You already know the statistics: Far too many American adults are obese or overweight, putting them at higher risk for diabetes, heart disease and more—not to mention poor self-esteem and, yes, even relationship problems.
If you’re relatively fit while your partner is overweight, that presents a difficult set of challenges, because there are so many minefields you want to avoid, including sounding judgmental, bossy or worse.
But what if your partner decides on their own they want to lose weight? What are the best ways to show encouragement without taking on the role of a drill sergeant or the weight-loss police?
It’s a delicate line, for sure. But start by remembering the most important word of all: Support. It’s the single best thing you can provide—not nagging, not policing, not giving unsolicited advice, but simply offering support at every turn.
Here are a few positive ways to do it:
- Be a good example. No, that doesn’t mean pointing out the low caloric density and nutrition value of every meal you eat. But stocking the fridge with fresh vegetables, preparing lean meats and otherwise following a good diet yourself can serve as a (silent) example of what healthy eating looks like.
- The same goes for going to the gym, jogging, or even taking long walks around the block. Your partner already knows that whatever you’re doing to stay at a healthy weight seems to be working, so they’re probably observing your good habits already without your saying a word. Keep it up.
- That said, if he or she asks for advice, that’s the time to give it. I know one couple in which the husband lost 15 pounds just by using a weight-loss app on his tablet that tracked his calories, nutrition and exercise. When his wife asked about it, he gladly shared how much it had helped him. In no time she was shedding pounds herself—and they were able to encourage each other by planning meals together that helped them meet their goals.
- Make it clear that you love and find them attractive at any weight. To be effective, they need to lose weight for their own health and well-being, not to impress you. So using their current weight to undermine their self-esteem is counterproductive and can even contribute to “emotional” eating—the kind of binging people do to cope with negative feelings (including resentment toward what feels like you being judgmental).
- If appropriate, subtly encourage your partner to use a third party as their weight-loss buddy or even health advisor. There’s nothing offensive about suggesting that they start by talking to a doctor about their desire to lose weight. A good physician will be able to recommend reputable weight-loss programs and support groups in the area. That takes a lot of pressure off you, so you don’t feel compelled to get involved while avoiding potentially emotional landmines.
Again, the key word is support, and the more of it you can offer, the better. Be proud that your partner is taking this initiative, understand that it can be very challenging, and celebrate their victories with them along the way!
If you are considering couples counseling, let the counselors at the Relationship Center of Orange County help you. Call us today at 949-430-7218 or book your appointment via our online calendar.