Dear Wendy: “My Boyfriend’s Getting Fat”
I’ll start off by saying that I am madly in love with my boyfriend. He is supportive, intelligent, has a great sense of humor … this list goes on and on. There is only one issue that has become increasingly difficult to deal with: he is rapidly gaining weight. It isn’t an uncontrollable amount — I’d say he’s become 40 pounds overweight at this point — I’m just afraid that I’m slowly becoming less and less attracted to him because of the weight issue. He has sparingly expressed interest in working out and losing weight, so it’s not as if he doesn’t notice or care. I have dropped “hints” by discussing interest in my own health (I eat healthy and maintain a healthy weight), but I have said nothing direct to him about it because I realize it’s a very touchy subject. It seems so socially wrong to bring up weight as an “issue”, especially when everything else is so great. We live together and I feel a proposal coming soon. There is no way that I would break up with him at this point simply because of his weight, I just feel like I should nip this thing sooner rather than later to save the attraction. Is there any appropriate way to broach the subject? Or, more importantly, am I in the wrong? — Fortunately Unfortunate
First of all, you are not wrong for feeling less attracted to your boyfriend because of his recent — and rapid — weight gain. What would be wrong is focusing solely on the attraction part of the equation rather than his health and pinpointing the reason for the weight gain. It’s unclear from your letter whether all his extra 40 pounds are a recent addition, or if he was already a bit overweight before he starting rapidly gaining. If it’s the former, there could be serious medical reasons for such a fast and big increase. Encourage your boyfriend to see a doctor for a check-up and make sure he has blood work done to test his thyroid. Has your boyfriend changed or gone on any new medications recently? Steroids of any kind, antidepressants, and meds that treat diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common types of medication that can cause weight gain in men. If he’s on any of those, he may need to speak with his doctor about changing his dosage or trying a different brand.
If you can rule out meds and physical health issues, talk to your boyfriend about his mental well-being. Has he had any major stressors in his life lately? Loss of employment or increased work responsibilities, family problems, and illness or death of a loved one can all trigger stress and/or depression that can lead to overeating. You mention you feel a proposal coming on. Is there any chance your boyfriend is feeling financial or emotional pressure to provide for you — even purchasing an engagement ring can cause financial strain — that might be causing him some stress? Talk to him about all these issues and let him know you love him and are there to help and support him in any way you can.
Finally, think about ways you can make eating well and getting exercise part of your relationship — something fun the two of you can enjoy together. Take a healthy cooking class together; hit farmers’ markets on the weekends and stock up on fresh produce to eat during the week. If you don’t already belong to a gym, consider joining one together and go for workouts as a way to unwind in the evenings instead of sitting on the couch in front of the TV. If the gym isn’t your bag, go for walks or bike rides while the weather’s still warm enough, suggest training for a 5K together — do it for a charity you both care about! — take a fitness class like kickboxing, rock climbing, yoga, or ballroom dance (you may especially want to do this if/when you start planning a wedding!). Live near a tennis or basketball court? Invest in some racket and balls and get competitive with each other. Competition is sexy!
There are so many activities you can do as a couple that encourage healthy living and a healthy, happy relationship. The key is to do them together and to make sure your boyfriend knows you love him how he is but want him to be healthy so you can enjoy a long life together. If you do indeed become engaged, you can always use an upcoming wedding as another excuse to get fit together. You’ll both want to look good on the big day and in the photos, after all. As he starts getting in shape, give your boyfriend lots of positive affirmation so he knows you appreciate his effort not only in terms of his health, but in your attraction to him as well. If, on the other hand, your boyfriend ignores your call to get in shape and resists all your attempts to pursue a healthy lifestyle, think seriously about spending the rest of your life with him before you agree to marriage. Attraction is a huge component of a happy relationship and you aren’t wrong for wanting a mate who turns you on.
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