Perhaps one of the biggest challenges a couple could go through is asking your partner to lose weight.
I did this one time when my partner was experiencing the side effects of a full-time desk job, including weight gain. Of course, given that I can be a blunt idiot sometimes, I went about it in an arguably insensitive way, the way most articles on the subject will tell you not to do it.
I said something along the lines of “I’d feel more attracted to you if you lost weight.”
Some of you are shrugging off those words, while others are cringing like this emoji: 😬
In my mind, I was just trying to be honest and rip off the Band-Aid, but doing so caused more bleeding. He was very upset, and perhaps I inadvertently revealed some of my own insecurities. Maybe I accidentally opened my kimono on my shallow tendencies.
It was like making a Freudian Slip, trying to compliment someone’s hat but revealing that I’m in love with the neighbor’s cat (okay, maybe not like that).
Anyway, looking back, I probably should have flipped the script and asked myself how I’d feel if he’d said that to me. (Nowadays, I’d say, “Well, I like my body, so I don’t think I need to change it.”) Regardless, I should have practiced more empathy and compassion and taken a different approach.
I also learned not to make my partner my “project” and micromanage everything about him. Those are the side effects of a deeply insecure individual who needs a little self-evaluation. You just can’t surgically change your partner (unless, of course, you’re a surgeon, for those who take things literally), and he has to decide for himself if he wants to lose weight.
With that said, while I’ve never had major weight issues, and therefore have never been on that end of the conversation, here’s what I perhaps should have done instead:
1. Make it Less About His Appearance and More About His Health
It’s well-established that obesity can lead to cardiovascular issues, diabetes, and many other health issues. So, instead of saying, “I’d be more attracted to you if…” it would be better to say something like “I’m worried about your health.”
If you know someone who suffers from obesity-related issues, you can refer to that person as a case study when discussing this with your partner.
(Cue 1980s-style educational video: “This is Ed. Ed is 500 pounds. Ed can’t get out of bed in the morning. Ed sweats under layers of flab. Ed can’t see his wiener when he pees. Don’t be like Ed; eat a fucking carrot.”)*
2. Model Healthy Behavior
It can be easy to tell people what to do instead of walking the talk yourself. But real leaders are good role models, and many people like to follow the leader.
Buy more plant-based food, exercise regularly, and hydrate. Invite him to exercise and cook with you. Show your partner what’s possible so he can see the light like a Born Again Christian (only, in this case, he’d become a Born Again Health Nut).
(Cue video again: “After Ed ate his first carrot in years, his body spazzed like a malfunctioning robot when encountering this foreign object but then realized it was good for him. If he keeps this up, he’ll be able to get out of bed more easily and see his wiener when he pees.”)
3. Maintain Positive Energy
Energy is contagious, like COVID-19. (But I wouldn’t sneeze on someone to test that idea.) In true life coaching, we call constructive energy “anabolic” and destructive energy “catabolic.”
Just like one would use anabolic energy to help someone quit their nicotine habit or encourage positive change like the Dalai Lama, one should motivate her partner to change his lifestyle and then celebrate successes, no matter how small. Baby steps go far.
(Cue video: “Ed found a girlfriend along his weight loss journey. She encourages him to keep going when things seem impossible. Ed gobbles up that anabolic energy like he does his carrots, making good things happen.”)
4. Offer to Help
This is a classic life coach move, and you can do it too. Just ask, “How can I help?” or “How can I keep you accountable?” It’s a simple empowering question that might leave him speechless at first, but it’ll show him that he’s not in this alone and that someone else cares about his success like a dedicated teacher.
(Cue video: “On a day when Ed felt particularly helpless in his weight loss journey, his caring, compassionate girlfriend asked him what she can do to help him stay on track. He paused, and then said, ‘Just keep up the encouragement, and on your way to the store today, can you pick up more carrots?’”)
*Jokes and fun aside, we should acknowledge that the fat stigma is still alive and well in our society, with tons of discrimination propelling our health care sector. What drives many folks to become overweight can run miles and kilometers deeper than a silly article like this can cover, but I hope it helps point a metaphorical flashlight in some direction for those who are concerned about their partner’s weight.
If the time is right and you need help trading in your relationship anxiety and insecurity for peace of mind, then hit me up here and I’ll be in touch ASAP.
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