overweight and insecure
July 9, 2012 8:12 AM   Subscribe

My wife is overweight, insecure, and unhappy. Help her. And me.

My wife and I met in college and have been together for the last 12.5 years, 5.5 of which we've been married. She's a good person with a huge heart, and most people who meet her like her.

Ever since I've known her, she's been a heavy person. I didn't care much at the beginning of our relationship, what with the initial lovey-doveys and butterflies. As time and the relationship progressed, she tried to shed pounds, succeeding somewhat in 2004 with Weight Watchers and then in 2010 with a shake diet and while training to run a half-marathon. Other attempts have been made but have been sporadic and unsuccessful, including a Wii Fit phase and a BeachBody phase.

She's now well over 200 pounds (at 5'3") and noticeably larger than at any time since I've known her. She knows it, and she doesn't like it. She'll often say "I'm fat" or "Uh, the fat rolls!" at least once a day.

Her weight has always been a problem for her, and a source of general unhappiness...sort of a dark cloud over her life. She clearly has some willpower, but I'm concerned that she's on the verge of just letting herself go. The continual weight gain has added to her insecurities, which I'll detail more below. And she's clearly unhappier and more stressed than at any time I've known her.

A bit about me, to put this in context: I'm a healthy 180 pounds (at 5'11). I get some version of exercise at least once a day...at minimum, I do 80 push-ups in the morning. I eat well (although not as well as I'd like to) and in moderation.

Bringing up the topic of weight loss is pointless; any discussion ends in tears. She feels bad enough; me pointing it out or offering to help just reminds her of the work, and it makes her more upset. I've exhaused the ways to help:

1. We've tried cooking new meals together. That didn't really work out; unfortunately, neither of us really likes cooking...the food was never satisfying.

2. I've enlisted the help of her best friend (who is not physically proximate) to call her and ask her if she's okay and bring up the topic. That went nowhere.

3. Unfortunately, she doesn't have any close girlfriends who can help her or drive down the weight-loss road with.

4. I've tried to get her to exercise with me...go running together, for example. Unfortunately, this just has the same effect as me bringing up the topic of losing weight and just ends in unhappiness. I signed up for a triathlon in August and hoped that might spur her to some activity (train with me, encourage each other), but no dice.

5. I do my best to set a good example by ordering small portions in restaurants and not eating a lot of snacks at home. She does not follow my lead.

6. We bought an elliptical back in January of 2011. It's easy to access...right in our great room with a view of the TV, so using it is a cinch. She's used it maybe 15 times.

7. We have a gym membership that she does not use.

The weight has made her more insecure than I can ever remember. She asks me "Do you love me?" at least twice a day, which sounds cute, but it isn't, as she's genuniely afraid I'm falling out of love with her. Also, about once a week, she reminds me "If you're going to have an affair, you have to let me know." For the record, I have never, ever given her a reason to believe that might happen, and I have no intent of being unfaithful. This used to be sort of funny, but now I'm sad she has to ask. She's convinced my parents don't like her (they do), and she's even shy about opening the front door on the rare occasion we order pizza delivery.

Her insecurity has greatly affected our sex life; I can count on one hand the amount of times we've had physical intimacy in the last 12 months. I also cannot bring up this problem with her; the principle is the same as the weight problem. In this department, I bought her some items that might help her enjoy sex more (with or without me), but she doesn't use them.

Her unhappiness is making me unhappy; she used to just have small spurts of unhappiness, but her current attitude has been in place for over a few months now. I am not falling out of love her, as she fears, but at the same time, much of our time together is a long way from what anyone might consider "fun" or even healthy.

What ideas do you have on how we can get over this hump?
posted by st starseed to Human Relations (86 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Personal trainer?
posted by snaparapans at 8:15 AM on July 9, 2012

Her weight is not causing her to be depressed and insecure. Her depression and insecurity is causing her weight.

In other words, focus on her feelings of sadness. Yes, take walks with her. Be active with her as a loving activity. But she needs to get a handle on her feelings. The exercise will come along.
posted by RedEmma at 8:17 AM on July 9, 2012 [72 favorites]

And what I meant to add: Therapy!
posted by RedEmma at 8:17 AM on July 9, 2012 [6 favorites]

Has she tried therapy? She may need an outside perspective that isn't you or her best friend. Although it sounds like you have good intentions, any mention of her weight or suggestions to do things related to her weight is probably just going to lead to more insecurity. It sounds like she has the "weight issues" as well as "insecurity issues". While one may influence the other, they probably are worth dealing with and thinking about separately.
posted by quodlibet at 8:18 AM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you're doing a lot of good things trying to be supportive for your wife but you're going to have to force the conversation, tears or not. Her depression will always get in the way or her exercising and improving her health. You need to tackle this first, preferably with professional help.
posted by londonmark at 8:19 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you want to change her body or change her insecurities about her body? It's not clear from your post. You might need to separate those things. Helping her change her body might not be the best way to help her feel less insecure.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:20 AM on July 9, 2012 [27 favorites]

For a long time in my last relationship, I was very unhappy and was also 30 pounds heavier than I am now.

Having an athletic partner made me feel like shit because it seemed so easy for him. He could eat whatever he wanted all the time and never gain weight. He could work out and easily build muscle and tone. He'd try to encourage me to run or train with him but he was so far beyond my physical capacity that doing those things with him felt like I was just making an ass of myself and that everything was just this huge joke. I felt like every time he suggested we go to something "active" or how the gym was going for me that he was just rubbing in my face that I was fat and unattractive and there was something wrong with me (anxiety, insecurity, depression talking there).

I spent a lot of time in therapy and got a new job.

But getting a handle on my anxiety/depression/whatever in my brain (i was on meds for awhile and now just take ativan if it's really bad), going pretty strict paleo for a while (paleoplan.com has meal plans for two people that take leftovers into account, has easy recipes, and a shopping list each week), and getting on the right birth control helped immensely.
posted by sio42 at 8:25 AM on July 9, 2012 [11 favorites]

The way you describe your wife sounds a lot like how I would have described myself a few years ago. For me (and YMMV) the excess weight was a symptom, not the cause. Once I dealt with my depression, I wanted to be fitter and stronger so I became so. Therapy helped so, so much. I am happy to weigh less but I am elated to not be sad anymore!
posted by pointystick at 8:26 AM on July 9, 2012 [7 favorites]

I think you should first address her bad feelings, before "fixing" the "problem" (that is, getting her to lose weight). She must eventually begin to feel more confident and okay with herself, and then she'll have the internal resources necessary to make whatever physical changes she needs to.

What else is going on in her life? Does she work? You mentioned that she doesn't have a lot of close girlfriends; perhaps she would feel better if she made some friends. Does she have hobbies? Does she spend her free time doing things that are fun/productive/relaxing?

Spending the majority of one's emotional energy ruminating on a perceived physical flaw tends to lead to ignoring other important aspects of life. She is so much more than her body and her weight. Help her to remember that. Help her find a good therapist and see if that doesn't make a difference.
posted by clockzero at 8:28 AM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yes, as people said above, therapy and assessment for depression.

But also: has she ever been assessed by a medical doctor for factors like hypothyroid, PCOS, etc. that could be contributing to both the weight and the stress/depression?
posted by pie ninja at 8:30 AM on July 9, 2012 [11 favorites]

she's even shy about opening the front door on the rare occasion we order pizza delivery.

Does she leave the house, work, go to classes or get-togethers with friends? That bit above is not normal (200 pounds on a 5'3 woman is big, but not that far out of the norm in Western society especially the US). I agree with those above that the weight is a symptom of a larger problem that she needs professional help with. You can't force her to therapy though. It is wonderful you are so supportive of her, keep encouraging small victories. Instead of running what about a yoga class together? Or pre-screen a supportive Personal Trainer with a normal body and personal weight issues to meet you both at the gym (I say both because it seems she would appreciate your support) and after your wife is comfortable with her she can go alone. She should also be focusing on what she does well, to boost her self-esteem.
posted by saucysault at 8:34 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I suggest Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns. She should do the exercises daily for 4 months at least.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:35 AM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't know the exact approach you should take here, but I don't think you should take tears as a sign that a particular approach is a dead end. As alarming as it may feel, when she cries, don't panic, give her a hug, and gently try to continue discussing whatever it was you were trying to discuss. For some people, a difficult topic might actually be easier to discuss after they've cried a bit.
posted by ignignokt at 8:39 AM on July 9, 2012 [12 favorites]

Holy bananas, you have to drop all talk of her weight (even if she brings it up first). Please. Her weight is her business. Repeat after me: "Honey, you're beautiful and I love you!" Resist attempts to engage in A Serious Talk about this. Motivation has to come from her; this isn't a problem you can solve from the outside. (Oh, how I wish it were!)
posted by purpleclover at 8:39 AM on July 9, 2012 [28 favorites]

But also: has she ever been assessed by a medical doctor for factors like hypothyroid, PCOS, etc. that could be contributing to both the weight and the stress/depression?

This a great approach, and she could also be tested for food allergies. Dairy and wheat allergies in intolerances are pretty common and can contribute to weight gain or difficulty losing weight.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:44 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, whatever else you do, definitely get her depression treated immediately, whatever it may take. If she has clinical depression that needs to be treated with medication, her other efforts to beat it are going to be multiple times harder without treatment.
posted by ignignokt at 8:45 AM on July 9, 2012

Has she looked into bariatric surgery? It is not for everyone, and it is not without its own challenges, even when 100% successful, but it has turned my wife's life around in a number of different ways. I'm certain she'd be happy to go into more detail about her process and procedure privately if your wife would like to talk about it (MeMail or email me).

It's a tough thing for you to be involved in though. I mean, there is a definite need for a supportive and helpful partner post-surgery, but there are some huge decisions to be made on her part before going through with such a thing, and it could be a major catastrophe (even life-threatening) if she went through with bariatric surgery she was not ready for because she felt like you were "pushing" her to do it (not that you would do that, but it might feel that way to her). You may just want to mention to her that you would be happy to help her find information and resources if it is something she has been considering.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:49 AM on July 9, 2012

Read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. It explores why some people get fat and why it's so difficult to lose weight (hint: they're not just lazy slobs), and casts a lot of doubt on the scientific basis of conventional wisdom. For instance, the notion that moderate exercise helps to lose weight (not really, but it makes you stronger and you feel healthier), the efficacy of low-calorie diets, and the notion that calories from potato chips are the same as calories from steak. It makes a strong case for low-carb, unrestricted calorie diets (such as Atkins / Paleo / South Beach), arguing that flour, sugar, and starch are the drivers of the obesity epidemic and that fat is not actually so bad. The presentation is less fad-like than others, and it has a good comparative history of the actual dietary science behind obesity research.

I'm currently putting these ideas to the test with a simple diet (no flour/sugar/starch, unrestricted meat and vegetables). It's too early to say if I've lost more than water weight, but I find it much easier to follow this diet than previous low-calorie attempts at dieting. I don't feel like I'm starving all the time, I don't have food cravings, and I don't actually eat very much. Eating fat instead of avoiding it really does seem to satiate those cravings. Plus, bacon.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:50 AM on July 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


Sounds like you described me there, except that I'm not insecure.

1/3 of people in the US are obese. I've been heavy all my life, and unless I'm on a starvation diet, I can't lose weight and I can't keep up starvation, so I gain back any weight I've lost. This has been my lot in life since I was a child.

Weight is such a loaded topic. Science is telling us more and more every day that even with diet and exercise, many of us, once we've become fat, may never lose the weight.

That is no excuse not to exercise or to eat moderately. But recognize that what you think about weight and diet and exercise may be entirely wrong.

For sure, a medical assessment and a mental health assessment are in order. You want to rule out anything that might be contributing to the problem.Then, rather than diet and a gruesome exercise routine, concentrate on eating well and doing moderate exercise.

Lower your expectations. One of the reasons so many overweight/obese people are miserable is because they feel like failures. We're not failures, we're people with medieval metabolisms in a modern world. What worked for my Russian ancestors on the farm, doesn't work well for me here in skyscraper-land. I've made my peace with it, and I'm willing to meet it half-way, but I refuse to starve and exhaust myself in the name of vanity.

One reason your wife may be avoiding the exercise equipment is because she's not seeing results, which is depressing.

Learn to reframe the discussion and the expected outcomes. Let a reduced cholesterol and blood pressure be the reward, not size 8 jeans.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:55 AM on July 9, 2012 [33 favorites]

To elaborate: I'm not saying that you guys should never, at some point, train for a marathon together, or eat healthy meals together, or what have you. But I think you/she need to uncouple those things from some need to lose weight in order to be acceptable and desirable, either to you or in the eyes of society. I think one of the big problems in this world is that people, especially women, get this message that body size dictates both health and desirability. That makes exercise and eating good food fraught with complicated emotions and pressure instead of being something people can do simply because it feels good/makes them feel good--and that makes the exercise and healthier eating unsustainable in the long term.

There are various body-positive resources--I can't think of much offhand, but they often include things like pictures of larger women in pinup-type pictures and the like. Or--my city has a dance troupe of larger women. Help her find things like that.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:56 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Learn how to cook together. It doesn't have to be difficult and time consuming, nor is it hard. Healthy vege smoothies - throw 4 or 5 items into a blender. Salads, add nuts and fruit with a bit of chicken, not hard. Dinner - stir fry and brown rice. Takes less time then ordering take out. Take some classes together, it'll get her out of the house and interacting with people.

Get treatment for her depression.

Also agreeing with Sio42, working out with someone who is far beyond your abilities is extremely discouraging. I personally work the best alone, competing only with my past self. A personal trainer to help set her up in a schedule of going might help. Gyms don't take the weight off, but regular exercise does help with many peoples moods. Makes a huge difference in mine!
posted by Dynex at 9:01 AM on July 9, 2012

I honestly think the only thing you can do is practice, what in al anon is called, loving detachment--quite simply there is nothing you can do about it. You either stay with her, with love and detachment, or you do not. Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to make sure you are not sabotaging what efforts she does make. Do not get into "do you still love me even though ?????", it is a foolish and destructive question to ask and foolish and destructive to answer. Her weight is her problem and you have a responsibility to disengage yourself from it and she has a reciprocal responsibility to not involve you.
I think therapy/counseling may be useful but i disagree with those who say she eats because she is depressed. Your wife does not know why she is obese, you do not know and we do not know. The reasons for her obesity is an incredibly complicated set of cultural, personal, hereditary, dietary, exercise and biological factors. What I am quite confident about is she has a better chance of managing her depression by losing weight than losing weight by treating her depression (unless it is very real clinical depression)
I would approach this as if your partner has a very serious, chronic. disabling and potentially life threatening disease. You can help provide resources, avoid intentional/accidental sabotage and provide a loving context but you can not force medical compliance or treatment.
Take the best possible care of your self, eat healthy, continue exercising and do not let her self image/anxiety/depression interfere with the best possible life you can have. She already feel bad about "ruining her life" it will in no way help her to feel she has "ruined your life". I am confident it is not a good idea to have an affair, even if you do tell her in advance. If your isolation and lack of intimacy becomes a significant problem for you be candid with her--her self consciousness about her body is something she needs to manage and is not a reason (in itself) for not having sex in ways pleasurable (hopefully) for both of you, or just you.
My Best to you
posted by rmhsinc at 9:09 AM on July 9, 2012 [8 favorites]

Thow. Money. At. The. Problem.

Hire a personal chef to cook in your house once a week and package daily meals for you in some tupperware or something. And then just don't eat anything else, except maybe every other week have a nice date out somewhere that you both enjoy where there are no rules.

Also, I don't know that the weight and the unhappiness are so separate as some people are saying; I would tend to believe they both feed into each other, such that one way to tackle the happiness would be to fix the weight (making her feel more confident, attractive, healthy, and happy), and one way to tackle the weight would be to fix the happiness (so that she is eager to help herself become healthier and sexier because she deserves it, damnit).

If that construct is right, it's a mistake to focus just on half of the equation, when both sides could be worked on simultaneously.

I'm also not so sure that the weight can just be ignored or treated as unimportant. I remember reading about surveys and studies of women who had breast enlargements. I came into the article with a very judgmental line of thought. "Breast implants are a shallow thing; our society is terrible for judging people on their looks, and (yes I thought this) these people are not good people for giving in to that pressure."

By the end of the article I had grown as a person. The repeated message from a significant percentage of the women was that they experienced real, long-lasting, and positive changes in their lives/self-esteem just from having saline packs shoved into their breasts to make them look bigger. Who am I to say that what makes someone else happy is wrong? That would be a dick move, and I try to avoid those when I can.

Our society truly does judge and value people in part based on their looks. We are embedded in our societies, like it or not. I think there is a good chance that shedding some pounds will have a real, long-lasting, and positive effect on her happiness and self-esteem.

Or maybe it won't, but the idea is not absurd on the face of it and shouldn't necessarily be dismissed out of hand.
posted by jsturgill at 9:10 AM on July 9, 2012 [11 favorites]

I'm in a really similar position as you. I have zero doubt my husband is depressed right now and that's causing his weight gain and insecurity in other areas. A couple of things we tried: going through a Gottman book to make sure we both felt good/confident about our relationship, investing in activities he finds interesting (getting a new biking gadget, finding a new jogging route, taking a yoga class), and this Picture Perfect Weight Loss book was incredibly helpful for us both to reign in our portion sizes and find "acceptable" healthy snacks.
posted by adorap0621 at 9:10 AM on July 9, 2012

Be aware that if your wife does go for therapy (and I agree that it sounds like it would be helpful), and if she and her therapist decide she needs some kind of medication to manage depression, that is only the first step. One of the most common side effects of medication for depression is weight gain (or at least the body's desire to maintain its current weight). In other words, if your wife goes on depression meds, don't necessarily expect that weight loss will follow.

Lots of great info on meds at Crazy Meds.

On preview, I love jsturgill's idea to hire a personal chef. Great idea! Also, some folks do really well on programs like NutriSystem or the like, where they don't have to think about healthy meals except for writing the check.

Good luck!!!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:14 AM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

I second visiting a doctor to rule out any medical conditions that might be contributing to the weight gain. Assuming there is no medical explanation for her weight gain...

I'm going to come at this from a radically different angle: Help your wife normalize the body she has. Help your wife find a body positive therapist. Help your wife surround herself with body positive people and images. Being 200lbs and 5'3" does not mean you are automatically unhealthy. It does not mean you have no willpower. It does not mean you are lazy. Women are bombarded every day with unrealistic expectations of what their bodies should look like and be like. Every body is different and "thin" is not everyone's natural baseline.

The thing is, it doesn't matter how much you weigh, how "healthy" you are, or how much you exercise. If your wife doesn't like to exercise that is her prerogative. Lots of people who are thin don't like to exercise. They don't get judged in the same way that people who are deemed "overweight" do. Your current attitude toward your wife's body ("I'm concerned that she's on the verge of just letting herself go") is not positive. The way you act and react toward her weight is contributing to her insecurity.

Do you think your wife is beautiful as she is? Do you love her less now than you did when she was thinner? Focus on this. Help her accept and feel comfortable in the body she has now.
posted by postpostpostscript at 9:16 AM on July 9, 2012 [27 favorites]

What if she never loses this weight? Will you still love her? Will you want a divorce? In the back her head she probably feels there is a time limit on your love. That's not a good feeling.

I don't think it's productive for you to take ownership of her weight. What if she decided that you should run a marathon, and kept remarking how cool it would be if you did that, buying you new sneakers, etc. Try to imagine how that would feel if you felt really insecure about your running ability or even just didn't want to run the marathon. At this point, even something as innocuous as you making a salad for dinner might seem laden with implicit motives.

It's ok for you to help her *if she asks you to do it in the way that she asks you to do it*. But it needs to come from her, and she needs to lead the charge, and she needs to be able to tell you "stuff it, that's not helpful" at any time.

IMO, drop it completely. Find things to focus on and enjoy together that have nothing to do with weight and are not covert attempts to change her. Encourage her to get treatment for depression. Tell her all the reasons you love her, physical and non-physical. And take care of yourself - make sure you have hobbies and friends and don't get pulled under by her depression. (You can't take ownership of her mental health either, FWIW).

If I were her friend, I'd nudge her towards therapy, a medical checkup, and fat-positivity blogs. Getting angry can be good. A lot of fat positivity blogs encourage living your life NOW and be grateful for your body as it is. This is good. She needs love and acceptance, from you but mostly from herself, as she is right now.
posted by bunderful at 9:17 AM on July 9, 2012 [18 favorites]

As a fat person who has been through it all, probably a lot like your wife here, I'm echoing Ruthless Bunny pretty loudly. If you try to convince her to work out to gain a certain appearance, that's a dead end because no matter how much she diets and works out, she's not likely to ever look like Jillian Michaels. You may have to meet her halfway and accept that her body is very likely to stay plump, even if she does manage to lose some weight.

I can get where your wife must be. Dieting is awful, exercise is boring and I'd rather be doing anything than working out. Especially when I see that months of eating no more than 800 calories a day (yes, I have done this) leads to a loss of only 12lbs and no chance of fitting into smaller clothes. Thinking about that too much makes me cry, too. You are athletic and it's easier for you to remain your target weight. She probably already feels inadequate next to you, and at the gym where there are size 0 women running on the treadmill for hours you can multiply that by 1000. She isn't "letting herself go" (that phrase grrrs me, but, there it is) so much as she's crumbling under the pressures and the knowledge that it's 10x harder for her to lose a pound than it is for you.

At my lowest, I've been about 30lbs lighter than right now. I was still fat. Now I try to keep to a lower carb diet (a mental-health saver if there ever was one after a lifetime of salads with no dressing; rice made without added oil; attempting to convince oneself that 3/4 of a cup of Special K with skim milk is a meal) and work out with a personal trainer 2x a week and on my own about 2x a week. I focus on building strength and getting proper nutrition and I don't obsess over the scale. I'm not really losing much right now, but as long as I'm getting stronger and treating my body right, I can be ok with that.

My husband is probably a lot like you. He still weighs as much as he did when he was 18. Losing weight for him is a manner of skipping the occasional Kit-Kat. It's taken some years of him seeing my struggle to realize that I'm truly blessed/cursed with the perfect metabolism to survive a famine.

So I guess I'm saying go easy on her. Realize it's not a matter of willpower but that a number of genetic ans chemical factors have stacked the deck against her. See if she would be willing to start a class that's body-accepting like bellydance or yoga. Look into paleo or low-carb eating.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:22 AM on July 9, 2012 [21 favorites]

What purpleclover said, a thousand times. I'm not even that overweight, maybe 20 pounds or so, but I'm hard on myself about it, and I cannot even express how awesome it is that my husband consistently tells me that I'm beautiful and he loves me just the way I am (and even loves the tummy I have after giving birth to our son). It goes a LONG way toward making me feel happy and secure in my marriage. My body is my own issue to deal with, not an issue in my marriage.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:22 AM on July 9, 2012 [9 favorites]

The fact that neither of you can cook or likes to cook... that is a major part of the problem, right there. What do you eat? Serious question. Is it mostly takeout, frozen meals, convenience foods? All of that is packed with salt and fat and carbs, none of which are evil, but when that's all you put in your body, it's not a good thing.

BOTH of you need to learn how to cook, and relearn how to eat. Yes, you need to do it too.
posted by palomar at 9:23 AM on July 9, 2012 [10 favorites]

This is not a weight or health problem. It is a marriage problem. Get to counseling.

Each of you has problems individually, and the two of you have problems collectively, and you're not able to constructively handle them. The specifics are almost irrelevant. The suggestions you're getting here about depression and weight loss and so on may or may not work in your situation. The critical, critical thing is for both of you to recognize you are both stuck and to commit to find ways to work constructively to get unstuck. Then the right solutions will be made clear. Counseling, counseling, counseling.

Good luck.
posted by Lola Xaviera Boom-Boom McPuppet at 9:31 AM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

If someone is quite overweight and really out of shape (not the same thing), the idea of "going running" out of the blue with someone who's training for a triathlon ... that's pretty intimidating. As an overweight person, one of the worst feelings is that awareness that you're now physically unable to do things you used to. Instead of asking her to go for a run, you could suggest a walk, for heaven's sake. My husband and I make "nature walk" a regular part of our weekends, weather permitting, so it's not "let's exercise!"
posted by Occula at 9:37 AM on July 9, 2012 [6 favorites]

How old is she? It is definitely a weight problem since having 200lbs on a 5.3 frame is quite overweight.

Two things-

1. Food. She needs to look at what she eats/consumes on a daily basis. What is her diet like? Does she take in a lot of soda/sugar/fried stuff. How much of her diet is vegetables? What about diary products?

2. Exercise-she needs to be active and by that I mean moving a lot. Not just taking a hour of walk a day (which would be good) but does she sit constantly in one place for a long time? That is a real killer.

I have discovered that my body craves one thing and that is carbs. So i have found ways to eat those without loading up on too many calories. she needs to find out what it is that satiates her body. is it fat? is it carbs? etc. and then feed her body that in a good way which is not too much fattening.

Also eating out is not a good idea at all and if you do split the dish since the servings are huge.

Get her a hobby that she is passionate about, it will take her mind off food and the weight. I dont think this is a counselling issue. it is more about food, aging and lack of exercise.
posted by pakora1 at 9:39 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Two thoughts:

1) With regard to her weight, she should identify and work on whatever is causing the problem. I lost a great deal of weight in a short time last year after years being overweight. I refused to try to lose weight. Instead, I focused on getting healthy.

Previous related remarks here.

2) You should tell her she needs to resolve whatever underlying problem is causing this. And then STOP trying to help her lose weight, stop encouraging her to exercise and so on and so forth. Instead, ask her to strip for you. Compliment every single thing about her you can give her a sincere and heartfelt compliment on. Tell her she has a lovely smile, cute curls, you adore her laugh, her breasts are amazing and work your way down. Repeat as often as necessary to reignite your sex life and convince her that you still love her no matter her weight. Find SOMETHING positive to say and only say what you sincerely mean. No "pity fuck" compliments allowed.

When I was very heavy, I knew a man who adored me, every inch of me, and I felt very sexy. Her weight and her insecurity are not inseparable.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 9:48 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

You need to check out of involvement with her weight, if for no other reason than the fact that you're in an unhealthy-for-everyone pattern.

Personally I think that's the way we should always handle our partner's appearance choices (or not choices, as the case may be) - we're welcome to have our opinion but unless it's supportive or asked for, keep it to yourself. Suggesting exercises or diet tactics doesn't help her emotional well-being and if she's not interested/willing/prepared to take them on that makes them actually harmful overall.

What you don't have to check out of is the impact this has on your partnership. And I'm amazed it took so long for someone to suggest marriage counseling. I don't think there's any other appropriate action here. Find some recommendations, pick a time she can make it, make the appointment. Then go, whether she's willing to go with you or not. It's justified by the change in intimacy if nothing else.
posted by phearlez at 10:00 AM on July 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

I lost fifty pound last year. My SO was supportive mainly in that he stayed out of it. And, while he never brought up my weight, he was always willing to listen/talk when I needed to. He followed my lead. I don't think there was anything he could have actually done or said that would have helped me lose the weight. There were lots of things he could have said or done that might have derailed me, but even that is unlikely. It was up to me. Outside factors (other people), whether good or bad, couldn't have that much power over my decision to lose weight once I made that decision. And that's the thing. It's a decision she has to make. Therapy for her depression is something you should talk to her about. Weight gain is likely a symptom of depression. Mine was (after quitting smoking = my metabolism halted by withdrawal + depression due to withdrawal + underlying, undiagnosed long term depression). I would describe my SO as quietly supportive regarding my weight loss (and much more 'loudly' supportive regarding my quitting smoking and finally getting help for my depression). That was all he needed to be. Because I had to first figure out whether or not I actually wanted to lose the weight. That sounds like an obvious 'yes' but there was something in me that was not ready to lose weight and was resisting (therapy!). I had to figure that and my strategy to lose weight on my own. My advice, like many above, is to encourage her to go to therapy for her depression. Good luck to you.
posted by marimeko at 10:07 AM on July 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

Seconding Lola X. and phearlez's recommendation of marriage counseling. This problem is a lot deeper than her weight - it's almost like the weight is a convenient mask for other issues. If your wife weren't obese, she'd be picking on something else about herself.

And even if the two of you were "normal" weight, the mutual dislike of cooking is probably going to take you down a poor nutritional road, which may lead to health problems later on. Try a cooking class: if she won't go with you, go by yourself. But the marriage counseling is of equal priority in my book.
posted by Currer Belfry at 10:19 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to add to what others here have said and well:

- Exercise = fitness, not weight loss
- Being asked to exercise with a very, very fit person is incredibly intimidating and may bring up feelings of embarrassment and inadequacy
- A lot of this is likely depression, so doing the Feeling Good exercises and therapy together sound like a great idea
- Low carb diet will probably help with energy levels (at least it worked for me, but diet is SUCH a YMMV thing)
- Don't mention her weight. At all. Just be loving and supportive, but it's her issue, not yours.

I have finally, after years and years of struggle, self-loathing, and starvation diets, decided to give up on the weight thing and focus on fitness. In changing my expectations around exercise and movement, I can enjoy it for its own sake now that it's not tangled up in my hopes to become a size 7. Instead, I've reframed it for myself as making myself as strong as possible (I am asthmatic, and running is a trigger, so strength goals are much more realistic and less scary for me than cardio goals) and keeping my endurance for long hikes up. She needs to find some kind of movement she enjoys and doesn't feel threatened by and focus on getting better at it, not to lose weight, but to simply up her game. This will help with her self-esteem. I have found reading the blog Dances with Fat really, really helpful in learning how to recognize and counteract my negative self-talk about exercise. There are so few public role models for fat people being active in public.

I haven't lost any weight, but I have better muscle tone and endurance, a great blood work-up, and no longer go about beating myself up every single day about being fat.
posted by smirkette at 10:31 AM on July 9, 2012 [10 favorites]

I agree with those who are suggesting counseling and detachment but I want to be the voice of dissent where it comes to those who say "most of America is obese so just deal with it."

That, to me, is a cop out. Most of America is also either living beyond their means, not saving, not spending enough time with loved ones and not taking enough vacation time. I don't want to be "most of America" and I don't think your wife has to be either. If she were happy with her weight, I'd say fine, but she's clearly depressed and it's affecting your marriage to the point where you are not being intimate.

There's a lovely piece of fiction called "She's Come Undone" that addresses how weight loss can often follow good counseling to get to the root of the issue. Your wife might want to read it. In addition to being helpful, it's a wonderful read. She might also want to consider Overeaters Anonymous. A very good friend of mine lost more than 100 pounds with the support of this group. It's sort of counseling and weight loss all in one. My friend lost the weight after trying every. diet. available.

Also, my SO and I don't like to cook much but we do enjoy cooking together when we can shop together and then have fun being silly, listening to our favorite music while we cook. It doesn't have to be a chore.

So for my disjointed rant. I hope something here helps.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 10:33 AM on July 9, 2012 [7 favorites]

Don't take depression or anxiety medication. They'll make the situation the same or worse, but not better.

Wow! I know this poster is speaking from personal experience but this has not been my experience at all. Anti-depressants changed my life. And I lost 27 pounds within the first 9 months after I started taking them because suddenly, since I wasn't balled up in the fetal position crying my eyes out, I actually had energy to prepare myself healthy meals and exercise.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 10:38 AM on July 9, 2012 [19 favorites]

...the food was never satisfying.

That is sort of the point. Nothing is as palatable as restaurant food. That's why you eat more of it and get fat. If you eat your own food for about four weeks, your body adjusts, and you start finding it satisfying. And you're madly losing weight the whole time.

It took me a decade to not painfully hate cooking and eating what I cooked. Start now. If you don't cook a lot of the food you eat, you get fat. (Some people, anyway.) Finally, add lard or butter and salt to what you cook for yourself. That will make it taste better, and you'll still easily lose weight over restaurant food. Don't count calories.
posted by zeek321 at 10:56 AM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Just want to say, about this:

I've tried to get her to exercise with me...go running together, for example ... I signed up for a triathlon in August and hoped that might spur her to some activity (train with me, encourage each other)

All of these things sound like... kind of a lot. I've never been overweight and I've played sports for my whole life, but the mention of a triathlon would not spur me to activity. Just the mention of it almost spurs me to want to take a nap. Same thing with running. I HATE running. I ran competitively for years when I was younger, and I hated it even more then! I have always needed a whole lot of motivation to even get me TO run. So running is not going to motivate me for anything.

I think when it comes to running and other really high-impact exercise, there are people who crave it and almost get high from it. And then there are the rest of us. And the people who crave it are already doing it, they don't need to be motivated to go to do it.

So I would say ixnay on trying to coax her to do these really high-impact forms of exercise. Let her come to those on her own eventually if she wants to but in the meantime -is there any exercise that your wife just finds FUN for its own sake? That she would do regardless of whether it counted as exercise or not? Maybe roller skating or ballroom dancing or walking on the beach or swimming?

But one thing I think you have to keep in mind though, is that exercise does not make a very big impact on weight loss for most women. For most women, diet is going to do most of it. Exercise is just good to do anyway.
posted by cairdeas at 11:06 AM on July 9, 2012 [17 favorites]

Have you asked her flat out, "What do you need to feel secure in our relationship, and how can I help?"

They are powerful questions: What do you need? How can I help?
posted by griselda at 11:18 AM on July 9, 2012 [64 favorites]

ya i read through all these messages to see if someone had already pointing out the running was a bit much- and caideas has right before me. i'm about your wife's height, and want to lose a smaller amount of weight and generally get some exercise but if someone's idea was to get me to do more and run with them- it wouldn't be terribly exciting even though i can run a little. i'd be embarrassed to try with them, they'd be a better runner and i would be out of breath and slow after a minute.

if you want to try encouraging the exercise thing, you guys can go on slow romantic walks together in the evening. start with ten minutes, build it up over time- but let it build naturally and based on enjoying the time together. tell her how much you love her during the walk, talk about all your happy memories. talk about dreams. make it a ROMANTIC walk not one for exercise. walk ridiculously slow to the point where you don't feel like anyone could get anything out of it physically, if that's her natural pace- she's getting something out of it. let the romance be part of the allure of taking such a walk. enjoy! (keep it a secret that you think it might be good for her.)
posted by saraindc at 11:20 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

griselda: "Have you asked her flat out, "What do you need to feel secure in our relationship, and how can I help?""

This is really a great place to start.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:30 AM on July 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

Also one more thought about the exercise thing -- I have to give Oprah as an example here.

Right after I gave up competitive running I had a period of time where I was so burned out I did not want to exercise AT ALL. I felt really drained and done with it completely. The way I slowly got back into it was exactly what I said above, to only do things that were fun, with absolutely no consideration for how much of a "workout" I was really getting.

So during that period of time I happened to be watching Oprah one day. And that happened to be during the last period of time where she had lost a lot of weight and was at her thinnest.

So she was talking about how she gets up at like 6 am to work out, and hits the treadmill with everything she has every day, and how her trainer really kicks her butt, and she kicks her own butt, and that's the attitude you need to have if you want to stay in shape, and you'll never have success any other way.

Then she turned to this young woman who was an assistant on her show, sitting offstage. She said to the young woman something: "I saw you in the gym this morning! I saw you slacking! You were running on the treadmill but I know you weren't giving it everything you have! I could tell you didn't really WANT IT!" The young woman was embarrassed and nodded.

It was obvious to me even then that Oprah's advice was totally wack and would be wrong for most people. Having your ass kicked and just forcing yourself to power through suffering may give a high to a certain few people, but I think for most of us, it's not sustainable at all in the long term. I think for most of us, exercise is pretty much only regularly sustainable when the suffering is pretty close to a minimum, and you are just doing something you enjoy. I thought to myself, "That girl is doing it right and Oprah is probably not going to be able to sustain giving everything like that every day, for the rest of her life." Sure enough, she only kept that up another year or two.

So yeah, for your wife, if you're concerned about her lack of exercise and want to help her get into something more consistent, I think you will have way more success by prioritizing likelihood of consistency (so something low impact and fun) over prioritizing the amount of calories burned and how "fit" she gets from it.
posted by cairdeas at 11:40 AM on July 9, 2012 [8 favorites]

Mod note: If you need to discuss moderation, please reach us at the contact form; do not do so in-thread.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:48 AM on July 9, 2012

Seconding griselda. My boyfriend asks those questions a lot and it really, really helps. (Totally different issues, but still a great technique.)
posted by 3491again at 11:49 AM on July 9, 2012

Yes to griselda's answer!
There is lots of advice for HER her, but my advice to you is to leave it in her court to fix it for herself, IF she wants to. That's where you come in. Does she want to? When she complains about herself or makes insecure comments about your relationship is when you address the fact that even though YOU are happy with her, SHE seems unhappy with herself. It makes you sad to see her so unhappy. Does she want to stay that way? Only she can decide if she wants do something about it. Eventually she will find something that works, but it has to be a whole lifestyle change, not a diet or quick fix.
posted by LilBit at 11:55 AM on July 9, 2012

You mention asking her to exercise with you, and as people have already mentioned in thread, this might sound nice in theory but it is probably too much, too soon, and perhaps a little intimidating. But I am interested in whether you do activities together that are active, but just as purely social events? Things like taking a walk through your neighbourhood, or going to a local park or nature reserve? Walking around the zoo on a weekend? Going ten pin bowling? If you don't do these kind of things, this might be a nice way to get out together, and, importantly, to have some fun (whilst getting a little bit of movement, compared to say chilling out together in front of a movie or something)
posted by unlaced at 11:56 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think low carb eating is pretty satisfying and while it gets old after a long period of time, it's a whole lot easier than staring at lettuce with low fat dressing at every meal, esp. when you've been down that road before.

I don't like sports or games, but I greatly love lifting weights. I'd see if she'd be interested in a personal trainer, since you already have the gym membership. And yes, she has to make the choice herself, but for quite a few people, knowing that you have to show up and meet another person at a set period of time will get them to the gym. Going running with my triathalon training husband would make me want to hit someone.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:07 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, re: running --

Dude, running hurts when you are over weight -- it can be really hard on your knees and back, and if you are a woman and busty, it hurts your chest.

I love working with my trainer tho -- she's amazing. <3


Have you guys thought about taking a cooking class together? My parents used to take a Chinese/Asian fusion cooking class at the local comm college and they loved it.
posted by spunweb at 12:14 PM on July 9, 2012

She can try a billion types of different weight-loss plans but none of them are going to be any help unless she feels motivated to stick to them. And it is hard to feel motivated to stick to anything when you are a ball of depressive self-loathing.

She keeps asking you if you love her because she feels desperately inadequate next to you. You probably seem like an impossibly fit, thin person and she is terrified that you are secretly judging her for her weight and lack of health like the rest of the world. If you bring her more diet tips and tricks I guarantee at this point she will take it as "Honey, you are fat, please lose weight you ugly fatty-fat" no matter your actual intentions and feelings nor how you present it. This is not a body problem that just needs the right dietary input. This is a brain problem that is leading to her treating her body in a way that makes the brain worse.

Your wife needs to see a therapist, and the two of you should probably see a couples therapist because this issue is affecting the both of you. Tell her something along the lines of "Honey, I can tell you are suffering from a lot of negative self-talk and anxiety about the state of our relationship. I think this is negatively affecting our relationship. I also want to make sure that I am making you feel secure. I think having a third party to help mediate our discussions would really help with our communication. I want to know what behaviors I can adapt that will help you feel more supported in our relationship and sure of my love and interest in you."

From a practical self-love standpoint, once someone has reached the point of lifelong obesity the emotions and habits surrounding food are generally so messed up it is really difficult to start any health change from that point. Better she focus on what her body does rather than what it looks like. Taking the focus off the aesthetics of her body and onto its performance is a tremendously liberating experience for people who have always been taught to value their bodies on its appearance. Are there any activities that are physical that she's always enjoyed? Hiking? Ping pong? Roller-skating? Weight lifting tends to be a very viscerally rewarding and physically empowering activity for women once they get over the worry that "they will get bulky". If your wife resists tell her the moment she doesn't like the physical changes she can stop (it's not like one day she'll wake up and look like a bodybuilder), but for now all you care about is her strength.

At a certain point, once you've learned to value your body for the things it does then changing diet follows naturally in order to achieve better standards of performance. But if someone already has a lot of guilt and sadness wrapped around food attacking that angle is not going to help.

Or to sum up:
1) Therapy for all
2) Get swole
posted by schroedinger at 12:40 PM on July 9, 2012 [6 favorites]

If the Weight Loss Fairy were to wave her magic wand and make your wife a "normal" weight for her size (and this varies according to body type) - would that work equally magically to make her feel secure in your relationship, accept that her in-laws really like her, and enable her to make friends? I doubt it.

She has no close friends. This leaped out at me more than anything else. Are you her only friend and her whole world? Does she work? Does she get out of the house at all?

You can be fat and also be well-adjusted and happy. I definitely agree that the two of you need couples counseling and she needs individual counseling, stat. Forget food and weight for now. Work on your marriage. Work on what seem to be depression and social issues with her. Get her some friends and a life outside of your marriage before you tackle "fitness as a couple."

If she has no friends and not much of a life outside of her relationship with you, it could be that she is using food to fill in the emptiness she feels. A marriage can't be one's whole world. Even if she can't work for health or parenting reasons, she can have friends, hobbies, and interests of her own. These are what she desperately needs right now, not chivvying to lose weight.

Therapy for her and for the two of you. Once the social/emotional/couple issues have been sorted out, check out something like Health at Every Size so that she (and you) can lead the healthiest possible lifestyle even if her weight does not budge a pound.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:47 PM on July 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

I have been overweight, and I have been slim and superfit and running five miles every day. Things I've learned:

1) Eating out will make you fat. No two ways about it. You have got to find a way to figure out how to cook at home. Meals out are designed with extra fat to make them taste good. You cannot possibly lose weight while eating out. Even when I was running for an hour a day and spending hours on the elliptical and doing weight training at the same time - literally every day - I was not losing significant amounts of weight. I was maintaining, and maybe losing a little. You have to control the food.

2) I understand that fat acceptance is a thing, but it is not for everyone, and might actually make your wife feel worse. When I was heavy, and was approached by fat acceptance people and told that my weight was fine, I felt awful - like they knew that I couldn't do it and were urging me to give up because I'd never be able to get better. And at the same time, I felt shallow, because people were telling me that caring about looks was shallow.

3) When you are overweight, your sex drive does go down. I'm not saying that heavy people aren't sexy, or don't have lots of sex. But I'm saying that it does affect both the desire for sex and the intensity of your orgasms.

4) It is totally okay if you are not attracted to her at her current weight. I notice you don't mention anything about "I still think she's beautiful." Do you? Again, it's okay if you don't, but that may also be a factor in how you feel about all of this.

5) Some anti-depressants do cause weight gain. Others act more like stimulants, and actually cause weight loss or at least no weight gain. (I've heard Wellbutrin, can't remember others)
posted by corb at 1:10 PM on July 9, 2012 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you to everyone for the dearth of response. Some additional thoughts:

1. To the multiple people who have had experience with personal trainers...thank you. I think this item is worth trying. As is the yoga class.

2. To everyone talking about the link between the weight and the insecurity...I think the link is incredibly strong. And cylical. To frame them as two completely separate issues - from a causal standpoint - is, I think, wrong. I am convinced that if she had a better self-image, she'd be happier. As would we all. There's a reason exercise releases endorphins.

3. To everyone who says her weight is her business and not mine...I couldn't disagree more. I love her and want her to be happy. I certainly would hope that if I had a problem, physical or otherwise, that made me sad, she'd help me get over it. "Her weight is her problem and you have a responsibility to disengage yourself from it and she has a reciprocal responsibility to not involve you." Not at all. I have a responsibility to help make her happy and help make her life as wonderful as possible. I agree that there's nothing I can say that will help her actually do the work.

4. She has friends, but "no close girlfriends", and by that I mean she's not part of a stereotypical group of four or five girls who will go out for Girls Night once a month. We both share great friends - but none who I see could be particularly helpful in this matter. She does work.

5. The whole 'accepting your body' thing...I get that, and I understand that it works for some people. But she doesn't want to accept it and live with it. She wants better for herself. Hence part of my reason for this question/post.
posted by st starseed at 1:24 PM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

4. I've tried to get her to exercise with me...go running together, for example.
I don't think that would be much fun at 5'3" and 200 lb. It's right up there with "I love to hike; I'll take my new sweetie on my favorite 15 mile deathhike (rather than the bunnyslopes one.)

Try long walks instead.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:33 PM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

This suggestion requires a different kind of commitment, but exercise is an auxiliary benefit...

Get a dog.

Seriously, I've never walked so much in my life as I have these past few months. It's nice because I don't think of it as exercise. There are no hang-ups like: is this stringent enough? How much longer? Additional reps? etc. etc. The best part, I think, is that the focus isn't on me. It isn't about how much I weigh or how fast or slow I am. It is about the enjoyment of another being. I find it significantly easier to care for the well-being of my dog than myself.

We now have rituals and routes. It provides me a nice time to think. And you HAVE to take them out. That's mandatory.
posted by edgybelle27 at 1:34 PM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

First have her screened for depression. Second you can care about the problem but she has to own it. Just tell her you will help if asked but you will butt out till then.

And then find something fun to do together that is not linked to food or exercise.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:50 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

5. The whole 'accepting your body' thing...I get that, and I understand that it works for some people. But she doesn't want to accept it and live with it. She wants better for herself. Hence part of my reason for this question/post.

This jumped out at me. I am your wife-in-recovery. I am/have been exactly in her shoes. I'm not quite out of them, but I'm working on it. I have to learn to accept my body or I'll never get ahead. I am never going to be thin. I can be less heavy than I am, and I can definitely be fit, but I am never going to be thin. I HAVE to find positive things to feel about my body. I have to live in this body, I have to learn to feel good about it, whatever its shape. I will never exercise if it isn't enjoyable. I might try, but when the only motivation is to LOOK different, it will never work. I found something I enjoy, that makes me feel good, but that's me, it won't be fun for everyone. I'm fitter now than I was six months ago, but I'm not thin and I'm learning to not care. I'm learning that HAPPINESS is my goal, FEELING GOOD is my goal. When being thinner was my goal, it was just a disaster. You say she wants better for herself, and of course she does, but loving herself is the way to that, not trying to be thinner. It's backwards to think that being thinner will make her happy.

And I do think you need to step back, stop bringing it up, disengage. I hear in your words that you love your wife and want her to be happy. You may not feel you are putting pressure on her, but believe me, you absolutely are. It is a fragile, scary place to be, and when other people bring it up, all you hear is 'OMG YOU'RE FAT FAT FAT, HOW CAN YOU BE SO FAT FAT FAT?!" She needs therapy. Maybe both of you together. But you need to support her when SHE is ready, whenever that comes. You just give the love. My husband has never ever once brought up my fitness or fatness. He has always loved me and desired me and told me so often. He's maybe a bit bigger than you, a stocky guy but fit. When I started making changes, he was supportive and encouraging, but in a quiet way and I'm so thankful. I don't want a big fuss made, I just want to get on with my bad self.
posted by upatree at 2:01 PM on July 9, 2012 [27 favorites]

Look, you're not making her happy. You worrying about her weight and happiness is not making her happy. The amount of pressure you're putting on her is actively making her more unhappy. Relieving some of that pressure might make her happier, or at least stop making her quite so unhappy. To do that, you need to stop trying to fix her and stop acting like you think she's broken. This may not result in the outcome that you want, but the path you're currently on is certainly not getting you any closer to that outcome, either, and is sucky and stressful for both of you. (It is OK and understandable that you do worry about these thing. It's just the trying to fix them that's not helping/is making things worse.)

1) Find someone for you to talk to, so that you can unload your stress somewhere outside of your relationship. This should be a neutral party who won't gossip, so probably a paid professional, i.e. therapist.

2) Make it easy to be healthy in your house.

Keep the exercise equipment and gym membership.

Try incorporating more cooking into your life (my weight loss didn't come from a specific diet, but restaurant portions are killer)...this may take a while, as you find recipes that you prefer and perfect your skills, but it's a good life skill to have, and you don't have to go into it cold turkey. Dedicate one dinner a week and be willing to put your free time on that day to tweaking recipes and throwing out things that go wrong. (I will suggest making pizza for your first try. It's easy--really easy--and recognizably food. After you get a basic pizza down, you can start tweaking the portion size and the toppings you put on to make it healthier than delivery pizza.) (Oh, and I'd definitely start off with satisfying foods and then tweak them to fit more into your diet--this way you can keep what makes it satisfying to you while cutting out the inessential parts.)

Make healthy snacks and snack-size portions easy. Fruit in the fridge, already cut up. Low cal ice pops (if it's summer for you). Individual serving junk food baggies rather than the large bags.

Make sure you have some easy activities that she can join you in.

3) Don't judge her or mention it if she doesn't really take you up on any of 2), just keep making things available (use them yourself, too). Also don't stop buying her favorite treats at the store, just try to make it easy to also go for other choices.

4) Encourage her to go talk to someone outside of your relationship as well. Everyone should have someone that they can just talk to, without having to worry about having to say the right thing or act a certain way or anything like that.

5) Ask her (regularly) if there's anything else she'd like you to do for her, in regards to anything. Any household tasks, anything she wants to talk about, any new activities she wants to try or old favorite things she hasn't done in a while. Ask her how she'd most like you to show that you care about her (words, actions, gifts, etc.)? Ask her if there's anything you can do to make her happy. Do these things for her if you can.

Again, doing these things may not make your wife thin and super confident, but will hopefully at least pull you out of the death spiral that you seem to be stuck in right now where things just get worse.
posted by anaelith at 2:27 PM on July 9, 2012 [6 favorites]

Seconding what upatree says -- accepting your body DOES NOT MEAN GIVING UP. Quite the opposite. I am a heavier person, and I used to beat myself up the same way your wife does about the way I look and how I'm not good enough, et cetera. I punished myself for not being thin, for not having the "willpower" to train for a triathlon or whatever... and then I started reading some of the fat acceptance and Health At Every Size blogs, and I stopped beating myself up for having a body that didn't look like the aesthetic ideal that I'm supposed to aspire to, and I found forms of exercise that are sustainable for me*, and a diet** that is also sustainable for me, and I slowly learned to stop worrying so damn much about what other people thought of my body, and stopped judging myself for just existing the way I was, and you know what happened?

The weight fell off. Like freakin' magic.

Not to say that that's the key for everyone, and that all your wife needs to do is love herself and she'll magically get skinny. I'm not skinny. I'm never going to be skinny, I come from a long line of solidly built people with large skeletons and a lot of muscle mass (wooo, Irish/German farm stock heritage!! Hitch me to your plow!), and there is literally no way that I can ever get down to a skinny body without seriously endangering my health. And I am more than fine with that, because the body I have is healthy and strong and can do some pretty awesome stuff. But I never would have gotten to this point if I'd held onto the idea that I just wasn't working hard enough, and that if I just worked harder or was a more virtuous person with more "willpower" or whatever, that I would eventually be rewarded with a skinny body. I had to let go of that idea, and accept that maybe I wouldn't be skinny, but that that didn't make me any less worthy of having an actual life and really being happy.

So please don't knock the idea of acceptance. Because the alternative is to hang onto the very false idea that if she just works hard enough and is virtuous enough, she will be thin. It's not impossible, but it's not at all probable, and holding that idea over her head that she's just not working hard enough or being "good" enough if she's not thin is incredibly destructive, even if she's the only one who is thinking that way.

My guess is that if she can find a form of exercise that she enjoys doing, and you BOTH make significant changes to your diet by cutting out the restaurants and the convenience foods and learning to cook for yourselves, her weight will even out. How much will she lose? Dunno. Shouldn't matter. What matters is how healthy she is, in both body and mind. And encouraging her to love herself NO MATTER WHAT SHE LOOKS LIKE is key to her mental health, dude. Pushing her away from learning to accept herself sends the message that YOU don't accept her the way she is.

*I don't go to a gym. I was raised by someone who only engaged in physical activity as a punitive measure because she was "too fat", so I was slowly conditioned to see exercise as something you have to hate doing, because she hated doing it and hated herself for "needing" to exercise. I go for long walks with my camera and take photos of things, I do yoga, I chase my toddler niece around the playground for hours... in short, I do things that can be done without special equipment or a membership fee. Find something like this that you can do together. Someone upthread mentioned a weekly nature walk with their spouse? That's a GREAT idea.

**I use the word diet to mean the range of foods that she eats, not a restricted calorie plan. Both of you need to learn to cook, and stop eating at restaurants. Reset your palate, get away from the processed foods laden with fat and sodium and empty carbs, and in about a month you'll be blown away by how rich and fatty restaurant food will taste to you.

posted by palomar at 2:39 PM on July 9, 2012 [13 favorites]

Oh, and the thing about how she wants better for herself, and that's why acceptance won't work: if your wife woke up tomorrow morning with a skinny body, but no other changes to herself, how happy do you think she would be? Do you honestly think she would leap out of bed singing with joy, that she'd leap into triathlon training with you, that she'd suddenly have a rich, full social life with a pack of girls who do girl's nights every month?

Or do you think maybe she might still feel like that fat person inside, like she doesn't deserve love, like you're going to leave her for someone "better", that she hadn't earned that skinny body the "right" way, that she's still not worthy of happiness?
posted by palomar at 2:44 PM on July 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

St. Starseed--now that the feedback is coming. Perhaps I sounded to harsh, but perhaps not. Re:my comment "Her weight is her problem and you have a responsibility to disengage yourself from it and she has a reciprocal responsibility to not involve you.". There is much you can do--support her quietly and respectfully in her initiatives--personal trainer, if you can afford it; smaller plates to change portion perspective; eliminating certain foods from home (yep); if she wants to go for a walk with you,go along; stop eating out, sure; switch to club soda instead of sugar sodas; and the list goes on. I think you have received some excellent advice and I certainly did not mean you can not actively support her in her positive initiatives. And you sure can sabotage it. BUT, you do not "have a responsibility to help make her happy"--it is just not something you can do. You can rejoice in her happiness, comfort in her sadness, share in her happiness but you can not make her happy. And, it not just a matter of semantics--it is just the way it is. I do hope you fund support and comfort in all the advice--you asked and it came forth.
posted by rmhsinc at 3:05 PM on July 9, 2012 [8 favorites]

Oh wow. I am shocked that so many people are telling you to encourage your wife with exercise and a personal trainer. If my boyfriend went out and got me a personal trainer, I'd break up with him immediately. If your wife is sensitive, and it sounds like she is, please do not do that. It will just make her feel like she's under pressure.

And regarding body acceptance--say she does lose weight. Great, right? Except what about her cellulite? What about her wrinkles? What about the flab in that one spot that just won't go away? That's what body acceptance is about, not "letting yourself go." Because guess what? Your self does eventually go, if you're lucky enough to get old. The actual fat is only part of the problem; the rest lays in how women are expected to be beautiful and toned FOREVER now.

If you love your wife, prepare yourself to love her at an even higher weight. You say she's been big since you met her, so why do you expect her to change? I completely believe that she is unhappy being fat, but I'm not sold on the idea that being skinny will fix it. Being told she's beautiful (if not by you, by her new boyfriend who actually believes it) would probably fix it faster.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 3:25 PM on July 9, 2012 [15 favorites]

You say your wife is more stressed out than ever before? What is stressing your wife out? Is she stressing herself out unnecessarily, or has her workload increased?

When I read that you'd "exhausted the ways in which to help her", I thought you were going to list "I gave her lots of free time to herself so that she could relax and spend time on herself in ways that make her feel happy". Instead, I saw a huge list of activities that she probably doesn't have the confidence or energy to tackle.

I've noticed that many husbands and boyfriends don't notice the work their wives and girlfriends put into the household--groceries, meal planning, cooking, cleaning, keeping track of appointments, managing the kids' schedules etc, etc. If you are letting her take on an unfair share of these responsibilities, it could be part of the reason she feels unloved and unsafe in her relationship with you.

It could really be helpful to the two of you if you sat down and went over all the things she has to do in a day, just to get a sense of how much real free time she has. If all she has is an hour or two a day, it's no wonder that she doesn't want to exercise. I think the best thing you can do for her is find ways to give her time to get enough rest and relax. Don't even think about scheduling that time for weight loss; if she's really exhausted, she needs to rest first and get used to the idea of having free time before even thinking about taking on a new hobby like running.

For what it's worth, I felt the way she did in one of my past relationships, even though I wasn't overweight. I never actually said it out loud, but I was constantly wondering if my boyfriend still loved me because I was always so stressed out. I was under a lot of stress at the time--I was dealing with my first full time job and writing my master's thesis at night. In spite of that, I also felt responsible for running our household. I had less free time than he did, but I spent hours of my time planning meals, buying groceries, cleaning the apartment, etc. He let me know he appreciated it, but he never participated beyond offering to pick things up for me if I needed him to. I felt insecure in my relationship because it felt like my boyfriend only wanted to be present for the fun things at a time when I was not very fun at all. It was the start of a downward spiral where I became more and more withdrawn, socially anxious, and resentful. After we broke up, I learned how to protect and manage my free time. I've been a lot happier since then. Do you think you can help your wife protect her free time?

I also want to say that I have a lot of compassion for both of you. Your methods are a little misguided, but your love for her really shows through here.
posted by rhythm and booze at 4:07 PM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Your dismissal of the idea that you should try to make her feel loved even now without first losing the weight suggests to me the two of you might need couples counseling. I know you mean well. But you sound a lot like my ex husband. It took me a long time to realize that his superficial "good intentions" were really rooted in something very toxic, very passive aggressive and critical (i.e. Rejecting of me). Of course, I had my own issues or I wouldn't have married someone like that to begin with, so I am not suggesting this is all your fault either.

That kind of stuff is typically rooted in things we inherited from social dynamics we were exposed to in childhood. It can be really hard to see. I am sure you don't mean to hurt her. But what I am hearing suggests there are much deeper issues than her weight which need to be addressed and it isn't likely to be helped by this discussion.

Though, granted, I am not a psychologist.

Again, best of luck. I mean that sincerely.
posted by Michele in California at 4:22 PM on July 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

If she wants to and is up for driving to Ann Arbor I can recommend a wonderful, compassionate trainer who is also a nutritionist. Memail me if you want more info - but I'd caution you about pushing this on her - it's the sort of thing SHE needs to want to do herself.
posted by leslies at 5:45 PM on July 9, 2012

So much good advice here, and coming from someone who has been in your wife's shoes, and whose partner has very likely been in yours, here's my best-of helpful hints.

About the trainer / gym: please don't initiate this plan on your own. It comes across as controlling and judgmental.

However, for me, money was a big stressor, so when my partner told me "spend whatever you want to on your health: it's important and we'll figure out how to make it work," I felt the freedom to buy that ridiculously expensive unlimited pass to my yoga studio and started going regularly. More importantly, I stopped feeling guilty about wasting all that money on the gym membership I never used, cancelled it, and bought myself some cute workout clothes and sneakers and started taking the dog on very long walks.

Also, I took a luxurious weekend trip by myself and went to a woowoo self-confidence retreat and to a spa and spent the whole day being pampered. And I bought some chic new clothes that made me feel awesome and very sexy.

So, yes, throw money at it. And yes, get a dog, but only if you'd enjoy having one for other reasons too.

And for me, Wellbutrin and individual therapy have been the absolute cornerstones of my new approach to health and wellness. Couples counseling was also a relationship saver. Basically, we both got to hear our therapist say over and over, to me "you need to take responsibility for your own health in every way" and to him "you need to stay out of it and work on your own issues."

Also, on the practical side of things, here are some things we've done that have made an incredible difference: joined a weekly CSA for fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat; adopted a "Michael Pollen" approach to food; and have BOTH gotten to be good home cooks. We have also worked on making our lives happy and less stressful in general, doing fun things that we've always wanted to do, traveling, taking the dog to the beach, etc.

It's amazing how much making happiness a priority has changed my outlook and sense of self so completely. I see my partner making our shared happy life a priority, and that makes me feel awesome, so awesome that I feel in love with him and great about myself, which leads to other awesome things.

Another turning point: we decided to have one final conversation about the issue, hashed it all out, put separation on the table for real, and decided to stay together for the long haul, regardless of the outcome of any type of diet or exercise plan. All things considered, that underlying security was probably the thing that made the biggest difference for me.
posted by mmmcmmm at 5:45 PM on July 9, 2012 [8 favorites]

If you want to do something for her...cook. (Or hire a cook if you can afford that). Instead of buying exercise equipment, or having Talks About Weight (Again), overcome your dislike of cooking and make her healthy, delicious meals as often as you can. I know I would eat better if someone else would just do the goddamn cooking, because I hate cooking, and when I go to the houses of people who do cook, I will eat whatever they make because I didn't have to make it. Even if it's something healthy that I would never seek out myself.

And all the other suggestions are good, especially therapy.

Maybe also just tell her, that you want her to be happy, whether or not that involves a change in her weight. Because you love her. You'll love her when you are both old and wrinkly and covered in liver spots and have false teeth and thick eyeglasses, because it was always about who she is, and it still is.
posted by emjaybee at 5:50 PM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Drop it completely. Completely.

"4. I've tried to get her to exercise with me...go running together, for example. Unfortunately, this just has the same effect as me bringing up the topic of losing weight and just ends in unhappiness. I signed up for a triathlon in August and hoped that might spur her to some activity (train with me, encourage each other), but no dice"

There is NOTHING you can do to to 'spur' her into action.

Be careful with the cooking thing, while I personally would love someone cooking for me, it could be construed as really condescending.

I also disagree with the advice to ask her to do physical activities all of the time. I know your intentions are good, but I think it's just resulting in her feeling even worse about herself because what she is hearing is pressure to be fit and look good.

Of course, be supportive and reassuring about how much you care for her regardless of the weight. But, remember, there is really nothing you can do (unless she asks). It has to come from her.
posted by seesom at 6:29 PM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

To be very honest OP, you seem to be stuck in "fix it" and "helper" mode. Your update seems to show that you have no intention of letting her work on this herself and are disregarding advice that doesn't involve you doing *Thing* to make *Problem* go away.

I applaud you for wanting to help so badly, you seem like a very loving person, but I really think that you should consider couples therapy. Not just for her, but also for you. People who have had the EXACT SAME PROBLEM as your wife and overcame it are giving you advice. If you aren't interested in their anecdotes, maybe the advice of a professional might be more acceptable to you.
posted by Shouraku at 6:59 PM on July 9, 2012 [10 favorites]

OP, there is nothing more painful than dealing with a partner who has an issue that seems to have such simple, though perhaps not easy, fixes, and to see them not just choose those fixes and thus presumably rid oneself of the issue and all of its accompanying side effects. If your wife was, say, a lifelong drug addict, would you say "Well God, just stop USING it's so EASY jeez"? Probably not (if that would be your approach, well, uh, step one is "stop thinking that's the way to fix lifelong addictions").

Your wife (and you) are approaching the weight issue from a place of hate: Her body is wrong, and it needs to be fixed. Perhaps you do not actually feel that way, but "Get a nutritionist", "Here is a personal trainer", and "Here is yet another diet plan" all send that message no matter what you're actually thinking.

Acceptance is about appreciating the wonderful functions of the body from a place of love: my body is a beautiful, finely-tuned machine. I am going to treat it with love and tender care, I will engage in activities I enjoy and give it food that makes it thrive, so I may nurture my body like the amazing high-performance race car that it is. Your wife needs to learn to stop killing herself because she does not look like Megan Fox--and that it is a damn good thing she doesn't look like Megan Fox, because you wife is a beautiful person in her own right and to have the body of another would completely change her beautiful, unique self. Thus the only reason to approach weight loss and health is in order to nurture her beautiful unique self. Believe me, everything comes easier health is approached from a place of love. But that is not something that gets started from trying diet plan after diet plan--that is something that starts in therapy.
posted by schroedinger at 7:44 PM on July 9, 2012 [10 favorites]

Exercise is boring. How can she alter her life to have reasons to move about? More walking. More lifting things. More dancing.

Yeah, dancing. I lost a decent amount of pounds during the year I was doing regular burlesque dance classes. Not for becoming fit, not for getting skinnier - just because I started on a whim, and was having fun. Hell, belly dancing is GREAT if you have flab, it's all about going HEY LOOK AT THIS JIGGLY FLESH DON'T YOU WANT IT.

Running? Hell. Take her out walking. Up and down a few hills. Enjoy being with her instead of EXERCISING her. Exercise is a scary thing.
posted by egypturnash at 8:23 PM on July 9, 2012

AskMe covers this topic fairly often. It's interesting to see the contrast between this iteration and a previous one, where the genders were reversed: http://ask.metafilter.com/204296/Chubby-hubby-what-to-do

I'm going to be that guy and quote myself from that previous question, as I think the answer still applies:

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 10:23 PM on July 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

You seem like a really loving partner. There are a lot of great ideas here so I'll just echo/reiterate some of the ones that stood out to me.
- Cooking: Take a class. Do either of you have a favorite meal that you love at a restaurant? Why not try to make it yourselves or make something similar at home? I know you mentioned that you've tried cooking but since eating is something that you have to do every day for the rest of your life, why not try again? Seriously, even making sandwiches or pasta is better for you than most stuff they serve you in a restaurant.
- Get a dog: Might not be practical but the dog will make her walk plus it's harder to be depressed when you have an animal. And it could bring the two of you closer together.
- Depression screening: It sounds like she definitely needs it. And while most antidepressants make you gain weight, Wellbutrin (buproprion) helps you lose weight. I think it's a wonder drug. And it makes you more energetic. YMMV but it's not the same as the other antidepressants on the market.
- Walking: People in my family have lost weight or just tried to stay healthy with walking. I think it's a great entry level exercise because you don't need anything special, you can do it alone or together. Maybe she can even find a group to walk with. She can take pictures, walk while on the phone with someone, listening to a podcast, etc.
- Clothes: Cute clothes for working out or just living make me feel better, period. Consider going shopping together or encourage her to do so. Maybe look into a personal shopper at Nordstrom's or somewhere. I always feel better when I look good. Even a new pair of shoes or earrings helps. It sounds superficial but there's one place to start with looking better and feeling better.
- Something to look forward to: When was the last time you took a trip or went on vacation or even had an official date? That would be great for your relationship.
And the next time she says something about you having an affair, put your hands on her shoulders, look her in the eye and tell her that come hell or high water, she is the only person in the world that you want to be with, period. Then give her a kiss. You should only need to do that a few times before she gets the message.
Best wishes. I know this is hard. Take care of yourselves.
posted by kat518 at 9:26 AM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

AskMe is kind of heavily populated by fat acceptance people. That can be helpful, but sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming. If your wife wants to be thinner, that is okay, and just as valid a choice as people who want to accept themselves at their current weight.

When being thinner was my goal, it was just a disaster. You say she wants better for herself, and of course she does, but loving herself is the way to that, not trying to be thinner. It's backwards to think that being thinner will make her happy.

This is not always the case. When I was heavily overweight, it made me intensely sad. I had been on medications and it caused some intense weight gain, and it was really hurtful. I felt like I didn't belong in my body. I felt like I was wearing a fat suit. I didn't want to recognize myself in mirrors. I felt like someone had forced me to live in a body I didn't belong in.

Being fat is different than being thin. For better or worse, you experience the world a lot differently. People stop being casually nice to you - they stop seeing you, and they stop humanizing you. If you're used to getting courtesies, they suddenly disappear. Even if your partner loves you, even if they find you attractive, their experience is not the same, and the way they think of you is slightly different. And it can be really hard to experience that.

When I lost a ton of weight, I felt fantastic. It really, really did. I felt comfortable in my skin again. People smiled at me on the street again. I felt a thousand times better. My sex drive increased like mad. I mean, it wasn't a cure-all - I still had other problems - but it really made my life about a thousand times better.

I would hate to see your wife denied that feeling. And I'd hate to see you denied the pleasure of watching her with that feeling.

I do want to nth the idea of going dancing, though. I don't know how old you are, but if you can take her out dancing, it may not feel like exercise. Similarly, the Zumba thing is a pretty decent dance/exercise combo.
posted by corb at 9:52 AM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think that yes, for most people, weight and insecurity are related. What I'm suggesting is that you do what you can to help her break free of that because it doesn't lead anywhere good, in the long run. Even if she works very hard and loses weight, if her security is based on her thinness, that's an uncomfortable and unstable position to be in.

If she can manage to unlink them, she can enjoy exercise because it feels good and because it's a way to be good to a body that she loves rather than resenting it because it's something she has to do in order to stay thin and keep her body acceptable and remain worthy of love (or whatever her mind tells her.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:35 AM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

Your poor wife sounds deeply depressed and anxious! Anyone who's been there can tell you that even minor challenges probably look overwhelming to her right now.

Please try getting her into treatment first and foremost. Also consider a little counseling for yourself -- the right professional can provide some great tools for interacting in ways that will benefit both of you.
posted by bunji at 1:02 PM on July 10, 2012

Wait a sec, just looked over your history and you posted in April that your wife just had her first baby?

Screen for postpartum depression, pronto. And please, keep in mind that it can take many women a full year to get back to their pre-baby weight. It's especially hard to lose if you already had a weight problem before pregnancy.

It's curious that that didn't come up in the original question or the follow-up.
posted by mmmcmmm at 2:27 PM on July 10, 2012 [38 favorites]

Yeah, the new baby changes -everything- in a question regarding a woman and her weight, let alone the sex. As a new mother - who is also working - she probably does not have time or energy for exercise. You seem to have that time for yourself, can you instead do less exercise and give your wife more time without responsibilities to recuperate? I think worrying about - or even bringing up - her weight at this time when she is so physically and psychologically vulnerable is problematic at best.
posted by saucysault at 3:42 PM on July 10, 2012 [10 favorites]

Ay yi yi, a baby less than 3 months ago? That really changes everything. Triathlon workouts with a 3 month old baby? Honestly, without knowing how you split up the baby workload currently, my inkling is what would help her more than anything else would be for you to take on way more of that work and see if that helps.
posted by cairdeas at 4:06 PM on July 10, 2012 [14 favorites]

Not to be redundant, but just to be more specific upon reading back through your question, everything is in a completely new light knowing there is a 3 month old baby involved.

She's now well over 200 pounds (at 5'3") and noticeably larger than at any time since I've known her.

Way more likely than not to be at (or way past) your heaviest right after having had a baby.

And she's clearly unhappier and more stressed than at any time I've known her.

Same goes for being at the most stressed of your life right after having had a baby.

A bit about me, to put this in context: I'm a healthy 180 pounds (at 5'11). I get some version of exercise at least once a day...at minimum, I do 80 push-ups in the morning.

I've exhaused the ways to help: ... We've tried cooking new meals together ... I've enlisted the help of her best friend to call her and ask her if she's okay and bring up the topic...Unfortunately, she doesn't have any close girlfriends who can help her or drive down the weight-loss road with... I've tried to get her to exercise with me...go running together... I signed up for a triathlon in August and hoped that might spur her to some activity (train with me, encourage each other), but no dice.

But... she was pregnant in August?! Train for a triathlon in August? Go running with you while she was in the middle of being pregnant or right after having given birth, and wasn't in shape before that either??

Have her best friend call to bring up the topic of her weight loss, when she's in an unhappy place right after having had a baby?? Dude. No wonder that went nowhere!!

I'm not trying to be mean, but a lot of these things sounded normal before I knew she just had a baby 3 months ago. Now they sound... honestly rather odd.

Cooking *together* while she's caring for a baby that small? Why not cook for her to give her a hand? Again, I am just genuinely really confused by these things.

Like, I don't understand why, if we're saying all the options to help have been exhausted and this is the list of them, why helping with the baby isn't on here at all?

Her insecurity has greatly affected our sex life; I can count on one hand the amount of times we've had physical intimacy in the last 12 months.

In the past 12 months, she was pregnant for 9 of them and had a new infant for the last three though. That's a little different.

much of our time together is a long way from what anyone might consider "fun" or even healthy.

How much of that is... the 3 month old baby?

Honestly, I think now is really, really, really not the time to be focusing on her weight. I think it would be way better to just ask her generally what she needs to feel happier in life and make things easier on her. (Not with the goal that when she is happier then she will lose weight). It seems WAY more likely that the source of her unhappiness right now is mainly baby stress, rather than her extra weight itself.
posted by cairdeas at 5:49 PM on July 10, 2012 [23 favorites]

I have to back cairdeas up on this. If your wife did just have a baby three months ago, it seems frankly really weird that you're not addressing that at all. The most generous reading I can give it is that you don't see how pregnancy and a new child would affect weight, sex life, and emotional state... which just sounds insensitive, at the least.

In my opinion, you have a right to tell your spouse that you are concerned with her unhappiness and that it is affecting your marriage, and you'd like her to try some therapy or you both try some couples' therapy and get to a place where you both are happy. Weight may be tied into all that, fine -- definitely worth addressing in therapy. But the fact that you seem oblivious to the effort of gestating, birthing, and caring for a young baby would, if you were my spouse, deeply disturb me. I hope things work out for the both of you.
posted by lillygog at 7:08 PM on July 10, 2012 [14 favorites]

Oh, holy crap. Yeah, the fact that she just gave birth to a child in April really, REALLY changes things. There is absolutely no way you should be focusing on her weight right now, or how much sex she's willing to have*. Trying to get her to train for a triathlon with you right now is, at best, incredibly thoughtless.

*you try birthing a child through the orifice that most closely resembles a vagina on your body, and then see how much sex and triathlon training you feel up to. Dang.
posted by palomar at 9:59 PM on July 10, 2012 [13 favorites]

Yeah, definitely altering my advice in terms of having a baby 3 months ago, she is still working at pregnancy weight. Heavy people gain more during pregnancy, and post pregnancy weight is hard to lose. I am confused as to why this didn't come up in your post, it's enormous.

Sex, yeah, some people don't like sex during pregnancy, and right afterwards there is still blood coming from her vagina for several weeks. It's freaky and totally unsexy.

As far as weight, dude, I ran a couple miles every day starting from six weeks after my pregnancy, and it still took me about a year and six months to lose the baby fat. Give her some time.

Also, check for postpartum.
posted by corb at 6:38 AM on July 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

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