Thursday, February 20, 2014

Your partner is putting on weight, should you go there?

Flipping through Fitness magazine an article entitled “Don’t Go There” drew me in.  In the piece, the author recounts seeing a nutritionist who made some rather rigid suggestions. The women shares the nutritionist’s recommendations and her concern over sticking to the plan with her husband. He roots her on, encourages her to give it a try and she flips out. Subtext to her was maybe you should try a little harder to lose weight. After the scuffle that ensues the husband declares weight an off limits topic in their relationship. He concludes that whatever he said was taken the wrong way. For them this was the right decision. She went on to build a healthy routine and lose some of wedding weight.

This got me thinking. I do not think there’s any place for harsh or critical weight commentary in a relationship but the notion of an off limits topic doesn’t sit well with me. I may fall too far in the “better to say it” camp but I think with weight it in can be just as damaging to say nothing. So how do you say something without wreaking havoc?
  • First, don’t have this conversation when someone is getting dressed, about to leave the house etc. While there may be no perfect time, right before you leave for a night out or work isn’t best. It's also not best right before or right after sex unless of course you never want to have sex again (with that person).
  • Second and I’ve said this before “how do I look?” isn’t really a question. “How do I look” is praise seeking. When faced with this request, whatever it is find something to compliment the other person on and move on.
  • It’s crucial to make sure your wellness or weight commentary is about the other person even if it in turn affects you. Have you noticed your partner is more self-conscious? Dressing differently? Super stressed? So busy that workouts are marginalized? If so, these are great points of entry. You don’t have to say much, sometimes a question is enough to plant a seed or get a conversation started in a gentle manner.
Weight gain doesn’t exist in a vacuum and support, genuine concern and help when needed can make a big difference and I think a much better way to go than doing or saying nothing.
If faced with this situation, would you “go there” or steer clear? Do you think weight can be discussed in a nonthreatening manner? Has anyone/ a partner ever discussed your weight in a hurtful manner? Have you heard phrase mixed-weight relationship? I just did for first time.


  1. I fall in the "better to say it" camp as well. So I would definitely want to hear if I was gaining weight. And I would have no problem telling my husband (who is as thing as a rail) if he needed to lose weight.

    We've been married nearly 14 years though...and one comment that I have fat thighs later I guess I feel like we can weather any storm/comment!

  2. "Weight gain doesn’t exist in a vacuum and support, genuine
    concern and help when needed can make a big difference and I think a much
    better way to go than doing or saying nothing." - I think this is key here. Whenever I gain some weight, things just aren't quite right in my life. Usually there is more stress in one form or another than usual. And I really appreciate any support I can get. For me, losing weight is about making me a priority again. And I think we should give our partner any help we can with that. My husband writes about beer as a "hobby" (sometimes feels like a second job!), and when he does too much writing (and sampling beer) he can put on some weight as exercise and healthy foods take a backseat. I'm concerned about him not being active and not living as healthy as he could, and I always say something...

  3. Love "whenever I gain some weight things just aren't quite right in my life" and I comment on my husband's beer too.

  4. You can weather any storm b/c you are a rail too and as horrible as that comment is well you know. I tend to attract/enjoy "better to say it " people

  5. I like your advice, especially your last point about how excess weight (or less than stellar eating and exercise habits) may be affecting your partner in ways other than simply "looking" heavier. My husband exercises fairly routinely, but sometimes work gets in the way and he lets it slip. Yes, he might gain a few more pounds, but what I notice the most is how tired and irritable he gets when he doesn't get his workout it. The past couple of evenings he's been complaining about being rally tired, so this morning I strongly suggested a workout. He did it, and guess what? Much better mood this evening :-)

  6. Several years ago, back before I was the token single friend, the farthest I went was mentioning in the context of a conversation that someone didn't seem to be exercising—one of several things they enjoyed and hadn't been doing in recent months. About a year later they asked me to help them lose weight, which they did seemingly with little effort. Dude took a very project-like approach to his health. And to me. He was always pointing out ways I could improve, though not usually physical things.

  7. I am guilty of trying to trick my husband in to telling me I'm fat. As a result he checks out the second the conversation steers to my weight. Which is fine because you are so right, "how do I look?" is not a question so much as a request for a compliment. I've explained this a million times and he still doesn't get it. So now I just say to him, "Don't I look very nice today?" and he agrees. Easier.

    I know when I am getting "fat" and he loves me too much to agree with me when I start beating myself up. And if he were ever to tell me I looked heavy I think I would self-destruct.

    Him on the other hand? I have no qualms saying, "if you drank less beer your face wouldn't be so bloated..." I am an awful person.

    He can take it.

    I can't.