men & women clients, men clients need less counseling, & are easy to consult. Maybe because they come with a smaller baggage than women clients. 

Women need longer sessions and more pushing, because right from their childhood, in a rush to get them a groom, they are body shamed in various ways from their complexion,to style of walking-talking and more. So that has to stop, right from the beginning when you raise a child.

MS: My partner has put on some weight over time and I want to tell him/her about it, how should I go about it, and what are the things to keep in mind especially when my intent is to make sure that he/she is healthy. Basically, what are the do’s and don’ts to keep in mind?


The ground rule is to talk in private and not to talk about weight even in front of children. No weight talk should happen while you are eating your meals, dressing up for occasions, or when you are in the mood to get intimate with each other. And if your partner is too sensitive, take the help of a trusted professional. The professional could be a nutritionist, a fitness expert, or a Lifestyle coach. 

And try to enrich your vocabulary by making the weight talk sound more like a health issue and less about attractiveness. Read about the science behind weight gain, and its side effects, so that you sound genuine and not like a person who is trying to make fun. If the partner is not comfortable with the topic, leave it for a while, till he/she gets prepared mentally to face the problem. It will require patience as well as good diplomacy skills. 

In my neighborhood, we had a couple, where the husband started accompanying his wife for morning walks and to weekend gym classes to display solidarity. His wife was struggling with menopausal weight gain. As she was facing mood swings often, she wanted some ME time from home and work, and looked at gym time as a place of solace. But the excessive support from partner was choking her, but she didn't have the courage to stop her husband from accompanying her. To escape she quit the gym, and joined baking classes. 

Women who have been raised in patriarchal setups often face problems in speaking up for their rights, their privacy or even about their likes and desires. In such cases partners should either take support of their children or they can take help of their in-laws to convey the message to their spouse. Because a little diplomacy never harms. But if the partner can talk to their better half on significant issues, it opens the route for future communication, and the partner is able to avoid major misunderstandings.

I have seen that weight issues are rarely treated sportingly by women. Because of past conditioning, excess weight is seen as loss of femininity, or loss of some kind of power. So support your spouse during the weight loss journey, but read the subtle clues he/she is sending out. Don't step inside the boundary.

ABOUT Anu Mittal

Anu is a FIT, NYC certified Image Consultant and a fashion stylist, with a work experience of more than 15 years in apparel & styling industry. She empowers people by guiding them on how to elevate their personal brand and helps them to align their career goals with their visual appearance, which includes ABCD of a person - appearance, behavior, communication and digital presence. She holds a masters degree in Apparel and Textiles, and is a two time gold medalist. She has been mentoring fashion students from various fashion colleges like Pearl academy, JD Institute of fashiontechnology, LPU Punjab, and ITM. As an Image consultant she has helped professionals from across the country, from various sectors like journalism, medicine, and from the corporate world. She has been holding workshops for various age groups to make them more body confident and prepare them to face body challenges through styling skills.


The opinions expressed within this interview are the personal opinions of the protagonist/protagonists. The facts & statistics, the work profile details of the protagonist/ protagonists do not reflect the views of Baely or the Journalist. Neither Baely nor the Journalist hold any responsibility or liability for the same.

About the Interviewer
About the Author
Mahima Sharma
Mahima Sharma is a Senior Journalist based in Delhi NCR. She has been in the field of TV, Print & Online Journalism since 2005 and previously an additional three years in allied media.
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