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Love the Way You Look

These tips will help you feel good about your body — in bed and beyond

En español | At my recent 45th college reunion, a photographer was about to take a picture of a group of us when the woman next to me piped up: "All right, ladies, tuck in your tummies!"

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Her quip made me feel like I was one big tummy, so I automatically followed her command. Only later did the indignation flow: "No wonder it's hard for us to feel good with our clothes off!" I silently steamed. "We're constantly being reminded we don't look so hot even with them on!"

How to feel better about your body in bed- a shy woman in a turtleneck sweater

Don't be shy about showing more skin. — Westend61/Getty Images

Why do we torture ourselves this way? Sure, there were a few extra pounds — OK, a lot of extra pounds — at that reunion, but they seemed natural and not entirely unpleasant. Indeed, some people looked quite attractive — but I reached that judgment based on my former classmates' attitude and energy, not their waistlines.

Sure it's unhealthy to lug around lots of extra body weight and all that. Still, I think our emphasis on trim, fit and youthful bodies has gone a little overboard, and many of us have a hard time feeling good about ourselves — especially in bed. So I've come up with a list of five things you can do to feel better about your body. Try one tonight!

1. Indulge in a little "liquid courage." Unless you have a drinking problem, I am a firm believer in a glass of red wine before bedtime. Doctors talk up the medical benefits of the resveratrol it contains, but I'm talking here about the emotional reserve it can banish: A little alcohol can tamp down our fears and obsessions. If you're self-conscious about your weight, for example, a slight glow can help you shrug off that concern.

2. Get clean to steam. A languid hot bath or shower — followed by pampering the body with shaving and lotions — has an overall blissful effect. Coming to bed feeling scented and softened makes our mood receptive and relaxed. And when you reach that happy mental place, sex often seems like the natural next step.

3. Wear something silky between the sheets. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but don't forget the beholder includes you. When you wear something flattering to bed — something that makes you feel good and sexy — it may not stay on long. Men can wear a fresh T-shirt or silk briefs. Women can wear a loose-fitting teddy, a negligee or anything that feels glamorous.

4. Light your way to afterglow. Fluorescent light or daylight can drain color from your face and point up every pore. So engineer how you appear: Put a dimmer in the bedroom and bathroom. Use complimentary peach or other soft light. Make love by the glow of a fire or candles. You'll wind up feeling so good about yourself, and your partner, that I'm fully expecting thank-you notes to pour in from this tip!

5. Praise your partner — and yourself. It may seem corny to say something about your partner's looks when the two of you have been together for decades. But everyone likes to be complimented, and we all need to feel that we really look good in our partner's eyes. It could be something as simple as "I love your shoulders" when you caress them, or "I love that look in your eyes" when you hold each other's gaze. If you're out to dinner, reach over and tell your partner he or she looks sexy tonight. If your partner is challenged in the compliment department, tell him you'd love to hear something affirming about the way you look the next time he feels so moved. The other person is often thinking good thoughts like these anyway; it just takes a little encouragement to surface them.

The bottom line: Remember, the best way to feel good about yourself in bed is if you truly believe your partner finds you sexy — and reflects that image back to you. The tips above can heal any blows your body image may have suffered with changes in your body over the years, but bear in mind that sexy is as sexy does: Show enthusiasm and pleasure in your partner, and he or she is likely to respond with equal doses of excitement and appreciation in return.

Published June 2012

You may also like: Going gray is suddenly glamorous.

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Video Extra

 

The pressure to look young, thin and sexy is especially difficult for women and has driven the plastic surgery boom — but increasingly, men are fighting the signs of aging too.

 

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