Chubby hubby, what to do?
December 28, 2011 8:27 AM   Subscribe

My husband is overweight. I'm not at the end of my rope, but it's getting closer. Advice, any advice is welcome, even if you tell me I'm being unreasonable. SS details inside.

I'm sorry if this is rambling, but I'm a a crying mess over this problem and I don't know what to do.

I am 29/F and he is 28. We've been married 3 years, together for 10. No kids, no plans for any. He wasn't overweight when we met. But over the past five years he's gained weight through diet and a lack of exercise. He carries most of the weight on his stomach. With his shirt off, he looks seven months pregnant.

He knows I find this unattractive. We talked about again this a year ago, and since then he's been trying to make changes but they haven't made much of a difference. How the hell do I get through to him without crushing his feelings?

These are my issues:
  1. He has wobbled between overweight/obese and average all his life, but more overweight/obese. I know this is going to affect his health as we age. He has always been extremely unfit, except for a couple of years when he got deeply into long-distance cycling. But he's given that up - despite my encouragement - and gone back to unfit.
  2. I don't find him good-looking any more. He's a wonderful guy, but some days I look at him and think 'ugh', and I feel like shit for thinking that. Sex is more affectionate and less passionate because I don't think he's sexy and his weight prevents some of the positions and vigorous action I'd like. We all fall apart/get fat/wrinkled/have a low-key sex life eventually, but he's 28, I'm 29 and it's far too early for that. I feel crushed, if this is the limit of our sexuality for the rest of our lives.
The next points are problems I think he has that prevent him losing weight. I really want to help but I don't know how to get through to him any more without sounding angry and bitter.
  1. One problem is, he's a very, very, very picky eater. I think he's a supertaster - most foods taste unpleasant to him and he sticks with a narrow range of meat, potatoes, cookies, bread, bananas, carrots and cereal. That's not everything, but it's frighteningly close to all he'll eat. He's added a very few healthier foods but it hasn't made much difference.
  2. He also has an ever-changing work schedule and is a chronic night owl, which makes it hard for us to eat together. He eats on the go a lot, making it difficult for me to be a positive influence by cooking for us, if I could find healthy food he'll eat!
  3. The actual root of the problem is, I think, that he comfort eats to lessen/put off bad feelings. Now, I've actually had this problem! I know it's hard, but I addressed it by *not buying food that makes me comfort eat* and finding other ways to lessen the effect of frightening emotions - exercise, distracting movies, etc. He won't give up his treats, which always leads to him eating too much of them after a couple of days. I cannot stop him buying this junk food and I strongly feel that throwing it away wouldn't help him make the changes he needs to make for himself.
I've suggested counselling for his food problems, but he's already in therapy for milder OCD (which is improving), and feels that he should address one thing at a time. Am I a bitch for wanting him to try a little harder to walk for an hour a day, or leave the chocolate on the shelf?

So. I really want to help. I don't want to leave him over this, but the lack of attraction is hurting our relationship so badly I don't know what to do

How can I get my feelings across without being a mean shrewish wife? I worry that if I get going on this, I'll hurt his feelings so badly he'll sulk, eat more, and give up because his little bit of progress isn't good enough for me.

tl;dr: overweight husband no longer attractive to me, tried losing weight but continues to eat junk food and hasn't got far. I can't spend the rest of my 20s and 30s with a man I don't find physically attractive. How do I get through to him without completely crushing him.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (71 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
You can't. He has to want it for himself and the more you push the less likely that is.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:30 AM on December 28, 2011 [34 favorites]

If you can't adjust your attraction to him based on something that very well might not change, then I'd say it's time to either start counseling to see if you can get past it or to divorce.

Who knows what physical changes both of you will go through as you age? Who knows if his weight gain is entirely due to his eating habits? If you don't want to be married to someone who doesn't fit your ideal in terms of sexual attraction, that's your right, but it's not fair to your husband to expect him to change because of it.
posted by xingcat at 8:34 AM on December 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

I worry that if I get going on this, I'll hurt his feelings so badly he'll sulk, eat more, and give up because his little bit of progress isn't good enough for me.

I think this is the case. I think you will have to make a choice between sulky, resentful overweight husband and relatively content overweight husband. Or leave him altogether. Personally, I'd much rather have the relatively content overweight husband, because sulky and resentful is much less attractive than 10, 50, or 100 extra pounds.

If you can support him through his OCD treatment and whatever other stresses he might be dealing with, you have a better chance that he will deal with his weight, but if you try to control him, you have zero chance.
posted by desjardins at 8:36 AM on December 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Oh, and by the way, 28 is just about the time when lots of guys find guts they never had before. Anywhere around the 30 mark is when that magic boy metabolism tends to go away.
posted by xingcat at 8:36 AM on December 28, 2011 [7 favorites]

As someone who's been there and tried EVERYTHING, the best advice I can give you is to get yourself in the best possible shape and hope he follows.

You've told him how important this is for you and for him, for a variety of very valid reasons.

There's nothing else you can do except take care of yourself and make decisions based on the fact that he may never get himself sorted out health-wise-- based on his past, it seems a really safe bet that he may not.

Threaten, cajole, motivate, don't expect any of it to work, sorry :(
posted by devymetal at 8:40 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Am I a bitch for wanting him to try a little harder to walk for an hour a day, or leave the chocolate on the shelf?

"Bitch" is a strong word, but consider that this is exactly how a mom would treat a child. Whatever your physical condition, consider that you are also making yourself very unattractive to him.
posted by desjardins at 8:40 AM on December 28, 2011 [22 favorites]

If he decides he wants to lose weight, go on a complete health binge together. Remove the non-healthy stuff from the house. Work out together. You can't control what he eats (and really, you shouldn't.) You can try to reach goals together, and live a healthier lifestyle together. Also, therapy.

I wish I had better advice, but the non-attraction due to my husband's huge weight gain (partially!) led to my on-going divorce.* When my husband and I discussed, I approached it from a health standpoint, never mentioning the lack of attraction.

I wish you the best of luck.

*It was one of a thousand factors, and very far down on the list. He went from a 36" waist to a 52" waist and I just couldn't force myself to be attracted to him. I completely get your point. It was an issue, because he knew I was faking being attracted to him. I am completely aware that it's shallow, but I tried for a long time to ignore it and focus on love. It doesn't work for everyone.
posted by doyouknowwhoIam? at 8:42 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Have you considered self help groups for him? The whole business of eating to soothe uncomfortable feelings is very common. People who are struggling with these issues can potentially benefit from support groups.

You don't say where you are, but I know several people who have really changed their relationship to food by participating in Food Addicts Anonymous or Overeaters Anonymous.
posted by jasper411 at 8:44 AM on December 28, 2011

You really can't do anything but support any efforts he makes. Maybe you can join some activity together (biking, hiking group, etc)? But the fact remains that he has to choose to make the effort. If this part is true:

He has wobbled between overweight/obese and average all his life, but more overweight/obese.

then this may very well be what his adult life will be like also - overweight much of the time. If it's something you really can't get past, you may need to have another serious talk about the future of your relationship. You're not a bad person, but he does deserve someone who loves and desires him the way he is now.
posted by Glinn at 8:44 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a a crying mess over this problem and I don't know what to do.

That indicates this is a problem for both of you, you're not just trying to help him with his weight/fitness problem, you also have a problem related to his weight/fitness problem, and your relationship has a problem because of his weight/fitness problem. Things can not go on this way.

That's what you need to communicate to him, and you need to work out a mutually acceptable solution. The fact that he's already in counseling for something else isn't all that relevant — it's this mutual problem that needs to be addressed. And it is not simply a question of his going on a diet — he (or both of you) need a permanent lifestyle change involving diet and exercise. Probably what you need, together, is coaching, not counseling, for example in a crossfit program that offers some nutritional counseling as well.
posted by beagle at 8:44 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your concerns are understandable, and how you feel is how you feel. Aside from doing everything you can to support healthier eating and living, I wonder if you've considered therapy for yourself to work out how much of a deal breaker this is? Keep in mind that now that crazy-busy male metabolism of young adulthood is over, and as someone who has been heavy most of his life, he may get fitter with more exercise and better eating habits and lose some weight, but he may never be thin again. Can you live with him fit and large? There's no way to avoid a difficult, unpleasant conversation between the two of you.
posted by smirkette at 8:47 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's the thing: you can't change him, and you can't change what you find attractive. However, you can make it clear to him that this is adversely affecting you and your relationship to the point of crying messes. You guys need to work on this together as a team Now, or there won't be a team soon. That's not a threat, it's just the way attraction works.

If you do this from a standpoint of what You need, and from a place of caring about the relationship and him, then hopefully he can move beyond sulky and defensive. Come at it from the standpoint of the team, rather than as his being childish and rebellious.

As someone who's always struggled with her weight but who has an Awesomely supportive partner who's helped me control it, you guys Can do this together as a team. But it sounds like you may need outside help, and that may need to happen sooner rather than later.
posted by ldthomps at 8:49 AM on December 28, 2011 [7 favorites]

tl;dr: overweight husband no longer attractive to me, tried losing weight but continues to eat junk food and hasn't got far. I can't spend the rest of my 20s and 30s with a man I don't find physically attractive. How do I get through to him without completely crushing him.

If you're really out of ideas and at the end of your rope, then just say that to him -- "I can't spend the rest of my 20s/30s with someone I find unattractive."

Physical attractiveness is not an unreasonable desire, and it doesn't sound like you're expecting him to become Brad Pitt. If he won't take the reasonable, hardly draconian steps necessary to ensure his health and your happiness in your life together, maybe you need to reevaluate whether he is the right man for you.
posted by modernnomad at 8:49 AM on December 28, 2011 [15 favorites]

He has wobbled between overweight/obese and average all his life, but more overweight/obese. I know this is going to affect his health as we age. He has always been extremely unfit, except for a couple of years when he got deeply into long-distance cycling. But he's given that up - despite my encouragement - and gone back to unfit.

One problem is, he's a very, very, very picky eater. I think he's a supertaster - most foods taste unpleasant to him and he sticks with a narrow range of meat, potatoes, cookies, bread, bananas, carrots and cereal. That's not everything, but it's frighteningly close to all he'll eat. He's added a very few healthier foods but it hasn't made much difference.

Saying he wasn't overweight when you met and then saying these things does not jive. Some people are naturally big. It seems like you knew he had problems with his weight and diet from the start, but expect him to stay on top of it forever. That's unrealistic for even the fittest of us. Indeed, we do all fall apart as we age and a part of marriage is accepting that. When you married your husband, you married the person he is now, which sounds like, from what you're saying above, is how he's always been.

What to do? Get heathly yourself and see if it inspires him. Seek individual and couples counselling to help with this issue. Accept him as he is. Divorce him. Those are the things I can think of, but you and your husband have to choose.
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:50 AM on December 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

If you can't get him to change what he eats, you may at least get him to eat less of it. If he's in a desk job and eating full portions at all meals he could easily put on much more weight in the next few years. It will become a health issue in the long run and that's really the important part of the problem. Ask him where he wants to be at 40, healthwise.
posted by doctor_negative at 8:50 AM on December 28, 2011

I get where you're coming from and I don't think its wrong to find an overweight person unattractive. And its frustrating to get involved with one thing and end up with another. You can't mention this to him without hurting him so you need to decide if your feelings for him as a person are enough if he never does lose the excess weight. There are a few answers to this and none of them make you a bitch as long as you also are respectful and thoughtful when communicating your issues to him.

That being said, you should encourage him when he wants to be healthier and do things together that will help him. Is there anything physical you'd both enjoy? Going for walks? Taking a dance class? Taking up skiiing, golf, tennis or any other sport? Getting healthy is a positive thing and its possible you can work together as a couple to achieve that goal. Beyond that, you can't control him, only your reactions to him.
posted by GilvearSt at 8:51 AM on December 28, 2011

Who cooks? Does he buy lunch at work? If you're doing the cooking then you can limit his portions and make better choices with meal selection. If he's buying lunch, try sending a packed lunch to work with him. Yes, he's a grown man, but you're the one with the issue and it's sort of up to you to encourage him in the right direction. You're going to have to do this with him - if he's willing to do it as well. You can't force him.

If he's a supertaster and he likes a limited amount of foods, have you tried low carb? Meat, eggs, and cheese are all pretty inoffensive (although they get boring after a while).

Exercise together. Take a walk after dinner. Get a Wii or an XBox with Kinect. If this is such a huge deal for you AND he's willing to work at it, then you need to support him.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:59 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Nagging and whatnot is not going to help him. All you can do is try to do more of any physical activity you both enjoy, and be totally on top of your own health, fitness, and diet.

If he at some point expresses interest in trying again, I suggest pointing him towards low-carb (and doing it with him). Low-carb works great for very overweight people and especially comfort and binge eaters who prefer carb-based things. Generally after the first week or two most people find cravings significantly diminished and binge urges much easier to control. The only caveat is I would resist the urge to go for a lot of the faux-carb recipes (with artificial sweetners and whatnot) as those can stoke cravings for sweet things, and not restrict non-starchy vegetable intake whatsoever.
posted by Anonymous at 9:01 AM on December 28, 2011

I know you mean well and want to be kind but a few serious cautions for you:

1. It is not OK to tell someone who has pledged to be with you for life that you find them unattractive. It is a devastating message that is almost impossible to recover from when delivered by a life partner. A dear (regular bathing, clean) friend of mind was told by a partner that s/he didn't like her/his smell, and has never gotten over it. Don't say it.

2. You are so right that people do not stay youthfully attractive over time. Tht's what love is about -- it is about seeing all the lasting beauteous things about a partner. These are not physical things, though we often express affection by talking about each other's physical traits. Your partner should be beautiful in your eyes because you know the person they are under the physical shell, and love that person.

3. So -- do you truly love the person your husband is? If not, then the problem lies with you, not his weight. And the thing to tell him is that you don't love him as he deserves. Then let him go for someone that is capable of loving him that way. If you do truly love your husband, then you are going to figure out how to see him for the person he is, weighty or not.

I think you are trying, but you aren't doing the work you need to do on yourself and your own attitudes. Or, that you are holding onto a marriage with a man you don't realy love and appreciate, and need to not do that anymore.

Good luck to you. This is in fact you, though, not him. If this were his problem, he'd be the one bothered by his weght and diet.
posted by bearwife at 9:03 AM on December 28, 2011 [34 favorites]

Response by poster: That said, if you continue to not see changes then you will have to have a frank discussion with him about the future of your marriage if things don't change. It's one thing to expect him to be a Greek god and another to not be attracted to someone who's put on 50, 70, 100+lbs since you started dating them. The latter is a very hard thing to accept.
posted by Anonymous at 9:04 AM on December 28, 2011

This sounds like Buyer's remorse - no way you could not have realized your dude is a big, overweight guy over 13 years of knowing him.

I suspect you've been trying to come to terms with this for as long as you've known him.

Origins don't matter. But accuately diagnosing the source of the problem does matter. He should definitely be made aware (by you, or through a therapist), that you are nearing "the end of your rope."
posted by Kruger5 at 9:06 AM on December 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Ok, for me anyway, the weight thing is a bit of a red herring. This issue as you see it, and I would see it, is that he is choosing to be unhealthy. That would be a deal breaker for me. Being healthy and living long, full lives together is like a gift you give each other. You love him and want him to be around for a long time.

That being said a lot of us have struggled with our health and body image and saying "I can't be withsome I don't find attractive" is a little bitchy. Don't say that. :) You can think it, because, well you can think whatever you want. So don't wish he tried harder to walk, make walking easy for him, get up get dressed, set out his shoes and say "hey let's walk for a bit while we discuss our plans for this week". No pressure, sure there is a very thinly hidden agenda here, but fuck, its good for everybody. Leave the choclate on the shelf? You do realize that for some people that is all but impossible, right? If you are buying any choclate ever, you are part of the problem. Just because you won't eat it all, doesn't mean he can do the same. Own your part of this.

I have a brother who is a picky eater, you just have to watch your portions and make sure you supplement where appropriate if he is missing some key nutrients. That being said, eating is about fueling your body. Your brain is hardwired to crave salt, fat, and sugar and for it to taste awesome. So of course, he loves all thoses things. So does everyone, but once you wean yourself off of them, you'll be amazed how sweet a tomato or onion tastes, and the difference in energy level is something that is to be felt to be beleived.

He, and perhaps you, seem to feel trapped in this sad vortex of things you can't change. The fact is though, you can. It is absolutely worth a bit of paycut to take a job that jibes with healthy living and more time with your wife. Its really a matter of priorities, though many people don't really grasp that they can make fundamental, game-changing, decisions and be succesfull.
posted by stormygrey at 9:07 AM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

You might consider looking into Al Anon or another framework like individual therapy for recognizing the things one can and can't change in a partner. While your partner isn't alcoholic, it sounds like there are some similarities in there, not least of which is that his problems and your problems seem to be blurring together and he's kind of become, in addition to being unattractive to you, your problem to solve, but you know that's not the case. We're all our own problems to solve.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:12 AM on December 28, 2011

Yeah I kinda get the impression that you feel deep down he is doing this on purpose just to get at you in some way. After all, why can't he just leave the chocolate on the shelf right? There is a lot of focus on how you feel about his weight, but how does he feel about his weight. It is his body after all, it is not all about you.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:13 AM on December 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Am I a bitch for wanting him to try a little harder to walk for an hour a day, or leave the chocolate on the shelf?

It depends -are you willing to walk with him, are you willing to do stuff, like walking around parks/beach/etc. together? Are you willing to not buy the chocolate or the cookies or the other stuff that he is overdosing on? Sometimes the best way to help another person is leading by example.
posted by kellyblah at 9:14 AM on December 28, 2011

You can't change a person who doesn't want to change. He needs to want to change. All you can do is give him a reason to want to change. If this becomes a deal breaker for you, maybe it's to save his marriage. If he has a health scare, maybe that'll convince him. If kids do come up, maybe he'll work on it in order to stay around longer for his kid. But he has to want to do it himself.

And make no mistake about it -- losing the weight is not an easy thing to do. It'll be a life long battle (this coming from a skinny/turned fat/turned skinny/gaining wait again chick) with major life changes -- it's not like you're asking him to just take out the trash, or say no to the occasional chocolate.
posted by cgg at 9:17 AM on December 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

My partner and I struggle with this to some extent, although for me the negative feelings towards his weight aren't as strong - I just want him to live as long as possible so that we have as much time as we can together. I'm not the paragon of healthy living either and while my partner is obese, I'm slightly overweight as well. We deal with this by working on both of us together as a team. The only reason this works is that we're both into it. Sorry to shout but I want to make it clear - IF HE HADN'T AGREED TO IT I WOULD HAVE HAD TO LET IT GO.

Firstly, I introduced my partner to new foods I thought he might like. He now eats mango and quinoa and some Indian curries, for example, which he never tried before. His previous diet consisted of basically meat substitutes and potatoes. Now he'll eat salads and healthy stuff but we had to work together to figure out which foods he would accept and which he wouldn't.

Secondly, I pack him a lunch every day. After experimentation I found he likes either a homemade soup (certain of my recipes only) in a thermos or a nice big salad. He also takes a yoghurt and a banana or some grapes. He won't take oranges or apples or cherries or whatever but that's fine, we've figured out what works and stick to it.

Thirdly, I make healthy dinners with things such as meat substitutes or macaroni and broccoli cheese and chips that he likes but the chips are homemade with very little oil and so is the macaroni and cheese (quark replaces a lot of the cheese and the broccoli is added) and there's veggies served with everything (we've gone back and forth between low-carb dieting and low-fat and we're on low-fat now). This is a vast improvement on how he used to eat but a bit of a compromise on how I'd prefer to cook. Basically I make a lot of imitation junk food. This works great for us.

Finally, we have a weekly weigh-in on Saturday morning. Whoever gains any weight or loses the least that week has to do extra chores like putting the groceries away and pays a small fine into our rainy day savings box.

I think the most important thing that we do is basically treat our weight loss as a fun game rather than a serious "slim down or I'm leaving you" type of thing. I tease him and call him voluptuous and give him hugs and tell him I have to make the most of his big soft belly before it's gone. I'm not explaining it very well but the main thing is just that we're really supportive of each other. We never get angry or frustrated if it isn't working, we often let each other off the hook for paying the fine, we give exceptions for Christmas (we both gained 3 pounds this year over Christmas!), etc. But slowly and steadily we're improving ourselves and each other and it feels great.

It's funny because I encourage him with the healthy eating and he's been encouraging me with the exercise so we kind of even out. I'm going to start exercising on a cross-trainer I bought because he's set a great example by working out himself, although he never nags me about it at all. This is just another example of the way we work together as a team. So basically if you can get your partner on the same side as you on this you can start to improve things. But you'll never do it if you're working in opposition.
posted by hazyjane at 9:33 AM on December 28, 2011 [21 favorites]

the weight thing is a bit of a red herring. This issue as you see it, and I would see it, is that he is choosing to be unhealthy. That would be a deal breaker for me. Being healthy and living long, full lives together is like a gift you give each other. You love him and want him to be around for a long time.

Obviously she wants him to be around for a long time. But as I read the question, this is as much about appearance as health -- and not wanting your partner to be fat is a completely legitimate. He looks pregnant? Not a good look for a guy, I can see why you'd be disgusted.
posted by jayder at 9:37 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am a person that has struggled with her weight for almost my entire adult life. I go up and down. Right now I am down and have a normal BMI. Sex is better when I am fit and healthy. My husband is more attracted to me when I am thinner and fit. It's reality.

This is going to sound harsh: As far as picky eating goes it might be a supertaster thing or it might be a childish thing. Refusing to try and eat a wide variety of foods is somewhat babyish in my opinion. That's not helpful but it might be nearly impossible for him to lose successfully on such a limited diet. What he needs to do is pick the healthy foods he does like and eat them. Eating poorly is a bad habit. Refusing to try new foods is a bad habit. Staying up all hours of the night is a bad habit.

After that all you can do is set a very good example. Exercise, eat right, prepare healthy food, keep the junk out of the house and encourage after dinner walks together or whenever you can find the time to exercise together. Your weekends and evenings out should be centered around activity not movies and dinner.

He has got to want it but I find if I lose 10 pounds or so I motivated to keep going.

Encourage and praise. Maybe employ some training. Good luck.
posted by Fairchild at 9:46 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Previous similar question.

Losing weight and keeping it off is EXTREMELY hard. Despite what well-meaning people say, well over 90% of even those people who successfully lose weight gain it all back plus more. Going on some walks and replacing cookies with healthier foods isn't going to make a significant dent.

I am making another go at it currently (30 lbs down) and it takes a lot of effort. Personally, I have basically given up carbs entirely, which is a rather radical lifestyle change, and it did it because it's less hard than any of the other options that I have tried.

So not only does your husband have to really want to lose, he has to be ready to lose, he has to know how to lose, and he has to actually do it, week after week, month after month, and eventually to maintain year after year. It's an enormous task, one which the overwhelming majority of overweight people never complete.

Thin people like to tell themselves that they are somehow superior for not having the problem (and fat people like to tell themselves that they are superior to people even fatter than them) but the truth is for many people, it's an enormous struggle.

I don't have great advice for you in particular, but I just wanted to stress exactly what it is you'd be asking of your husband. Husband, take on one of the most difficult projects that anybody ever does, and do it right now, because otherwise I am not attracted to you and don't want to be married to you anymore. That's a pretty crappy thing to lay on him, especially since as his wife, you should pretty much be his main support system.

Maybe the threat of losing his wife would be enough to get him started, but I can't imagine what kind of damage such an ultimatum would do to your relationship.

On the other hand, if you genuinely can't get past this issue, what can you do? Maybe go to therapy yourself and try to figure out if you can learn to be attracted to him at his current weight? As others have pointed out, there comes a time in any marriage where partners don't look the way that they once did. Were you planning on jumping ship when he got wrinkled or bald? What if his face was burned or he got into an accident?

Maybe what's tripping you up is that you think his weight is his FAULT, whereas those other things wouldn't be necessarily. Well that just takes me back to how hard it really is to lose weight and how easy it is to gain it for some people. What you are thinking of as weakness could easily be thought of as illness or dysfunction. Stop blaming him and start trying to accept and support him. Or get out, it's your choice.
posted by callmejay at 9:47 AM on December 28, 2011 [30 favorites]

The first obvious easiest thing you can have an impact on is the pickiness thing.

Firstly, that's not what a supertaster is. "Supertaster" isn't, like, a disability where all food except junk tastes bad to you. I'm a supertaster and, aside from a general distrust of cauliflower, it doesn't affect my eating habits at all. I also have a "thing" about texture, and aside from being really picky about tomatoes, again, it doesn't really affect my ability to eat nutritious food.

Join a CSA and pledge to use ALL the vegetables in the box. At least to make a good faith effort to try each one. I know you guys don't eat together all the time and he does a lot of "on the go" eating, but see if this is something you can at least experiment with. If there are no CSA's in your area, go to the supermarket and buy one new vegetable a week. Learn how to prepare it properly and experiment with eating new things together.
posted by Sara C. at 9:47 AM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

It's ok to divorce him if you're unattracted to him, for whatever reason. Really.

That said, it would probably help to examine why you're focusing so hard on what's wrong with him and seemingly avoiding looking at yourself. Your entire post is about what's he's doing wrong and how he's been trying to fix it for years, with your trying to help him fix his problem.

Maybe he's not the problem or the only problem.

Can you imagine how hard it is to live someone who thinks you're disgusting? He knows how you feel about his looks and it's probably soul crushing to him, 'causing him to eat more. Turns out, you might not be helping, but part of vicious cycle.

Honestly, I think you need to be able to look him in the eye and say "I've felt this has been a problem before. I don't anymore. I love you for who you are, who you've been and who you'll be. Now take off your shirt and lets get busy." You need to be able to mean it if say that.

You may not be able to say that and mean it and that's ok. That's who you are are and some aspects of ourselves we can't change, can't ignore without doing harm to ourselves. You know what they say "Love yourself before you love someone else, yadda yadda." You gotta be ok with whatever you decide.

Finally, this quote of yours caught my eye:
"I know this is going to affect his health as we age."

My health conscious aunt, the one who exercised and ate right and always had a slim figure died at 55 after her second bout with breast cancer. Her sister, the one who's been overweight for decades, has diabetes and other health problems is still going strong at 61.

The point here is that yes, it's better to practice a healthy lifestyle, but it is by no means the sole arbiter of healthy and long life. What you think you may known about his future may or may not be true.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:52 AM on December 28, 2011 [12 favorites]

I don't think people are being fair to the OP. Suggesting she doesn't love her husband enough is just piling on unnecessary guilt on a shitty situation. I'm not sure you can help losing attraction when your partner gains a huge gut. I also think it's a matter of personal responsibility to stay somewhat attractive FOR your partner, which her husband is clearly not taking seriously. If I got married, gained 60 pounds, stopped shaving my legs and armpits, wearing light makeup, blowdrying my hair, and stuck to wearing exclusively stained sweats, I'd have every right to do that. But it would be stupid to blame my husband for not "loving me enough" if he finds himself not as hot for me. Self maintenance, I think, is an unspoken promise in a relationship.

One point at a time with the OCD treatment may be fair, but he will have to agree to work on it or I agree with you, you can't spend a lifetime in a sexually unenjoyable marriage. I have to disagree with the person who said never tell your partner you're losing attraction to them, ESPECIALLY if it's something he can affect, like what sounds like an inappropriate amount of gained weight -not a little winter or slowed-metabolism weight (I read that as your metabolism slows, you should be gaining an average of a pound a year, this sounds dramatically higher), and not his personal scent, for example. "This is affecting our sex life" is probably a good start.
posted by namesarehard at 9:56 AM on December 28, 2011 [15 favorites]

For a sedentary guy who probably won't change the content of his diet all that much, the one thing he can do is portion control.

He won't get "fit" exactly, but less calories going in will make a difference. If he's eating out a lot, before he eats anything, he can just throw part of it away. Not going for seconds and eating only half your fries will slowly reduce his weight, and takes a less discipline than excerise or a strict diet. Twenty pounds may not be enough for you, though.
posted by spaltavian at 9:58 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

This stuff is all so individual. Some people can lose weight with minimal effort; for others, it is a lifetime struggle. Some people are easily attracted to those of all sizes; some people have a fairly narrow range which they find "attractive." Some people can stand to hear from their spouse that their spouse finds them unattractive; some people absolutely cannot. That's why there's such a huge range of answers, here.

Here's what I think it comes down to: You cannot control him, but you can control yourself. You need to figure out if this is really a deal breaker, and you need to figure out if you can get over it.

Your husband deserves to be loved and to feel attractive no matter what size he is. It's crappy if you can't provide that for him, regardless of whether or not you think it's crappy of him to have gotten fatter.

So, basically, look to yourself because that's the only thing you can really do.

(Oh, and also, all of these suggestions about portion control/working out are essentially bullshit if we're talking about being thin versus getting healthier. If he wants to be healthier, working out and eating good foods matters. If he wants to be thinner, it's an all-out big-ass change he's got to make, not little bitty changes, not unless he wants it to take 5 to 10 years. These are two very different goals. For some people this all out change is easy, but for others, it is not. But that's not the point, really.)
posted by hought20 at 10:16 AM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

There's a weird intersection between what you need, what your partner provides you, and what is/isn't strictly the responsibility of you or your partner.

If you were to fundamentally change some aspect of yourself - professionally, emotionally, physically - whatever, in whatever order is important - from the person your partner fell in love with - your partner is likely to feel baited and switched. Oh, we're married now - I don't need to regulate my emotional state any more and can be physically or emotionally abusive. Oh, we're married now - I can quit my job and play video games all day. Oh, we're married now - I can lose control of my health. Etc.

There's no doubt that some people are working their asses off against whatever shitty hand nature dealt them. There's no doubt that some people aren't. You seem to think your husband is in the latter category (and from your description, I agree with you). People don't like hearing that their individual actions or decisions are letting the team down, and people don't like saying it - but if it's important to you, it's important to you.

AskMeFi is all about dumping someone so that person can get on with their lives instead of being stuck with the awful person asking the question. Your needs are your needs. Your partners can either meet those needs or not. They can't possibly satisfy those needs if they're not told about them. Whether those needs are reasonable or not are between the two of you, not us.

Either you want to put in the work WITH HIM to get to where you feel you both need to be, or you're done and you should leave. Staying and having him do all the heavy lifting by himself is not a humane option for either of you.

Get what's important to you out on the table. People will either buy in or they won't. You get to choose what kind of person to be, and others will elect to be in your life or not based on those choices. There's a huge gap between communicating what you need kindly vs. being cruel. vs. being too cowardly to voice those needs at all. Whether you stay or go, he needs to know this matters to you.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 10:18 AM on December 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

95% of the time, when people are obese, it's not their fault. They are ignorant in the kindest sense of the word - they have been deprived of the information they need to be fit. They have been raised on the idea, as I was, that eating "heart-healthy" bread and pasta and cereal is the key to optimal health. It is not.

I don't know, psychologically, how to get your husband to change. He probably wants to change, as most of us do when we look "pregnant," but cutting calories across the board and skipping meals and going for a run works for about, oh, 0.5% of the population. He'll get tired of seeing no or little results and go back to cookies and stuff, and he'll quit running, not that it did him any good anyway, because running is a pretty ineffective way to retain muscle while cutting body fat. Thus begins the cycle of failure.

The best success stories - the ones where you see a 400, 500, 600 pound guy or gal, and they become a 250, 200, 150 pound slab of shining golden beef- or cheesecake are almost invariably those that start with "I dramatically lowered my intake of carbohydrates, raised my protein intake, cut my total calories such that I had a moderate but sustainable caloric deficit, and began a sensible, pre-established program of weightlifting."

I admit my own bias, but it works. As for getting him this information without making him feel bad, I leave to other more qualified individuals.
posted by a_girl_irl at 10:27 AM on December 28, 2011 [15 favorites]

Is he willing to exercise? If you can get him to start running (with you) and you get up to even 15 miles per week, it would be difficult for him to maintain his weight. He (and you) would probably feel better as well. This would work almost as well for cycling. Lead the way. Tell him this is what you'd like to do, and you would really like him to join you. Put off other social interactions unless and until your running/cycling for the week is complete. Make it a priority.

Maybe join a group or get a pledge from him to enroll in and finish a local race or long charity ride. Do something with a commitment. This is a positive cycle. You both exercise, he loses weight, you're more attracted to him, your sex life and marriage improve, and then the cycle repeats itself.
posted by cnc at 10:30 AM on December 28, 2011

there's not much for me to add. but:

can you make an effort to eat and exercise together?

if you can both get or a relatively good diet and exercise routine, can you be OK with whatever weight he ends up at?
posted by cupcake1337 at 10:33 AM on December 28, 2011

posted by NoRelationToLea at 10:38 AM on December 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Have you ever heard the statement 'diets don't work'? That statement exists for a reason. The VAST majority of people who lose significant weight gain it back within 5 years, frequently plus some. That's reality. More likely than not, your husband is going to be fat for the rest of his life. He might lose weight again, but statistically speaking, he would probably just put it on again. And while his health doesn't seem to be your top concern, the yo-yo dieting is definitely not good for his body -- some studies show it's worse than just being fat in the first place.

But while he might always be a big guy, he can (and should) still eat well and be physically active. It sounds like he's missing lots of nutrients in his diet, and that he eats lots of refined sugars, which (as you may have experienced yourself) don't really ever make you full or satisfied. You could try cookbooks like the Sneaky Chef if you do want to try to help him starting eating better foods. Even though his schedule is crazy, you could try telling him that it would mean a lot to you if you could have sit-down meals together whenever possible. I would hope that once he starts eating some real, whole foods, he would notice how much better his body feels and would want to add more of those foods to his diet.

And I agree with everyone who suggested you should try to encourage him to go out with you to do something physically active. It kind of sounds to me like he might be a little depressed, especially given the fact that he (1) has other mental health issues and that (2) he used to be physically active but isn't anymore and, (3) he eats so much junk food, which you yourself said he uses to soothe his feelings. It might be good to start off with some gentle exercise that also gets him out in the world, like going every weekend to explore a new town in your area or walking in a park. Use that time to check in with him about how he's doing and feeling.

But the truth is, you married a fat guy. He wasn't fat when you married him, but his body is kinda set up to be fat overall. It's not his fault -- most people who have lost weight (myself included) think it's 'for real this time' and that they're not going to gain it back. And it's not your fault either. You're not attracted to him anymore, and that's not something you can control. Paraphrasing what cupcake just wrote, you're going to have to ask yourself if you'd be willing to stay with him if he started living healthily but still remained fat.
posted by imalaowai at 10:38 AM on December 28, 2011 [10 favorites]

I feel sorry for you, and I feel defensive on your behalf that people are treating you like a jerk for not being attracted to your husband.

The saddest part to me is that your husband seems stuck in a rut of terrible habits that not only feed into other inhibitors of weight loss, but will also diminish his resolve to actually lose weight. Long distance cycling is a terrible way to lose weight, and will only make him hungrier for food when he finishes. He can cycle for three hours and then effectively eat the caloric deficit of his travails with a couple bananas, cookies, potatoes and all that other crap. The food that he eats in turn makes him hungrier and more tired, and thus less likely to keep up the (ineffective) exercise cycle. It's sad, and as a_girl_irl points out, it's just not an effective way for most of us to lose weight.

I also balk at the fatalist attitude that fat people will be fat for the rest of their lives. True, most of us will never look like body builders or super models, but it's possible to drop significant amounts of weight by simply changing our perception of what qualifies as healthy eating. Keep in mind that rampant obesity among middle class people is a relatively new phenomenon, so blaming fatness on genes doesn't make a lot of sense. The blame sits squarely on our modern diets, which are plagued with processed crap, carbs, sugars and starches. The trouble is that eschewing that stuff requires discipline that goes above and beyond "eating whatever I want whenever I want and hoping there will be no consequences." For me, I dropped 30lbs off my small female frame (keep in mind that women have a much harder time losing weight than men) by significantly reducing my carb intake, eating lots of proteins and vegetables, and lifting weights. Everyone in my family is overweight, so my genes weren't doing me any favors. Before this radical lifestyle change, I too thought I'd never lose weight, and planned to just coast into obesity as slowly as possible. Then I read this book, and this book. It's a hard change, and I'm not always perfect in my discipline, but it's been almost 3 years and I've kept the weight off without ever feeling hungry and only rarely feeling deprived.

I know it's tough to broach this conversation, but your alternatives are to simply divorce him right now or spend your marriage with someone to whom you're not attracted. There is a lot of guilting on the green about discussing touchy matters like weight and body image with one's SO, but martyring yourself on the cross of PC etiquette is no way to live your life.
posted by zoomorphic at 11:05 AM on December 28, 2011 [19 favorites]

I am a fat person. I was a fat person entering into my marriage, and if it ends, it will end with me still fat. If my husband came to me tomorrow and said that my fatness was a dealbreaker for him, I would wish him well and we would go our separate ways. This is not because I love my fat more than him, but because after 20+ years of dieting I have come to the conclusion that it doesn't work for me long term and I'm not going to waste any more of my time. Your husband (presumably) is a mentally competent adult, and all this talk of threatening and cajoling and gently reminding is so patronizing that I'm kind of horrified that people are suggesting it.

Your husband is probably going to be fat for the rest of his life. It's okay not to be attracted to him. It's also okay for this to be a dealbreaker for you. If you don't feel it, you just don't. That's not wrong, it just is. For what it's worth, if someone I was involved with had a problem with my weight causing them to not be attracted to me, I would be really aggravated if they came to me and couched it as being worried for my health. Would you want someone to be upfront with you? Be that way with him.
posted by crankylex at 11:10 AM on December 28, 2011 [20 favorites]

Is it the weight or the perceived sloth on his part that really bothers you? I suspect if your husband were confident and active that you would find his physical weight less of a problem. So if you tell your husband you don't find him attractive or want him to drop X pounds, you are not getting to the real problem, which is that you don't like his attitude to life. That's a much harder thing to solve. You can create the best environment likely to foster a more positive, active attitude, but after that you have no control over whether he sinks or swims. I think a lot of your frustration stems from trying to control him (even for his own good). Of course he's going to resist being controlled. Most of us would.

So, create the best environment. Don't buy or make "bad" foods. Take care of yourself and lead by example. Give lots of positive feedback and refrain from negativity. Make sure he can get the tools and supplies he needs. Be his partner, not his parent.

Also, unorganized exercise like running or walking or cycling tends to bore me to tears. I do a lot better and enjoy myself more when there is a fun-competitive team aspect involved. Are there local options for team sports in your area? Does he have a sports-minded buddy you can talk to and suggest that they go play basketball or racquetball or whatever together? Or maybe cover both their team enrollment fees as a gift?
posted by griselda at 11:12 AM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

So you've gotten a lot of good advice (and some rather harsh advice, I think) in this thread about the overall issue of your husband's lack of motivation, so I won't add to that. The general consensus that it has to come from him and there's not much you can do other than being supportive and encouraging and participating in the process when he finally starts it is right on the mark.

But this:
I don't find him good-looking any more. He's a wonderful guy, but some days I look at him and think 'ugh', and I feel like shit for thinking that. Sex is more affectionate and less passionate because I don't think he's sexy and his weight prevents some of the positions and vigorous action I'd like. We all fall apart/get fat/wrinkled/have a low-key sex life eventually, but he's 28, I'm 29 and it's far too early for that. I feel crushed, if this is the limit of our sexuality for the rest of our lives.

Noooooo! It doesn't have to be like this! Fat schmat. I suspect if he were all sexually confident and enthusiastic, and otherwise kicking ass in his life that his gut would be less of an issue for you. On preview, griselda has touched on what I was thinking. Right now you're not happy with his attitude towards life, and with the sexual effects that sort of thing usually has. I might be up for sex when I'm in a low place in my life, but I doubt I come across as super-hot-sexy-lady. If someone were only mildly attracted to my physicality, I imagine my lack of enthusiasm and creativity would kill whatever previous chemistry we might have had. Perhaps now that your husband isn't as visually attractive to you, the fact that he's actually not very attractive personally right now is becoming more of a problem. You guys can totally work on that together, and it doesn't need to be about his weight. In fact, leave his weight out of it entirely. Talk about getting your lives in gear, doing more fun things together, enjoying each others' company more. Flirt with him in public. make it about getting out of your rut together, and not about his weight. Chances are the weight thing will be easier for him to handle psychologically when he's happy and confident in other (more important) areas of his life.

Good luck!
posted by JuliaIglesias at 11:25 AM on December 28, 2011

It's ok to divorce him if you're unattracted to him, for whatever reason

Dear God no. The time to leave him (for any reason) was before you promised to stay with him for the rest of your life no matter what. I wager there was no "unless he gets fat" in your wedding vows.

So have made your decision to stay with him -- three years ago. If you do bring up his weight with him, you should make sure that he knows the marriage is not at stake if he does not lose weight: that you do take your vows seriously and will not divorce him because his body contains more than the quantity of excess lipid molecules you deem suitable.

Assuming you do choose to raise the matter with him, he may decide to try to lose weight, and fail. Or he may lose it, then gain it back. Or he may decide that losing weight is too much work. Or you may decide not to bring it up with him in the first place. In any event, he may be fat for some or all of the remainder of your life with him.

Leaving you with two options:
  1. Continue to try to get him to do all the (hard) work to make you happy.
  2. Love him as he is and learn to be attracted to him regardless what kind of body he's in.
One of these alternatives makes someone else expend all the effort while you get the benefit; the other relies upon you to solve your own problem. One likely dooms you to never enjoying sex with your husband again; the other makes your sexual enjoyment bulletproof through all the future changes in behavior. One asks "how can I get what I want out of my marriage?" and the other asks "what can I give to my marriage?"

I know this isn't what you expected to happen in your marriage at your age. Bu tnobody ever gets to plan the future. I know not one but two couples who got married and were blissful for years, then the husband had a stroke. One of these couples was just in their thirties when this happened. If you can't handle this little speed bump in your marriage, how in the world will you handle an actual crisis?
posted by kindall at 11:28 AM on December 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Sorry guys, sometimes physically unattractive is physically unattractive, not just psychologically unattractive because of a bad attitude.

For those of you who seem so insistant that growing a 7-month-pregnant belly is not legitimately enough to lessen the OP's attraction to her husband - what is? If he gained 300 pounds would you still be telling her she's turned off by his sloth and lack of confidence?
posted by namesarehard at 11:29 AM on December 28, 2011 [15 favorites]

I also think it's a matter of personal responsibility to stay somewhat attractive FOR your partner, which her husband is clearly not taking seriously.

Yes. The pickiness and insistence on keeping his treats suggests that eating differently isn't a priority for him, which means the weight is going to stay or increase. Although you've told him the gut is a problem for you, he hasn't cared enough to change what sounds like an immature approach to eating. Like others I wonder if his attitude is killing your attraction more than his actual belly.

I'm also supposedly a supertaster (bitter! it's bitter!) but that rules out only a handful of healthy foods. Low carb has worked well for me, but for it to work for him, he would have to care enough to try it and to stick with it during the first period of cravings.

Mark's Daily Apple has some success stories about couples in which one person got into shape and then the other was finally inspired to join them. There's also a forum with, probably, many people in the same situation who might have advice for you.
posted by ceiba at 11:35 AM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

It's really two different, albeit related questions/problems.

Problem/Question 1. How do I help Husband lose weight? the short answer is: you really can't. Sure, you can not hinder. You stop buying soda, cheese doodles, and other junk. You stop baking cookies and start cooking leaner meals and serving smaller portions. Instead of suggesting trips to the ice cream shop or going out for a beer, you suggest bike riding. You don't nag; you don't second guess; you don't tease with your food choices. But in the end, Husband controls what and how much he eats and when and how much he exercises. In the end , neither of you has much control over how that affects his weight over time. Just randomly search through metafilter and ask.metafilter and you'll see just how little evidence that restrictive diets and exercise can make everyone/anyone thin. Bodies, especially those approaching middle age, are hard to control. So, by all means, help create healthier diets in your household and help promote active lifestyles, but recognize that Husband's weight is beyond your control and probably mostly beyond his.

Problem/Question 2. Can I find Husband attractive if he remains this weight (or gains more)? Subquestion 2. What do we do if I cannot find him attractive at this weight? Really, only you can answer this. Both you and your Husband deserve affection and love that is not faked, that is not perfunctory. Sex is sliding-scale important--everyone places a different value on it in their relationships; and in many relationships that value waxes and wans over time and circumstance--but it is important. Work out together what its value is in your life together and work out what its value is in your lives individually. See if the two match, if they can be reconciled. Then work out together whether you can both be satisfied, respected and happy together.

But you have to surrender your attachment to solving Problem 1. Relieving yourself of the burden of Problem 1, which is largely intractable and not yours to solve in any event, lets you focus on Problem 2. Be honest with yourself and your husband about what your relationship is, what it can be, without tying those answers to a hypothetical acceptable weight. Then you will know whether the best thing to do is salvage your relationship or walk away.

It does not feel like it, but you are young. You will recover from whatever outcome there is. You have time either to rebuild this relationship into something beautiful or to build a new beautiful life.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:42 AM on December 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

Ask him to go on one of those diet plans that deliver or have pre-made meals. There's nothing to think about, he simply has to follow the plan. I've known some people that have had a lot of success with these types of diets. Tell him to try it for 3 months with exercise once a week. If he's truly out of shape, he should lose weight quickly.
posted by xammerboy at 11:53 AM on December 28, 2011

Start being more active yourself, and invite him along. Go for walks, play tennis, find a sport he enjoys. Compliment him when he exercises or eats right, etc.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:57 AM on December 28, 2011

It's not the 1950's. If you two had grown apart psychologically so that there was no connection left, and he'd remained the same weight, I think we'd be hearing a lot fewer objections about the notion of your leaving your husband.

In a way, you may have grown apart psychologically, as manifested by his weight gain and your reaction to it. I don't think there is much to be gained by staying in an unhappy marriage (having witnessed many '50's style marriages myself).

There've been a lot of good answers, but I like crush-onastick's approach and pretty much agree. Hubby's weight is his own issue to deal with and you can't control it even if you would like to. Forget the "helping" approach: it will only breed resentment even if he initially says he would like help. I sure as hell wouldn't want anyone around who's paying attention to my weight or what I eat, or offering helpful hints. (I'm not faulting you for noticing his weight - I would be the same way!! I just would never want a manager for a partner, since it takes away from my autonomy as an adult. If I want support in losing weight, I'll take my own big butt and go to WW/OA/personal trainer.)

Given that, is there a way for you to live with it if he stays the same weight (or, what is more likely over time, puts on more)? Talking with a trusted person in depth and some looking at self is in order here, just to avoid cheating yourself and making a hasty, fear-based decision. If you've done that work and the answer is still "No, I can't live with it," that's OK. But don't delay in starting that work out of fear of the outcome.
posted by Currer Belfry at 12:09 PM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I DO. NOT. UNDERSTAND the attitude of "you made a vow and now you are forever tied to a man you don't want to have sex with" or "it's not his fat it's his attitude!" or "your options are to divorce him or live with him being fat." Seriously, guys?

Sexual attraction can wax and wane depending on circumstances (new baby, work place stress, illness), but the OP is worried that this situation will only get worse. The core question in this thread is how she can save her marriage when she's not attracted to her husband? Right now, sex is becoming more of a chore than a fun pastime, and she's worried that his escalating weight gain will only strain the relationship further. Anyone who tries to spin this as an issue of attitude or arbitrary marital vows has their head in the clouds. I think crush-onastick has a great answer about coming to terms with what the weight loss will ultimately mean in her decision-making process.

I also am in the tiny minority of people who thinks this is a conversation worth having with him. Because looking at the advice for alternatives, I'm stumped: revolutionizing the grocery shopping, changing the meal patterns, offering celery sticks instead of cookies, suddenly suggesting going for runs, complimenting him when he eats a salad - all these tactics sound to me like passive aggressive "suggestions" that are screamingly obvious to a fat person. As a former fat person with an image-obsessed mother and lots of mean boyfriends, I know when someone is trying to send well-intentioned but tactless messages about my body.

I don't think it's particularly nice or thoughtful for the other person to break up with me and lie about why they're leaving. I also wouldn't want them to stay with me because they'd feel too guilty to admit their unhappiness to my face.

Maybe I'm crazy, but I'd rather have a frank conversation about my weight before they opt to break up with me and instead of the suggestions and martyrdom. I'd opt for someone to sit down with me and say, "Look, I love you very much, but this rapid weight gain worries me. I'm worried about your health, and it's limiting our sex life in terms of the positions we can engage in. I know no one is perfect, and I'm willing to make sacrifices with you in order to get us to a healthier lifestyle. But if you want to eat junk food and as a consequence gain unhealthy amounts of weight, I will not sit here forever and watch it happen to you." And then you can offer various plans of action about how you're going to tackle this together.

It's his call to respond to this conversation with conviction and dedication or with self-loathing and binge eating. But I really do think it's fair to be honest with him about your concerns instead of beating around the bush.
posted by zoomorphic at 12:11 PM on December 28, 2011 [26 favorites]

I'm a husband who needs a kick in the butt from time to time. I think the most respectful, least hurtful, and most effective way is going to be to describe what you want, not what you don't want. Focus on the attitude, not the results.

Hey babe, I used to really admire your willingness to go cycling and keep fit. You are my husband and I love you, but it hurts me to see you've given up on your weight. I know it's hard, but I would love that you would do something hard for me. I'll help you as much as I can, If you only promise not to quit trying.
posted by ctmf at 12:26 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe I'm crazy, but I'd rather have a frank conversation about my weight before they opt to break up with me and instead of the suggestions and martyrdom. I'd opt for someone to sit down with me and say, "Look, I love you very much, but this rapid weight gain worries me. I'm worried about your health, and it's limiting our sex life in terms of the positions we can engage in. I know no one is perfect, and I'm willing to make sacrifices with you in order to get us to a healthier lifestyle. But if you want to eat junk food and as a consequence gain unhealthy amounts of weight, I will not sit here forever and watch it happen to you." And then you can offer various plans of action about how you're going to tackle this together.

I agree with most of the rest of what zoomorphic says*, here, but do not pretend that you're concerned about his health when what you're really concerned about is how not attracted you are to him. You don't necessarily get to be the good guy, here. Your concern about his health is, let's face it, only a small part of your problem. Most of your question is about your feelings about him.

*Well, okay, I take commitment and marriage seriously and would not at this point in my life marry someone when I knew it was possible that I wouldn't be attracted to them at some point down the line, but I am also once divorced, so this stuff happens and it will be a learning experience if the relationship ends. I do agree that you should tell him why you're considering leaving, if you seriously consider it.
posted by hought20 at 12:31 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have fought obesity my entire life. Being overweight sucks. It's uncomfortable. It makes you feel less sexy and it sure isn't good for your mental health.

Some people have it harder than others. This does not mean that you get out of trying because it's tough. It sounds like a conversation needs to happen- and not just one about how you're "concerned." He needs to know that his physical health and fitness is making him less attractive to you and is damaging your sex-life- and ultimately could destroy your relationship.

It does not feel good to hear- but for crying out loud- it feels a lot better than "honey I want a divorce reason..." At least give him the option of showing you he wants to make your relationship better.

And otherwise- you're damn right that you owe some level of self-care to your spouse. If we were talking about his refusal to get under a shower head three times a week for a half-hour- this wouldn't be a conversation. Maybe if he knows that it really IS important to you, and not just a mild irritation- he'll give you that half-hour every other day for activity and maybe force himself to experiment with some more foods.

a side point- it is never ok to belittle, verbally abuse, mock or exhibit cruelty to anyone, especially because of their appearance. Being direct and telling someone in a loving way that their health makes a difference to you is not any of those things.
posted by Blisterlips at 12:47 PM on December 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

I am kind of floored that people seem to be presuming that he doesn't know that junk food/lack of exercise is making him fat, and that being fat can predispose you to health conditions. Unless he is illiterate or has some cognitive impairment, you really can't get away from that message in Western society. If he's not motivated to do something about it on his own, why would "hey, I made some steamed broccoli for you" or "let's go for a walk" do any good? What does OP do if he just says no? What does OP do if he eats the broccoli but then stops at McDonald's on his way home from work?

His eating and exercise habits are really, truly out of her control, and that is why I laid out her choices above: futilely try to change him, let go, or leave.

OP: If you can't get past the physical attractiveness issue, I would think of it in terms of "sexual incompatibility," as if you had different kinks in the bedroom than he did. Sexual incompatibility, from what I can see, leads to only four outcomes: opening the marriage, cheating, leaving, or being miserable.
posted by desjardins at 12:47 PM on December 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

His eating and exercise habits are really, truly out of her control, and that is why I laid out her choices above: futilely try to change him, let go, or leave.

Sometimes encouragement works. Sometimes threats work. Sometimes an ultimatum works. I generally agree that people can't be fundamentally changed. I don't agree that someone who used to exercise and be thinner can't be convinced to re-engage in those habits under the right circumstances.

To simply "let go or leave" sounds like giving up without even trying. If nothing else, there is psychological comfort in the OP knowing that she tried everything before ending her marriage.
posted by cnc at 1:03 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

- one more thing. you say he has been going back and forth with his weight most of his adult life.

How much of a window would you accept? Is it going to make you bonkers and inconsolable if he gains 70lbs? Would you be kind of ok if he only gained 30 and then worked to back it up?

Think of this as an addiction. He is probably going to have slip ups for the rest of his life. Is that ok as long as he's willing to show you he'll try to get back on track?

Being in the obese category is not an illness in itself. it is a symptom of something. It's a result of shitty habits or bad diet or other medical conditions. You don't catch a case of the fats. Something is going on there. If you were with a diabetic who absolutely refused to take his insulin because he didn't like needles- are you the bad guy if you call it quits? You are not obligated to stay and watch someone self-destruct- but giving him an honest chance to manage his behaviors better would be the right thing to do.
posted by Blisterlips at 1:03 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Few people would probably agree, but I find what your husband is doing abusive. I strongly believe that you owe it to your SO to remain in the approximate physical shape (or better) that you were in when you began your relationship, within reason.* Doubly so if your SO has expressed dissatisfaction in your appearance and/or healthfulness.

There's really nothing you can do to change him, but going to the gym yourself and getting fit (assuming you're not already) might encourage him to do the same. It will also increase your marketability should you decide to be with someone you're sexually attracted to.

*Every person will have a different version of what "within reason" means here, particularly since none of us can resist aging and all that comes with it. Personally, I don't support plastic surgery. But 2 hours per week in the gym and a reasonable diet -- if you need it -- is the least you can do for someone you love.
posted by coolguymichael at 1:23 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

If reading isn't his thing, how about a movie? The documentary Fat Head is both funny and enlightening and might help open your hubby's eyes to how his lousy eating patterns are affecting his body - not just his weight, but also his health. It falls in line with the books zoomorphic mentioned, but might be an easier sell, especially if the both of you sit down together to watch and discuss it. I actually plan on re-watching this week to reinspire myself after all this holiday eating.
posted by platinum at 1:30 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Some wise comments here, some idiotic ones. Reading some of the comments here makes me sadly shake my head and wonder whatever happened to "... 'till death do us part"?. I have one brief point to offer (and echoing Blisterlips):

Unless there are medical reasons (are there?) his eating/exercise habits aren't the problem, they are symptoms. Tackle the real problem before destroying a marriage.
posted by epo at 1:42 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

For those of you who seem so insistant that growing a 7-month-pregnant belly is not legitimately enough to lessen the OP's attraction to her husband - what is? If he gained 300 pounds would you still be telling her she's turned off by his sloth and lack of confidence?

I think it's very distressing for the OP that she finds his body unattractive and this is threatening her commitment to the marriage (which is supposed to be for better, for worse, etc.). I think if her husband were to say, "Gosh, I know I haven't been eating well and I don't like being so sedentary. I think I'll go jogging with you, and try some different foods, and make an effort to take responsibility for being a more active partner, because I'd like to spare you the trouble of dealing with a partner in poor health," she would probably find the 6+ month wait for the belly to shrink much more palatable. The reality is that his weight isn't going to vanish overnight, and there's no guarantee it will go away entirely. The attitude shift can happen quickly and more reliably than weight loss (if he's willing). Either she tries to drag him there kicking and screaming (which she has already tried), or he sees the necessity and steps up like an adult. The trick is to encourage him to do the latter by creating an environment that doesn't make him feel defensive or patronized.

Plenty of people grow up being mentally and emotionally abused for their crime of "unattractiveness". Maybe the husband has been picked on in the past for being husky and he's sensitive? A kind person wouldn't call a battered friend stupid and worthless for failing to leave their spouse, right? That's what a depressed person's connection to their shitty mental habits is like - an abusive relationship. If eating some McDonalds was the guaranteed high point of your day, you'd find it hard to give up, too. Sure, it's bad, but people fear leaving their (abusive) rut because they don't know anything else and they already feel very devalued. They fear judgment from others, and their own failure. That's why the mental component is so incredibly hard. I don't think you can fix that by simply refusing to buy cookies and keeping a spreadsheet of how often he's exercised.

She still loves him. She just doesn't love the attitude complications and lack of motivation that have contributed to his extra poundage and thus, her lack of attraction. The preggo belly is a symptom, not the disease.
posted by griselda at 1:54 PM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Mod note: Folks can we please take this away from who is or is not being abusive? It's not helping and not answering the question. Stick to helpful answering, or go to MetaTalk.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:40 PM on December 28, 2011

Eating on the go isn't an excuse for eating unhealthily. There are so many ways you can eat healthy food on the go, if you are willing to put in the time investment to do some work and prep these foods beforehand.

At the beginning of each week, put together things like:

- small ziplock baggies of vegetable sticks.
- a bowl of fresh fruit like oranges, apples, pears, kiwi etc (if the fruit needs to be sliced to be eaten, keep them in small containers with some lemon juice to avoid discoloration) Or you could make some fruit salad.
- healthy salads in containers you can take with you to work. Dress them with your homemade lemon juice, vinegar or olive oil dressings which you keep stored in your fridge. Do not buy store dressings.
- Small whole wheat pitas and hummus. Hummus comes in different flavors, so there's some variety.
- Healthy sandwiches/paninis/wraps made with whole wheat bread/tortillas and filled with vegetables and a bit of meat (should be made the night before, though)
- hard boiled eggs
- healthy trail mix that doesn't contain fried nuts or candy.
- low calorie granola bars
- 100-cal snack packets (like oreos, etc) for a treat. YOU MUST PORTION CONTROL THESE. Don't eat like 5 of them, because they are "only" 100-cal

Depending on what his workplace is like, you can also cook healthy meals and freeze them in individual portions to take to work and reheat in the microwave.

Also: Bento. Just do it.

Avoid soft drinks at all costs. I'm stupid, but I don't like plain water and love to drink colored things. So, buy some crystal light and drink that. It's 5 calories and also comes in very convenient to-go packets that you can use with bottled water. I'm currently addicted to MiO which is ZERO calories. Both drink mixes come in a bajillion different flavors, so there's a lot to choose from.

The best thing you can do for him is prep healthy food options for him and pack his lunch for him so that he always has something healthy to eat no matter what his schedule is like. Obviously you'll have to plan around his work situation -- like does he have a microwave or refrigeration available -- but that's a small price to pay for getting your relationship in better shape. Also there a ton of lunch bag options available, all the way from brown bag to mini coolers you can plug into your car.

So no excuses.
Picky eater is an excuse.
There is no such thing as picky eater.
There is only spoiled eater.
Spoiled-ness can be untrained.
posted by joyeuxamelie at 4:46 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you have a couple of problems here.

1. Your husband is maybe risking his health by not eating a variety of foods, and by not exercising.
2. You are not physically attracted to your husband anymore.

The fatness thing is at the intersection between the two. You believe you would be more attracted to him if he lost weight, and also that if he addressed the first problem, he would lose weight.

It sounds like you are angry with him because it seems that he is not even trying to deal with the first two things. While I think that it is justifiable that you want him to make an effort to get healthier (which may not actually lead to much change in his appearance, if he has always tended towards overweight), you can't force him, obviously. And you know that.

So all you can deal with is problem number 2. What have you tried, in terms of rediscovering your physical attraction? I mean, you have come up with a bunch of things for him to try, in terms of solving his side of the problem. Have you come up with things for yourself to try as well? For example, looking at glamour photos, maybe even porn, featuring fat guys? Swearing off reading magazines, looking at ads, maybe even mainstream movies that feature lots of young guys airbrushed or worked out to the point of something unrealistic? Have you tried drawing or photographing your husband's body, and trying to enjoy the soft folds and shadows his body has as it is right now? Have you tried stroking his belly and squishing it, and incorporating that into your sexytimes?

It's possibly true that some people are just attracted to one type of body, and there's nothing they can do about it. But I would only come to that conclusion about yourself if you try all of the above and anything else you can think of, and still find it's not working. Because, you know, it's a bit of a weird coincidence if your "natural" attraction type just happens to be the same one that's promoted in our thinness/fitness-obsessed society. It would have been terrible for you, in that case, to have been born into a society where fatness was considered beautiful, where few people look like you want your husband to.

Anyway, I'm not trying to shame you, here, or be snarky. I honestly think that you are more likely to be successful changing your own standards of what is beautiful than changing your husband's body. And if it doesn't work, then I also don't think there is anything wrong with eventually leaving your husband. Sex is important, and if you can't have a sexual relationship with him, then that is going to really suck for both of you.
posted by lollusc at 4:59 PM on December 28, 2011

He has to decide, but I think low, low carb is the way to go. You can eat that way too. No matter how picky he is, if you eat steak every night with no carbs, he'll lose weight. And once he loses even 5 lbs, he'll probably feel so chuffed up he might start cycling again. Whey protein shakes for breakfast and coconut oil when he feels peckish. Fruit is carbs and will not help him lose. If he has a whoosh! of weight loss right away, he'll feel better and more motivated. Don't buy carbs--rice, bread, pasta, etc..
posted by Ideefixe at 6:41 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

As much as I love CSAs and think eating a variety of different foods is important, it's pretty much an unnecessary battle in my opinion. Picky eating isn't ruining your relationship. Calling him spoiled for not liking the taste of certain vegetables is not going to win you any brownie points and certainly won't help him get healthier.

It's perfectly possible to fill all your nutrient requirements without eating rutabagas and cauliflower. I am quite limited in my food choices by a stomach disorder and I still managed to get much healthier and lose weight (and improve my stomach). Braised beef shanks and carrots is a great meal. Mix in some inoffensive leafy greens and it's perfect. Another thing that really helped me was making all my "treats" from scratch. I was less likely to reach for the packaged cookies when I had homemade chocolate mousse in the fridge, which was very dense and didn't require much to make me happy. There are many other reasons to cook from scratch besides losing weight such as saving money and avoiding bad processed crap.
posted by melissam at 6:05 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

How does your husband feel about it? By which I mean - is he secretly unhappy with his shape, not so secretly unhappy, or perfectly fine with the status-quo? The answer to this is key to how you're going to tackle this issue, and whether it's your issue or both your issue.
posted by mippy at 6:46 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I honestly think it might not be about his weight. Many people think they are ditching a partner for something like weight and then next thing you know they are married to a much fatter/thinner/taller/shorter/whatever person than they were with and are happy! I think this happens because what makes people truly compatible is indescribable and intangible and when it goes wrong they try to grasp onto something logical as the problem.
posted by meepmeow at 3:52 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

My gut reaction is that if you let this issue go and leave him alone about it, then he'll probably start working on it himself. He's unlikely to be clueless about his body in the mirror and what he likes and dislikes about it. I don't think you can push him to feeling motivated. I think you're just going to have to be patient. That is, if you really love him and can be patient with him.
posted by anniecat at 9:35 PM on December 29, 2011

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