How to help someone who won't help themself
July 23, 2009 8:58 AM   Subscribe

How do I deal with a spouse who is overweight and unhappy about it? He has been in this situation for 10 years. I’ve tried to be supportive, but I’m getting tired of hearing him complain and not seeing him do anything concrete to get results.

I love my husband. He’s an amazing guy, and we have a very good relationship. But in some ways, we are very different:

- I’m very logical and tend to make decisions with my head, he’s more emotional and goes with his heart
- I like to follow processes; he prefers to “wing it”
- I learn by reading; he learns by watching/doing
- I’m very even-keeled and don’t get flustered easily; he is more sensitive and moody and has many more highs and lows

For the most part, these differences serve us very well; we balance each other out. But there is one area in which it is becoming very frustrating for me. Over the past 10 years he has gained about 25 lbs and he’s extremely unhappy about it. He hates the way he looks, he hates that his clothes don’t fit, he hates that he doesn’t have the energy to do things he wants. It affects him physically because he had knee surgery a few years ago and the extra weight exacerbates his knee pain.

He’s tried to lose weight on his own by cutting calories and exercising, but nothing sticks for the long term and the weight always comes back. It seems like he’s always “on a diet” and always unhappy about that aspect of his life. He is an emotional eater and finds it very hard to resist food. He also tends to latch onto bits and pieces of research without fully investigating them, or devises his own diet based on what he thinks his body needs – but he has never read a proper book on nutrition (or watched a video, or a presentation, or anything). He’s not a scientific person; he feels he can conquer this on his own. But the proof is in the pudding – after 10 years, he’s not succeeded in losing the weight and keeping it off. I feel it’s partly because he’s not properly educated on the topic. I’ve brought home library books, showed him some articles, and tried to teach him the basics of nutrition (I’m not an expert, but I have a good handle on the basics and have no weight issues). But he doesn’t take an active interest in any of it. I also support him by keeping a healthy environment in the house; we cook healthy meals from scratch and don’t buy a lot of snack or junk food. His problem is mainly quantity. The other day I encouraged him to sign up for a 12-week weightloss challenge; it was a series of seminars that would have covered many important topics and provided the foundation he needs. I thought this would be much better for him than a book because of his learning style. But he refused to go, saying he could do it himself.

He complains about his weight a lot, and I lend a supportive ear. But to be honest, after 10 years, I’m getting tired of it. I feel for his situation, but I’m also starting to get resentful. I feel like I shouldn’t have to keep supporting someone who doesn’t want to help himself. Is this wrong of me? What else can I be doing? I do NOT nag him about his weight or make him feel unattractive; we have a loving relationship and no problems in the bedroom. But I do offer advice when he vents. He’s unhappy, and I want to help him be happy.

If you have any suggestions for him or for me, please share. But please don’t suggest something like WeightWatchers – structured “systems” like that don’t work for him (he would very quickly tire of counting and keep track of points). Thanks Hivemind.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
If he's an emotional eater, perhaps therapy would be effective in giving him tools to deal with emotional issues other than eating. Do you have the resources to get him some professional help? After he deals with that, it might be a good idea to see if a few sessions with a nutritionist might be covered under your health insurance (if you have it). They'll be another professional who can give him the information/education he needs in the "watching/doing" structure that he finds easier to learn by.
posted by scarykarrey at 9:04 AM on July 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

While portion control may be a significant part of his issue, has he had a physical to rule out other causes which may also be in play here?
posted by onhazier at 9:10 AM on July 23, 2009

Try to convince him to go to a nutritionist.

Also, work out together. This will help him stick with exercising and it's a good way to bond. Exercise is usually an aphrodisiac, so the post-exercise "cool downs" will be a nice bonus, too.
posted by elder18 at 9:17 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Why don't you just sign the two of you up for a non-competitive league sport like soccer or ultimate? If he's got bad knee's then maybe water sports.
posted by maxpower at 9:19 AM on July 23, 2009

Maybe he needs to switch gears from diet and portion control altogether. How about picking up a couple of bikes and exercising together -- biking is pretty easy on the knees (no impact) and effective at burning fat, and exercise in general is a damned good antidepressant.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 9:19 AM on July 23, 2009

I'm wondering if something else is going on here.
I used to be married to someone who behaved this way, except he was always complaining that something was amiss with his health. After exhaustive exams, tests, etc. it was determined that he was in fact very healthy. After a round of couple's therapy it was suggested that all that complaining was because he felt he was not getting enough attention, and that he was never encouraged to develop the communication skills to directly express his feelings and needs.
posted by Cookbooks and Chaos at 9:22 AM on July 23, 2009 [8 favorites]

If you're already cooking healthy meals from scratch and not eating much snack or junk food, your husband probably knows all he needs to know about nutrition.

I do second the therapy (group or individual) if it seems warranted. This may help with the "tiresome going on about it" facet of the problem, because therapy could change his attitude towards food and his weight and thus he'd probably start framing it in a whole new way.

You don't mention exercise or how active your husband is. Could the two of you take up some kind of physical activity that you'll do together at least a few times a week? The knee pain may limit what your husband can do, so perhaps cycling or swimming or just joining the same gym would work. If he's able to be more active, there are other activities you might try, such as walking, hiking, camping, rock climbing, ballroom dancing, etc. The two of you may wind up enjoying your new interest a lot. Another idea is to encourage your husband to join a sports league or exercise class by himself.
posted by orange swan at 9:25 AM on July 23, 2009

Has he been tested for thyroid issues and diabetes?

My other suggestion would be to pack his breakfast and lunch every day and for a while, only keep enough food in the house for a few meals. Only cook two portions and make your plate first. He can't overeat if it isn't there. I realize he can "cheat" and buy other food to eat during the day or whatever, but you can't do this for him, you can only help as much as he allows you to.

I know that sounds stressful, but as a recovering ED person, I know about keeping certain foods and quantities down to a reasonable roar, as it were. I can't have, for example, a gallon of ice cream in my house unless I'm throwing a party. It's just not safe. I also can't make a pot of chili or stew or a week's worth of some casserole and eat it all week--that just doesn't happen. Food in the house gets eaten, whether I'm hungry or not.

Also, find activities that include exercise that don't appear to be exercise based. Can you schedule time out together to visit local museums, arboretums, that sort of thing? Take up a project around the house (remodeling a bathroom) that will incorporate physical activity? Once he slowly builds up his knees by these "non-exercise" activities, he may feel physically well enough to actually enjoy some low-stress exercise time with you. My concern is that if you say "let's exercise together!" this will lead to more complaining--but there are ways to get him active without him realizing you're doing it. Things you'd enjoy anyway that keep him away from the fridge and give you quality time together to talk, hold hands, and walk around?
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:27 AM on July 23, 2009

Is this wrong of me?

Nope. It's a topic very easy for everyone to get wound up in because of what an emotional issue weight is in general, and sure, there are productive and counter-productive ways to engage in and encourage people in getting to and maintaining a healthy weight and fitness level. But really, that seems beside the point--here, it sounds to this particular internet doofus with a silly screen name that the weight loss difficulty is a symptom, not the root issue.

From information given, and the kind of armchair psychologizing that you should take with the usual handfuls of salt given to any cell of any hivemind, it sounds like he doesn't particularly care about losing weight. He cares about the appearance of trying to lose weight. He cares about getting ego stroked at small progress, and the different sort of ego stroking that is getting forgiven and encouraged--repeatedly--when there's setbacks. He likes the energy you put into reading things for him, finding programs for him, encouraging him to try this, try that. He likes the power of refusing from ways outright to default result of just not engaging and committing.

This doesn't mean he's not legitimately unhappy; people are awfully good at getting themselves into cycles of behavior that are bad for them in the long term and even, from an outside perspective, in the short term. But the thing is, in the short term, from where they're at, they're comfortable. They get, in certain ways, rewarded for them.

It also doesn't mean that any of the cycle was intentionally and done with awareness of it. Destructive cycles--and that's what any pattern of behavior that increasingly generates resentment and friction in any relationship is, really--also tend not to be very self-aware things while they're going on.

Short circuit the cycle. That doesn't mean nagging, but it does probably mean some uncomfortable conversations at best. I'd say a skeleton of:

"Honey. I love you. But this whole weight loss thing is now officially over the line of driving me crazy. You need to make a decision here. You either need to get comfortable with being a little chubby and stop whining about that, because I love you anyway, or you we need to start getting serious about the weight loss. Darling, dearest, bright light of my light, based on the last ten years of this, yes it's going to take a structured plan and approach. I will help you with this, and we'll do it together, but it's going to be done because trying to do everything unstructured and planless is only 'working' in that it's making me crazy. Help me help you, or drop the whole thing."

Obviously adjust accordingly for emotional trigger points and whatnot, but without eggshell-walking involved.
posted by Drastic at 9:33 AM on July 23, 2009 [6 favorites]

His problem is mainly quantity.

If you can, try to make small meals with no possibility of second servings, especially on the high calorie items. Keep only small quantities of food in the house few if any snacks other than say fruit. Minimizing carbs can be a big help too. Some people shop every day for that evening and the next morning's breakfast and lunch, buying just enough. When food isn't around it is hard to eat too much quantity. If you have a full stocked pantry you are just asking for over consumption.
posted by caddis at 9:33 AM on July 23, 2009

Have you considered that when he vents, all he wants is emotional comfort and not for you to try to fix everything? More often the gender roles are reversed here, but that's the first thing that occurred to me when I read this. I think if you realized you're not expected to fix everything you might be less stressed by the situation. You can't force your husband to lose weight, no matter what good ideas you or others might have, and that's all there is to it. Reassure him you find him attractive no matter what, and when he starts new diets always be supportive.

I don't mean to say that you shouldn't look for good ideas and try them out, but the issue to me seems to be less than he won't do something than you're getting more frustrated over it than you should be. All you can control is yourself. (It's understandable you'd be frustrated, don't mean to say otherwise.)
posted by Nattie at 9:36 AM on July 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

I am in a slightly similar position. My significant other has struggled with his weight most of his life and even though I want to help, there isn't much I can do. What has worked for us is that I just play the role of the supportive partner, and for my SO, that's all he really needs from me. It sounds like you're doing what you can about making sure the food in the house is healthy, and that's a big start.

There was a time when I used to get really upset that he was upset, but that sort of negative feedback cycle just isn't worth it. I wasn't enjoying being frustrated with him half the time, so I worked on gradually stopping. It's not that I don't care anymore, because I do, but I'm trying to focus on being positive. On zooming in on when he does something that's healthy for him and makes him happy, and making sure I say something like, "That's great!" or "I'm proud of you for doing thing." Feeling like his body was the enemy was not helping him take care of it properly, so he's learning to be more comfortable with himself. It might sound counter-intuitive, but learning to love his body the way it is now, is helping him to allow it to become the body he wants it to be.

There are many things about the Fat Acceptance and the Healthy At Every Size movement that I don't like. However, I do see the inherent value in them, or at least, in the HAES movement. Since you say your husband is more the emotional type, reading Linda Bacon's HAES book might be the kind of thing that he needs. It's not going to tell him to give up because losing weight is a lost cause. Rather, it's going to tell him that he needs to exercise and eat right regardless of losing weight or not, and that's good. I was skeptical of the book but I've heard good things about it, and I read the first two excerpts here and they sound reasonable.

If you can't convince him to read the book, read it yourself and try to implement the idea of it in your life. Be supportive and positive. Go for walks with him. Take a dance class together. Buy smaller plates for the house. And don't bombard him with information. Humans are only good at changing one thing at a time. So let's say he needs to cut portion size and start exercising. He should try to focus on just one and do it successfully for at least three weeks in order to make it a routine, before moving onto something else. It will be slow, but healthy weight loss/body change is slow.

I'm not a nutritionist or a physical trainer so I can't really give specific advice beyond this. What worked for me when I gained a little extra weight was to stop eating dessert (which was easy; I didn't grow up eating dessert so it was a new habit I had picked up and was happy to drop) and to start doing the "eat till you're 80% full" trick. And that was all it took. For most people, it's a lot harder.
posted by quirks at 9:37 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd start researching Health at Any Size. The issue here isn't his weight, necessarily, but the fact that he feels crappy about it. He needs to take care of his body, to eat well and exercise, even if that means that he'll be overweight. Also, take him out to get some new clothes. Really, wearing clothes that haven't fit him in ten years? That'll make anyone feel crappy.

Respectfully disagree with Unicorn on the Cob about micromanaging his food for him. That sounds like a way to breed resentment between the two of you. When it comes down to it, if he doesn't want help, he doesn't want help. He really might just be bitching in the hopes that you'll empathize with him, rather than "fix" him.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:40 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

But I do offer advice when he vents.

This sounds like a classic situation where someone just wants to vent, but the other person wants to fix things. Since you're the one trying to fix the venter, you may be setting yourself up for failure and frustration here. They want to express their emotions and are happy to do so, while you take it as a problem in need of fixing, not realizing that there really isn't a problem per se.

How to help someone who won't help themself

Losing weight is simple in concept but can be hard in execution and follow through. Seeing it as him being unable to help himself isn't correct or helpful, it's just another brick in whatever wall he's banging his head against. If you really want to help, perhaps indulging in more physical activity with him would be a good idea, say a local swim club or biking.

It's perfectly ok to you to have a talk with him about his attitude and how it's affecting you and the relationship. Something like this: "Either lose weight or don't, but please learn to live with whatever you decide. I'll support you either way and love you pieces, but the constant stream of negativity is a turn off."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:49 AM on July 23, 2009 [4 favorites]

This is not a problem of lack of knowledge or differing learning styles. This is him complaining and you reassuring him. Like Drastic and Cookbooks and Chaos note, he really wants the attention. That's fine over a shorter period of time, but TEN YEARS? I'd have been tempted to poison his food by now. Cut off the attention. Let him eat whatever he wants, exercise (or not) however he wants, but don't listen to the complaining.
posted by desjardins at 9:51 AM on July 23, 2009

He doesn't want to lose weight.

He might want to be skinny without any effort, he may be seeking attention. He might feel guilty over his weight and pushes for constant reassurance that you don't hate him for it.

It's fine to support his efforts and encourage therapy. Just know that unless he has genuine interest in actually putting forth the effort in losing weight, it's not going to happen.
posted by Saydur at 9:54 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

My SO was overweight when we got together. I am a keen cyclist and after a few months of my nagging he bought a bike.

Now he not only has a lot of bike accoutrements, a fetish for "bike porn" and a second, speedy city bike, but he has also lost 3 stone.

Go him :) and go you!
posted by greenish at 10:06 AM on July 23, 2009

I feel it’s partly because he’s not properly educated on the topic. I’ve brought home library books, showed him some articles, and tried to teach him the basics of nutrition (I’m not an expert, but I have a good handle on the basics and have no weight issues). But he doesn’t take an active interest in any of it. I also support him by keeping a healthy environment in the house; we cook healthy meals from scratch and don’t buy a lot of snack or junk food. His problem is mainly quantity. The other day I encouraged him to sign up for a 12-week weightloss challenge; it was a series of seminars that would have covered many important topics and provided the foundation he needs. I thought this would be much better for him than a book because of his learning style. But he refused to go, saying he could do it himself.

These efforts are totally well-meaning, but it sounds like they are largely geared to your sense of logic, not his. The difference between him reading the books, you reading the books and teaching him, or him going to seminars may seem like hugely different approaches to you. To him, maybe this seems like three flavors of the same lecture, which are largely abstract anyway.

I'm betting he gets the basic principle of losing weight revolves around consuming fewer calories than you burn.

You two eat healthily at home. Good start. Seconding him finding an activity that he would really, really enjoy. Not "finding a way to get more exercise." The activity should be its own reward. Kayaking? Deep-sea diving? Ballroom dancing? Biking?

Maybe it's something you can do together, or maybe he needs his own thing, or maybe something you can sometimes share but doesn't require your participation would be best.
posted by desuetude at 10:13 AM on July 23, 2009

Your husband was me. I'm not skinny yet, but I finally decided to do something about my flabbiness. It was purely an internally motivated decision, and I'm sure my wife was as tired as you are of listening to me bitch about it. I'm using the hack diet to lose weight.

I was prompted to lose weight by reading the hack diet and realizing it was an engineering challenge, a problem to be solved. This was and is a big motivator for my personality type. Don't know if that would click for your husband. I also realized that having adult-onset diabetes would suck, given the foods I like, and that being obese was putting me at risk for that.

That said, I don't know if my wife had asked me to spend two hours reading through the hack diet whether I would all comes from within on something like this.
posted by maxwelton at 11:13 AM on July 23, 2009

I don't have time to read all the comments but I see it has been mentioned at least once, and I will second (or third or fourth, etc) the idea that you should work out / exercise with him. I see old couples doing the neighbourhood walk in the evenings all the time, and I know for a fact I tend to skip less exercise when someone else is counting on me being their running/jogging/biking buddy.
posted by mbatch at 11:20 AM on July 23, 2009

I want to add the biking thing. The best thing about cycling for exercise is it's actually fun. An evening ride for the two of your perhaps? I tried diet for a while, but found commuting by bike to work the be the answer to the last stubborn ten pounds I had.
posted by toekneebullard at 11:25 AM on July 23, 2009

He doesn't want to lose weight.

This. Losing weight is relatively easy for people who want to, just like playing guitar is relatively easy for people who want to. He doesn't want to.

If he can't do something as simple as figure out how many calories he should be getting (scroll down on this page and use the Harris-Benedict formula) and then keep track of his calories using one of a multitude of free tools (I use, then he has no interest in losing weight.

Your post is a very simple question wrapped in lots of justification and excuses for him. You seem like an enabler, and he's enjoying the attention.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:51 AM on July 23, 2009

- I’m very logical and tend to make decisions with my head, he’s more emotional and goes with his heart
- I like to follow processes; he prefers to “wing it”
- I learn by reading; he learns by watching/doing

He also tends to latch onto bits and pieces of research without fully investigating them, or devises his own diet based on what he thinks his body needs – but he has never read a proper book on nutrition (or watched a video, or a presentation, or anything). ...he’s not properly educated on the topic. I’ve brought home library books, showed him some articles, and tried to teach him the basics of nutrition. But he doesn’t take an active interest in any of it. The other day I encouraged him to sign up for a 12-week weightloss challenge; it was a series of seminars that would have covered many important topics and provided the foundation he needs... But he refused to go, saying he could do it himself.

These shouldn't surprise you. You already know that he works this way. He doesn't research. He won't want to sit in a seminar and take information in. He doesn't want to read a book. He doesn't learn and then try, he learns by trying stuff out. I totally sympathize with your frustration here, because you might as well be describing my partner and I as far as personalities go. I think if I were you, I would be very tempted to fix this by educating him, and it would just lead to fights. A) It's not mine to fix, and B) he won't learn just through me throwing information at him.

My partner has surprised me lately by taking up running. He's kind of just "winging it"; he didn't do nearly as much research beforehand as I would have. But he's actually running and I'm not, so perhaps there's something to that. Now, I couldn't have made him take up running no matter how much I talked at him. He had to mull it over for months, and hem and haw about "thinking of starting" and I would tease him a bit because he still hadn't actually gone running, and then suddenly he had bought running shoes and been running every day for 2 weeks. It had to come from him. He had to get sick of sitting on the couch all on his own; I couldn't do that for him.

Maybe he can also experiment with the "eat until you're 80% full" idea. Rather than saying "I can only eat X amount," try "I am going to eat until I feel 80% full and then wait half an hour. If I haven't forgotten about it by then, I'm allowed to eat a little bit more." Apparently sometimes our "feeling full" lags a bit behind, so that half hour could be just as satisfying as keeping eating.

In the end though, you might have to say "It stresses me out when you complain about this because you're obviously unhappy, but you're not taking steps to solve it. Either take some steps (and I'll totally support you) or please stop venting about it to me. We can talk about it again when you're actually doing something about it." And then you have to hold yourself to it. No stressing yourself out about his issue.
posted by heatherann at 11:53 AM on July 23, 2009

Instead of rehashing what everyone else has said, I'll recommend giving him a copy of Dick Watson's book The Philosopher's Diet. It's not really about dieting, but rather, about the commitment that's necessary to do any difficult thing. Even if it doesn't prompt him to lose weight, it's a great read.
posted by brianogilvie at 12:05 PM on July 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

Exercise - true that this is not something we do together, and we should. I work full-time and have two young kids, so finding time to exercise is difficult. He is a full-time student and his schedule is such that he can work out between classes at the college gym, and he does. He enjoys working out and does so about 2-3 times a week, so that part is not really a concern.

Can he get just a sessions or two with a personal trainer at the gym? He may be able to maximize the benefit of what he's doing for fitness by adding a few other exercises to his routine.
posted by desuetude at 12:10 PM on July 23, 2009

Therapy is something we've talked about and he is actually open to the idea, though he's never actively pursued it.
Same song, second verse, anyone? Nodding-and-smiling-and-agreeing-to-therapy, then doing nothing in the way of even a phone call seems pretty similar to the hating-being-overweight-but-doing-nothing about it issue.

I think I'd have to be the one to actually make the appointment.
If I read the original and subsequent posts correctly, you have a full-time job, two kids to look after and your husband is a full-time student with enough time to exercise between classes at the gym on campus.

Madam, WHY on earth would you have to be the one to make the call?

This is an excellent opportunity for your husband to take responsibility and make the call to the therapist his own damn self.

If he doesn't do it, then he doesn't have the privilege of bitching to YOU about his situation for one more minute.
posted by Cookbooks and Chaos at 12:28 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

OK, since many of the answers here have covered the emotional side, here is what I would do (and have done/am doing) to help with the situation.

1 - South Beach. It is not as much of a diet (since you eat at each meal until you are full) as much as it is a nutrition program. I would suggest trying it for a month. Many people (myself and my wife included) drop over 10 pounds the first month, and while progress doesn't necessarily continue at that rate, it is enough to psych you up to do more. Plus, since the basis (in a nutshell) of South Beach is to remove simple carbs with more complex carbs, it doesn't require doing anything too crazy(like Atkins), and is naturally much more healthy than an average American diet. We have found that after the first two weeks (which was the hardest part), we naturally craved food a LOT less than before, and therefor ate less at each meal.

2 - You say he is already exercising, but going to the gym a couple of times a week and not really putting in the effort is not going to do a lot (as you have seen). Either he should get a trainer and work on building muscle (which causes your body to burn more calories during the day), or he needs to up the amount of exercise. I have found a couple of ways to do this without making it feel like exercise. For me it was a combination of: A)Dance Dance Revolution B)Playing tennis or badminton C)Rock Band (which may sound surprising, but if you play the drums and wear weighted wrist bands, it is quite an arm workout).
posted by markblasco at 1:03 PM on July 23, 2009

Have him check out a few of the blogs that talk about the "paleolithic diet", it's fairly unstructured in the sense that it does not require calorie counting or portion control. The idea is that eating this way induces greater satiety at lower amount of calories, which some small studies support, more here.

PaNu is a good place to start reading about the ideas behind eating paleo. At Darwins Table and Free the Animal provide more recipes and insight as to how people actually eat like this day to day, while mixing in some of the science.
posted by zentrification at 1:36 PM on July 23, 2009

As someone who has had to learn portion control, I found that part of the problem was that I ate too quickly and thought I was still hungry because I didn't wait long enough for the hunger to be sated. I had to intentionally slow down and remember to wait.

I also learned that I would eat for other reasons; entertainment, distraction, comfort. I had to learn to recognize those and give them up.
posted by Obscure Reference at 3:08 PM on July 23, 2009

Losing weight (in the short term) is relatively easy usually achieveable for people who want to and are willing to spend a large amount of time and energy doing so, but keeping that weight off for more than five years is so difficult that a very small percentage of people who try are able to do it.

Fixed that for you, coolguymichael. :)

It sounds to me like his problem is not his weight; it's that he feels bad. As has been mentioned above, you do not have to lose weight in order to make healthy changes in your life that will make you feel better. He might get a lot of benefit from taking this sort of Health At Every Size approach. Also, a physical therapist may be able to help him find ways to be physically active that will help with his knee.

However. That's the advice I'd give HIM. For you, I'd say, listen to those above who have pointed out that the real problem for YOU is that his constant harping on the subject is an issue, and take steps to deal with THAT problem, not the one of whether he goes to a weight loss seminar or whatever.

(On a side note: I am not your husband and do not know his feelings on the matter, but if a loved one tried to get me to go to a weight loss seminar, I would either be incredibly hurt or incredibly pissed (or both!), even if it was done with the best of intentions, and even if I myself thought I needed to lose weight. I know you are trying to help, but it would be REALLY easy to send the message, "not only are you fat, but you are too dumb to realize WHY you're fat, despite every media outlet in the Western world constantly harping on weight loss methods. So here, I've done the intellectual heavy lifting for you, chubbo." So that's another thing to consider.)
posted by oblique red at 4:08 PM on July 23, 2009

I sympathize a lot. Both myself and my husband are a little overweight, and have put on weight recently that makes us unhappy. The difference is that I'm trying to do something about it by daily exercise and healthy eating, and he complains about his weight all the time, but eats cookies and ice cream for dinner and utterly refuses to exercise. I'll tell you, I'm at the point of real frustration with him over this.

However, I do have some hope. I think my husband, like yours, has had problems with depression for a while and they're contributing to his unwillingness to do anything to help himself. I finally convinced him to get to therapy and then to a psychiatrist, who put him on an antidepressant. Since then he's really had an improvement in his mood and his openness to new things. I'm still working on the exercise thing, though.

Just dropping in to offer solidarity, I guess.
posted by threeturtles at 12:06 PM on July 24, 2009

IMHO, he needs a same sex buddy with whom he exercises regularly and will motivate him to not fall off the wagon. Although time constraints are always an excuse (sometimes legitimate), exercising should be more than 2-3 times a week (more like 4-5). When we were hunters and gatherers, running after prey, did we take 4-5 days off? More exercise is an appetite suppressant. Lastly, lunchtime (or between class) exercisers generally do not work out as hard as exercisers at other times of the day. Why? Many lunchtimers don't have an opportunity to shower, thus they don't want to get too sweaty; that's not working out.

So my recommendation is to suggest exercising before or after work/school and find a buddy to do it with so it'd be harder to just pack it in one day (because he'd be standing up his bud).
posted by teg4rvn at 12:08 PM on July 24, 2009

The first thing that comes to my mind, is there are some deep issues that really don't have anything to do with eating or food.

You mentioned he was an emotional eater, maybe both of you should begin to evaluate the deep emotions that he has. Or you could at least help him move in that direction.

I have been dealing with some deep issues and concerns myself, and when I get emotional I have to eat... hungry or not. It's an anxiety issue for me.

I try all sorts of things, meditation, exercise and much more. But the ultimate solution is to find out what the issue I'm having is, and begin to deal with it.
posted by nelak at 11:21 AM on August 4, 2009

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