Ask A Woman: Do these jeans make my butt look big?
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I’ve been dating my girlfriend for over a year now. We’re pretty serious and definitely in love. My problem is with how she’s reacting to being overweight.
Her doctor has recommended that she loses “twenty to thirty pounds” to help with some health issues. She complains, often, about the extra weight. It consistently effects how she feels about herself. She also constantly says she wants to lose weight, yet in the time we’ve been dating she’s only continued to gain more.
I don’t personally care and feel I will always love her regardless of her body, but I have a dilemma. I’ve tried to be endlessly supportive in any efforts she makes to lose weight (and never critical), but then I find myself resentful or annoyed when I watch her slide right back into the behaviors she claims she doesn’t want to be doing. For example, eating a salad for dinner and then at 10 PM busting open a pint of ice cream and eating half of it. It isn’t that she is overweight, it’s that she is unhappy with herself, yet doesn’t follow-through on any efforts to change. That’s what gets me.
What can I do here? I know my struggling with watching this pales in comparison to what she’s struggling with, but still. I’ve tried suggesting more walks, more physical activities that we could do together, leading by example (I’ve lost 15 pounds since we started dating by cutting out desserts and eating a healthier lunch), and cooking healthy meals together… But nothing seems to stick for more than a day or two.
Joe, our fearless Dappered leader, accurately described your predicament (and probably, any advice I give) as a MINEFIELD. So readers, let’s just approach this problem with the knowledge that no one will agree on what is the best course of action, and everyone who shares their opinion will sound like an asshole to someone else. Keep it civil in the comments section, mmmkay?
I totally understand where you’re coming from. You love your girlfriend, and her physical appearance is not a crucial part of that love. But her inability to break her habits, even though she clearly wants to, and even though she sometimes shows signs of being able to do so, is frustrating to you.
“Guess again, Tubby.” Ah, Kramer. Always so tactful.
Here’s something to understand about food and weight gain. Humans are programmed to eat. We evolved to want to eat as much as possible whenever food was available, because it might be some time before it was available again. And, we evolved to enjoy the taste of high calorie, high fat foods most of all, because such foods are the most efficient way to keep the meat on our bones. It is only recently that food has become abundant and cheap (in this country). It is only recently that much of what we eat is first processed into something even more tempting–French fries, chocolate bars–that makes it even worse for us. Unfortunately, we have not evolved to want to eat only healthful food, nor have we developed steely will power to avoid or eat in moderation those delicious foods that are bad for us. Plus, there is a lot of disagreement about what makes people actually fat. Yes, food and exercise are contributing factors but genetics also play a part. All of this is to say that it is very challenging to stay healthy and trim in modern times. So just keep that in mind when your patience is frayed.
But you’re doing everything right. Being supportive, leading by example, incorporating healthy behaviors into your life with her. Like any self-destructive habit–smoking, drinking, addiction–the person struggling has to be the one to make the change. It has to be a choice that person makes everyday, all day, over and over again. They have to continue to choose healthy food, treats in moderation, and enough physical activity. So basically, you can’t do anything to get her to change. Your good influence and support only creates an environment conducive to her losing weight, but it doesn’t take the pint of ice cream out of her hand.
In an ideal world, we’d all have her confidence.
So that said…do you still want to say something to her? I’m not trying to discourage you, in fact, I think if you really want to tell her how you feel, it’s appropriate, as long as you do it calmly, compassionately, and without judgment. But think about what you want to accomplish. If you want to make her stick to her diet plan, this may do nothing to help that, because again, she needs to choose to change her behavior long-term. It may start a fight. It may hurt her feelings. These aren’t reasons to avoid the conversation, and if it’s enough that she just know how you feel so you don’t continue to stew, that’s valid. But you’re likely not going to change her behavior.
I also know that broaching this topic puts you in a terrible position. We can’t really talk about weight in our culture in a matter of fact way. Dudes who notice that their girlfriends have gained weight are branded as superficial assholes. If only we could approach weight gain and loss, and the health consequences associated, as challenges to be tackled, instead of making it into a moral issue–you’re bad if you eat a cookie, you’re good if you order salad–which really submarines our efforts, because shame is the worst motivator on earth.
Good luck, Erik, with whatever you choose. There’s not a guy out there who envies your position.
Got something brewing in your life? Send me an email–style, etiquette, relationships–I answer it all:firstname.lastname@example.org