Adapted from a recent online discussion.
HI, CAROLYN: Do you have suggestions on whether and how to encourage a partner to lose weight? We’ve talked about it a bit in terms of improving his health, but in terms of heart rate/blood pressure/previous illnesses he’s healthier than I am. So I feel bad that much of my motivation is just wanting to be more physically attracted to him. Especially as he’s never made me question his attraction to me, and my body’s undergone a lot of negative changes (medical).
I guess I don’t know how honest to be. And then regardless of motivations, do you have suggestions on how to encourage healthy eating? When I cook a healthy meal and then he follows it with an unhealthy snack, I can’t help but be annoyed, which I know is not helpful.
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Talking About Weight
DEAR TALKING: Maybe it is, though. Overeating and inactivity can eventually limit mobility, which then can limit a couple’s quality of life — and even push the healthier partner into a difficult, draining, resentful caregiving role.
At the same time, accidents and illness can strike despite meticulous self-care.
So I see it as a duty that comes with life partnership to stick to a basic level of self-maintenance expressly to avoid placing a foreseeable burden on one’s mate.
That said: It’s disingenuous to talk health when your issue is attraction. I’m glad you’re being honest with yourself — now push past the “I shouldn’t feel this way!” barrier to recognize that yes, you do feel this way.
The downside of just wanting him hotter is that you have no standing to push for it. The upside is that you can release yourself of the obligation of trying to fix him.
There is something to that. It’s so easy to take on other people’s problems as our own that we sometimes fail to see how stressful that is. “I can’t fix this” is a small step with big impact on your to-do list.
Cross off everything that isn’t part of just being healthy yourself. Buy and prepare good foods, be active, invite him along.
And, explore your revulsion at his eating habits. Why do they annoy you? Can you train yourself to respond differently? If not, can you accept occasional annoyance as part of life with anyone? If not, can you recognize that he deserves to know what actions of his might alienate you?
New relationships are about having what you love. Settled-in ones lean toward loving what you have — helpful to keep in mind no matter what you do next.
RE: WEIGHT: In a lot of cases, health is just a convenient, politically correct pretext when they really mean “you’re no longer hot.” And focus on appearance doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the self-delusion. Applause to “Talking” for being brave enough to type it out loud.
DEAR SUSPICIOUS: I agree this is common. However, it is not “political correctness” or self-delusion to cry “health” when there’s a mobility crisis in progress.
RE: WEIGHT: It’s usually not so much about my husband’s weight as annoyance that he talks about wanting to look better and eat healthier, but then follows a healthy dinner with a junk food snack. I think it’s fine to bring up that disconnect.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.