16.12.11

So You're Worried Your Wife is Getting Fat

Dear man who has a wife or girlfriend or other woman in his life who may be putting on a few pounds,

You have been noticing a few extra inches on her figure, some extra softness and roundness in places it hasn't been there before and you want to talk to her about it. You know that to talk about it is to enter an emotional minefield, our culture is so good at messing up women and their relationships to their own bodies. It's really sweet that you want to figure out how to talk to her about this without hurting her feelings. Don't turn to an article like this for advice. Top 10: Subtle Ways to Tell Her She's Getting Fat That would be a mistake. It's like asking someone from Switzerland to help you navigate through India, only they've never been there before. I know you don't want to shame or manipulate her into conforming to your idea of hotness. You aren't that kind of man, and your woman isn't the kind of woman who can't handle a straightforward conversation. Right?

So here, from this women's perspective, is some helpful advice. Please remember that what I tell my kids all the time holds true for you as well. The only person you can control in a relationship is yourself. So let's look at what you can actually do, and then have a look at how she may think or feel about it. Please keep in mind that I'm assuming love for her and concern for her health is your actual motive.

#1. Is the pot calling the kettle black?

Before you broach this delicate subject with the woman who shares your life take off all your clothes and stand in front of a mirror. How does your current appearance compare to how you looked when you first met her? There are probably some sags and bulges on your body too. Don't think she hasn't noticed just because she hasn't said anything. She does notice. But she probably won't ever mention it to you for 2 reasons.
1. She cares more about what kind of person you are and loves you regardless. She reminds herself often of the praiseworthy things about you and doesn't focus so much on your aging body. It may even be a comfort to her, that you are together growing older.
2. She knows how she would feel if you criticized her and she's careful not to do it to you.

Unless you are willing to address your own growing belly don't even think about talking to your wife about hers. Seriously. I shouldn't have to explain to you what a double standard is. Don't just make a change for a week and then start telling her how she ought to as well. Show some commitment. Keep at it. That way she can see that you aren't just trying to make her do something you aren't willing to do yourself.


#2. Ask yourself how many ways she may be investing herself to take care of you, and your children if you have any.

Does she iron your shirts, make you lunch, take care of the kids and the house and the dog? Does she drop everything in the middle of the day when you call wanting to talk and listen, even if it throws her whole schedule off? Does she volunteer at the kids school, drive car pool, have her own job that she goes to everyday while holding your family together and stretching ever thinner?

You must realize that when you bring up the subject of her weight and suggest she take yet another half an hour out of her day to exercise because you prefer her to look thinner that she sees it as yet another thing piled up on top of all the other things she does for you, and your family. She doesn't see it as something to do for herself, but as yet another burden, and it may feel like too much.

Before you ever even talk to her about her weight how about you talk to her about her schedule? Ask her what kinds of things she would like to be able to find time to do. See if you can find a way to lighten her load, perhaps do for yourself something she customarily does for you, so she can do those things. Even if exercise isn't one of them. Realize that if you remove just one thing she easily has at least 10 others that she'd like to do that will fill up that space. Exercise might not be at the top.

But helping her to find breathing room in her daily schedule is a good way to begin to show her that you care about her.

#3. Is she getting enough sleep?

Studies have shown that the more tired people are the poorer their food choices and the hungrier they feel. A tired person heads straight to the ice cream.

Are there any ways you can help her get more sleep?

Are there chores she does in the evening that you could take over for her before you sit down to relax so she can go to bed sooner?

Of course, she may have 10 other things that she will cram into the time freed up other than sleep, but you may have helped relieve some stress to begin with and that will help as well.

You could talk to her about your concern that she is well rested and look at her work load with her to see if it's possible for her to get more sleep. Remember, she'll need time to just unwind and do something relaxing before going to bed, just like you do.

#4. Does she get any rewards other than food?

In a busy, hectic, non stop day those little treats you see her eating may be the one positive stimulus she has going for her. After all, she doesn't have to stop what she's doing to sip a soda, or eat some chocolate, or potato chips. She may be snacking on things just to give herself a mental boost and give those pleasure centers of hers something to do.

Can you find other ways to reward her through out the day? How often do you say thank-you, for example? Teach your kids to thank her as well. Give her a quick back rub in passing, a hug, a kiss, words of appreciation, these can all stimulate the same chemicals in her brain that chocolate does.

Build into her daily, and weekly, routine whatever rewards you can manage that aren't food and see how she responds.

 #5. Plan family outings that are active.

Actually plan them, yourself. Don't tell her that you want to go hiking with the whole family and then expect her to find the date, pack up all the food, find everyone's boots, get all the kids dressed and then go. It may never happen then. Her plate is very full, remember?

Since you are already committed to your health you will have the energy to do this. You aren't going to be too tired on a Saturday morning to go do something fun and active together because you are caring for your own body and getting rest instead of staying up too late on you weekends. Show you care about this by managing your energy level such that you have some to invest in fun activities together.

The bonus to this one is that you will get to have fun with your kids and build memories together. (You don't need kids to do something fun and active together though.)

Do this one often.

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I suggest you try all of the above for a couple of months and see what happens. If nothing else it will help you to understand the obstacles in her way to a healthier lifestyle.

If after some time you don't see her inspired to take care of her physical health now that she's well rested, not as stressed, feels appreciated and has some time freed up you may still decide to talk to her about it. There are a few things it would be helpful for you to understand.

#1. She already knows she gained weight.
She's a woman. She looks at herself in the mirror every day. She goes through the closet trying to find something that she looks cute in still. She has to buy herself the next size up in underwear. She already knows she has gained some weight and she's probably far more critical of herself as a result than you are. So when you bring this up you are the voice confirming everything bad she's been telling herself in her head. Know that you aren't speaking into a vacuum, but jumping in on a dialogue she's already having with herself.

You say, "Honey, I'm a little concerned about your recent weight gain."

She hears, "See, you're failing at this too."

#2. She may want to make a change but feel like it's impossible.

Hopefully all of those earlier steps we talked about will have helped to alleviate this, but she may still feel overwhelmed by life in general and her weight in particular. She may have no idea how to begin. You can probably help with that. It's always easier for the person with some distance to see a solution than the person in the middle of it. But don't be glib about it. No matter how easy it seems to you, to her it's hard.

#3. She may be deeply ambivalent about her weight.

On the one hand she wants you to think she's beautiful and enjoys it when you praise her appearance. One the other hand she wonders if you will still love her when her looks are diminished. She knows that one day she will be an old woman, and she wonders if you are going to still be around then, or if you will move on to prettier packaging.

She's not sure there's much point in staying fit if it's only motivated by fear that you won't love her anymore if she's not. Fear is a pretty lousy motivator over the long term. It may produce short term results, but eventually she'll quit. She needs a better reason than that and she needs to be confident that you love her anyway.

#3. She may not care.

She may not think of her weight as an issue at all and may think that your concern is your problem and you should get over it. She might be right. Is she basically healthy with a few extra inches, or is her long term health in danger from her weight?

Here is where you need to be clear with why you care so much about her weight gain.

If it is merely aesthetic you need to figure out how to straight up explain that to her. To your  mind taking care of her physical appearance is in the same category of common courtesy as taking regular showers and brushing one's teeth before coming to bed. She might not think of it that way, and she may consider weight gain to be more a part of who she is than something as quickly remedied as hygiene.

#4. Give her real and healthy reasons to stay fit.

Tell her you want for her to have the energy she needs to have fun with you and the kids. Tell her that you want to grow old with her and enjoy your twilight years together. Tell her that you are worried that she's running herself into the ground and want to rearrange your own priorities to help her stay strong and healthy.

Make plans with her to do something fun that she can look forward to and gives her a short term goal. Maybe being strong enough for an adventure, hiking, rock climbing, kayaking or something else she used to love doing will help with short term motivation.

It's fine to say you want to take her somewhere nice and show her off too. If she knows you love her she'll want to make you proud. The interesting thing about this though is that it works better if you are already proud of her and act like she is your treasure. She'll want to be worthy of that, especially if she doesn't feel that it is conditional.

Bottom line, make loving her your main priority. If you are truly doing this out of love then it's worth trying.

Well, that's my opinion. Ladies? What do you think?

Guys, is this at all helpful?

5 comments:

  1. As usual, you rock!  Well said.  I have definitely put on a few pounds since marriage 20 years ago.  He married a skinny, healthy, vibrant woman with lots of energy.  And now I am about 20 pounds heavier than I'd like to be, utterly exhausted all the time and it shows on my face, not just my body.

    I would add that thyroid issues can play a huge role in weight gain, especially after having kids.  If readers are wanting to lose weight, and diet and exercise aren't making a big difference, getting your thyroid checked is important.

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  2. Yes, I didn't even mention all the health challenges that can affect someone, but they're a huge factor for some people. That's why we take those vows that say, for richer or poorer, better or worse, in sickness and in health...

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  3. Katie3:52 PM

    Thanks Carrien. This is important for me to read.

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  4. Wow, that link to the article is truly unbelievable. Leave before/after pictures lying around? Really? I think it should have an edited title: How to Break Up Your Relationship by Dropping Passive Aggressive Hints About Her Weight

    Excellent take on this very sensitive subject, as usual. I have struggled with weight issues my entire adult life. I think you are right on the money here.

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  5. :) exactly. It's gonna lead to lots of lonely men I think.

    Thank-you.

    ReplyDelete

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