How do I tell my wife she's fat?
January 4, 2007 11:42 AM   Subscribe

How do I tell my wife she's fat?

We've been married for ten years and I still think my wife is pretty dang hot. I do not look at her and feel anything but desire. As far as my sex drive is concerned, she looks just fine.

But I'm concerned about her health. She's gained 10-15 pounds per year since we've been married and this last year, it was 25 (she had a baby during the year, which of course contributed, but 25 pounds is 25 pounds). She's just over 200 lbs right now.

I think for health reasons she should worry more about her weight. Because I don't want to encourage any body-issues, I never, ever, ever make negative comments about her weight. There's enough lousy psychological programming in the world that I really don't want to contribute. But she's now technically obese, and her risk of all sorts of medical problems is much, much higher.

I've tried to set an example. I now wear a pedometer all the time and we have a little competition to see who will improve the most, but that hasn't motivated her to move around more. We bought a treadmill, which she doesn't use.

I feel like it's time that I said something. Something kind, loving, and hopefully, non-hurtful. I would prefer to have it be something casual and non-confrontational, but I'm at a loss. Short of an intervention, what can I do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (64 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Talk to her doctor privately and, if he agrees with you, get him to tell her?
posted by vacapinta at 11:45 AM on January 4, 2007

Don't EVER EVER EVER tell your wife she's fat. You will never know how much that will hurt her, and she will never forget that you said that. That is a totally unforgivable thing to say to your wife.

That being said, your motives seem pure. Why not encourage her to get a check up? The doctor will definitely tell her she needs to lose weight.
posted by gokart4xmas at 11:47 AM on January 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Now that I'm done being offended (being over 200 lbs myself), perhaps realize that her weight gain might be related to household food habits. Cook healthier, but you don't need to tell her.
posted by sian at 11:48 AM on January 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

You think perhaps she doesn't know she is heavy? If it is health you are worried about then tell her, but don't expect her to be happy about it. Anyway, I think when a woman is over 200 pounds the health issues are real. Don't beat around the bush.
posted by caddis at 11:49 AM on January 4, 2007

Is your wife blind and/or never looks in the mirror or puts on her own clothes?

She knows she's gained weight. Trust me, this is not something you need to point out to her. Why not suggest that both of you get a check-up -- that's something not enough people do on a yearly basis -- and if there *are* any health issues, let the doctor inform her of those.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:50 AM on January 4, 2007

She knows without you telling her. Believe me.

Can you afford a good gym membership? The kind that caters to people who aren't already buff? I was in your wife's boat till I joined one, and what kept me going at first was the social aspect. But it has to be the kind of gym where people like her would feel comfortable.

I do give you kudos about your attitude-my husband was the same way, and it was really helpful.
posted by konolia at 11:51 AM on January 4, 2007

You'd be hard pressed to find a woman who wouldn't be hurt if you told her she was fat. But, just emphasize all the things you told us about finding her desirable and hot, just REALLY stress the health factor. You've been with her 10 years, you want her to be healthy enough for another 10 + infinity more. Maybe start talking about setting a healthy example for your child via exercise and a healthy diet.
posted by zombiebunny at 11:55 AM on January 4, 2007

A few thoughts.

First of all, do not use the F-word.

Second, you could approach it from the health-concern angle. Sit her down and epxlain that you are worried about her increased risk for diabetes, heart problems, etc.

Third, the next step could be to make her weight loss a project you could help her with by embarking with her on a "healthy lifestyle" rehauling of your life as a couple. If you're in it together, it'll make it more fun for her, and more difficult for her to slack. Join a gym together and go to regular workout sessions together, or appoint a time when you will go together on daily walks.

Good luck. Remember: Don't even THINK the f-word when you're talking to her about it. That way lies badness.
posted by hazelshade at 11:58 AM on January 4, 2007

nth the "you don't need to tell her" sentiment.

Some women don't lose the baby weight until they're done nursing. If she is breastfeeding, cut her some slack.

Cooking (healthfully) for her is a great idea, but keep in mind the additional nutrition requirements for nursing women.

Keep in mind that if you want her to exercise, it helps if she (a) gets enough sleep at night and (b) she is unencumbered by an infant, housework, sleep, and work for at least an hour-long stretch during a period of time in which she is sufficiently alert. Are you spending enough time minding the baby to enable this behaviour?
posted by crazycanuck at 12:02 PM on January 4, 2007

How much does she do around the house? You mention a new baby: that's a lot of work, and there's a very good chance it's all falling on her shoulders, leaving her without the time or energy to get the exercise she needs.

I don't know what your arrangement is, but try to honestly inventory the division of labor in your house. (And forgive me if you're one of the couples who manages to divide it evenly; it's just that statistically that's the minority.) See if there's not some task you can take on that will help your wife: take the baby for an hour or two every night so she can get out of the house, take over cooking, do the major weekly cleaning. Even if it's not directly related to weight loss, if your wife is under stress, being relieved of some of it will go a long way to helping her feel better about herself and working to improve herself.

I could be totally off base here, but reading between the lines I see an overworked new mom who would love nothing more than to have her old body back, but has too many other things to do with the new baby.

If that really and truly is not the case, then just tell her you're concerned about her health. It will be hard and it will hurt her feelings, but if it were me I'd want to be told. The key here is to do it with the utmost concern, make it clear that you still love her and ask what you can do to help her. Keep an open mind.
posted by AV at 12:03 PM on January 4, 2007

I think telling her she's a fatty would torpedo any self-confidence she has. Especially coming from her husband.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 12:07 PM on January 4, 2007

She knows she's fat. Sit down with her and say that you're concerned for your collective health as a couple and that you'd like to start taking some small steps towards a more healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy weight is an important part of that goal, and it's something you both can work towards.

If you're not overweight yourself, you can focus on another aspect for your personal goals, be it cardiovascular fitness, muscle tone, or flexibility. These things are much easier to swallow if someone close to you is going through it too.
posted by sid at 12:12 PM on January 4, 2007

The doctor will definitely tell her she needs to lose weight.

Not true. There have been a number of articles recently about doctors' reluctance to confront patients about weight gain, even when it is a health risk.

Confronting her about this will not wendell, as it were. But if you could get her talking about how she feels about her health and fitness level (maybe if you talk about your own health concerns, she'll reciprocate), that would give you the opportunity to be supportive and let her know what you'd like to do to help her out. Suggestions include: hiring her a personal trainer, arranging childcare for her to accomodate regular workouts, doing more of the household chores, cooking healthier meals, spending more time with the baby at night so she gets more sleep, etc.
posted by junkbox at 12:16 PM on January 4, 2007

AV has it dead on.

Also, ditto the "household eating habits" thing.

If you were my husband, wearing the Pedometer and "competing" with me would just either piss me off or I'd dismiss it as some kind of geeky fad.

Is she a SAHM? Lots of the care of a non-moble baby involves time spent sitting - sitting and feeding, sitting and watching the baby play on the floor, sleeping while the baby sleeps so she can be awake with the baby in the middle of the night.

If you want to change her eating habits, then decide to change your own and ask that she go along with you. No more snack foods in the house. Empty out the candy jars. No more packages of cookies. You take up the cooking of family meals and cook healthy foods and leave healthy snacks around.

Also, was/is she on any medications at all? My own weight gain was caused by the interaction of two medications - one of which was a birth control medication. That kind of weight can be a nightmare to take off once its on.

Trust me, she knows. You don't need to say anything to her.
posted by anastasiav at 12:19 PM on January 4, 2007

I have been reading the book "Mindless Eating." Leaving it around the house would be obtuse, but you could read it yourself, assuming you also have some weight to lose (as do I).

Weight gain is always contextualized, intermingled with overall happiness, life structure, sleep, etc. as mentioned above. Talking about weight is looking at a symptom rather than causes.
posted by craniac at 12:22 PM on January 4, 2007

We've been married for ten years...She's gained 10-15 pounds per year since we've been married and this last year, it was 25...She's just over 200 lbs right now.

So either she weighed between 40 and 85 pounds when you married her, or your assessment of her weight or of her weight gain is inaccurate.

As such, I would not broach the subject. I'm not sure if I would even change the family diet.
posted by solid-one-love at 12:22 PM on January 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Maybe his assessment of the weight gain is inaccurate, but the assessment of the weight itself isn't, which is really the point here.
posted by dead_ at 12:25 PM on January 4, 2007

When I was overweight a few years ago (though admittedly it wasn't health-damaging), three of my four female room-mates were forever 'suggesting' i get out and do exercise, or making comments about how they'd join a gym with me, or mentioning the diet i had, and just basically made me feel fat, the whole year. And though you'd think it would have the effect of me going about losing a ton of weight because it was on my mind all the time, it did the total opposite. I was unbelieveably unhappy, and ate, and ate, and ate. Strangely, two years later when I lived with people who didn't ever comment on what I ate/looked like, I started losing weight, and stopped eating so much. I relaxed, and stopped thinking about it, and stopped bingeing.

I think the point I'm making is, you can't tell someone subtly, because they'll know you're being subtle, and feel shitty about it, and probably will eat even more, but not in front of you. (Speaking from experience, heh). I think the best way is to just be blunt but make a MASSIVE DEAL about how supportive you are, how great she is, and how you'll be there every step of the way. And when she starts losing weight, make her feel great for it. There's nothing nicer than someone raving on about how you've lost weight. (In my view, anyways.) Erm, I hope that all made sense.
posted by angryjellybean at 12:25 PM on January 4, 2007 [2 favorites]

She can't have gained 10-15lbs every year you've been married, or she must have been under 100lbs to begin with! Do bear in mind that her much lower weight may have been artificial for her, and unhealthy to maintain.

I think I would give it a few months before I got really worried. Your wife just had a baby, and like others have said, I'd imagine she's juggling 1,001 things and is conscious of her weight. The added weight might not be too bad for her in the short term, there's some controversy over healthiest the BMIs for women (some say up to 27 is fine), and depending on her height and where she carries it she might only be 30lbs over a healthy weight.

If you do say something now try 'Hey, I know this year is pretty tough and crazy for both of us. Are you getting enough time for yourself? Is there anything else I can do so that you have time to do the things you want to do?' And try to build exercise into your lives as a family - take the baby out for a walk in the park every Sunday for example.

How does her self confidence seem? Does she mention her weight? I don't think there's much you can do until she'd ready.
posted by crabintheocean at 12:27 PM on January 4, 2007

She definitely knows; it's not something you need to tell her.

Nth-ing all the suggestions to go to the doc. Maybe suggest she should get her thyoid checked; thyroid imbalances do cause weight gain (trust me on that one), is something that primarily affects women, affects a lot of people, and most never know it. The cure is a tiny pill every day, and correcting the problems has many benefits, the least being it makes it easier to get the weight off.

I'm not saying that is her problem, but the possibility be motivation to get her to a doc, under the guise of "i'm worried about your health, for both yourself and the baby's sake".
posted by cgg at 12:29 PM on January 4, 2007

You haven't mentioned whether she has ever addressed the weight or a desire to lose it. Like others say, I'm sure she knows she's put on the weight but do you believe she's concerned about it?

If you think she is and appears to watch what she eats, etc. I'd wouldn't say anything. Let her work on it at her own pace. But if she seems genuinely unconcerned and routinely eats junk food, extra desserts, etc. I would say something with an emphasis on the health factor.
posted by gfrobe at 12:30 PM on January 4, 2007

"Honey, I'm concerned about you. I think you should be very careful to avoid one-legged sea captains."

OK, seriously...

She probably knows she's fat and she's probably worried that you think she's fat. If so, your mentioning anything about it to her it will validate her fears and could seriously damage her self-esteem. My advice is that you suggest that you both go to the doctor for standard check-ups, but call the doctor before your wife's appointment and tell him/her your concerns.

If the doctor won't cooperate, I'd recommend (like a few others have already suggested) saying that you want to join a gym and asking her to come work out with you.
posted by flyingcowofdoom at 12:37 PM on January 4, 2007 [2 favorites]

Unless she's completely flummoxed by the baby, she's probably figured out your little pedometer "game" already. And the fact that she hasn't said anything probably means that she resents it but hasn't had the energy to deal. Why not apologize?

"Sweetie, I've been an idiot. I just want you to know that you're totally sexy, but I've been worrying about your long-term health because of the baby weight. That's why I started that dumb pedometer game.

How do you feel about the baby weight? What can I do to help you feel good about your weight?"

Because, you know, it's mostly about her. So ask her.
posted by miss tea at 12:38 PM on January 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Its also a flag for me that you say you've been married 10 years and have just had a baby (Congrats, by the way). Not that this is any of my business, but were there any fertility issues involved? Because conditions like PCOS, Hypercortisolism, or adrenal/Endocrine issues can cause steady weight gain of the type you are describing.
posted by anastasiav at 12:41 PM on January 4, 2007

Yes, be direct, but don't expect an answer in one sitting. It might come, it might not. On the other hand, don't nag and harp on the issue either. You can not make her change. She has to want to do it. At best, you can make not changing slightly less comfortable, not by disapproval but by erasing your silence. Your silence just makes avoiding the issue easier. However, if the doctor comes back and says that other than the extra pounds she is the picture of health, go back to your silence.
posted by caddis at 12:42 PM on January 4, 2007

It's the new year, valentines day is coming up, all that good stuff. Find something that includes fitness but can you make both of you a lot closer, and improve your relationship....

The only real way to lose weight and stay fit is if it is fun and satisfying....

Just tell her you're interested in trying some new activities for partners that are fitness oriented, make it enriching and health-oriented for both of you...

there are tons of fun things to do, take dancing lessons, a yoga class, take the kids to grandpa's house twice a week and go on a powerwalk together through a pretty park, seek out some really neat places to do some light hiking....the list goes on and on and on....

you'll spend more quality time together, and fitness will slowly become a bigger part of your lifestyles...

don't be afraid to tell her that you're concerned about fitness for both you and her, cause it's pretty insulting to suggest a lot of get fit activities to someone while clearly skirting around the "your fat" proclamation!
posted by Salvatorparadise at 12:42 PM on January 4, 2007

You could have written this about me. Perhaps this is my husband!! AAAAHHHH!!!

Anyway, as I write this, I'm eating a big fat piece of chocolate cake and I'll probably have another before the hour is up. I'm so tired that I don't even care. Seriously, I DON'T CARE. I am just in survival mode at this point. Exercising, being healthy, pursuing hobbies are the furthest things from my mind. I'm hoping I make it through the day on absolutely no sleep with a baby that doesn't sleep and eats every two hours.

I completely agree with others' suggestions that you take some of the burden off of her. If you have energy to be competing with your wife and wearing a pedometer, then you are not doing enough for your wife and baby.
posted by Sassyfras at 12:48 PM on January 4, 2007 [25 favorites]

Sassyfras, you have my admiration on so many levels (you're having milk with the cake, right? I jest, of course you are). Congrats on the baby!
posted by puddinghead at 12:59 PM on January 4, 2007

Do you drink, smoke, drive a car, climb ladders without a spotter, or do anything else that might give your wife cause to be concerned for your health? Because after having the same reaction Sassyfras did, I'd probably point that out and then ask you if you want a piece of cake, too.

Questioning of motives aside, I'll add suggesting an endocrinologist workup to the pile. It's one thing to pay a physician to tell me something I already know, it's another to stare at lab results and come to some realizations.
posted by gnomeloaf at 1:04 PM on January 4, 2007

I sympathize. My fiance is probably about 50 pounds or so overweight (not sure - he's 6'2" and pushing 260 but he does have a large frame regardless). I do worry because his weight is mostly in his stomach, which can lead to diabetes, heart problems, etc. We have talked about it in the past - when he's brought it up. I never bring it up on my own. I don't think that it would hurt his feelings or anything, but I also don't want to come off as his mom and nag him about what he's eating. Anytime I'm being especially healthy or physical I ask if he wants to come along, with no ulterior motives - more because when I take a walk it is nice to have someone to talk to.

We are getting married next year and I have started my own fitness plan to firm up (I'm a bit flabby). He said he would do it with me, but so far he's been reluctant to, which is frustrating to experience. He also said he was going to stop finishing my portions for me, but he's still doing that too. (I usually never finish what's on my plate and he will often eat whatever I haven't).

My mom was on my case when I was a teenager, about my weight, all the time. I finally lost it when I moved away to college. Not to say that your wife should move out or anything, but personally I lost the weight when I wanted to - not when my mom wanted me to. I'm sure your wife is well aware that she is overweight. Be supportive and let her guide the discussion. If she wants to take a walk, say you'll watch the baby, or that you'll put the baby in the stroller so you can all go together. If she says, "Honey, I want to start eating more healthfully" help her make the shopping list and go shopping with her. If you let her take the lead and remain supportive, I think that will work out much better thn sitting her down and saying that you are worried about her health. It is a legitimate concern but it is a total emotional minefield.
posted by sutel at 1:05 PM on January 4, 2007

OK so I've been thinking about this for a while, and I more or less agree with everyone here, you probably shouldn't tell her that she's fat. She sees herself in the mirror everyday, and knows that she's fat. What she doesn't know is how to address it, or perhaps she simply doesn't care to address it, which isn't fair to herself or you. So you need to do something, and you seem like a very supportive kind of guy, so you should be able to make it work.

The best thing to do, and what I usually do in most situations like this, is lead by example. It is a surprisingly effective way to promote positive change in people (from moderation in alcohol and drugs, to fitness, to reading books, and so on.)

I'm not suggesting that you become some kind of fitness guru, but just begin behaving healthier yourself. Take more walks. Get a gym membership. Cook healthier foods. Go on bike rides. Stretch during your day. Wearing the pedometer is already a good start.

The key thing, I think, is to not accidentally get her to resent your behavior. Include her in what you do, and as I said, lead by example. You don't have to explicitly tell her anything. Start cooking healthier one day and see how she reacts. Suggest the two of you go for a walk with the baby, see what happens. Gradually work this stuff into your routine.

Alternatively, simply having healthier food available in your house makes weight loss much easier. If there is no chocolate cake to eat, then she'll have no choice but to devour the fruits and veggies and other healthy snacks you start stocking your cupboards with.
posted by dead_ at 1:05 PM on January 4, 2007

Since you want to have a conversation about how you two are going to be more healthy in the coming year, have a conversation about how you two are going to be more healthy in the coming year.

Weight is just one part of health; since it is a sensitive topic, there is no need to use it as a lead into the conversation you really mean to have.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:07 PM on January 4, 2007

You know, I like miss tea's comment.

Specifically, I like the part where you ask your wife how she feels about her weight.

You can't be sensitive to someone's feelings unless you know what those feelings are. But when you do, it'll be obvious what the right response is — maybe support, maybe reassurance, maybe something else none of us can predict.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:22 PM on January 4, 2007

If you want her to be healthy, she needs to be very, very happy in a way that makes her want to move her body. She needs to feel this way more than half the time she's awake. Otherwise, she may not see the point in losing weight.

Is she really, really happy? Delighted with her life? Sure, the baby's good, but it's a burden, too.

She loves you. You may be able to help her be happy and to care, really, abou being alive -- even about staying alive as long as possible, even when she's old. Otherwise, you're asking her to exercise/eat right/otherwise deprive herself for a "less bad" life, which isn't very inspiring.
posted by amtho at 1:23 PM on January 4, 2007

You haven't mentioned whether she has ever addressed the weight or a desire to lose it. Like others say, I'm sure she knows she's put on the weight but do you believe she's concerned about it?
This is a valid point. I've been in the same position: she wasn't concerned about it, and, in fact, was surprised that I was.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:28 PM on January 4, 2007

Pushing 200+ is a health risk. There is no reason for anyone to be offended.

Making household changes will make it so much easier for her to make healthier choices without all the legwork. Do the grocery shopping, buy cut up veggies, cook dinner etc. Take a family stroll with the stroller after dinner. Your pedometer idea was in no way a "game" that she should be mad at.

Hell, we are all getting older and it would be good for everyone involved to make joint choices to be healthy!
posted by stormygrey at 1:32 PM on January 4, 2007

Oh, yeah, what Sassyfras said. When's the last time she had eight hours of sleep? When was her last day off? When did she last have time to do things that she cared about before becoming a mother? When was she last inspired?

I can't imagine anybody having a brand new baby and not being in survival mode for the first few months. Survival mode means you can call your day productive when you've showered, eaten, kept the baby alive and happy, and possibly washed a load of clothes. Anything beyond that is so far beyond the realm of possibility, it's just frustrating and depressing.

Any and all support that can be given will be a good start. Get somebody in to help her if you or other family aren't able to relieve her a bit.
posted by moira at 1:37 PM on January 4, 2007

I lost a good 40 pounds last year and planning on losing about 20 more this year. I had wanted to lose weight for almost 7 or 8 years and had no luck. I would drop 10 or 15 pounds and then just put it right back on. I was in a rut. I had to change my life and then it was easy for me. I knew that my friends and family were disappointed in me and my weight gain, and that made it much, much worse. Please don't say anything to her to make her feel worse than she probably already does.

When I read your question, my jaw dropped, and I felt terrible for your wife. After reading the rest of your question, it became apparent that you will and can be supportive, but if you think that she's not aware that she should lose weight and hasn't picked up on the fact that you want her to, I'm willing to bet all that I've got in the bank that you're dead wrong.

I personally used food as my one known pleasure. I was so busy with work and with my life, and so much of my day was not my own (belonging to work and all of my social obligations and to my partner) that a good, comforting meal was the only quick fix I could get. I don't know you, your wife or your situation, but my guess is that she needs something else in her life that is her own and nobody elses besides some time for a comforting meal or snack, and then she'll be in a much better position to do something about it.
posted by pazazygeek at 1:39 PM on January 4, 2007 [2 favorites]

simply having healthier food available in your house makes weight loss much easier. If there is no chocolate cake to eat, then she'll have no choice but to devour the fruits and veggies and other healthy snacks you start stocking your cupboards with.

True. Very few people will lose weight when there is a chocolate cake sitting on the table just waiting to be eaten.
posted by caddis at 1:42 PM on January 4, 2007

Wow, thank the gods for sock puppets. I'm willing to be up front for my own sake and stand behind my opinions but I wonder how many others are like me and unwilling to out their partner or have them read our unfiltered answer....

I sympathize; I'm in a situation not unlike sutel's although we're not engaged (yet). That's a possibility, but I have two major misgivings about committing to a life with her and one of them is her weight. Like sutel, I am also the thinner of the two of us, though not at my own ideal weight, so leading by example will only go so far.

I don't have a solution (yet? I hope) but I'll tell you what hasn't worked. I've tried to simply be supportive of her efforts, though they have been pretty much nil in the last year with no signs of them reappearing. I haven't come up with a way to encourage her to take them back up (weight watchers was successful for her for a while, though once she fell off the wagon we went back almost to her pre-WW weight) since for her this is has a lot of personal issues wrapped up in it (of course).

That's been the only entre to the subject I have ever managed. We chatted about personal things and I commented that I'd like for her to feel better about herself, so I wished she'd decide what her goals are about her body and make them happen.

Beyond that, I firmly believe people have to do for themselves, both in motivation and in deed. I concur with ikkyu2 and others who say you shouldn't be afraid to raise the question of health. You've got an angle I can not exploit: you're married with a child.

Perhaps the solution is to carve out some time to sit and discuss planning your family life a little. Aside from both your health issues there's things like life insurance and college funds, so there's a good reason to talk about all the ways you need to be there for each other and this kid.

I also feel like I need to chime in on this other thing - don't be cowed by the people who think "you think she doesn't know?" is somehow productive or fair to you. You're in a partnership with this woman and are responsible for a child. Being concerned about her continuing to be around to do her part in the team (not to mention wanting her to be with you for as long as possible) is nothing to feel the slightest shame about.

I also think it's unreasonable to just say that someone knows about the problem. If someone can gamble or spend or drink too much and be aware of it but still need some prodding then why does weight get off the hook? Just because there's more cultural shame? It's a crime the way we treat people in our society when it comes to bodies but turning that on its head such that we pretend morbid obesity as a non-issue is just as horrid.

Please please PLEASE give us some follow-up through Jess or Matt on how this goes for you, for the sake of all of us wrestling with the question of how to work sensitively with overweight partners.
posted by flag it and shut up at 1:51 PM on January 4, 2007 [2 favorites]

Unless she's completely flummoxed by the baby, she's probably figured out your little pedometer "game" already...How do you feel about the baby weight? What can I do to help you feel good about your weight?"

Amen, miss tea. No matter how sincere your concerns, there's little more demoralizing than having to respond to criticism that has been couched in concern.

Help her feel good. She'll put the fork down when she's ready and able.
posted by cdadog at 2:00 PM on January 4, 2007

If she is at this moment relatively healthy despite the extra weight, take a much lighter approach than some of the advice here. No doctor, no sit-her-down, no expressing your concerns. Keep having good sex and tell her you like it, tell her when you think she looks good, flirt with her.

Sign her up for an activity together and present it as a gift of something you've always wanted to do. Dance lessons, kayaking, tennis, a couple of bikes, whatever. Line up the sitter and don't cancel. She will know that you are kindly helping her take the first step and that you see it as a joint effort. I predict she will love the activity, spending time away from baby, and her new body consciousness so much that she will become an addict to the activity rather than overeating.
posted by thinkpiece at 2:11 PM on January 4, 2007

I feel like it's time that I said something. Something kind, loving, and hopefully, non-hurtful. I would prefer to have it be something casual and non-confrontational, but I'm at a loss.

"Hey sex muffin, since we got set an example now, what with the kid and all, lets start getting healthy, what say? Nothing major, but maybe go walking in the evening after dinner or try to spend the weekends doing more active stuff. Yeah, I know dinner takes a while, so we'll just plan ahead, figure out a menu to quick and easy stuff, throw some healthy stuff in there and call it day. Sound like a plan?"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:35 PM on January 4, 2007

The one bell that went off with the original question is that you said you try to set a good example by wearing a pedometer. Ouch. That's like rubbering her nose in it.

My wife and I were in the same situation, only *I* was the obese one (6-2, 240). The obese classification was according to BMI charts, plus I had high cholesterol, BP and all that, although to look at me most people said, "you're not *that* fat!"

Anyway, my wife mentioned *infrequently* that she was worried about my health due to my weight. She made it clear that her motive is that she did not want to lose too soon. For most of our marriage, she's been pretty skinny (5-5, about 110).

I got annual physicals and my doctor started putting me on several medications to control my various conditions, but she also kept mentioning that if I lost the weight, it would get better. Between my wife's loving reminders and the doctor's matter of fact "your body's going down the tubes, you know", I finally got on top of the weight issue, and virtually every health problem I had went away with the extra weight.

The thing is this, though: The decision was my own. My wife didn't MAKE me do it, and neither did the doctor. They were both just there to help me along the way.

The problem was that I knew I should lose the weight, but felt powerless to take it on; it's a big task, and in my mind failure was likely so why put in the effort? I finally decided to look at diets to see if anything could help.

Based on the recommendation of a successful weight loser, I found South Beach Diet and after reading the book I realized that I *could* succeed. My friend had, and so could I.

I was finally determined, and had the tool. I just had to make sure I followed the diet, because I decided that if I failed, it wasn't going to be *my* fault.

That was at the beginning of 05. I lost 70 lb. in 6 months. By the end of 06, I put half of it back on, so here I am again, at the beginning end of a diet plan for the New Year.

If she decides to try a diet and goes with a low carb plan like South Beach, have her check out Low Carb Eating forum- good support there. If she tries some other method, chances are there will be a good support forum for her.
posted by Doohickie at 2:49 PM on January 4, 2007

Two things you can do that will improve health in your household are:

first, take over meal preparations and prepare healthful meals (which could also help with the baby-exhaustion-no-time-for-exercise issue);

second, suggest social/entertainment activities that involve more motion than less. Taking a walk, going skating, walking to a friend's house, going dancing, going to a museum or art gallery, going to a play park (when the baby's older), going to the zoo. The goal does not have to be exercise, but the more you move around, the more exercise you get. Obviously you will want to be sensitive to her level of baby-exhaustion, but think through for the long-term what activities involve standing, walking, moving around, and the outdoors. Have them at the ready when "what should we do tonight/this weekend" questions come up.
posted by carmen at 2:52 PM on January 4, 2007

I also feel like I need to chime in on this other thing - don't be cowed by the people who think "you think she doesn't know?" is somehow productive or fair to you. You're in a partnership with this woman and are responsible for a child. Being concerned about her continuing to be around to do her part in the team (not to mention wanting her to be with you for as long as possible) is nothing to feel the slightest shame about.

Not to harp here, but the question is "how do I tell my wife she's fat" - and pointing out that telling one's wife such a thing will be nothing but hurtful, and that it's impossible to be an overweight woman in our culture without being terribly, painfully aware of it is both productive and fair. Perhaps the poster was being glib when writing the question, but the sentiment is still there, and will get through.

You can tell your wife or girlfriend that you want them to get healthier, and beating around the bush about it does nobody any favors, but it will probably be painful to hear, and probably will just make her feel worse and could have the opposite effect. I say this as someone who has been in the position of anonymous's wife.
posted by pazazygeek at 3:39 PM on January 4, 2007

We sort of went through this. I say "sort of," because there was no baby, and the weight gain was not as large. But it was enough (coupled with family health histories) that I spoke up. I was as direct and honest (but also nice) as I could be --- she's an adult, she didn't need me using euphemisms like "how about we both be more active this year?"

And it worked --- she lost the weight, is in great shape, and is much happier. I think it worked because she wasn't happy being fat, and welcomed the support and help to make the changes. Without her wanting to change, I can't imagine that change would have been possible.

What worked:

-- Every conversation began and ended with affirmations of love and desire. We didn't get into a cycle of "you don't love me anymore," or "I'd be more turned on if you were thinner." It was about her health, not our relationship.

-- For a while, I took charge of the shopping and cooking and even (for a few weeks) portion sizes. Just long enough to establish a new baseline of "normal" in the household.

-- We did exercise together, which mostly meant long walks, but we experimented with other things, like going to the gym. Again, it was just for a while, to establish daily routines where we supported each other in finding the time for physical activity.

-- We held little role-play sessions, to practice how to get around problems like a oh-so-helpful aunt pressing third slices of cake, or how to handle stressful situations and restaurant ordering on a business trip. It's silly, and we laughed a lot, but it makes dealing with those moments a lot easier if you have already practiced what to say and do.

But again, all of this only worked because she was on board with making the changes. (Also, it's not so obvious that "she already knows she is fat" --- in our case, the gain had been so gradual that it was a real shock to her when we stood together in front of a mirror and looked at her naked body and she saw the changes all at once. So everyone who is saying to start by listening, and hearing what she is thinking and how she is feeling, is giving good advice.)
posted by Forktine at 3:50 PM on January 4, 2007

Take this opportunity to improve your own fitness, and include her. Get her psyched about taking a class with you -- have fun and provide a sense of accountability to each other and to the group. The best thing I know of is taking a beginning runners' clinic. Talking regulates your pace and running really lends a sense of accomplishment. This is much better than trying to set out on your own if you don't always have the motivation.

Make it a team effort to get healthier. Don't confuse weight with fitness -- look at this as an effort toward a stronger ticker, lungs, and muscles, not a way to look better in jeans or get rid of a belly roll.
posted by loiseau at 3:53 PM on January 4, 2007

I didn't read every comment here, but this is my experience: Gradually over the course of my twenties I put on more and more weight. I knew it and sporadically tried to do something about it, but to no avail. When I saw my parents they (mostly my father) used to comment on it. It made me feel much worse. My then fiancée and now wife never commented on it though. I was never huge but I was pretty overweight, but I could compensate for some of it with my frame.

I went to the doctor for an acid-reflux problem and he told me that I was overweight. He told me that he wanted me to loose at least 20lbs. I told him that I'd go to the gym (I don't think he believed me, so he made me go in every few weeks for a weigh-in). I knew people who went so they showed me the ropes, so to speak, and I've never looked back. That was 2 1/2 years ago, I lost much more than 20lbs, and I look like I'm in shape. Like I was never the tubby lad that I was. I really enjoy working out and eating healthily. I was personally motivated and having a doctor breathing down my neck helped, but a lot of it was down to the fact that my other-half never called me fat.
posted by ob at 4:24 PM on January 4, 2007

Long distance.
posted by The Deej at 4:40 PM on January 4, 2007

If you're really concerned about her health, then helping free up her schedule so she can get exercise, rest, and self-actualization time would be helpful. There is enough medical evidence that the exercise alone, even for an overweight person, increases health.

In the long run, maybe weight loss would be something she can tackle -- but for now, please keep in mind:

1) Weight loss is not easy for anyone, and especially hard for an exhausted person who may be self-medicating with carbohydrates as a survival mechanism.

2) Even if someone says, "I want you to lose weight for your health , bigger women have been shamed so often over our appearance that we're likely not to hear anything past the word "weight" in that sentence.

3) If I were a new mother, I'd consider it pretty disingenuous if someone focused on my weight as being "unhealthy" and failed to notice that I wasn't getting enough sleep (certainly not healthy) and had no time for myself (not very healthy). Her health is more immediately at risk from accidents due to sleep deprivation or sleep-deprivation induced depression, yet your issue is her weight.

4) The lifestyle changes that result in lost weight have to come from within.
posted by lleachie at 5:01 PM on January 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to add that it's common for it to take many months to lose weight gained during pregnancy, often at least as much time as she was pregnant.
posted by moira at 5:52 PM on January 4, 2007

I had the same problem with my now-fiancee. A few years ago, after graduation, I had a sit down job in a physician's office where patients brought fabulous food in all the time. And I have zero self control. I ballooned up to 237, which was HORRIFYING to me. I just was out of control.

It only took one mention by him to unsettle me for life. Even now, as an engaged couple, the doubts never leave my mind.

Do NOT EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER mention it to her. Please. For her sanity and peace of mind.

That said, can you switch over to diet things and healthier cooking without making a big deal? Coke Zero saved my life. :)
posted by santojulieta at 5:58 PM on January 4, 2007

She had a baby in the last year. The first year after childbirth is so stressfull. Give it a bit of time. At least until the child is a year old. She has gone through more bodily changes than just physical. Plus she is just so darned tired. She needs a break. I hope she gets out of the house with friends while you watch the baby sometimes.
All you can do is be supportive as you have been. I just know you care and want her to be in good health.
Of course she should have a checkup. We all should do that.
posted by JayRwv at 6:22 PM on January 4, 2007

I had to change my life and then it was easy for me.

pazazygeek, what did you change? (No snark -- I'm genuinely curious.)

OP, once the baby is sleeping through the night and your wife isn't completely deranged, sit down with her and have a conversation like the one forktine described. You can add the fact that y'all now have a child to shepherd into adulthood, and being at a healthy weight will help in an infinite number of ways. Based on experience and anecdote, I think that's the most promising approach.

Also, nthing the suggestion that y'all don't keep crap food in the house.
posted by vetiver at 6:54 PM on January 4, 2007

I'm a fat guy (183cm, currently 140kg). I wasn't anywhere near this fat when ms. flabdablet and I first started living together, though I was close when we got married. In mid-December, I finally committed myself to the long, long process of dropping back to a healthy 85kg.

The first time ms. flabdablet ever made it clear that she really wished I'd lose some weight, she did so in a way that was clearly completely supportive and driven by concern for my health. My instant reaction was to throw a huge fit of the sulks, and sneak off for a massive feed of fish and chips at first opportunity.

See, the thing is, we fat people know it. We know we're fat, and we know that being fat is bad for our health. And I'm willing to be that there isn't an unhappily fat person anywhere in the world who doesn't already have their own internal "you really ought to cut back your eating and do a bit more exercise, you know" nag running, pretty much 24/7. Adding extra voices to what's already there is redundant, counterproductive and incredibly annoying.

When ms. anonymous is ready to lose weight, she'll do it without anybody nagging her. Before then, no amount of prompting from you is going to help. Your best bet is to sit down to a great big meal of shut the hell up, and let her weight be her weight.

Sorry if this came over as harsh, but I'm as sure as I can be that this is just the Way It Is.
posted by flabdablet at 6:58 PM on January 4, 2007 [3 favorites]

Surely you know that pazazygeek is right -- that there's very little chance your wife, in this social climate, doesn't already know she's fat. Women who aren't fat at all think they're fat. And surely you know that people throw the word "fat" around like an insult. Telling her she's fat is an insult. It's not right, but it's silly to pretend 99.44% of people wouldn't be offended if they were called fat.

If she lost weight because you said you were worried about her size, it would be because she thinks you don't like her and she's desperately wanting your approval. If she doesn't lose the weight she'd be scared of losing you, and if she did lose the weight she'd wonder if you liked her only when she was thin. You need to let her decide for herself what to do.

And the idea of having a "health contest" is ridiculous. Take some of this extra time on your hands and help with your child. Someone else suggested you sign her up for the gym or do all the cooking to make sure things are healthy... do you really want to turn into a control freak like that? What do you think your wife would feel like if you essentially said she wasn't adult enough to feed herself responsibly?

In conclusion, calm down, stop worrying that your wife's not worrying enough, be supportive of her no matter what, and stop competing with her when she's taking care of a baby that can't even be a year old.
posted by smashingstars at 7:16 PM on January 4, 2007

If Mr. Lucinda told me I was fat, I would look him in the eye and say "you ain't seen nothin' yet."
posted by Lucinda at 7:34 PM on January 4, 2007 [2 favorites]

I completely agree with flabdablet. I am extremely overweight and I full well know it. I don't need anyone to tell me because I know all the time! Although I am bigger than your wife and I am constantly reminded of my obesity by things like movie theater seats and restaurant booths, I probably have it easier than your wife because because I am a man. Chauvinistic, you say? Read on.

Remember the "pinch and inch" Special K commercials? Modern women are intensely indoctrinated from the time that they spit out the teat that any deviation from the "heroin chic model" body type is a sin against doG and man. Young girls diet to force their perfectly adequate bodies to fit this unrealistic mold.

Your wife knows that she is overweight. If you had a huge, painful pimple on your forehead would you need someone to tell you that it was there or would you feel like everyone was staring at it?

Don't get me wrong: I'm not in the "It's great to be fat" cult. I hate being fat and I'm sure that your wife does too. I want to lose weight. I have to lose weight but when I do, it has to come from me, not from someone else.

I'll end my rant with one final thought that any man should understand. There is no good way to tell a wife that she is too fat just like there is no good way for a wife to tell her husband that his penis is too small.
posted by SteveTheRed at 9:31 PM on January 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

As some posters above have noted -- making weight exactly equal to health causes the discussion to be jumbled. Health has a lot of components. One component may be excess weight. Some people are big and healthy. Some people are big and unhealthy. Some people are not-big but nevertheless unhealthy. It may well be that losing weight will contribute to the OP's wife's health. But it's not an A = B kind of thing.

And nthing the comments that part of health and wellbeing is sharing and minimizing the stress and work of the baby.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:41 PM on January 4, 2007

pazazygeek, what did you change? (No snark -- I'm genuinely curious.)

Well, I changed a LOT. I switched jobs to work somewhere that I REALLY wanted to work, moved across the country, and joined an all-girl garage punk band -- all things I desperately wanted to do, but couldn't in my rut in my home city. Once I felt like I was actually living the life I wanted to, and not the life everybody else wanted for me, I was able to hit the gym and stick to a diet and it wasn't exactly a snap, but it wasn't that terribly difficult either.
posted by pazazygeek at 7:38 AM on January 5, 2007

Sassyfras and flabdablet have nailed it exactly. Please, please, PLEASE listen to them. Your wife knows what's up, and at this point there are just too many other things (like taking care of your new little smurflet) that take higher priority for her than Taking Care of Herself. If you call her out on the weight issue, no matter how gently, it will only make matters worse.

The smartest, kindest, and most productive thing you can do is help her with as many of those other priorities as you can. The more "other stuff" you can take off her shoulders, the sooner she'll be able to focus on getting healthy again.
posted by somanyamys at 8:49 AM on January 5, 2007

There is no good way to tell a wife that she is too fat just like there is no good way for a wife to tell her husband that his penis is too small.

Not the same thing at all: If I told Mrs. Doohickie she was fat, she could lose weight, but there's absolutely nothing I can do about my small.........

um, nevermind

The need to change has to come from the person who will lose the weight. It's gotta come from within. Now, everyone takes the news differently when they hear it from a loved one (and yes, even if you know it, discussing it can be a positive step toward doing something), but if you think it can help her, you need to talk to her.

And also--- do some of the cooking, cleaning and laundry so she can get some sleep and feel better about the world. Then have the talk if you feel you need to.
posted by Doohickie at 11:23 AM on January 5, 2007

Who does the food shopping and preparation in your house? If you do this, look at what you are buying / preparing and see if you need to change that. If that's not your department, start doing some of it so your wife would have more time to take care of herself, get enought sleep, etc.
posted by yohko at 7:56 PM on January 9, 2007

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