When Your Partner is Unusually Obese

Category: 

According to statistics provided by the Weight-Control Information Network1 in association with the US Department of Health and Human Services as well as the National Institutes of Health, over two thirds of adults in United States are overweight and as many as one-third of them are clinically obese. Women make up the majority of the numbers suffering from obesity at 35.5% while men are slightly lower at 32.2%. No matter what the breakup, so much is clear that obesity is increasingly becoming a problem in the developed world, leading not only to bad health and inflated medical costs but also unhappiness in relationships. If your partner is obese as well, try and make use of the following tips to get him/her back to better health and your relationship to a more satisfying level.

Get the facts

The first thing to do is to find out whether your partner actually falls into the category of obesity or is merely on the heavier side. Being overweight is defined as having a body mass index between 25 and 29.9 while obesity involves a BMI of more than 30. Find out your partner’s BMI and then see where he/she stands; if you suspect your partner will not co-operate, enlist the help of a trusted friend or family member. Once you know for sure the reality of your partner’s body type, you know where to go from here. If he/she falls into the BMI range of obesity, it is best to seek the help of a doctor for weight management advice since then it becomes more of a clinical rather than an aesthetic issue.

Encourage your partner to make efforts

However bringing your partner on board with weight management efforts may be tricky. For this first of all, ensure that all discussions of weight-related issues deals with the health aspect. Whether affecting men or women, there is no doubt that being obese is akin to inviting a host of health problems ranging from hypertension and cardiac conditions to infertility and inability to enjoy sex. Focusing on the health angle will help your partner realize that your concerns have less to do with appearance and more to do with his/her well-being. This may make him/her more amenable to taking steps to deal with obesity and strive for a healthier lifestyle.

Let your partner know that it would be in his/her interest to consult a doctor and act upon medical advice like joining a fitness program and eating a nutritious diet. This is necessary not only to boost his/her self-esteem and feel good about their own body but also to lower the body fat content and improve their health. He/she need not start running marathons, but working out with a group of friends or even you on a regular basis can be a great way to drop the required number of pounds, to tone the muscles and to build up their confidence on the social scene.

Food and weight

As your partner struggles to bring his/her weight in check, refrain from always nagging about what they should or should not eat. This will heighten the negative focus on their body size and they may lose motivation to remain on course. If you're together at a restaurant, avoid referring to your partner’s eating habits. Comments like, "Should you really be eating that?”, even if well meaning, will likely bring a sour end to your date. For the same reason take care not to plan an outing around food or culinary experiences. All-you-can- eat buffets and chocolate-tasting classes may make satisfying date ideas for foodies, but if your partner is battling obesity, avoid these on all accounts. Likewise, be careful when you are choosing a gift for a large size partner. Boxes of fine chocolates, scrumptious cookies or gourmet cheese which may delight others may not go down well with your partner if he/she is trying to lose weight. Also it may be good idea to stuff up yourself before you leave for your date, since it will not be fair upon your partner to be forced to spend the greater part of your date at a restaurant where there are temptations galore.

How you can help

The best way for you to help your partner to lose weight is to work alongside him/her without being always judgmental or hectoring. Have fun cooking healthy meals together and working out with each other. When out on dates, look for things to do other than eating – like going biking along the countryside on a sunny day or going sky-diving to get an adrenaline rush from something other than food. Show your beloved that you both are on the same team in this challenge to lose weight – this will not only make it easier for him/her to shed weight but keep the extra pounds off in the long run too.

If he/she suffers from low esteem

However your attempts on encouraging your obese partner to lose weight can hit a roadblock if he/she is already suffering from low self-esteem. In popular colure, body type for both men and women is so closely tied with self-image that any departure from the norm can send a person spiraling into depression. Though you may try to create a relaxed and stress free environment for your partner but this may not help if your partner believes that she just does not deserved to be loved because of the way he/she looks and hence there is no point in trying to look better. Even your attempts at positive feedback may begin to enable his/her poor self-image as your partner may become increasingly more dependent on your praises and compliments and seem unable to do anything on his/her own. This manifestation of low self-esteem is more common in women than in men. If you are serious about your partner, you will have to convince her of the need to help herself – to take steps to lose weight and raise her self-confidence so that she knows that she is deserving and worthy of a happy and healthy life.

Among men, low self-esteem arising out of negative body image may take an opposite and external form in which they tend to be quick to take offence at perceived insults and often go out of their way to prove themselves. When a person lacks confidence in himself, he will attempt to control others with judgment, arrogance, snide remarks and contempt. So if you find your male partner repeatedly putting you down or overinflating his value or skill in a vain attempt to put himself in a superior position, it could be because of his lack of self-esteem and happiness at the way he looks.

In both cases, whether a partner internalizes or externalizes the destructive effects of low self-esteem, continuing a relationship may become too stressful. As the healthier partner, you may find yourself making constant adjustments or allowances for your partner’s lack of self-confidence. While over time, this may wreck a relationship, the good news is that lack of self-esteem is not a disease and things like confidence and self-worth can be learnt. However it is crucial that your partner realizes the harm that low self-esteem and its source – here obesity – can cause to his/her own life and relationships and thus seem to remedy the situation as early as possible.

Consider surgery

One of these remedies may be surgery to reduce excess fat in an obese person. An April 2012 news article in Los Angeles Times2 mentions that Lipoplasty tops the list of the different kinds of plastic surgical procedures that men are opting for. For women too, the procedure is sure to figure among the top five cosmetic surgeries most commonly performed. So if your partner would like a quicker way of losing weight, the option of lipoplasty can be explored in consultation with a doctor. Liposuction or lipopolasty is the process of removing excess fat deposit from almost any part of the body. The parts of the body which are most commonly the sites of liposuction are abdomen, thighs, buttocks, neck, chin, upper and backs of the arms, calves, and back. The instrument used to remove the fat is a hollow instrument known as a cannula which is inserted under the skin and to which a powerful, high-pressure vacuum is applied that in turn sucks up the fat. While the procedure is great for removing fat, one disadvantage is that it frequently leaves behind excess skin and is therefore being replaced with surgeries that remove both skin and fat tissue in some body parts, including the upper arms, lower legs and thighs. So ultimately what your partner decides has to be in consultation with his/her doctor and if required therapist.

In the meantime, try and be as much supportive of your partner as you can. Make an effort to tell her that your find her beautiful or that you feel proud to have him in your life. Ideally these would be in the nature of small compliments like ‘wow that scarf really brings out the color of your eyes’ or ‘you are looking fresh today’. However don’t go overboard with praises that are obviously untrue, comments about your partner’s weight and clothes even when complimentary could end up make him/her feeling worse. Rather focus on who she is - her personality, interests, hobbies and goals in life. You could for instance focus on his/her expertise in cooking and baking, a powerful musical voice, a green thumb, a knack for fixing things or a fantastic way with kids. Highlight such positive traits and achievements in your life and tell yourself that you are blessed to be born with such gifts.

Be practical

At the same time, it may be a good idea to know how to handle embarrassments, like a too-small chair or a rude comment from a stranger; counter such challenges with aplomb and humor, instead of getting defensive or unduly aggressive which may in fact leave your partner feeling embarrassed and robbed of self-worth. Also, because of their body size, your partner may often seem unusually insecure about their looks and your relationship. So if out on a date be sure to keep your attention on your partner throughout; don't ogle or flirt with other girls or guys. In your daily life too, make regular physical contact to show your affection – like holding his hand, putting your arm around her or giving her a quick peck on the cheek. Show your partner that you find love him/her no matter what popular images show and that she can feel completely safe and comfortable with you.

Examine other issues at heart

Despite your best efforts at encouraging your partner to lose weight and adopt a healthier lifestyle, if he/she continues to ignore you, See whether there are issues other than his/her weight affecting your relationship. If you feel angry at your spouse, feel awkward being around him/her and have trouble communicating your concerns at his/her obesity, probably it is so. Again some individuals may desist from doing anything about their weight in an attempt to avoid sex. Explore why he/she is putting on weight, what lack is he/she trying to make up with food and why isn’t he/she tuned in to how this is making you feel. Once you decide to talk about all this, be direct and calm rather than underhand or emotional. Don’t launch into the discussion by raising her weight issues; rather start by talking about your marriage, sex life and your feelings. Then go on to ask your partner how he/she feels their weight is affecting these. If all your efforts are met with rebuffs, you might need to seek the help of a professional to find out why your partner is behaving this way and what lies at the heart of his/her refusal to adopt a healthier way of being.

References:

  1. Weight-Control Information Network - Overweight and Obesity Statistics
     
  2. Los Angeles Times - Plastic surgery — it's a guy thing too