How to Talk to a Partner so They Will Listen
How to Talk to Your Partner About Their Weight
Discussing someone’s weight is never a comfortable conversation. The conversation can be particularly tricky if this person is your long term partner. If you notice your partner's health, stamina or self esteem is being diminishing as a result of their weight, it may be time to discuss it. Just be sure that the conversation is initiated from concern of your partner’s health and happiness and not your own insecurities. You should also help your partner by living a healthy lifestyle alongside them.
Initiating the Conversation
Assess the need to discuss weight.If your partner remains within a healthy weight bracket and only loses or puts on a couple of pounds, there is no need to bring up the issue. Also, some medications and/or hormonal changes (e.g. pregnancy or midlife hormonal changes in men and women) can result in weight change that your partner has little control over. If your partner is gaining or losing an unhealthy amount of weight for a reason that is within their control, it might warrant a discussion about their health and happiness.
- If your partner is within normal weight range, encourage healthy eating and fitness, but don’t push them to lose or gain more weight. Instead, aim for maintenance of good habits as a lifestyle approach to health.
- You might also consider if your partner's weight has affected their ability to participate in certain activities, such as playing with your kids, going out on dates, or keeping up with simple household tasks.
- Consider how quickly your partner's weight has changed as well. If your partner has suddenly gained or lost a noticeable amount of weight, then you may want to bring this up. If your partner gained or lost weight over a period of years, then it might not be a cause for concern if they are healthy otherwise.
Wait for a good moment to bring it up.The very best moment to begin talking about weight loss or weight gain is when your partner complains or mentions being unhappy about their weight. They might comment that they are having trouble putting on an old pair of pants or are unhappy with how they look standing in front of the mirror. This is a clear indication that they have acknowledged the weight change, and they are unhappy with it.
- Keep in mind that most people who are over or underweight are very aware of this fact. They do not necessarily need to be told that they have a weight problem, but might need a supportive dialogue to help them stay motivated to stay healthy.
- Instead of saying something like “Your pants are tighter because you’ve gained some weight,” you should keep the conversation focused around their health and happiness by saying something like “It doesn’t matter which pants fit you, what matters is that you are happy with yourself. Do you feel like you need to change your weight, or are you content?”
Tell your partner that you are concerned about them.If your partner’s weight appears to be unhealthy to you, you might decide it needs to be discussed. Once you bring up the discussion, you need to make it clear to your partner that you are concerned about their health and happiness. Mention the things that the two of you enjoy, and how those things would be affected if your partner’s health was to take a hit.
- For example, you might say “I want to see you stay healthy. I know that you love our hiking trips during the summer, and we both need to stay healthy enough to continue those trips.”
Make it clear that you are still attracted to your partner.Most any person would be hurt if they believed their partner was no longer attracted to them. When you discuss your partner’s weight, you need to be certain to reassure them that you are attracted to them. Knowing that you still love them and find them attractive will help your partner stay confident and give them the strength to make healthy changes.
- Make a point to say things like “I am only bringing this up because I love you, and want you to stay healthy. It doesn’t change how I feel about you, or how attracted I am to you.”
Make love and health the centerpieces of the conversation.Telling your partner that they are unattractive or lazy will only drive a wedge between the two of you, and hurt them emotionally. This kind of language has no place in a loving conversation. Instead, you should focus on how much you care for your partner and want them to remain healthy.
- Do not use health as a way to guilt your partner. Saying things like “If you really loved me, you’d take care of yourself,” is damaging to the relationship, and simply untrue.
- Use “I” statements to keep blame off of your partner. Say something like “I want you to be happy and healthy well into our old age, and I think that you want the same thing. What can I do to help?”
Leave criticism out of the conversation.Criticizing a person for their weight will leave them emotionally hurt, and damage your relationship. This kind of criticism also makes it harder for the person to confide in you, and can lead to secret binge eating or purging. More often than not, the criticism becomes yet another roadblock to losing or gaining a healthy amount weight instead of motivation.
- Saying something like “You keep gaining weight because you won’t stop eating pop tarts,” will only make your partner uncomfortable with you knowing their food choices. Instead, you could say something more constructive like “If you’d like, we can each make a healthy snack in the morning, and take it with us in case we get hungry.”
Keep your opinion in perspective.Your partner is likely to be aware that their clothes don't fit as they used to but may not treat the issue as seriously as you do. It could be a wake-up call for your partner that you do see this as a major health issue. Be careful not to shame or embarrass your partner when bringing up your concerns.
- For example, if your partner mentions that they can’t wear their favorite pair of jeans anymore you could say something like “If you’d like, we can start going for walks and see if we can both fit back into our old clothes.”
Keeping a Healthy Home
Consider obstacles at home.Part of being supportive is acknowledging ways that you may have contributed to the weight change. If you're encouraging your partner to be less active, this can be contributing to their weight change, too. Buying a lot of junk food or being slothful can sabotage your partner’s weight, even if your weight isn’t noticeably affected.
- Remove all obstacles at home like junk food. This helps remove the temptation to eat excessive amounts of unhealthy foods.
Examine the household schedule.Are each of you making time to sit-down and eat home-cooked family dinners? Are each of you exercising every single day? Is health a priority for your entire family or is everyone running around too busy to make time for their own health? Answer these questions, and rearrange the schedule so that healthy meals and exercise become a priority.
Cook healthy foods together.Make it your priority to get healthy too. If you already eat a clean, lean diet and exercise at least five days a week, share your habits more obviously with your partner by engaging them in the cooking, shopping, or other elements that will help bring about a better understanding healthier eating.
- Learn about portion sizes and what is a healthy, normal amount and what is outrageous. In the USA, MyPlate is a great place to start and similar initiatives are available through many other government health departments around the world.
- Instead of having three big meals, consider preparing six or seven smaller meals to keep blood sugar levels even and cravings at bay. This doesn't work for everyone but if it helps your family, then it's a great way to stretch out healthy eating during the day. If diabetes or other health problems are an issue, talk to your doctor before changing your diet drastically.
Invite your partner to exercise.Exercise outside or at the gym by walking, jogging, or taking up another sport. You might also consider team sports leagues in your area if you and your partner prefer a more social exercise routine. Introduce your favorite fitness routine to your partner––they may love it as much as you.
Celebrate victories.Don’t forget to celebrate even the smallest victories. If your partner gains or loses two pounds toward their goal weight, go to the movies together or treat your partner to a manicure or massage. Mark each victory with a celebration so that they know that you're truly rooting for their success. Other ways to celebrate include:
- Take the family to the beach or the park for the afternoon.
- See a play or go to a concert.
- Write your partner a love letter telling them how proud you are of their success. Or simply tell explain how much you love them.
- Purchase a new piece of (smaller sized) clothing for your partner from a favorite brand.
- Bring them home flowers, a favorite author's new book or other non-food treats.
Seeking Medical Help
Suggest a medical evaluation.If you and your partner are unsure about what a healthy weight range is, you should suggest consulting a doctor. The doctor can evaluate your partner’s BMI (Body Mass Index) and give you health related information based on the BMI. Being above or below a normal weight range can put someone at risk for different medical conditions.
- Some medications and conditions such as hypothyroidism and PCOS can cause excessive weight gain or loss.
- If you are unsure how to suggest this, try saying something like “We’ve discussed weight a few times now, and neither of us seem to be sure what a healthy weight would be. Maybe it would help if we asked your doctor.”
Consider your partner’s mental health.Sometimes weight changes may result from challenges like work pressures (stress), depression or anxiety. Weight changes can also be associated with sadness and loss, such after the death of a loved one or the loss of a job. Talking to a health professional can help sort out mental health issues as well as physical ones.
- If your doctor determines that the weight change is related to mental health, they may recommend therapy with a counselor. There are many counselors that specialize in weight related topics.
Ask for a referral to a nutritionist.Whether your partner’s weight changes are related to a medical issue or a lifestyle issue, a change in diet may be in order. A nutritionist can suggest exactly what changes to make, and how to implement them slowly and effectively. Your partner’s doctor can refer them to see a nutritionist if they think it will be beneficial.
- Radical changes in diet should only be considered when medical professionals deem it absolutely necessary. Otherwise, slow consistent changes are more likely to stick in the long run.
QuestionMy partner has depression and gained over 100 pounds. When I try to express concerns about his health, he seems aggravated. This is affecting our relationship and children. He won't go anywhere or exercise.wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTry to explain how this is affecting you and your children personally. Maybe try to get him a therapist as well. Make sure you let him know that you care about him and love him. Try to avoid saying anything that will make him feel like you're disappointed in him, as this could make the depression worse.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if vanity is the issue? Instead of losing weight, my partner changes her hairstyle, nails, etc., and only takes head shot selfies so people don't see her body.wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou should have a serious discussion about that. It might be best to encourage her to lose weight by doing exercises with her. The issue is not vanity, she is obviously self-conscious about her body and trying to compensate in other ways.Thanks!
- Be gentle and supportive throughout the journey. If your partner falls off the wagon, continue to encourage healthy eating and exercise the following day as if nothing happened.
- Gradual, sustainable habit changes are more effective than rigid dieting. Add a healthier food in small portions, then gradually higher portions for about a month to get used to the new food.
- People who quit smoking gain about ten pounds on average.
- If one or two serious discussions about weight concerns reveal that your partner is offended at the idea, does not want to manage their weight, has no interest in preventive health activities and despises the gym, drop the discussion. Be sure to offer plenty of reassurance to your partner to avoid causing a rift between you.
- Never use vanity as a reason to encourage weight changes. The focus should be on health, not appearance.
- Watch for signs of obsessive behavior such as over exercising or self starvation. The emotional impact of having a partner raise weight concerns might cause some people to over-respond in an unhealthy way.
Things You'll Need
Weight loss books and websites
Healthy food in the house
Exercise gear (optional, depending on the exercises you chose)
Sources and Citations
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