How do I encourage my wife to lose weight...?
August 10, 2010 11:41 AM   Subscribe

How do I encourage my wife to lose weight...?

Don't get me wrong, there's no lolfatties or hurf durfing here. I'm way too heavy myself (BMI over 35) but my wife worries me.

She's a foot shorter than me and has a BMI over 40. There's talk that she may have a medical condition that causes weight gain (and not the 'glandular' excuse, but a rather serious life altering one) but when we eat she'll load the same amount of food onto the plate as I do. And she'll finish it, even if there's way too much for me to get through.

How to I broach the subject of overeating? I'm terrified she's going to take any comment as an attack against something she can't help for medical reasons.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (57 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You don't. At all.

You start exercising and let her make her own choice.
posted by jefficator at 11:43 AM on August 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

Previously 1

Previously 2
posted by Perplexity at 11:46 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Take charge of the cooking. Prepare smaller amounts of food. Tell her you're trying to get your own weight under control, and if she wants more food than that she should prepare it herself, but you don't want to prepare or serve more than that or you'll be tempted to hurt your diet.

Helps if this is true.
posted by hermitosis at 11:47 AM on August 10, 2010 [14 favorites]

but when we eat she'll load the same amount of food onto the plate as I do.

Honestly, if you are way too heavy yourself, why are you primarily focusing on fixing your wife's overeating? Why is the problem that she eats as much as you do, and not that you eat as much as you do?

I totally agree that your wife's health is something valid to be concerned about it in this situation, but I think this is one of those circumstances where you need to solve your own problem first before solving hers.
posted by Ashley801 at 11:47 AM on August 10, 2010 [23 favorites]

You say, "we should start walking once a day after dinner"

or you say, "I'm sick of being unhealthy - let's start dieting"

keywords: WE, US, TEAM

otherwise, it may not go over well.
posted by KogeLiz at 11:47 AM on August 10, 2010 [27 favorites]

You can't- exactly what jefficator said. It's her decision and anything you do to try and bring it up will end up hurting her.
posted by TheBones at 11:47 AM on August 10, 2010

I'd agree with the answers you've already gotten if this was just an aesthetic concern. But with a BMI of 40, this falls in the category of "serious health threat"--and one you share. Tell her you want to grow old together and that you BOTH need to see a doctor to figure out what to do next.
posted by availablelight at 11:49 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Start cooking, and make small portions.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:49 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

...and by BOTH, I mean, you're there getting advice on how to address your weight-related risk factors as well.
posted by availablelight at 11:50 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's not a question of you persuading her she needs to eat less. Since you guys are both basically off the charts overweight, you both need help. And you need to find out what's what about the medical condition, not rely on "talk" out there somewhere.

Tell her that you've decided to do something about your own weight, and that you think it would be a good idea of both of you went to a doctor for some advice about diet and exercise, since you would both benefit from that. (Note that this can be done without brining up "overeating.")

If this leads to an honest discussion, great, but keep the focus on yourself or "us", not her and how much she eats. If you can get some counseling, and keep that same focus, things will go in the right direction.
posted by beagle at 11:52 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

You have to change the entire culture in your household, from one of an unhealthy lifestyle to one of a healthy one. The change must be decisive, noticable, and absolutely consistent.

Change your eating habits. Clean out the fridge. Go out walking 5+ days per week. Etc. You must do this all together, or else it will be hypocritical.
posted by eas98 at 11:52 AM on August 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

Start a reasonable diet/exercise program for yourself. Ask her to help you, with your goals.

About all you can say to a beloved spouse is, if the subject comes up, that you think the person is gorgeous and attractive, but that you worry sometimes about their health. You can say this only rarely, and again, only if it comes up because your spouse has raised it.
posted by bearwife at 11:53 AM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

You should NOT say "WE SHOULD START WALKING". You should NOT use the word SHOULD because SHOULD is judgmental.

What you should do is have a conversation with your wife that includes "hey, I am worried about my health, and your health, and I'd like to start doing something about my health, and I'd love to help encourage you to do something about yours, because I want to live a long and happy life together. I'm hoping we can encourage each other. I know this is really hard, but I want to try."

And then you 1) set a good example WITHOUT TALKING ABOUT IT JUST BY DOING IT; and 2) INVITE her to do things. as in "Honey, I'm going out for a walk, would you like to come with me? I'd enjoy your company."

Whenever my husband says "you should" or "we should" I automatically say no, even if I want to do what he's suggesting, because I read judgment into his statement, whether it's justified or not.

You do this with her, or you do it on your own, before you do anything to address her. Because, dude, it isn't like she doesn't know she's fat; it isn't like she doesn't know she should exercise. So you know, have a conversation about it with her if she wants to fercrissakes. A real conversation. While you hold her hands and tell her how much you love her.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:56 AM on August 10, 2010 [8 favorites]

Talking about a partner's weight is obviously really scary and fraught.

But if you are truly scared for her, and you sound like you are, I don't think that keeping that completely to yourself for fear of offending her is going to do anything but cause a serious strain on your relationship.

Does she know you are concerned? Express your concern. (She may have some about you too.)

Tell her she's got your support. (You may need hers too.)

And that's about it -- you can't encourage her to lose weight, exercise, eat less, or whatever specifically. She surely knows all that already. Like others have said, take care of your own health and body and be a good example.

Are her doctors giving her advice about the weight loss issue? Diet and exercise specifics should really come from them or other people outside the relationship. For both of you.

Good luck.
posted by pantarei70 at 11:56 AM on August 10, 2010

(sorry that was kind of ranty. but still true)
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:56 AM on August 10, 2010

I remember reading about a recent study that found that people's weight loss or gain tends to be strongly correlated with their friends' weight. If that's true with friends, it's probably true for spouses too.

So, go on your own weight-loss program. Talk about that. Don't tell her she has to do it.

One way to make sure you do not get good results is to frequently eat dinner at restaurants.

Exercise is fine and good but probably won't help much.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:00 PM on August 10, 2010

Echoing what everyone else is saying about making this a team effort. At a BMI of 35+, it wouldn't hurt to be a little worried about your own health, too. Change the way you cook, cut out dessert, add an evening walk a few times a week - it doesn't take that many small changes to add up to a significant difference, as long as you stick with them.
posted by something something at 12:03 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

My wife got hard core into running a few years back and I got pulled into fitness without even really talking about it or planning it (she had a higher BMI than I did, although I am just now hitting the normal ranges). The key was that I was support staff for her. For example, she decided to train for a marathon, so I wound up riding a bike by her with water and calories (and eventually with a Burley trailer with the kid and dog). I helped her with training menu, route planning, and child care for her running. And... I wound up losing forty pounds or so without really even "meaning" to, and have even joined in a few 5Ks along the way, and I used to make fun of people that did that.

So why not do it in reverse? Tell your wife that you've decided you're getting into shape and are going to need some support. Don't tell her what she has to do herself; if she wants to join in the regimen that is a HUGE BONUS. But get her involved in the menu, the training schedule, and the like, and I think you'll find that as long as your commitment and drive stays high that you'll either rub off on her or, at worst, she'll wind up getting with the program accidentally, like me.
posted by norm at 12:04 PM on August 10, 2010 [6 favorites]

do it yourself first. Get "into" the subject (calories, nutrition, BMI, etc) and tell her about them as interesting bits of info you came accross while doing research for YOUR weight loss. Mention in passing something like, wow according to this table I burn only 1500 cals per day, and eat 2000, can you believe it? She'll probably think whoa, I totally burn less calores than him, and I eat just like him or more! DON'T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT HER, she'll reach her conclusions in time.

Buy a scale and make a somewhat visible table where you can chart your weight weekly.
Let her know when you lose 1 pound and make sure she sees how happy you are. Without numbers it's very difficult to see the benefits.

Serve yourself smaller portions, and weigh your food and calculate accurate amounts for yourself (make a bit of a show out of this), and then surrepticiously offer to serve her dish too. Ask her how much she wants. Odds are she'll tell you she'll have a bit less than usual after seeing your plate. The trick here is let her feel she's completely free to mess herself up, but realize that whether she wants ot or know, she cannot claim ignorance when the correct information is RIGHT THERE, sleeping with her.

Good luck! As her husband, you are perfectly right to worry about her. I understand you because that's how I feel about a person I love dearly, being overweight myself. Do it together, and yes, you have the right (and duty) of doing something about this problem. People who tell you to let her be don't know what it's like to see a loved one having a heart attack sign on their forehead.

Ask her to go for a walk with you, because it's too boring to go on your own. make sure you talk and laugh and have a good time when walking, and walk for considerable times. Try to aim for 30-45 minutes a day.

One day, when you sense the time is right, tell her that a BMI of 40 really really worries you. Just mention it. but make sure it's the right time. (40 is crazy worrying. I was at 35 before getting it together and my doctor was not amused)
posted by Tarumba at 12:04 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Don't buy snack foods, don't make more than you can eat at a meal if you can help it, and fill your plate and eat away from the remaining portion, forcing you to get up and get more food, instead of simply spooning more on your plate. And along the lines of portion sizes, find ways to eat more slowly. Talk about the day, life in general, friends and family, future plans, whatever. These are small things that will help, and possibly nudge you towards better habits, hopefully your wife will join you. Talk about the changes you'd like to make to improve your eating habits.

And find out about the potential medical problem as soon as possible, along with all the ways to treat it.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:07 PM on August 10, 2010

Hermetosis and kogeLiz have it. Since you're both overweight, focus on weigh loss and eating less as a team, couching any suggestions here in terms emphasizing your own (sincere) weight loss plans.

You should NOT use the word SHOULD because SHOULD is judgmental.

Duly noted.

posted by applemeat at 12:07 PM on August 10, 2010

Of course I meant hermitosis.
posted by applemeat at 12:09 PM on August 10, 2010

I agree...stay away from judgmental conversations, because most females take weight-related comments to heart--even if you meant for it to be constructive or in her best interests. It can do a lot of damage to her spirit, and an ailing heart is much harder to heal than an ailing body. Nor do you want to turn eating into a negative emotional experience because that will be a recipe for unhealthy eating habits, which in turn creates more health problems. So, refrain from trying to make even the slightest hints--because what's slight to you could actually be devastating to her--and do for YOURSELF what you think is right! She will probably join you when she's self-motivated. No one wants to miss out on a good thing!
posted by doctordrey at 12:11 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think it depends on your relationship. In my last relationship, my partner didn't hesitate to tell me when I had gained a few extra kilos. By the same token, I told her when she wasn't exercising enough or eating too much junk. There wasn't any judgment in it, and neither of us took any offence because the comments only came when they were true. This sort of dialogue helped us keep each other at a fit and healthy weight. We're not the average American, I realize.

The point is this: only you know your wife well enough to know how best to broach the subject with her. I do think it'll help if you get your own weight problems in order because it's easier to take advice from people who are successful, especially if you can see how they've achieved their success. When you're seriously overweight, and it sounds like both of you are, it's not hard to see progress quickly, so this is something you can do for her.
posted by smorange at 12:26 PM on August 10, 2010

Don't make it a weight thing. Make it a health thing. Get tests and, instead of tracking weight, track your health -- blood glucose, triglycerides, LDL and HDL cholesterol, resting heart rate, etc.

"I love the person you are right now and I want to grow old with you. But I am afraid that if we keep up our current habits, we won't get that far. I want to be here for you always, but I need to be healthier if I am going to do that. And I can't do it by myself. I'm going to need your help to create an environment that will help me succeed."
posted by cross_impact at 12:27 PM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

I recommend following the advice above, BUT make it about health rather than weight. Even if you remain fat, exercise and healthy eating make a meaningful difference. Blood pressure, blood glucose, healthy joints, good circulation, heart health -- for a start.

When you think about "losing the weight," it's daunting because "the weight" is a fairly large number of pounds. But if you eat healthier and exercise moderately, you could quickly see an improvement in your energy level and any of those things I mentioned above. Over time, you'd lose weight. Vigorous exercise can lower blood pressure for 48 hours even if your weight stays the same.

If you lose weight very slowly, you'll have a better chance of not regaining it. Also, you're more likely to stick with your health program if weight loss isn't your sole motivator. Shedding 10 pounds in the course of one year is actually great, if all the while you feel good and are lowering various risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.
posted by wryly at 12:31 PM on August 10, 2010

Me again.

for the record, I am a woman, and I knew that I was overweight, but it didn't hit until my husband gave me the intervention. I cried, whined, got defensive, cried some more and then I was like..yeah, you're right.

Granted, it took some time, but in the end I realized that he did not think me less atractive, loved me less, or was considering cheating on me. He was really like wow, at this rate, you'll die in 10 years (and he was RIGHT)

He helped me do sit ups (I ended up doing 100 a day, when I couldn't do even ONE at the beginning), he tells me to stop eating when I am getting carried away, and he tells me to go to the gym when I'm in skiving off mood. It helps. He's awesome and I love him for the effort he makes. I know he was dead scared of mentioning it, and he was also a bit upset that I couldn't control myself (I love food) until I ended up telling him that if I could control myself, I wouldn't have the weight problem in the first place, so I do need him to tell me what's on his mind. We have a brutal honesty policy about most things.

The approach I suggested up there is what I would use for say, my mom. Because she has a different personality than I do, and because I like being alive.
posted by Tarumba at 12:32 PM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

Each of you should go for "regular" physicals, which you may or may not have been doing consistently, I don't know. Each of you should go to the other's appointment. Let the doctor scare some fear of death into her. Possibly into you as well, as a side effect - I have no idea what shape you're in aside from a BMI of 35.
posted by Citrus at 12:32 PM on August 10, 2010

How about introducing an activity that gets you both moving? Go dancing - take a Salsa, Ballroom or even Line Dancing class together. Go on short, scenic hikes. Just get out of the house and do something together, even a walk around the neighborhood in the evening. Get interested in cooking, go to the farmer's market and get some great veggies. Cook them. I think it's less about "you need to" and more about "we need to change the way we live and eat." I would consider lifetime habits to be a lot like a big ship moving at top speed. You can't change direction right away, you just have to start steering in the way you want to go and let time and momentum take care of it. If you make this into a big deal, you're going to get big resistance - even if she knows you're right. Take the helm and steer.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:37 PM on August 10, 2010

Whatever you do, don't broach it yourself, rather have a friend of hers talk to her about it. This is not an area that husbands can venture into without very bad consequences later to intimacy - i.e. she will constantly feel like you're judging her forever after. Friend. Talk. Not. You.
posted by watercarrier at 12:49 PM on August 10, 2010

Tell her that you are going to try and lose weight and to do that you would like to take over the shopping, planning and preparation of all meals and THEN DO IT.
posted by marsha56 at 12:49 PM on August 10, 2010

I do not wish to derail this thread with irrelevant information or argument, so suffice it to say that I think the "set a good example" and "just do it for yourself and invite her along" and "you've got no right to judge if you're not skinny either" are bunk. Making changes solely in your own life - and then "subtly" inviting her to join in - without having a conversation with her about your concerns and your goals is patronizing and just differently obnoxious than ordering her to get in better shape. She's your wife, not a 5 year old or a hothouse flower.

Mind you, nothing you're going to say to her is a surprise. There's not going to be a "Wait, what? I'm fat??" moment - she's well aware of her weight just as you are of yours. The question is whether she cares as much as you do and whether she's willing to make any changes.

That's what makes it important to sit down with her and say "hey, I've been thinking more about our health and our weight recently and I'd like to figure out some changes we can make." You may or may not be people who exercising together works for. For some people having someone to work out with is key. For others it is discouraging. You may like different kinds of exercise, and in my experience the most effective kind of exercise is the kind you like enough to be willing to keep doing.

Maybe this is about activity, maybe it's diet, maybe you both have metabolic disadvantages. Who knows. Have a conversation about it and figure out what you can do to make it easier and what you can do individually and together. Hire a nutritionist. Or any number of other ideas the she may offer as well. Just involve her in this like she's an adult who you love and respect rather than someone you don't dare have an honest conversation with.
posted by phearlez at 12:50 PM on August 10, 2010 [8 favorites]

Hi. I am a very overweight girlfriend of a loving, thinner (and active) partner who would like me to lose weight for health reasons (well, and a variety of my own, just because she wants me to be happy) and who does what she (the partner) can to help me while I work on it.

These threads always kind of kill me, because a lot of the commenters are like "cook the food for her!" and "exercise with her!" and all of these relatively simple solutions that, well--

For some people, losing weight means that they just need to recognize how much they are eating and then cut back a lot and get a little obsessive about exercising. Once they understand what it takes, they can make that decision to lose the weight, and whatever emotional freight they are also carrying along with the pounds does not wreck the work they do, and can be dealt with in its own time (or, happily, evaporates once they've lost weight). I know people like this, so I recognize that they exist.

For a lot of other people, there is a layer of emotional tangle to get through before the weight loss process can really start. This type of person recognizes that they need to lose weight, and sometimes they even have a good idea of what practical steps they need to take, but they have a lot of, like, crap built up that makes them unable to really do it for a long time (not forever, I sincerely hope). This emotional tangle is unique to each fat person, I think. I tell you this because I want you to recognize that it's not simple. It took my partner a while to really get that about this process, I think.

Which is not to say that "cook for her" and "exercise with her" are bad answers. They are not, in fact, and I encourage you to be the motivation to have and eat healthy food around the house, as well as suggest exercise now and then. However, I think it's important to remember not to judge her if she turns down the exercise or the healthy food--not that I know you or that you ever would, but don't even smirk or sigh if you are inclined to do that sort of thing.

Also? You have limited resources. You can't diet for both of you. You can't be her answer, in this, and if you are overweight yourself you know that sometimes it's hard not to want pizza and ice cream for dinner. Are you willing to always be the one who steps up and says "this is a bad idea"? Anyway. Anyway! Here is a list of things my partner does to help me in my efforts (and a couple of things she should does, but doesn't always have the energy to do):

1. Never begrudges the cost of therapy or exercise equipment. Or healthy vegetables that come from the (annoyingly pricey) farmer's market.

2. Provides a voice of reason when I want to eat out for dinner or go buy ice cream when it is not the right time for eating out or ice cream. She doesn't say "aren't you trying to lose weight?" She says, "I don't know, I kind of don't want to eat out/make pie/eat raw cookie dough tonight. We did that last night/are going to eat out on Friday/etc." It helps. Basically, she lends me her strength in the face of temptations. Of course, sometimes we give in together, but it often works out for the best.

3. Invites me to go walk or exercise, and doesn't turn me down when I suggest it (most of the time).

4. When we exercise together, she makes it pleasant and lets me go at my own pace so I don't dislike the activity and avoid it in the future. (well, most of the time she does this. After we talked about it.) The idea, for me, is that forming the habit of exercise comes first. Intensifying comes second.

5. Stays active herself, which inspires me.

6. Loves me. Dorky? Yes. But also true: Being loved, demonstrably and consistently, by someone is incredibly helpful because I know that her love is not contingent on my weight. That takes some of the, er, weight off of my weight loss process. I'm not going to lose her if I fail. And that matters a lot, because that kind of pressure would make it so much harder for me.

7. Never, ever gives me crap about what I do eat (well, except that one time that I might still bring up now and then when I'm angry)(kidding, sort of). After a big ol' barbecue dinner, she might say "god, I feel full and I wish I hadn't eaten that," but her gaze does not then turn on me and what I ate, at least not where I can see it. I am left to decide all by myself whether that eating was worth it, given my goals. I think that independence is terribly important.

Man, today is my lengthy comment day. It's because work is annoying. I hope this helps! Good luck to both of you.
posted by hought20 at 12:54 PM on August 10, 2010 [29 favorites]

Er, should do, not should does.
posted by hought20 at 12:55 PM on August 10, 2010

She could be fat and she could still be healthy.

BMI is not necessarily gospel.

The physical condition that causes weight gain is probably PCOS. Perhaps you should find out what the condition is, and read about it. There are ways to eat with PCOS that help your body to digest the food more efficiently. But there is a huge morass of disinformation around what works for PCOS and there are a million hucksters promising instant weight loss.

Is she on medication? Is she seeing an endocrinologist? Is she seeing a physician? There are medications that can help you do better at weight loss.

Understand that if it's PCOS, losing weight is not a fucking picnic.

If you're also fat, then you have no moral ground at all to start taking food away from your wife. I'm not saying that you're going to do that, but you can't come here with "I'm fat but my wife is fatter!!1111" if you're not making your own lifestyle changes.

Things that help: put the food away after you serve it. Measure out the portions, eyeballing it is not a good way to do it. Don't watch TV while you eat, sit at the kitchen table and do it, then you eat more mindfully than you do watching the news. Plus you're not tempted to sit there afterwards & have seconds. Wait about 20 minutes before having seconds. It doesn't matter if that means you have to take the leftovers out of the fridge and heat them up.

You don't say anything about what you eat. If she has PCOS she should look into low-glycemic foods. Learning about that - notice that I didn't say dieting - has helped me a lot.

I came up with all of this myself...but I have PCOS and it's a crap shoot. All I can do is make small changes. No one sat on my head, told me I was fat, or anything else. I know.

So, Mr. Concerned, make your own changes. Start couch to 5k. Don't finish your portion. Ask for less food. Make your OWN changes. She KNOWS she's fat. If she is overeating, she KNOWS she's doing it. You telling her will not help. She has to figure it out herself.

Fat-shaming does not work, or there would be no fat people.
posted by micawber at 12:59 PM on August 10, 2010 [7 favorites]

You don't. At all.

Oh for heaven's sake.

The guy is married to her, has been for years. You're honestly saying he can't bring this up and have a conversation about about it? 'Cause that's kinda crazy. Communication is key in relationships and sometimes it's the difficult conversations that matter most.

OP, bring it up in a non-accusing way, as something you both need to do. Realize that she may be angry or upset. That's ok, but there's still the issue of her having a BMI of 40, that's just plain not healthy and if the person who loves her most, who's closest to her won't bring it up, then who will?

You don't say what her specific medical condition is and it's not completely relevant. The point is that she needs to lose some weight, as do you. Start small, say with just trying to learn about eating healthy and then progressing on to eating healthy for at least one meal.

If she's interested in exercise, I'd recommend something in the pool, so the water helps support her weight and makes it easier to move.

Being overweight destroys the quality of her life and yours. It's expensive and results in mroe medical issues. You'd be remis ss as her spouse if you didn't bring it up. If she feels threaten or attacked, that's ok, try a different angle and emphasize that it's something you both need to do and you're willing to do with her. But frankly, she needs to be confronted and something needs to be done.

Ultamiately, she'll need to decide for herself on whether to do it, but it's important that some close to her, not just a doctor, bring up the issue.

Good luck!
posted by nomadicink at 1:01 PM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

Make it fun and a team-sport, not just by walking together or trying to eat less together, but by doing things she probably thinks you would never want to do with her. The cliche things that stereotypically make women swoon, like

Take a ballroom dance class. Not just one or two-- sign up for weekly lessons. They make you feel thin and graceful and make you want to BE even thinner and more graceful.

Take a healthy-eating cooking class together. Make a point to make the healtyh meals together as a sort of standing date night, even when classes are over.

Make a light picnic and go for sunday walks in the park.

Whenever one of you reaches a weight loss goal, go shopping together for new clothes.

If it's something she already wants to do with you, it will help your marriage AND your waistlines, and she can think of it as "yay-- romantic dates!" as opposed to "my husband wants me to do something to be less fat."
posted by np312 at 1:10 PM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

If she's interested in exercise, I'd recommend something in the pool, so the water helps support her weight and makes it easier to move.

Because if there's something a fat woman wants to do, it's put on a bathing suit in public.
posted by micawber at 1:11 PM on August 10, 2010

Because if there's something a fat woman wants to do, it's put on a bathing suit in public.

I don't know - I've known plenty of overweight women who do swimming, water aerobics, and the like in a pool, and aren't self conscious about their bodies when they do it. I also have known plenty of normal weight women who wouldn't be caught dead in a swimming suit of any type due to body insecurity. I had this all throughout my 20's, and I had a normal weight at the time.

In the last water aerobics class I was in, I was by far one of the skinniest people there - and I'm no longer a skinny person.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:41 PM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Because if there's something a fat woman wants to do, it's put on a bathing suit in public.

Sure, it can be difficult in my experience on a personal level and swimming regularly at a pool, it's overcome. The pool can be especially good, as people who thought they couldn't move very well come alive with the support of water and remember the joy of various movements.
posted by nomadicink at 1:44 PM on August 10, 2010

Learning portion control, in this culture of supersized junk food, is really hard.

I'll add to what others have said: look to your own house. Be an inspiration. If you say anything to her at all, say that you're afraid for her life, not that her portion sizes are too big.

If you're secretly upset about her 'gluttony,' talk to a counselor. For yourself, not for her.
posted by goblinbox at 1:50 PM on August 10, 2010

Take care of yourself first. Your focus is in the wrong place.
posted by Miko at 2:14 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

My husband and I tend to influence each other's eating habits (for good and ill)--if he doesn't feel like dessert, I tend to skip it, too, etc. So I do think there's something to the idea of your taking a more active role in family meal-planning. HOWEVER. Her taking steps toward healthier eating would be a pleasant side effect, not the main goal: the main goal should be that you, yourself, take charge of your health. She might never suffer the consequences of her poor health habits and you might suffer terrible consequences of yours, even if your BMI is technically lower than hers. You can't know yet. If you think she should take charge of her health for the good of your family, you should take charge of yours for the good of your family.

Schedule yourself an appointment with your primary care doc and/or any specialists she recommends, see a nutritionist, hire a personal trainer--take whatever steps make sense to you to start making and achieving health goals. Then, if you decide in the future to talk to your wife about her health (and I don't think it's off-limits for spouses to talk about weight and its health ramifications), you can do so from a perspective of, "I know exactly how hard a struggle it is to get healthy after developing bad habits."
posted by Meg_Murry at 2:28 PM on August 10, 2010

My BMI has been all over the map - my husband has seen me at many sizes. Believe me, I have ALWAYS known when I wasn't healthy. Nothing he said or didn't say would have made a bit of difference. I only lose weight successfully when I really, really want to. For me, it is a major shift in thinking from random eating to weight loss eating. Like you are turning on a light switch - I could never force it just to please him or anyone else, no matter how I might want to.

Right now I am trending downwards, and the funny part is that he is also losing weight eating our newly-healthy dinners. He didn't need to lose any weight, but he actually enjoys lots of fresh vegetables, something I have had to learn how to do.
posted by pinky at 2:28 PM on August 10, 2010

I'm sure you love your wife and only want the best for her. But I don't think it's appropriate to encourage her to lose weight; it's not your decision. It's your wife's body. She gets to decide what - if anything - she wants to do about it, even with her health condition. She's a grown person and these are things she has to come to on her own. Assure her you love her regardless* and take care of your own health concerns.

And please, don’t insult her intelligence with “I’m worried about your health/Let’s take walks together/I’ll take charge of cooking.” With all the social conditioning women get about their bodies, she’s already well aware of all the arbitrary standards of appearance she is failing to meet. She’s also aware of the latest fads the diet industry is pushing, her primary care physician’s phone number and – sadly – how ignorant some people assume she is when they give her all that helpful, simplistic weight loss encouragement. What? Put down the fork!? Why didn't I think of that!!

Women have had to fight so hard for recognition that we have the capacity and intelligence to make decisions about our own bodies; (I’m looking at you, anti-abortion movement) don’t undermine her by presuming that you more than she does about what’s best for her body.

*If you actually do, I have no idea if the weight is a deal-breaker for you.

posted by Space Kitty at 3:09 PM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

But I don't think it's appropriate to encourage her to lose weight; it's not your decision...

Again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with sitting your spouse down and mentioning the health risks of their weight.

If she was drinking or on drugs or sleeping around, people would encourage you talk to her. There's no reason why weight has to be off limits.
posted by nomadicink at 3:14 PM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm a fat woman in her thirties with a BMI of 38 and according to this thread, I should be dropping dead any minute now. And yet, somehow, I am managing to stay alive to type this.

Dude, your wife knows she's fat. She watches tv, she reads magazines, she probably has a close female relative who reminds her of her fat regularly. She understands the Theory Of How Not To Be Fat. Fat women hear this crap literally ALL THE TIME. Shockingly enough, annoying fat people doesn't make them lose weight otherwise there would be no fat people.

Does she talk about her health issues? Does she ask for your opinions on the matter? If she does, that's great, you can talk about stuff you've read about her specific issues. If not, and she is resistant to you bringing it up in casual conversation, leave her alone.

If you want to worry about someone's fat, focus on your own.
posted by crankylex at 3:18 PM on August 10, 2010 [8 favorites]

Because if there's something a fat woman wants to do, it's put on a bathing suit in public.

I'm fat, and I wear swimsuits, shorts and tank tops in public. Why wouldn't I? Why wouldn't she? Seeing a fat arm or leg isn't going to dissolve the fabric of society.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:48 PM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

Mod note: few comments removed - folks a little less fighting and a little more advice would be great.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:13 PM on August 10, 2010

I vote for encouranging honesty. She may not be able to diet/exercise/make healthier choices without your help. You know her. We don't. You want her around. Do the necessary.
posted by littleflowers at 5:50 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

You know, I think it's absolutely great for you to do this together. And I think it's great to talk about it together and develop a plan together including starting with a doctor's visit to discuss any current health issues that might hold you back.

And to project my own issue, my MIL has had a deteriorating health situation that includes obesity. It started with a knee injury well over ten years ago and now it is an absolute mountain of an issue. Part of this is an unwillingness of my FIL to be confrontational. So, you know what, now her children are being *very* direct about her health and its impact on them. It's very unpleasant. But, also, guess what? Totally ineffective. However, I think that is partially due to the fact that the reckoning of this is *years* past due. What started out as a fixable issue is now a nearly impossible endeavor. Life moves pretty fast. Work with your wife to make the most of it.

Good luck!
posted by amanda at 6:10 PM on August 10, 2010

The best way is to be an example and gently broach the subject if she starts getting interested in it by way of watching you, but I'd have to agree with crankylex. As with all other things we wish we could change about our partners, it's not going to happen unless and until she wants the change for herself. Change can be very hard for people, even obviously good change like healthy eating and exercising habits. You cannot force her to do this, whether it's telling her she must drop the weight or by asking her to join you. Even if she loses some weight, she will probably regain it until she is committed to a healthy lifestyle for herself.
posted by asciident at 7:56 PM on August 10, 2010

Because if there's something a fat woman wants to do, it's put on a bathing suit in public.

I'm fat, and I wear swimsuits, shorts and tank tops in public. Why wouldn't I? Why wouldn't she? Seeing a fat arm or leg isn't going to dissolve the fabric of society.

If you read my original comment you would see that I don't think that at all, but yet some fat women I know would find it uncomfortable, and some thin dude (assuming on my part and I could be wrong) coming in here asserting that she'd find it 'freeing' to be able to 'move her body more easily' (when we don't even know that she has that problem) - it's not always going to be something someone wants to do. I absolutely salute you and any other person of size who says "fuck it" and does it. I haven't worn shorts in public in 4 years because of my own shame. Just trying to say 'TELL HER TO GO SWIMMING!" does not automatically ERASE TEH EVIL FATZ
posted by micawber at 8:27 PM on August 10, 2010

preface: i am a hurfdurf. i promise i am fatter than you or your wife.

first, stop with the bmi already. just. stop.

second, you are BOTH fat, so cannot approach HER, you must approach THE TWO OF YOU. it cannot be about HER, it must be about US.

stop going out to eat or ordering take out. the portions are so much larger than you or anyone actually needs. at least cut down on the number of times per week you go out/order in.

and stop piling your plates. you really don't need that much food. you do now, because you've stretched your stomach and trained yourself to think you need that much food, but you don't. drink a lot of very cold (cold is key, very icy cold) water with your meals--it will help fill you up/trick your stomach into thinking you're full.

decrease the size of your portions. for about a year and a half i was generally eating only about once a day (that's because we could only afford for me to eat that often, not because of some crazy diet, but i digress...) and that really helped me get back on track in regards to normal portion sizes. now, i don't advocate such a ridiculous approach, it was certainly not anything a doctor would ever recommend. but there are tons of comments on metafilter and guides on the 'net discussing what appropriate portion sizes are for people of a "normal" weight.

if your trouble is actual hunger, don't fall for the eat only three meals a day thing. eat several smaller meals throughout the day. that is another thing that works for me. by doing that i am not starving by lunch or dinner time and therefore don't pig out and have a heaping plate of food. i have a few smaller "meals" throughout the day to keep my hunger at bay.

as far as exercise, i think it sucks balls, which is probably why i'm still a disgusting fat ass. however, you're not going to get healthy if you don't exercise, so you need to do it. start slow! big bodies are just not meant for running and the like. if you're not very active now, your joints and muscles and such will take a little getting used to being used. you don't want to hurt yourself because that might make you give up. just remember that even walking is exercise, and once you get used to that and your body is comfortable with being used, you can move up to something more fun and exciting, if you feel like it.

and while your new approach does need to be about BOTH OF YOU, if you don't want to exercise together, don't force it. some people are just independent worker-outers and there's nothing worse than some sweating person sweating next to them. it's enough to know that both of you are committed to getting healthy together, even if you aren't literally doing it together.

you both know the health risks of being fat, especially if you've ever been to the doctor for even an eye exam since you've been fat. there's no need to preach to your wife about those. she knows. you know. everyone knows. i know that i'm probably going to die of diabetes or a heart attack or a stroke (or cancer!) and that losing 150lbs would greatly reduce the risk of at least three of those things. your wife knows that too. but weight loss, especially of such a large amount, is such a daunting thing. there will be ups and downs. but you have to be in it together because you love each other and you don't want to lose each other to something as stupid as pizza and cheese fries.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 1:47 AM on August 11, 2010

Nthing the comments above that say she knows fine well she is fat.

There's a nice way to do this and a bad way. The nice way involves you taking charge of your own habits and getting her involved. The bad way is fat-shaming, or putting her on some kind of regime while you stay the same.

The other thing you need to do is absolutely rule out any underlying conditions - I take medication that makes my appetite go haywire, so I've been trying to eat more filling but low-fat food in the morning (oat cereal rather than toast). If she has anything that is contributing to the problem it is probably much worse for her than eating too much and you need to identify and deal with it.
posted by mippy at 1:51 AM on August 11, 2010

but yet some fat women I know would find it uncomfortable, and some thin dude (assuming on my part and I could be wrong) coming in here asserting that she'd find it 'freeing' to be able to 'move her body more easily' (when we don't even know that she has that problem) - it's not always going to be something someone wants to do.

I am not a thin dude and my comment was based on what I've heard several overweight people say, i.e. starting exercise in the pool made it easier for them to motivated.
posted by nomadicink at 4:01 AM on August 11, 2010

I'll second that. One of my cousins, who was extremely obese, dropped 100 pounds in a year by aqua-boxing. She loves it. She's still got a lot more weight to lose, but that's remarkable weight loss all the same.
posted by smorange at 11:43 AM on August 11, 2010

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