I don't know how to talk to my boyfriend about his weight
July 21, 2017 1:58 PM   Subscribe

I pointed out my boyfriend's lack of weight loss progress and regretted it immediately. He looked very hurt, and though he is not the type to acknowledge it or want to talk about it, I know that I wounded him deeply. I realize that by bringing it up so insensitively, I may have irreparably damaged the trust between us and maybe now there is no way to talk to him about it constructively without hurting him more. What do I do?

I met my boyfriend via a phone dating app. In his bio, he included fitness as one of his interests, and he looked trim in his photos. At our first date, I noticed that he was significantly heavier than in his dating profile photos, but he was so cute and funny and I had a wonderful time. When he kissed me on our second date, I was a goner. We've been together ever since, just shy of 9 months.

I learned that he suffered a sports injury about a year before we met, and he had fallen off the fitness wagon during his recovery. He'd been an athlete all his life, and he said this is the most out-of-shape he has ever been. He frequently points out his "beer gut" and talks about "getting rid of it." He laments that his clothing is too tight and that he feels "so fucking fat." He never asked me what my preference or opinion was and I never said anything to him referencing his weight or size (until the night before last). But I noticed that he often has several beers with dinner, or several helpings of dessert, and skips scheduled workouts because he doesn't feel like doing them. He has a very expensive gym membership that he uses infrequently and plans to cancel.

I am still attracted to him, but I do wish he would lose some weight. His BMI is currently at around 28. He goes on these sort of diet and exercise binges, where for one week he'll exercise every other day and cut down his portions, and then go on a cheat day, which turns into a cheat weekend or week. Since I've known him, he has been losing and gaining the same 5 pounds. He participated in Dry January, where he didn't drink for the entire month, and he looked fantastic, the weight seemed to melt off him. But he said he loves beer too much to give it up for long.

In my previous long term relationship, we agreed that it was important make an effort to stay fit for your partner, for health reasons and to maintain attraction. I was thinking about that, and wondered about my boyfriend's views. I asked him what he would think if I gained significant weight, and if he would still be attracted to me. His response was to shake his head and say "Don't do that." He said I was entitled to do whatever I wanted with my body, but joked that maybe he'd start serving me celery for dinner every night. I was taken aback by his answer. Why should there be a double-standard in our relationship? If I had showed up to our first date with extra bulk around my middle, would there have been a second date?

I asked him if he would always have his beer gut, because he's been saying he'll get rid of it for as long as I've known him. I knew right away that he was really hurt by what I said. I've been feeling sick with regret ever since and apologized profusely. He said, "It's okay," but has been uncharacteristically quiet, and less affectionate. I am so upset at myself for hurting him and damaging the trust in our relationship. If I could take it back I would.

I want to make things okay again, and I want him to feel safe and secure with me. But I also don't want this to become a topic that I can never bring up with him. I know I screwed up by blurting out the comment about his beer belly. What should I do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (41 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Why should there be a double-standard in our relationship?

You've figured out yourself that this is the biggest problem here, and I think it needs to be the focus of any conversation you have with your boyfriend. There absolutely can't be a double standard like this in a healthy relationship. But you may also have to compromise your expectations around your partner's body and weight. I think you need to figure out a reciprocal standard and compromise that you can both agree to, and I have some hopes that the two of you can do so, because it sounds like you're relatively good communicators within this relationship.
posted by capricorn at 2:05 PM on July 21, 2017 [10 favorites]

I mean, he kinda catfished you, so I guess you're even on the trust thing?

Most people have changes that they're always saying they'll make. I don't think pointing out that they aren't taking action towards their stated goals, that is, pointing out their inconsistency, is an inherently hurtful or inappropriate thing to do. After all, if they bring it up all the time, you have the right to assume they are being sincere in their motivation and not bringing it up just so you'll disagree with them. (Now you know which one this is; it's something he talks about because he's insecure and wants reassurance, not a sustainable goal).
He's not going to change this or pursue it consistently and he expected you to already understand that.

We're all human. We all accidentally say things that hurt each other or misread situations. This is no worse than any other faux pas. Apologise, decide if the stuff you described (the weight, the perpetually losing/gaining 5 pounds and complaining about it, the double standard) is stuff you can live with, and let it go.
posted by windykites at 2:14 PM on July 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

I also don't want this to become a topic that I can never bring up with him

Actually, it probably should be. You can certainly support whatever weight loss and exercise goals he sets for himself; you can even (and probably should) ask him how he would like you best to support him. But you've been dating him for nine months. Nobody appointed you his Weight Monitor. You don't need to be bringing it up with him.

It sounds like you both are dumping harmful ideas about the relationship of weight to worth on each other. A double standard is especially not okay, of course, but even if you were enforcing the same toxic standards on each other, it would still be harmful.
posted by praemunire at 2:17 PM on July 21, 2017 [56 favorites]

he is a double-standard-ing sexist hypocrite

don't pay attention to what he eats or tell him to work out more

tell him to shut up about his feelings about his belly if they are boring, as they certainly are, and if they make you want to add your own commentary, which you certainly shouldn't

don't waste time feeling sick with regret over a man who said worse to you and never thought twice about it

but you don't date a profile pic and the second you agree to meet someone a second time you lose all rights forever to complain that they don't look like their photo.
posted by queenofbithynia at 2:20 PM on July 21, 2017 [69 favorites]

Nothing good can come from bringing it up again. You can choose whether or not to live with the fact that he will probably never lose the weight. But you can't make him do it, and it will be ruinous to the relationship to even try. I went through a very similar thing - my ex would say he was going to eat healthier, and then pick up a gallon of ice cream at the store. I remarked on his habits a couple of times and it made things worse because humans naturally try to resist feeling controlled.
posted by AFABulous at 2:25 PM on July 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Well, he feels judged right now. And you also feel potentially judged? I guess my thing here would be, taking a step back from the specifics of your situation, you probably shouldn't be with someone if your desire to be with them is contingent upon their changing something about their physical appearance. You shouldn't be with him just because you think he has the potential to lose weight and/or wants to lose weight, because he may never actually do so. People's bodies and metabolisms change over time, and he may never be that person in the photos again. How would you feel then? You have to be honest with him and with yourself, and you should also consider that the vast majority of people who attempt to and manage to lose weight do not keep it off long-term. That's the reality. Now how do you feel? To be with someone, you need to want to be with them as they are, not with who they might be if circumstances were different. Anything else is a recipe for pain down the line.

And the question about whether your boyfriend would still want to be with you if you gained weight just feels like a gotcha all around—it feels like something you asked out of some measure of insecurity, or perhaps not realizing how it would sound or what you wanted to get out of that conversation, and it feels like something he's not necessarily even going to know at this point—although he was super honest with you about how he currently thinks he would feel, so that's something.

But seriously, body type is not something that is set over one's lifetime, it has a lot to do with genetics and epigenetics, it can be affected by unforeseen illnesses and other life circumstances, and it's not just something that commitment and good habits can always (or even often) change. Forgive me if that sounds overly harsh, but I've been through these conversations before so many times, and I can tell you that you will need to be aware of all of those things, and so will he, if you're going to proceed with an adult relationship that has the potential to be a long-term thing, and change and grow together in a healthy, nonjudgmental way.

Also? Being healthy does not equate to a certain "fit" body type. Taking care of oneself is a great goal, but if he's totally fit and in great shape but not literally the physical shape he used to be ever again, will that work for you? You need to be honest with him and with yourself about that. And you also need to, again, think long-term about this—look at fortysomething and older people and consider what actual aging looks like. Look at older people in his family, if you've met them. There are so many factors that go into how one makes it through life, and a lot of them are, again, not within our control.

You guys both need to think about these things and how you'll approach them as you grow older together. Good luck!
posted by limeonaire at 2:26 PM on July 21, 2017 [19 favorites]

I would amend my statement by saying that it's perfectly within your rights to ask him to stop talking about himself in a negative way. Like queenofbithynia said, it's boring. If he hates how he looks so much, then either do something about it or be quiet.
posted by AFABulous at 2:27 PM on July 21, 2017 [11 favorites]

The comments he made sound just as judgemental and potentially harsh than what you said, so I'm not sure why you should feel guilty about it or why you ruined the relationship. He has that standard for you, but you can't have that standard for him? As far as trust as concerned, didn't he basically lie in his profile photos? I would just let it go and move on, personally.

I don't know if it's a guy thing (I am a gay lady) but I seem to see a lot of fat or ugly men who think they are entitled to thin or hot women, and it blows my mind. If this is who your boyfriend is, then maybe he just kind of a sexist jerk? Otherwise, maybe he doesn't realize or is in denial about how heavy he's gotten?

Normally, I'd say you could encourage good eating habits and regular exercise by doing that stuff together. Say you want to commit yourself to working out every night and you need him to be your buddy to keep you on track, or say you don't want any junk food in the house, etc. But it seems to me like that won't work if his view is that the guy is allowed to be chubby and the woman is not. In which case, he might not realize that he is out of shape.

You might just need to decide how important it is to you to have a fit partner and then proceed accordingly. If it's really important, then you do bring it up again knowing that if he's not receptive, you might just need to break up. If you can let it slide and you're ok with what potentially might be his view on men and women in relationships, then you don't bring it up. But when he complains about his appearance, I do think you can say "Well either do something about stop complaining. The negativity is bringing me down, mad." He might have another hissyfit, but it'll be easier for him to stop making certain comments than it will be for him to drop 15 pounds or whatever.
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:28 PM on July 21, 2017 [15 favorites]

I think this is sort of one of those topics that you can't bring up. He has to want to change, in order to do anything with real effort (and, losing weight is a huge effort). He knows he's overweight. He now knows that you feel that it's a problem. Of course he's hurt by that. It's a hugely shameful thing in our society to be fat. Maybe try leaving that out of your home, and when he complains about his appearance, tell him that you love him the way he is right now. When he starts exercising and dieting, cheer him on! Ask him for other ways to support him to his goals (even the non-weight-related ones). If he slips, be gentle. It sounds like he's pretty hard on himself. Ask him if he wants you to help keep him accountable, before assigning yourself to that role. Being the Police of anything in a relationship sucks for both parties.

(I am an overweight (obese even, going by BMI score) person married to someone who is very very athletic and fit. I've never been athletic, but I'm at my heaviest, and have gained weight since we've been together, and said many of the same things that your boyfriend has. My husband loves me for who I am, and it means the world to me.)
posted by Fig at 2:28 PM on July 21, 2017 [14 favorites]

He told you he'd feed you celery, you pointed out his beer gut issue, he got his feelings hurt, and now you're doing backflips to make him feel better?

Honey. No.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:43 PM on July 21, 2017 [117 favorites]

Several things come to mind.

1. It's hugely toxic to a relationship to critique a partner's weight. It just is. But here's the thing: if this is a boyfriend of 9 months, and you're bothered by his fatness, you do have the right to leave him and find someone you're more attracted to.

2. I also think that in this case, where his habits are obviously exacerbating the problem, it is fair to - once - mention that the consequences of those habits are visible to you. This is not the same as nagging someone about their body when they've undergone the typical effects of aging or illness. You're talking about someone who's eating multiple helpings of dessert and skipping the gym, and whom you've seen actually *does* have an easy time losing weight when he wants to. Most fat people are never going to be un-fat, for all kinds of reasons. This guy sounds like he's kinda choosing it.

3. What he said about the celery was stupid, obviously, but a dumb joke about a theoretical situation is not the same thing as a real remark about a real situation. His fatness is real; yours is not. So yeah, he shouldn't have said it. He should have said "I'd love you anyway, just like you love me despite my spare tire." But he made a stupid remark. That's all it is.

4. I would not bring it up again. He knows you see it. But it would also be fair to shut down the next round of whining if it's not accompanied by effort to change. And, if you're not attracted to him now, it's ok to leave, although do remember most of us do not get thinner or cuter as we get older.

5. If he ever does actually critique your appearance, then that's a dumpin'.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:50 PM on July 21, 2017 [12 favorites]

He wouldn't be so sensitive about it if he didn't feel so bad. He has a terrible body image. He feels he used to be fit and handsome, and is embarrassed by his own weight/gut, and feels he's not fit and handsome anymore - but the beer gut can't be too bad, because at least he has a girlfriend who thinks he's handsome, right? And then you tell him no, you do not admire his beer gut. So it's a dose of reality that he's not happy to have received.

That said, it's his body. He can choose to treat it how he wants, and you don't get to apply your standards to it. But if he tries to apply his standards to yours? I'd give him a piece of my mind. And if it's not his gut that's bothering you so much as his lack of motivation to reach his goals and inability to figure out why those goals are not landing in his lap, and you're losing respect him on a personal level, that's very problematic. But if you're frustrated by his lack of motivation to meet your goals for him, that's a different problem entirely and it's mostly yours.
posted by aimedwander at 3:04 PM on July 21, 2017 [7 favorites]

My flip answer would be to serve him celery for dinner the next time he talked about his weight.

I sympathize in that I too find that behavior both boring and downright aggravating, where someone repeatedly talks about their weight, their diet, their plans for losing it, constant updates on their having eaten something healthy or exercised, followed by the rationalization and justification for eating something unhealthy or not exercising, rinse repeat. I am not MyFitnessPal.com! I don't care! Stop telling me!

So, apart from the "gramwatch" behavior (my term for all the up-to-the-minute reports about weight and dieting, a la overly dramatic "Storm Watch 2000" weather reports), the objective reality is as follows:

1. Your boyfriend is overweight
2. His preferred eating and exercise habits will not contribute to a fitter physique
3. He may or may not be accepting of you gaining weight, even though he's overweight, so there's an element of hypocrisy there

Is this someone you want to be with long-term? I personally wouldn't want to have a significant portion of my relationship be about how one of us looks. As others pointed out, at the very least, it's super boring, and at worst it's a major double standard. Yes, we will not get cuter or fitter as we age, but at the very least we could have relationships where we laugh about our slowly decaying bodies, make comparable efforts to do what we can to stave off the avoidable shit, and not hold our partners to a standard we are not willing to maintain ourselves. And to not bore the Christ out of each other with constant diet talk unless both people are into that.
posted by Autumnheart at 3:08 PM on July 21, 2017 [9 favorites]

If the celery conversation and the beer gut conversation happened at the same time, you've just highlighted for the both of you that he'd be less attracted to you if you were heavier, which would have triggered a sense of shame/guilt and people generally don't like feeling that.

So, I don't really know if there's too much for you to really be sorry for here. I think you need to wait and see what he does next - he might use this to actually look at how he feels about himself and his weight, and maybe do something about it (or not). But I don't think you need to jump in and fix anything.
posted by heyjude at 3:23 PM on July 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have nothing to say about his celery remark, because I can't tell if it was a possibly a well-intentioned teasing joke or a actually-I-might-really-mean-this-but-I'm-pretending-it's-a-joke joke.

Saying something even a little bit critical about your partner's weight is a big no-no. As a rule of thumb, you should NEVER say something in a relationship that causes "can't ever take this back" hurt. I'm definitely not judging you because I said something about my husband's weight myself a few years ago and I hate that I did it. There's a lot to your question, but to answer the part about how you mend the damage you've done: many sincere compliments, much reassurance that you find him attractive, kind gestures, affection. And don't talk about weight again for a long, long time (and again, NEVER anything critical).
posted by kitcat at 3:29 PM on July 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

My flip answer would be to serve him celery for dinner the next time he talked about his weight.

Dude, I'd be putting celery on every single plate of everything as a garnish.

Not because I expect my partner to be perpetually thin or an Adonis — but because I refuse to tolerate a partner who holds a double standard for appearances and efforts to be fit.
posted by culfinglin at 3:37 PM on July 21, 2017 [14 favorites]

I have a much different read on this than everyone else I guess.

You are the one who is less attracted to him because of his weight. You are the one who wants him to lose weight because that was an agreement you had in a past relationship. You are the one who first brought up weight and it's connection to attractiveness.

It seems like you are projecting to me. You questioning him about whether he would like you at a higher weight reads like a backhanded way to not have to discuss your concerns head on and instead passively manipulate him into revealing that he feels similarly as you about the importance of being a lower weight. You don't like how he looks at his current weight and you're trying to evade taking ownership of those feelings because you intellectually recognize them as an unappealing. You are offended that he (maybe) holds an opinion about weight that you yourself also hold!

No one is forcing you to date this man. He has at least verbalized that you are allowed to do whatever you want with your body. But it doesn't appear that you've acknowledged that he has the same level of control over his.
posted by scantee at 3:42 PM on July 21, 2017 [48 favorites]

Two things:

1. You do not get to tell other people how to look. This is not a right anyone has.
2. Including him. And making booboo sadface silent treatment about hearing hurtful things he's supposed to get to say to you is gaslighting abusive bullshit.

So, in your future relationships, understand that you do not have to stand for someone talking to you like that and you don't get to talk to other people about their body or appearance.

I think for women, it is especially important not to buy into the "I have to stay thin for you" propaganda or write that clause into their relationships, because women get dealt some real shitty health issues. Our thyroids go, our reproductive hormones wreak havoc - even if we don't have kids - our bones lose minerals. Shit happens. Boobs sag, bellies get stretched, fat redistributes. We get less "attractive". A good man who wants to have a long relationship with someone who is not immortal embraces that. If you are dating with the intention of finding a long term partner and a guy basically tells you he's going to dump you after you have his kids, believe him. Move on to someone better than that, who plans to be capable of getting a boner over something more complex than perky boobs.

There may come a time, a couple years into a good stable relationship, where the situation is permanent and entrenched enough that you realize you're going to be doing the sickness and health thing as you both get old and fall apart, that you may come to an agreement with your partner about certain things that can be said. Like, I *want* to be told if I'm about to leave the house in clothes that look bad on me or are covered in dog hair. My husband wants to be told if his hair is so jacked up he needs a hat. There are ways that we talk about weight, and our joint cooking/eating/shopping/ordering and other life stuff, that are respectful and have been developed over time. But he knows that if he has an actual problem with my fatness, the solution is that he leaves, and I would hold myself to the same standard.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:50 PM on July 21, 2017 [18 favorites]

I'm going go against some of the other comments here: from the way this was presented, it reads like your hypothetical question about your weight was really a backhanded way of talking about his weight. Were you baiting him into a specific discussion of his weight and eating habits or were you genuinely interested in a having a general conversation about your potential weight gain?

It strikes me as wrong to judge his actual weight but then feel insulted when he jokingly (maybe a bad, insulting joke) makes a comment about your imagined weight. You, right now, find him unattractive because of his weight, he, maybe sometime in the future, might prefer you lose weight you might gain.

And, some more that I disagree with from above, this hardly counts as a "catfish." You saw what he looked like on date 1 and then continued to date him for 9 months. And, from your description, that weight has remained fairly stable. He looks like what he looks like, it's perfectly ok to realize you've lost attraction and end the relationship but it's not fair to present his presentation as being deceptive because you expected him to lose weight faster. How would you feel if he said "I'm staying with you only because I thought you'd lose weight"?

He clearly feels self conscious about his body image and the changes his body has gone through post-injury. If this is a deal breaker to you, that's perfectly fine. Sexual attraction is very important. But if you do want to discuss it with him in the future, think about how you'd like the conversation to go if the roles were reversed.
posted by AtoBtoA at 3:52 PM on July 21, 2017 [35 favorites]

In my previous long term relationship, we agreed that it was important make an effort to stay fit for your partner, for health reasons and to maintain attraction. I was thinking about that, and wondered about my boyfriend's views. I asked him what he would think if I gained significant weight, and if he would still be attracted to me.

If I was very visibly unhappy and struggling with my weight gain and my partner asked me that question, I might be hurt and defensive enough to give a snarky answer. This is not the same as having a conversation with your partner about staying fit.

You give no indication that he has ever made sexist comments before, or that there are other red flags in your relationship so I'm not going to read anything else into his comments. In fact, you say you're still attracted to him. I disagree with most of these answers and think this is really on you, but there's good advice about how to go about mending this.

I mean, he kinda catfished you, so I guess you're even on the trust thing

He didn't create a fake online persona to lure her into a one-sided, online relationship, he posted a photo on a dating app that isn't very accurate. That doesn't make him a catfisher, that makes him 90% of the people on dating apps. Come on.
posted by Room 641-A at 3:57 PM on July 21, 2017 [17 favorites]

He's not going to lose weight and keep it off, if he's like the great majority of the overweight population. And even if he could, your input would have nothing to do with it. Not only will he not get thinner, but over time he's likely to get heavier. Please try to accept that his current state of fitness is the best it's going to be, in general.

FIrst, ask yourself if you'd stay with him even if he stayed the same weight or got bigger. If it starts affecting your desire for him, you'll need to decide again.

I suggest you apologize for hurting his feelings. Tell him you care for him and you've realized his weight is none of your business -- because truly, it isn't. Even if it turns out he's a hypocrite and holds a different standard for you than for himself.

After all of this blows quiets down, ask him again about your weight and appearance -- what if it changes? What does he think about that? Whatever his answer is, stay calm. If you're upset or angry, don't raise your voice or argue with him. You want to know his true feelings about it, and you won't hear them unless you draw him out. You can do that by keeping a neutral expression, by saying "uh huh" and mmm hmm, and by staying quiet to see if he has more to say. I'm not saying you shouldn't BE upset if he has a double standard. But if you let your anger out while he's talking about it he will shut up and never talk about it again. You won't be able to learn what his attitude is.
posted by wryly at 3:59 PM on July 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

I should add, I don't think you've done anything horribly wrong. This stuff is very hard to talk about and everybody fucks it up and people always feel bad. Let him be bummed about this for a minute. He was already bummed about it and your conversation basically confirmed his insecurities: he's overweight and that's an issue for you.

If you want him to lose weight because he seems to want to lose it, then be supportive of that without letting him get away with endless moping and useless I'm-gonna-changes. Tell him you don't care if he's a little overweight if he's happy and that you'd prefer he stop complaining and fretting about behavior he's not changing.

If you want him to lose weight because you're not attracted to him, well, that's a much more difficult conversation to have.
posted by AtoBtoA at 4:03 PM on July 21, 2017 [6 favorites]

You asked him how he would feel if you gained weight to make a point! You can't then get annoyed that you got the response you wanted. If he had said that he wouldn't care if you gained weight, that would not have been the response you were looking for.

You owe him an apology.
posted by amro at 4:14 PM on July 21, 2017 [16 favorites]

There is some godawful advice in here. Like, "he is a double-standard-ing sexist hypocrite" based on a hypothetical you posed to him as a not-so-subtle prod about his not-hypothetical weight.

In a conversation with your boyfriend, you can lay out your requests of him without making your hypothetical weight gain the focus. If him being slimmer is something you require, you need to tell him that. Let him be the judge of whether he'd rather lose wight to keep you or stay at the status quo and risk losing you. He may be turned off at the mere suggestion that his weight is a deciding factor for you. But... it is, right? If so, it's better for you to tell him than it is for you to keep quiet while your dissatisfaction grows.

But for mercy's sake, gaining weight from an injury isn't catfishing, as some others have suggested. If you feel that you've been catfished, you owe it to yourself to get out now before you (1) convince yourself that things will change on their own without having the hard, direct conversation about his weight (without leaning on hypotheticals) or (2) convince him that your feelings for him don't come with conditions.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 4:26 PM on July 21, 2017 [17 favorites]

I am overweight to the point of being obese (technically, although I don't feel *that* big) and I know it is my own fault. On my dating profiles, I point out that I am overweight (and hairy like a sasquatch), but would prefer to lose some weight and could use a workout partner.

If I met someone and we hit it off and then a few months later she told me I was still fat and implied that it made me less attractive to her... I think I would be done with the relationship.

I don't see his response to you about gaining weight ("Don't do that.") as being sexist. I think he feels fat and is happy to have you in his life, but you phrased it in a way that showed you really do look down on him for his weight.

A double standard? Maybe. But I don't think he intended it that way. If I was in the same situation I wouldn't have been thinking about the gender differences at all - I would be thinking about how much I hate my own body and how you are telling me you kinda hate it too...
posted by tacodave at 4:29 PM on July 21, 2017 [9 favorites]

You say you don't want this to be a topic that you can never bring up. If you mean you want to be able to tell him you'd like him to lose weight, it should be a topic you never bring up. Of course he saw your hypothetical question as a criticism of his weight. It sounds to me like he felt humiliated and went for a dumb joke. But if you're concerned there's a double standard, you should ask him. "I'm concerned about what you said about me gaining weight because I love you unconditionally no matter how much you weigh." Unless you don't. Then you need to break up with him.
posted by FencingGal at 4:51 PM on July 21, 2017 [12 favorites]

To me, it sounded like your question "what if I gained weight?" was like you were thinking of intentionally making yourself fat. His response "don't do that" might simply mean "don't purposely gain weight; I hate being bigger than I used to be; I hate the lifestyle changes I'd have to make to get smaller; I would hate for you to experience the levels of self-hate I'm going through because of my weight gain." And his celery joke sounds like he doesn't actually know what would be helpful in helping you keep weight off, but since he knows how much it sucks to put on weight, he'd try to help you not have to go through that.

Something I have said to past BFs who were insecure about their weight and thinking of dieting but kind of in denial (but only say it if it really is true for you): I will support whatever reasonable eating habits or exercise habits you want my support with. And even if nothing changes, or even if for whatever reason you happen to lose weight or gain weight, that won't change how attracted to you I am.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 5:30 PM on July 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

One more thing. You say you feel terrible about what you said, and I'm sure that's true, but when you mention talking to him "constructively" about his weight, it does seem like you think you can say something that will get him to lose weight and you really can't, no matter how loving your intention. If he asks you for specific help, you can do what he asks, but any change has to come from him. If talking to people about their weight did any good, there wouldn't be a fat person in the world.
posted by FencingGal at 5:33 PM on July 21, 2017 [15 favorites]

On the one hand, if you truly do love him for who he is, I can see why you would get annoyed by the inconsistencies between what he says and what he does. It's like someone complaining about their job every night, but never applying for a new job. At some point that gets old and frankly a loving caring partner is going to call you on your shit.

But the comments here are questioning whether you truly love him for who he is. You're the only person who can unpack that. If you do, go apologize for bringing up your concerns in an unempathetic way and tell him that you'll be his cheerleader and sounding board if he wants, but only if he's going to commit to healthy changes. If he's going to complain while not commiting to his goals, you're within your rights to tell him to stfu.

Your bf sounds like a person who has always been pretty healthy and has no idea of how to lose weight (other than "exercise more"). Also, I speak from experience when I say that when you've been active and then go through a difficult injury, the idea of reinjuring yourself is damn scary and yes, the fear does cause you to skip workouts. The extra weight creates insecurity and depression, especially if you're a person who is used to resolving their own problems. It becomes a vicious cycle and you start to buy into the bullshit about not having willpower.

So for you, to be a good partner, take those things into account and recognize that while his habits are exacerbating his problem, he didn't create this problem for himself by being weak minded. Suggest he get some kind of professional program for both weight loss and physical therapy. Basically, help him devise a plan to reach his goals.

Again, if you think he's worth the emotional investment.

That crap about you needing to remain fit, that's a whole other conversation that the two of you need to have, but given his emotional and depressive state, and given the way you've related that he seemed to be making a (bad) joke, I'm not going to read too much misogyny into his words. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he doesn't want you feeling sad and hopeless the way he's feeling.
posted by vignettist at 5:40 PM on July 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

  In my previous long term relationship, we agreed that it was important make an effort to stay fit for your partner, for health reasons and to maintain attraction

Yeah, but he doesn't know that. But most of us who are a teensy bit hefty do know, and don't need to add to the potential self-hatred.

Most guys hit a severe slowdown in metabolism, and we have to responsibly realise that we can't neck six pints a night like we used to. Maybe he needs help to get past that stage?
posted by scruss at 5:46 PM on July 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

You've had 9 months to see what his body looks like, how his weight fluctuates, and what his habits are. By now, you know his size and his eating/drinking habits. Assume they aren't going to change for the better. Are you OK with that? Then stay with him and drop the subject unless he explicitly seeks your help in losing weight. If you're not OK with that, break up. I agree with the third commenter, who pointed out that you're not his weight monitor just because you're his significant other.

Is he being sexist? Maybe or maybe not, but I don't think we should leap to the conclusion that he is, when I'm not even seeing any reference to the OP's gender. Even assuming that the OP is female, the boyfriend's double standard isn't necessarily based on gender. It could be because he reacts differently to an abstract thought-experiment than to a real-life situation. After all, that's kind of what he was like with himself: when he talked about himself in the abstract, he expressed aspirations about fitness and weight loss … but when it came down to reality, he didn't want to bother giving up the beers. Similarly, when he thinks abstractly about you gaining weight, he tries to counteract it in his mind (no, have celery!), but the real test would be if he actually tried to get you on a celery diet in real life.

The amount of negative talk you've been doing about his weight already seems over the line. If the genders were reversed, everyone would be saying you're the sexist one. This amount of body shaming isn't healthy to a relationship. You need to assume you're not going to change him, and decide for yourself whether you can accept the status quo.
posted by John Cohen at 6:33 PM on July 21, 2017 [8 favorites]

Dear OP, I totally agree that you don't get to be your BF's weight monitor. I also totally agree that you get to leave if you're not attracted to him anymore. Maybe in an ideal world individuals would be attracted to our inner qualities only, but I don't happen to occupy that world. I think it can be especially hard for women to be fully honest about some things that may matter to them, including sex and/or physical attractiveness, because we're not supposed to be so "shallow". Our culture expects men to be that shallow and women often shape themselves to those demands. But somehow women are perceived, IMHO, to be horrible human beings, much worse than men, if they have similar tastes or demands. And I think that's bullshit.

I think you get to want whatever you want, and if you can get that without hurting other people, good for you. And if it matters to you to have a partner who stays fit, you can totally go find one. But that guy with whom you had the fitness agreement is no longer in the picture. Apparently there are things just as or more important to you (or him, as the case may be) than fitness and weight. So like most things, it's a tradeoff. Can you find someone as fabulous as your current boyfriend who also falls under your definition of fit? Maybe, maybe not. What you absolutely cannot do is carry a grudge against your guy because he's not the weight you want him to be and is less attractive to you as a result. But it's a real thing to stop being as attracted to your mate. How do you solve this problem? Honestly, I have no idea but think the book Come as You Are might have some good advice.

Personally, I no longer date bony (thin? whatever) people because I don't like how it feels when we hug. I made the mistake of falling for a bony person once; that's not why it fell apart but it was kind of a relief when I got to date folks with my favoured body type again. I think it's okay to have a favoured body type, but not okay to fat shame (or anything shame). I know that's not what you meant to do, I know you care about your BF, I know that attraction matters. This sounds really challenging; still, your feelings do not make you an awful person. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 7:02 PM on July 21, 2017

He revealed that he's a bit of an asshole, but expected you to be a sweet little angel; you revealed that you're not actually an angel but are a human woman with sexual preferences; it was a reality check and his feelings got hurt. He realized that you feel the same way about his body that he feels about yours. THAT's what hurt him-- realizing you have the same standards that he does! How sad and indicative of a sick, sexist culture.

Honestly, he'll get over it. It sounds like he values fitness and knows the path to become fit; this was a jolt that will maybe make him take caring for himself more seriously, instead of assuming you're just an all-forgiving lifesize human sexual landing pad, or whatever.

Not everyone needs to be fit to have a healthy sexual life but it's obviously important to both of you and he was banking on the idea that he is allowed to have higher physical standards than you because Man and Woman. Been there, done that, moved on to someone more attractive to me.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:07 AM on July 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

One thing I'd be asking myself is if this is a way my boyfriend approached problem-solving in general, or if it is specifically about his weight. If he has multiple hot-button issues like this, especially about his health (i.e. complains constantly about his knee bothering him, but never goes to the doctor), that would be seriously annoying to me. If it's only about his weight, that might be just one of his quirks and it's up to you to decide if you can live with it the way it, or not.

For me, the weight itself wouldn't be the issue as much as the double-standard - both that he expects you to stay thin, and reserves the right to serve you celery, but is hurt and upset when you bring up the same topic for him - and, also, the complaining. I'm wondering what he is trying to achieve when he talks about how much he hates being fat - is he just venting, or does he expect you to rush in with a supportive comment? I think being supportive and admiring of our partners' looks is definitely called for, especially as all of us age and get less attractive, but I would find a continued expectation to do that wearing, especially in conjunction with a refusal to take action.
posted by dancing_angel at 9:20 AM on July 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you didn't want to be told he doesn't like fat people then why did you force him to tell you? YOU don't like it, why should he!? If all fat people were fat because they loved how it looked and felt to be fat then there wouldn't be any fat people. He never decided to get fat. He had a perfectly good system to keep trim and healthy and it was taken away by an injury. He might get trim again. He might not. But how he looks won't have a huge bearing on his own thoughts about you gaining weight.

Your whole premise was flawed anyway. He is exactly as he was when you met him. He hasn't failed to keep himself in the same shape as he was when you met. His profile photo was possibly as old as his profile which was possibly written and posted before his injury. So? You aren't dating the picture and you have never seen him looking like the picture in real life anyway. Maybe he was shocked to realise after 9 months you were hoping for the guy in the picture still.

If you want a thinner boyfriend then dump him and move on. If you want the boyfriend you have then buy him some nice beer and never mention it again. Either way don't torture each other over a pic on a dating website.
posted by intergalacticvelvet at 1:15 PM on July 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

This is reminding me of when I was married. My ex-wife would complain and complain and complain about being fat, oh, god, she was so fat.

I frankly had nothing to say about it other than asking her to stop complaining and accept it or do something about it. I would have been happy and supportive either way.

Let me state: My issue was not her weight. My issue was that she would complain endlessly about it, but not make the slightest effort to do anything about it, or she would not just accept herself and stop complaining.

I am a heavy guy. I accept that and make jokes about it all the time (probably more than I should - Example: A coworker asked if I ordered the hot weather on Friday. I looked at them and said "Really? Us fat guys don't do heat so well."). All I wanted her to do was make a decision about how she was going to handle it, whatever that decision might have been, instead of wallying about and constantly complaining.
posted by Samizdata at 6:43 PM on July 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Your whole premise was flawed anyway. He is exactly as he was when you met him. He hasn't failed to keep himself in the same shape as he was when you met.

This is a great point, and gets to the heart of the matter. OP, since you're into fitness, I wonder if you've ever struggled with a weight problem? It's hard. Probably harder if you've always been fit.

If I had showed up to our first date with extra bulk around my middle, would there have been a second date?

Why wouldn't he have? You did.

You asked him a bad hypothetical question, and his answer was not "I'd feed you carrots. It was not "I hate fat people." It was "Dont do it*. You can do whatever you want with your body." That is the right answer. You said yourself the stupid thing about carrots was supposed to be a joke. If his joke is part of a pattern, run. If the joke hurt your feelings, tell him and see how he responds. But what you said was not a joke, at all. His hurtful comment does not mitigate yours.

*I think this is ambiguous.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:05 PM on July 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I want to make things okay again, and I want him to feel safe and secure with me. But I also don't want this to become a topic that I can never bring up with him. I know I screwed up by blurting out the comment about his beer belly. What should I do?

Earning back lost trust takes time. First you will need to reassure him you still find him attractive, and not with words but with physical affection in whatever ways the two of you did that before this conversation.

If you want to bring up the topic again, which is reasonable if you're thinking about a long-term relationship with him, you will need to be more considerate and intentional about what you want to discuss. It reads to me like you were wanting to know about what standards the two of you might agree on as a couple, and are worried about the usual double-standard where dudes think they're in a sitcom where a slobby dude always has a hot wife. But what you actually asked was what he thought about your weight right now, and when you didn't like his answer you blurted out your fear that he was going to enforce that double-standard.

Maybe next time you feel comfortable bringing this up, start with how you see your future many years from now - what sort of health stuff do you think will be fun when you're older and hours at the gym aren't feasible? Team sports, together or separately? An evening stroll together? A quick run while your kids are at their own sports, if kids are an option? And I'm not suggesting you be disingenuous about it, but make sure you talk about how as we get older we can't just eat whatever we want without consequences again as our metabolism slows down - most guys don't have that info drummed into them from a young age the way it is for women. Nearly every guy I know was slim without much effort until their mid-20s or whenever their jobs/kids started taking up a lot of time, and then their weight went up. Some eased back on the beer, some went full fitness freak, others just let it happen. It's pretty common and your boyfriend isn't unusual in this.

For example, I've discussed with my husband what foods I could give up easily (junk food, cheap chocolate, beer) and which I'd rather die without (expensive chocolate, wine, licorice). It's not about buckling down to a life of deprivation together but about chatting about preferences and balanced choices. I'd be very hurt if he commented negatively about my weight, but it is still a topic we can talk about, it's not off limits.

But step one is to make him feel desired again.
posted by harriet vane at 2:40 AM on July 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Lots of comments here about being right, or even righteous. Not a lot about being helpful, to yourself or to him.

You don't want him to be fat. He doesn't want you to be fat. You probed about your weight and you got hurt. Then you probed about his weight and he got hurt.

Pointing out that somebody hasn't got far with their weight loss goals isn't helpful or effective for anybody, and neither is fishing for hypothetical viewpoints about hypothetical weight gain for, oh, I don't know random reasons no we're actually talking about your weight again d'uh. People who are uncomfortable about their weight know exactly where things are at, and why.

Either weight is a thing for you, in which case come straight out and say that, or it isn't, in which case drop it.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:07 PM on July 23, 2017

People tend to pair off in couples with complementary looks. If you are attractive, but your partner is just average-looking, then he will have to compensate by being charming or rich (or maybe just a really nice person). It sounds like he started off by being relatively charming, so he'll probably have to keep that charm happening if he wants to stay with you. If he doesn't, don't stay.
posted by ovvl at 7:49 PM on July 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

A lot of the answers you've gotten seem very invested in figuring who is at fault in your relationship. I get that, because body image in general and weight gain in particular are very sensitive subjects. But for what it's worth, I don't think either you or your boyfriend acted like jerks here.

You've heard your boyfriend expressing unhappiness over an aspect of his life that he won't take steps to fix. It happens to be an aspect of him that you are (at least a little) unhappy about too. You did your best to approach it in a non-hurtful way, but it's a difficult and loaded subject, and you're a human being, so you didn't handle it perfectly. He was hurt and tried to brush it off with humor, but he's also a human being, so he didn't get it perfect either, and now you're both feeling upset. You want to make it better but don't know how, and I'm willing to bet he feels the same way. None of this makes you bad people. It just makes you people.

I think there has been a lot of good advice in this thread but I also think it has been mixed with some unfair judgment of you and your boyfriend both. I'm sure I'm projecting my own relationship and body image history onto your question, and I can't imagine I'm the only one. I hope you've been able to contemplate the advice while letting the judgment run off you.

To answer the question you actually asked ("What should I do?"), if I were your boyfriend, I would probably want to hear something like this:

"I know I hurt you when I brought up your weight, and I'm really sorry about that. What I was trying to say was this: I think you are incredibly sexy as you are, but I hear you talk about your weight a lot and it sounds like it makes you unhappy. I want you to find yourself as attractive as I find you. That might mean changing your body or it might mean staying the way you are and changing the way you look at yourself. I'm happy to support you on either path. That's all I was trying to say, and I don't think it came out right at all."

And if I were you, I would need for him respond with his own apology and his own acknowledgment of how he hurt your feelings. But if the conversation goes on and he doesn't, you're allowed to queue him with something like, "I also have to say that I was hurt when I asked about me gaining weight and you said you'd feed me celery. I know you were joking but what I really wanted was to know that you'll find me attractive even if my body changes."

In an ideal world, you would both handle this new conversation perfectly and end up a happier and stronger couple. If that doesn't happen -- if you stumble or step on each other's toes or whatever -- it still doesn't mean either of you is bad person.
posted by yankeefog at 4:19 AM on July 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

« Older Can I get these PF treatments more affordably?   |   How do I keep track of sources/citations in... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.