How can I support my fiancee's weight loss efforts without being a "diet cop"?
May 2, 2011 7:14 PM   Subscribe

How can I support my fiancee's weight loss efforts without being a "diet cop"?

My fiancee - like many women in the year before their marriage - has decided she wants to lose some weight before our wedding. She's done programs like WeightWatchers before to varying degrees of success. In the past, she never fully committed to programs. For instance: she'd have a general plan for the WW points system, but wouldn't enter her points into the system, insisting that she was keeping rough track of things in her head. Eventually she'd just stop keeping track all together, which led to her gaining the weight back and being unhappy about it.

To me, it seemed like she was cheating herself by not sticking to it but I never said as much because I want to be a supportive partner and honestly don't think she needs to be trying to lose weight in the first place. My dilemma: It seems like losing the weight would truly make her happier which I'm all about. How can I assert myself if I see her "slipping" without inferring that I want her to lose weight, thus implying that maybe I'm not as attracted to her as I could be?

(posting anonymously to have 100% certainly this will not be found by her and hurt her feelings in any way)
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It's very sweet that you want to be supportive of her. Why not pose this question to her? (Without the part about why you think her last attempt wasn't successful, of course.) Do whatever it is she thinks will help her with her diet, then check again with her after a few days to make sure that it's helping as much as should thought it would.
posted by DrGail at 7:21 PM on May 2, 2011

This is not exactly the same question, but I bet you'll find a lot of helpful tips in that thread.

I'd also recommend being able to talk about this with her. Ask her, "How do you want me to support you?" You can even be specific: "Do you want me to say anything if I see you slipping?"

These conversations are a little scary and nerve-wracking, for sure, but absolutely possible.
posted by hought20 at 7:21 PM on May 2, 2011

You need to ask her whether she wants you to help, and if so, how she would like you to help. Then, you need to respect her decision. Maybe she wants you to remind her, and maybe she doesn't, but what "supportive" means is up to her.

You also, however, have a right to your own opinion and your own needs. I, for example, tend to get really upset when people I love talk about their diets or their weight all the time, especially if they're in a constant cycle of dieting and beating themselves up. I have let people, even people I love dearly and am extremely close to, know that the topic is off limits for me, because I just can't deal with hearing people say such mean things about themselves. If it hurts you to watch her so unhappy about her body, you have every right to tell her how you feel and to ask her to help you in whatever way you need it.
posted by decathecting at 7:25 PM on May 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Just keep telling her you love her and she is fine the way she is.
That's the most supportive thing you can do. You don't want her to become obsessed about weight - that way lies madness. Plus continually gaining & losing is unhealthy. Try to get her focus simply on eating for health.
posted by lazydog at 7:27 PM on May 2, 2011

1. Ask her if you wants you to help.
2. If yes, ask her HOW she wants you to help.

If you *really* want to be helpful,

3. Eat the way she's trying to eat. If she has to avoid certain foods or restrict her portions, don't gorge yourself on delicious unhealthy things around her. If she has to exercise, be game to do it with her. But if it's easy for you to eat that way, or exercise that way, don't point that out. If it's easy for you to lose weight and/or you lose more weight than she does doing that, don't point that out.
posted by Ashley801 at 7:33 PM on May 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Let her know you love her.
Let her know she is beautiful.
Let her know you like her right now, and that her weight loss is not a requirement.

If you start monitoring her you're gonna potentially run into big long term problems. I dissagree with the posters above about talking to her. This is rarely a fruitful conversation (for very complex reasons usually). This is total ninja stuff that people who have 10 years of marriage experience have a hard time navigating. All you can really do is make her feel like a million bucks and then hope she is inspired to blow you away in the ways she chooses to blow you away (note: which might be different than the ways you wish--which isn't necessesarily a bad thing).

If you really must DO something than get into shape yourself and be enthusiastic about these decisions that YOU're making in YOUR life. That's the most healthy option.

The long term game is about building her confidence. That's the ball you've got to keep your eye on.
posted by Murray M at 7:35 PM on May 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

I have a lot of weight to lose. My partner, who doesn't need to lose much, declared that he wanted to lose 15 pounds, and went on the same plan that I did (a website where you track calories eaten and burned through exercise).

I cannot tell you how much that helps. We both struggle with the same temptation to order a Dr Pepper instead of water, we both complain about finding food we're able to eat at restaurants, we exercise together a lot of the time, and we both track our calories. I'm not alone, and he's not sabotaging my efforts (unintentionally, I assure you!) by bringing home cookies or other temptations because he thought it was a nice treat. (They are a nice treat...just not when I'm trying to get back on track and reduce the amount of fat I'm eating!)

Anyway, if you don't need to lose any weight, why don't you pick another fitness or eating-related goal or two like "add 5 pounds of muscle," "decrease the amount of fat I eat," "exercise at least 30 minutes 3 days a week"? You won't be nagging or policing her, you'll be encouraging her by example, and if she's anything like me, she'll be happy that you're joining her in trying to improve your health and feel much better about it, instead of feeling annoyed that you get to eat the awesome sloppy pizza and she doesn't.
posted by telophase at 7:58 PM on May 2, 2011 [7 favorites]

Cook for her. Get up early and make her breakfast. Pack lunches and 2 snacks. Make dinner. Anticipate her needs - has it been like 2 hours since she last ate something? Peel an orange and offer her half. Cut up an apple, put it on a plate with one cookie, along with a cup of tea and give it to her while you are watching TV together. Cut up a pear, put it on a plate, put a slice of Manchego on it. Make sure she always has a glass of water handy.

Also, eat what she eats. Don't make her an egg white omelette while you are about to tuck into a bacon buttie.

Remember that scene in Forrest Gump when Jenny is sick in bed and Forrest comes in with a tray that has a cup of tea and orange slices on it? Do that. You take care of her. Be her Forrest.

btw I agree with the people saying to accept her as she is. However, you asked and you want to help her. Lift a finger. Don't just occasionally wave a pom pom and then give her pointed stares any time she is about to put something into her mouth.
posted by spec80 at 7:58 PM on May 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

Farmers Market Date!
posted by amtho at 7:59 PM on May 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh boy, this is such a hard question. My husband and I deal with this a lot since I've gone on and off healthy eating/exercise regimes and he always wants to "help." Honestly, it's usually not helpful and often hurtful because any sort of suggestions/encouragement/reminder ends up feeling to me like judgment and disapproval. This is clearly my issues because he feels the same way you do - just wants me to be happy.

Anyway, just wanted to second the idea of asking her (a) what role she wants you to play, if any, in her efforts, (b) try to avoid eating tempting foods around her (if possible) and (c) be prepared for her to change her mind about what she would like you to do. Weight loss is so tied to approval and self-image for most women and while I think it is so great you want to help, it really is a difficult line to walk.

Good luck!
posted by lvanshima at 8:29 PM on May 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Make it a joint effort to eat better and move more. Talk to her about being healthy, not about the pounds.
posted by freshwater at 8:46 PM on May 2, 2011

Points systems never work because they make you think about food. Maybe it'd be best to suggest you exercise together in a joint keep fit programme instead. Get her to write the shopping list then you go to the supermarket and buy it, that way she's not tempted to slip in something she shouldn't and you're helping out rather than admonishing her. Don't buy stuff that's full of calories and keep it in the house. If you want biscuits or sweets or cake or oven chips or chocolate or something then buy it and eat it out of her sight. If something's in the house, it's going to get eaten. If you haven't bought it, you can't eat it. Tell her she's beautiful and sexy and have sex with her a lot. Never ever tut or sigh and say anything if, god forbid, she has a kit kat or something otherwise you might not end up getting married at all.
posted by joannemullen at 8:53 PM on May 2, 2011

Make a set lifting schedule for yourself and have it setup where you can do it the same time as her.

Eat healthy with her.
posted by zephyr_words at 9:51 PM on May 2, 2011

My husband can be a huge help when I'm trying to eat more healthily! First off, I love it when it bakes! Except I don't have very good impulse control when delicious chocolate chip cookies are sitting around the house. So I asked him to bake less.

Same with other sweet treats: he doesn't nosh on this stuff, but I do, so not having it in the house is a huge help.

When we're out to dinner, sometimes we share a desert. It's much easier for me if he doesn't suggest it in the first place. Or, if we're going out to dinner, he suggests someplace where it's easy for me to eat healthily.

These same things might not work for your fiancee, but go ahead and ask her. She may have very specific suggestions (and I suspect none will have to do with getting her to track).
posted by bluedaisy at 11:05 PM on May 2, 2011

Honestly, the pressures put on women to lose weight (regardless of whether they "need" to or not) are ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. These pressures exponentially increase before any big event, especially weddings.

I'm getting married next year. A helpful friend who is also in the process of planning a wedding sent me links to various pre-wedding checklists of things to do, so we'd get an idea and start planning. Point number two or three in every list I've seen? "Start losing weight for the wedding". Christ.

Now, everybody wants to look their best at their wedding, but society tells us that for women? Our best is one or two sizes smaller than we actually are, independently of what those sizes are. Size 8? You should be a six! Size 6? You could probably get to a four! Lose weight! Fit into the very small wedding dress of your dreams!

You don't think she needs to lose weight, but why does she think she needs to? Is she responding to the very strong pressures to conform to a standard behavior, which assumes you absolutely MUST want to lose weight for your wedding? Obviously, if it's what she's genuinely passionate about doing, you should be as helpful as possible, which boils down to not doing any of the things she feels she can't do (from skipping the gym to watch a movie, to eating that last slice of pizza).

But really? The best thing you could do, as a couple, is start living healthier together. What better way to prepare for a marriage than to start taking care of yourselves for the future? More veggies, more walks, less soda. More time together, more sex, more cooking dinner. This has nothing to do with weight, as well it shouldn't, and everything to do with building a good, healthy partnership.
posted by lydhre at 6:05 AM on May 3, 2011

My husband just flat out started to go to the gym with me 5 times a week. We compare how many calories we burn, and we have a chart on the bathroom door where we both write to our weight down weekly (he's trying to gain). He also encourages me to track my calories everyday, but never really checks. If he sees me eating something crazy, he says something like "is that within your calorie count"

Also, in my case, he was the one who told me I needed to lose weight (I had a BMI of 30, so he was right) and I explicitly asked him to help me as much as he could. I could not make it on my own.
posted by Tarumba at 6:12 AM on May 3, 2011

As I said in another thread, my boyfriend has been a huge help in my weight loss by being supportive. This includes:
- cooking healthy foods.
- making healthier food choices for himself as well when around me.
- asking me if I want him to remove some temptation if it looks like I'm mindlessly eating it.
- going for walks with me.
- assuring me over and over that I'm attractive as is, that he's doing this for me. But that he, too, will be happy if I lose weight, so that it's a goal we can both celebrate.
- never ever making decisions For me, just supporting my healthy decisions every way he can.

Good luck to both of you - life can be a whole lot Easier when a little lighter!
posted by ldthomps at 8:20 AM on May 3, 2011

I don't want to criticize any of the other advice that's been given. Specific actions like cooking at home with healthy ingredients are fine. But your question is mostly about what to say or what not to say. So, in your own mind, always stay focused on 2 things:

1. You love her, accept her, and are wildly attracted to her the way she is, not conditioned on her losing weight (or even staying the same weight) in the future.

2. You support her goals because they're her goals.

Notice how these points are complementary. Since you love her the way she is, she doesn't need to lose weight to win your approval. If she wants to do it, she should do it for herself.

I assume #1 is no problem, since you want to marry her.

#2 is tougher. I don't think you need to refrain from any comment, but always be guided by what she wants. And when in doubt, err on the side of not intervening. Don't find fault with any of the details of how she's implementing the diet unless she has made it unambiguously clear that she encourages this -- and even then, I'd be reluctant to be a critic. Chances are, she's plenty critical of herself already. Just reading your post as a neutral observer, I already have a sense that you're on a dangerous borderline between "supportive" and "critical" or worse.

Again, when in doubt, keep those two things in mind: you love her the way she is, and you want her to achieve what she wants because it's what she wants. There's nothing more you have to say.
posted by John Cohen at 10:17 AM on May 3, 2011

You've got some tremendously good advice here. I'll add some of my own experiences and what I've learned.

You did not mention whether or not your fiancé is also going to exercise, but I firmly believe that diet alone does not a weight-loss make so I apologize for leading off with this. If you do exercise together, each of you acting as the other's encouragement, it's important that the two of you understand that the encouragement is to get better and grow stronger, and not take it personally or take it out on each other afterward. That means if you don't feel like exercising today and she tries to get you going, you can't snap out at her to leave you alone. However, the reverse requires a bit more of a delicate touch, and relies on your ability to sense when the gentle push becomes a forceful shove.

That means if she doesn't feel like jogging, suggest a walk. If she doesn't feel like walking, suggest jumping jacks. If she doesn't feel like doing anything and just wants to lie down and why can't you leave me alone, well then it depends on what other options you have. Time later in the day to do something? Maybe she'll feel better. Do you have an XBox/Wii with motion sensor game? Play together for a few minutes. Or, were you exercising plenty the day before? Maybe a rest day is needed after all.

The other approach is to exercise separately. Sometimes people need more accountability than a significant other's encouragement. Some people find their determination by spending money on a gym membership or personal trainer. Dropping cash on a business relationship makes people work out more (at least for the time being) because they have a tangible investment and don't want to waste it. I don't know your financial situation nor your fiancé's personality, so this may not necessarily apply, but sometimes it doesn't have to be a monetary thing. My spouse and I actually find a change in scenery is a nice motivation; driving to a different park to walk or jog around is sometimes enough to get us going when we've trod a hundred miles in our neighborhood.

I really like the idea of joining your fiancé in her diet plan, and I do this with my spouse. I don't care if you're the fittest person on the planet, you are not allowed to eat anything that's not in that diet plan.

If you decide to join your fiancé in a new diet plan, you must watch for some warning signs and take appropriate action. The one I experience often is the desire to eat out. We know home-cooked meals are healthier, but some days the urge to go out is strong. And, quite often it will be your fiancé who will ask you where you want to go.

Warning! Never suggest a forbidden food, no matter how long it's been since you've had that delicious pepperoni pizza or juicy hamburger. Instead opt for a place that offers healthier alternatives, even if it's just a salad bar. If you have to explain why, don't suggest that it's to keep your fiancé on track, but rather that it's for you; you want to eat better.

Your fiancé might say she doesn't feel like eating at [Place]. Suggest a different locale, but maintain the healthier choices. Research menus beforehand, if at all possible (many places now have websites with selection and nutritional values). If you've never been there before, say you want to try them out. If you have been there before, say you want to try out their healthier choices. By making these choices less about enforcement of your fiancé's diet and more about healthy living, it demonstrates that this lifestyle is a team effort and you're willing/eager to do this because it benefits the both of you.

Now, if despite all your efforts to maintain healthy eating and exercise, your fiancé really really wants to indulge, going so far as to cite scientific research claiming that it's okay to cheat if you exercise more afterward, you can drop a line of last resort, "Baby, I love you, and I want to be with you for a long, long life."
posted by CancerMan at 12:39 PM on May 3, 2011

I agree that you should leave this up to her, and not try to be the diet police. Ask her what kind of help she wants and then give it to her. My boyfriend and I are both trying to lose some weight, exercise more, and generally get healthier. I help him by pulling out every trick in the book to making it easy and attractive for him to eat healthy (reducing meat and increasing veg in all the recipes I know he likes, making him healthy snacks, not buying junk, buying the caffeine-free diet soda he likes, etc.) He asked how he could help me and I told him that my biggest problem is getting my butt in the garage to exercise; it helps if he comes in there with me, so he does that.

Now, every couple is different, but I don't think I would recommend trying to "manage" her eating or push her in the right direction or anything like that. Maybe she would find that helpful, but I sure wouldn't; I guess what I'm saying is you should talk to her about it.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 4:07 PM on May 3, 2011

This might sound completely ridiculous, but the most helpful thing my husband can do for me when I'm trying to lose weight is to finish my leftovers.

So silly, but knowing that he'll eat the last half of whatever portion I'm served at a restaurant so I don't have to choose between finishing it or "wasting it" is a nice psychological motivator to not finish eating it. Or if I want to cook a particular thing but don't want to eat the same thing over and over again in tiny portions all week, knowing that he'll eventually eat it so I can just have a few bites and be satisfied is so, so nice.
posted by booknerd at 8:58 AM on May 4, 2011

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