One of the reasons I love my husband so much is that he thinks most of the models in the Victoria Secret catalogues are “too skinny”. Yes, that’s a direct quote and boy, am I glad, since at five feet tall and a size 8 petite, I’ll never make the front cover – nor the inside pages for that matter. I’m blessed with a man who has loved my curves and my aging self for over 20 years.

But what do most men like in their women? This question has cropped up often in my private practice. I sit with beautiful, intelligent women who feel undesirable, less than, unlovable, because they are not the shape and size they think men want. And by the way, most of their men love them just they way they are. They’ve told me so!

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately to research this article and this is what I found. Some men do like ultra-thin women. Some men like round, curvy ones. What most men like is a woman who carries herself with confidence, who has a great smile and can make them laugh. I have a client whose husband remarked to her that when she eats nutritiously and exercises regularly, she stands tall and confidently and flashes her beautiful smile to all around her. He finds this wife very appealing. However, when she eats “junk”, stuffs herself to sickness, and doesn’t move her body, she slouches, and avoids eye contact with him and others. This wife, he says, is not so attractive. Her weight and size are the same but her attitude is different.

You might find this interesting. Cosmopolitan Magazine did a survey in 2004 asking men what their favorite female body type was. 61.6% answered curvy with a large rack (their language, not mine). 20.4% answered svelte with big breasts, 11.6% stated model thin with small breasts, 4.7% said other, and 1.7% responded big and bodacious. So maybe not all men want us to be a size double 0 – 2?

Here are some representative quotes from the blog Ask a Dude: “Real men want real women.” “Guys are focusing on your weight because that’s what you’re focusing on.” “There’s nothing sexier to a man than a girl with confidence.” “Big girls are just more fun to cuddle.” “Health is sexy.” So what’s our problem? If so many men are accepting of so many body types, are we the problem? Yes – and no!

Yes, we have been brainwashed by media representations of air brushed and photo-shopped images that tell us that a size 8 is plus size. So we diet relentlessly and pour ourselves into skinny jeans in order to be attractive. And no. Since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, some men are more attracted to thin/ skinny women. Have they been brainwashed too? Maybe. Or maybe they just like what they like.

And yes, there are some men who complain about the bodies of their partners. Here’s a fascinating theory for you. In the 1980’s Carol Munter and Jane Hirschmann wrote “When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies”, an important book of the attuned eating movement. They make a statement that has stayed with me for decades. Speaking of us women, they write, “Bad body thoughts are never about our bodies, and always about our lives.” (A profound statement and a topic for another article.) But they also say about men, “The bad body thoughts that men have about our bodies, are never about OUR bodies, and always about THEIR lives. What is it about these men’s lives that need fixing? And oh so interesting that they have come to believe that they would be happier if our bodies were smaller in some places and bigger in others.

Most of us – women and men – just want to be loved and accepted for who we are and not just for what we look like. The essence of who we are is what makes us special and desirable. The qualities of loving kindness, compassion, empathy, and humor come in all shapes and sizes. Most men see this. Real men know this. So why don’t we?

Author's Bio: 

Ilene Leshinsky is a licensed clinical social worker with over 15 years of counseling experience. In her Plattsburgh-based private practice, she works with women who desire more joy and fulfillment in their lives. Ilene’s BodySense program is open to women of all ages who want freedom from food and body obsessions and who want to develop a peaceful relationship with food and their bodies. Ilene can be reached at 518-570-6164, ilene@primelink1.net or www.ileneleshinsky.com.