They want me to nag. I don't want to
November 30, 2009 11:28 AM   Subscribe

Have you succeeded in losing (and keeping off) a lot of weight? Were you in a relationship at the time? Great! What did your partner do to help?

I don't intend for this to be relationship filter. My partner has gained, then lost about 30 pounds in the past, then put on another 50. I love them, and am in it for the long haul, but the only thing that they themselves say works coming from me is guilt and nagging, and I hate doing that. I hate how it sounds/feels, and I really don't like what taking that posture does to us.

In the past, we've tried working out together, meal planning, calorie counting, etc., and sometimes it works, but the only real weight loss came before an event where my partner didn't want to be seen at that size. They described it as the fear of shame from external sources.

Basically, is there a way I can help without going negative? Cause, the positive route hasn't ever helped in the past. I'd live and let live, but we're now running up against real health issues, and I want my partner and I to continue to live happily ever after. Thanks in advance, AskMe.

posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
There are 13,600,000 google results for "weight loss keeping it off"...

The basic answer is that you can't help someone change if they don't want to change. I agree that positive incentives are best, but if you can't promise your parter $1 million or sex with a supermodel as a reward (even then, the results would likely be short-lived), then "going negative" might be your best bet to get them to want to change.

Once you have the motivation, weight loss is the simplest thing in the world.
posted by mpls2 at 11:40 AM on November 30, 2009

How about creating targets with rewards at the end that hinge on getting to the target weight?

Like, "I'll buy you that custom suit/dress you've always wanted but only if you get down to X pounds". That keeps it more positive for you, it is about the reward, but gives the target and potential fear of shame (they don't want the tailor to think they're THAT size) for them.

Or maybe there is some activity they are too heavy for right now (ziplining, rock climbing, pogosticking) that they'd love to do, but have to be below X lbs for the equipment to work correctly.

Personally, I would exercise way more if my husband just said "let's go out for a run/hike/bike" to me every now and then instead of me saying it. I would exercise on my own other times to keep up with him if there was more of a possibility of going out together. Sort of shame by thought of lagging behind.
posted by chiefthe at 11:41 AM on November 30, 2009

Absolutely nothing.

My partner lost 60 lbs before our wedding, due to a lot of factors including starting a weight-lifting routine, having to walk to class, and eating healthier (but not cutting calories as far as I know). Basically, he had a lot of free time and spent an hour or more a day exercising. I didn't do anything to help or hurt his progress during that period, and while his increased exercise motivated me to get in shape, I simply didn't have the time or energy to keep it up. He had the internal motivation and time to achieve his goals, and I didn't.
posted by muddgirl at 11:43 AM on November 30, 2009

I wouldn't want to be the nag, either.

Here are some interesting suggestions that I've seen, alhtough I can't vouch for the efficacy. There are described at this NPR story link (Put your money where your girth is) One suggestion is to draw up a contract (I will lose X lbs by X date), and if you lose you give the $ to a designated person or a charity that you despise. There are online websites for this, too. Anyway, if your partner is competitive, it may work.
In the story it was also mentioned that because a partner did not want to be the nag, someone who wanted to lose weight paid a student to send daily emails (have you worked out? etc.) .

Finally, is there any sort of cool trip/event that you two could go to (a vacation) contingent on accomplishing physical tasks? I gave myself a trip to Alaska for a 5 mile run, which was contingent on completing most of the couch to 5 mile program. I have also paid for bike trips, ~80 to ~100 miles a day, which necessitates getting out at least so many mile each week. Reinforcer for doing something you enjoy. But maybe positive vs negative reinforcers
posted by Wolfster at 11:57 AM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

The basic answer is that you can't help someone change if they don't want to change. Tru dat.

I've battled my weight for years with and without a partner's "help". I've been nagged at, praised, shamed, rewared; positive or negative I've heard it, internalized it and ultimately kept on my unhealthy ways (but I felt really crappy about it so there's that!). The only thing that's worked for me was my good Doctor tiny-fierce-lady saying flatly "you're going to die".

In the end I realize nothing tastes as good as being alive feels. 40 pounds down and 40 more to go within the next year or two.
posted by Allee Katze at 12:00 PM on November 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

* or rewarded even. :)
posted by Allee Katze at 12:01 PM on November 30, 2009

Take charge of initiating trips to the farmer's or health markets, creating shopping lists, and spearheading the collection and cooking of new healthy recipes. You might end up eating healthier yourself!
posted by melissam at 12:07 PM on November 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Take good care of your own dieting and exercise, be inclusive re what you are doing, and be very positive about any lost weight -- wow, you look great! kind of positive. I can never figure out why we all default to negative reinforcement so much -- it doesn't work, while positive reinforcement most definitely does.
posted by bearwife at 12:30 PM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

One thing I do for myself as a part of my weight loss routine is write myself letters. I then give them to my husband and/or my best friend, and ask them to give me these letters whenever I complain that I'm not doing well or start with the "I should"s.

Ask your partner to write themselves some letters, telling them what they think they need to hear to get back on track. Have them write a several for different circumstances (one for "Doing well but feeling like I'm struggling", "Fell off the wagon this weekend, need to regroup", "Have not lost anything in a few weeks and really need to snap out of it", "Have started to gain"). This lets THEM be their own nag, and you just get to be put in the position of the messenger.

There are email services that do this, but it's so easy to ignore an email when you are trying to rationalize being off your weight loss program. Give your partner their letter and have them read it with you. Then ask them how the two of you can work to get them back on plan and make a game plan together.
posted by dumbledore69 at 12:34 PM on November 30, 2009 [5 favorites]

I have recently lost a bunch of weight, and it's too early to tell if I'll keep it off for good, it does feel like a permanent change of habits. My wife was certainly supportive and positive the whole time, but I think it was an important part of my success that it wasn't something we did TOGETHER. She was happy for me, she was encouraging and all that, to be sure, but it was never set up such that I had the extra burden of not wanting to disappoint her or of incurring her wrath or whatever. It helped that I had to do it on my own and for myself.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 12:38 PM on November 30, 2009

If you are uncomfortable doing something your partner has asked you to do, you do not have to do it--especially because your partner's weight is not ultimately your responsibility. The best way to help is to affirm that you love and support your partner in doing whatever s/he wants to do about his or her weight whether that is eating better and exercising or not. Helping him or her develop a really healthy self-esteem will go a lot further in the long run than this particular run at dieting.
posted by Kimberly at 12:41 PM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Wow, I think it's really unfair that your partner is basically asking you to be mean to him or her. That's not what a relationship is about. Your partner shouldn't feel dependent upon your scolding in order to lose weight, and if that's the only thing that he or she feels will motivate the weight loss, it's not going to stay off long-term.

I've successfully lost weight in a relationship but the only thing my partner does for me is to make me feel loved and attractive regardless of how much I weigh - and not try to talk me into eating dessert or pizza or what have you. It's good to support your partner's choices, but you can't really be the motivating factor behind them.
posted by something something at 12:45 PM on November 30, 2009

When I was losing weight, I was most grateful to those in my life who just stepped back and didn't interfere. I had a diet and exercise plan which worked for me, and I didn't want anyone making comments about how I could take a day off from my exercise or how I could have a slice of cake today and it wouldn't matter. I didn't want anyone gawking at what I chose to eat. I just wanted to be able to follow my plan to achieve my goal. I liked to hear people say "You look good!" and the like, but only if they meant it.

The best thing you can do is stand back, toss in some encouragement here and there, and just know that your SO is trying to achieve a challenging goal. Be understanding and sympathetic. Set a good example with your own habits. And try to engage with him/her more than usual, to help fill the void that the lack of food once filled. Reassure your SO that they are loved, no matter what they look like. Ultimately, it isn't dissatisfaction with one's body that leads to lasting, healthy weight loss, but rather a desire to treat oneself better. Make him/her believe s/he is worth it.
posted by moutonoir at 12:51 PM on November 30, 2009 [4 favorites]

If you do the grocery shopping, don't bring home unhealthy snacks. I don't think you should be responsible for anything more than that.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:53 PM on November 30, 2009

I began--and continue--to eat in the "real food, not too much, mostly plants" way. I began--and continue--to ride my bike to work. My partner did nothing. I lost about 30 pounds over 18 months, and have easily stayed in that ballpark for year that has passed since then.
posted by everichon at 12:56 PM on November 30, 2009

...except lots of compliments whenever you see them naked, even if they've been cheating. "...well, you look like you've lost weight"
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:56 PM on November 30, 2009

A big motivator for me was that my wife started getting into running, got in shape, and improved her diet. I didn't want to be one of those Mutt and Jeff couples, so I eventually caught the exercise bug myself.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 1:03 PM on November 30, 2009

If getting nagged by a SO is all it takes, seems like a pretty good deal to me. Win win.

The only way to keep the weight off is to not make excuses for overeating.
posted by gjc at 1:45 PM on November 30, 2009

If your partner is the competitive type, maybe a friendly weight loss competition?
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 1:45 PM on November 30, 2009

Weight-loss is something you do for yourself.

I've lost roughly 40kg over the last three years and it was because I made the decision for myself to change my lifestyle, from eating out, doing the things that were pleasurable instead of good for me.

Don't underestimate the less pleasant side of being obese and that's laziness. Good old fashioned, I can't motivate myself, will someone else please do it for me. It sounds to me like they're you asking to become complicit in his weight-issues and if you let them push this onto you, it's only a matter of time before you become part of the problem.

Don't enable them further by buying into their issues, by taking on some of the responsibility which ought to have been theirs all along. Get him a personal trainer if they needs someone to motivate them.
posted by Ultrahuman at 2:48 PM on November 30, 2009

You can do it. My boyfriend did it. Here's how.

When you go out: order a meal that would satisfy one or the other of you, then ask for a second plate and split it half and half.

When eating at home, do the same re making a meal for one, and splitting it.

When she goes to work, have her try limiting food intake at work to 1-2 lean cuisines + a couple of fruits or V-8s or the like.

Small breakfasts (like a waffle or two from the toaster and a half-glass of milk).

Encourage lots of tea drinking. Little or no added milk, and no sugar. Can be decaf tea - the point is to get the liquids with some taste to them, but without all the calories of sports drinks and sodas and whatnot.

When you see her reach for more food than that, just let her know she doesn't need it, in a nice supportive voice. If you need to, put your hand on hers gently, or give her a hug instead. She just wants physical pleasure and is so accustomed to food for that. Try and replace it with other pleasure.

(optional) Have a distainful attitude to greasy, crappy food. Like a "why would anyone put that in themselves? Ew!" attitude. Just relax it around other people because it's annoying to the majority of people who eat greasy food.


I had a boyfriend who did the above for about a year and a half or two years and I dropped 20-25 lbs in that time. Note, he was skinny, so he didn't eat much and eating about what he ate made sense. We also saved money on meals out. If there's one thing I'm really happy about from that relationship, that will give me lasting rewards, it's the new eating habits.

Also, in addition from habits from the ex's help with the above stuff, I learned that stomach pain with hunger is due to overeating the meal or day beforehand. It's sort of hunger, but it's not. It's really due to mistreating my body earlier, and without overeating earlier, hunger feels "normal" when it does come - that is, slight discomfort, not the searing pain that I'd been used to, and that was sometimes forcing me to eat. Also I learned that if I can suffer through that pain, my stomach will shrink to normal size and I don't actually have to eat all that much the next meal to feel satisfied. If, on the other hand, I eat *during* the pain to alleviate it, I'll have to overeat to really feel satisfied.
posted by lorrer at 3:02 PM on November 30, 2009

Hoooook. I'm going to post something unpopular that may not be true, but I believe it is based on my personal experience with my own weight loss.

Your partner is fat because they don't care enough to prevent it.

There. I said it. Weight Loss is about smart effort, intelligent diet and will power. Some of the food will *suck*. The exercise takes up time and is boring and painful. Salads aren't as delicious as fries. That's too bad.

With myself, I put up with walking home for an hour, shitty food, being hungry for a few months (Not starving, just a bit hungry) and was rewarded by losing 20Kg in under a year. That's over 45 Lb if my metric to crazymeasure conversion is right.

Did I keep it off? For 6 months. Is it going back on? 4Kg has, and you know why? I stopped exercising the willpower, stopped using the muscles, stopped skipping the chips. It. Is. MY. Fault. And I've sucked it up, arrested it and I'm dropping again.

My partner is not a help. He doesn't notice any loss "Because I see you all the time". He eats whatever he wants and that's good. I think making someone (Even if they 'want to help') eat the same diet as you is unhelpful and rude. So he orders the chips and the sauce and the sides and the softdrink, and I eat steak with a dash of salt and oil and a salad and water and you know what? Awesome. I actually *LIKE* good food, regardless of its health component.

So. Can you help? ... Not really. Nagging, I think, is allowing him to not have the willpower himself. He won't keep it off unless you keep nagging. Does that sound healthy? Reminders once a day at max is all I'd do... And positive ones: "Hey, didn't you say you were going for a run tonight. It's getting late, if you're still planning to you should go soon". I think there's a lot to appreciate in a good vege dish, but you have to develop a palate for it... Modern foods from jars and even traditional recipes can train us to like heavier meals more.

If you're the cook, you have some control. Try to make things better, but also understand that you don't want him "sentenced" to shitty diet food, so serve dressing with salad... Just make it from a dash of olive oil and balsamic. Don't eliminate carbs, but cut down on them (slowly).

Ultimately... It's up to him. It may be your relationship, but it's his body, willpower, hunger and actions.
posted by Quadlex at 3:14 PM on November 30, 2009 [6 favorites]

Work out together. (Yes, I realize that eating -- not working out -- is the key to weight loss, but working out and eating right go hand in hand for me, psychologically.)

I LOVE to work out -- I feel great when I work out, even on the days I DON'T work out. But I HATE HATE HATE waking up in the morning to work out. So my SO and I force each other out of bed 3 days per week. Having a partner makes all the difference.
posted by coolguymichael at 5:06 PM on November 30, 2009

In the past, we've tried working out together, meal planning, calorie counting, etc., and sometimes it works...

Apologies if I misunderstand (and for the double post!), but it sounds like you approach these as short-term solutions. They aren't.

Fitness (when you actually want to "keep it off") is a lifestyle decision. It's not: "I'm going to count calories until I lose 30 pounds." It's: "I'm going to eat sensibly and healthfully, and exercise faithfully so that I can look and feel great as long as I'm capable, for myself and for my SO."

It's hard work -- especially in the beginning -- but once you've made the decision, it's shockingly easy.
posted by coolguymichael at 5:15 PM on November 30, 2009

"the only real weight loss came before an event where my partner didn't want to be seen at that size"

Bad attitude. That might have been significant weight loss, but it wasn't real, because crash dieting in advance of an event is a great way to ensure that you'll gain it all back (and more), soon.

Lifestyle change. If you truly want your partner to lose the weight and keep it off, you might need to make that lifestyle change too, even if your appearance suggests you don't "need" to.
posted by telegraph at 4:55 AM on December 1, 2009

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