My girlfriend of 5 years went through a rough patch a few months ago and she used food as a source of comfort. She has put on a lot of weight and I really feel like I am not physically attracted to her anymore. How do I get her to workout and drop the extra pounds? She seems comfortable as she is and I’m afraid that she will just keep getting fatter.
The scenario above is fictional, but it’s a very real situation for many men at least at some point in their relationship.
Guys can feel shallow or pretty low for caring about this, and may not talk about the issue with anyone because it’s taboo. But the truth is that males are visual creatures, so naturally place a lot of emphasis on the way their partner looks.
Most guys will push the issue to the back of their mind and just try to deal with it internally, because of society’s pressure to focus on the person that’s within.
However, if you don’t address something that’s bothering you, it can balloon to be a real problem, and may even destroy your relationship if left unchecked.
So what do you do when your partner starts to put on some weight and you are not as physically attracted to them because of it? If it’s impacting your intimate life, it needs to be addressed.
Here are some practical tips for how to do it the correct way, written by a female.
Have Realistic Expectations
The average girlfriend or wife is not a supermodel.
She may never have the body of a supermodel, even if she works out 10+ hours a day.
It may also not be realistic to expect your partner to be unhealthily thin (please realize that many models seen in advertising may actually be quite underweight, which generally also may be considered unhealthy).
It’s important to realize the above and where appropriate, cut your partner some slack.
If you’re in a somewhat healthy relationship, you are with her for the person she is, not just her body. And if you plan on growing older with this person, it’s inevitable that the body is going to age (and grow less attractive).
Hey, it will happen to you too, buddy. So give her some leeway where it’s due and don’t expect her to have the same body she did when you met forever.
Focus on Aspects You Do Like
If a waning physical attraction is the problem, then practice focusing and appreciating aspects of her body that you do like.
I don’t care how overweight she might be, there’s always bound to be at least some small feature that you can enjoy, like her eyes, her hair, her smile, or her skin, for example.
Compliment her constantly and sincerely on these qualities – it will make her feel attractive and appreciated. If she’s anything like me, that in itself will inspire her to try and make her body awesome for you to enjoy.
So how do you really inspire someone to work out or eat better so that they can drop that extra weight?
There are a few things that you might be able to do to help your partner, but the first thing you must realize is that….
You Cannot Make Someone Change If They Don’t Want To
They have to want to make the change themselves, otherwise they won’t stick to it or do what is necessary to make the change happen. Even the best of intentions cannot be forced.
However, there are two tools you can use to motivate someone:
- Pain (negative reinforcement)
- Pleasure (positive reinforcement)
Your goal here is to subtly help your partner associate pain to being overweight and not taking care of her body, while at the same time associate massive pleasure to exercising, eating well and being fit and healthy.
The problem is that most people associate pain to losing weight.
Let’s face it: exercise may not be fun, and dieting is an obvious form of torture.
Only when the perceived pain of these two activities is less than the perceived pain of being fat and unhealthy will your girl change her actions.
With this fundamental concept in mind, let’s take a look at some practical steps you can do that may help your partner want to change:
Do’s and Don’t For Supporting Your Partner to Change
- Treat her with respect
She’s a person, and just because she may have put on a few pounds doesn’t mean she deserves any less respect. Treat her as well as you did when you first got together. It will make her self-esteem soar and be more receptive to making changes to improve herself.
- Focus on health, not aesthetics
Exercise and eat well because it makes you feel good and your body healthier (Of course, the pleasant side effect is often looking good as well!). If you only workout for the sole purpose of looking good, you’ve already lost. Time stops for no-one; your body will eventually age.
- Work on your own health/fitness
This is a form of practicing what you preach. You can’t expect her to look great for you if you yourself have let yourself go over the years. If she sees you working on your own health and fitness, it can often inspire her to do the same for herself.
- Use positive reinforcement
Complement her often. Praise her when she eats well, or does a workout – but be sincere. Some examples might be: ‘I love the way you look in that dress‘, ‘You look hot today!‘, ‘I can’t believe you ran 2 miles, that’s more that I could!‘, ‘You’re so good at saying no to chocolate!‘, ‘Your butt looks amazing in those jeans‘.
- Change your eating habits – together
Dieting sucks, but making small changes in your grocery choices can make a big difference. Don’t pig out yourself on pizza and delicious treats while at the same time expecting her to just eat a salad – you’re in this together. Stock the fridge and pantry with only healthy foods. Try cooking together. As a female, I love getting help from my man in the kitchen, and you can both create a healthy meal together instead of getting greasy takeaway.
- Suggest joint commitments/activities/goals
If you yourself could stand to lose some weight, then why not try setting common goals? Have a joint commitment to exercise a set amount of times during the week. Or find an activity that she enjoys and commit to doing it with her, like swing or salsa dancing. It may seem a little out of your comfort zone, but chicks dig guys who can dance.
Alternatively, if she has other friends who she can be active with, encourage her to reconnect with those people and this may help her to link getting more activity with pleasure.
- Continually bring up the topic
Only talk about the issue once (and only then if you think it will actually be constructive). No one likes a nagger, and continuously hinting that she’s overweight will make her feel lousy and be counterproductive getting her motivated to look good.
- Buy her exercise equipment
Don’t make this mistake, unless she has specifically requested some equipment and you know for a fact that she wants it. Gifting her a thighmaster is like the equivalent of saying ‘you’re a fat pig and need to exercise‘ (in her mind, anyway).
- Have double standards or don’t take your own advice
If you’re on her case about getting her to work out more, eat healthier, or lose weight, make sure that you also are doing those things! Remember the old adage ‘actions speak louder than words’.
- Use negative reinforcement
Don’t tell her she’s fat. Don’t point out how she’s become unattractive or let herself go. If she does try to eat healthy, don’t make her feel bad if she has a bad day and binges on junk food. Ignore all the things she’s doing wrong and only use praise (positive reinforcement).
- Try to make her jealous
This is a huge no-no. Don’t put up posters of scantily clad bikini models, or let her catch you looking at other more attractive women. Don’t talk about how hot chicks at the gym are.
- Guilt trip her
Avoid comments like ‘you used to be really hot‘ and the like. Don’t say things like ‘I find it hard to be motivated to look good for you‘. Reverse psychology rarely works in this situation.
- Erode her self esteem
A woman with a crumbled self-esteem is not going to want to try and be healthy, she’s going to want to turn to food or other unhealthy habits to seek comfort. Never make her feel bad, it’s not conducive to your end goals of improving her health. Don’t let her ‘accidentally’ stumble upon you reading articles like this.
- Be judgmental
If you find yourself judging your partner for their behaviors, this can be a slippery slope to a relationship break down. Judgements spoken can lead to arguments, or if they’re unspoken, they can lead to resentment.
- Give her an ultimatum
Trying to shock her into action doesn’t typically work, or if it does, it’s a temporary fix at best. An ultimatum of ‘if you don’t do something about your weight it’s over‘ is risky, so don’t say something like this unless you really mean it. This would have to be an absolute last resort, used only after you have tried everything but really can’t deal with the issues at hand. Constantly threatening to leave your partner or consistently expressing disapproval through body language can border on emotional abuse.
To Bring It Up, Or Not?
Many guys are not sure about if they should blatantly try to talk about the issue at hand with their woman in a logical way.
My advice here is to remember that females aren’t always the most logical creatures ;), so tread with extreme caution. It will depend on your partner’s personality, how sensitive they are about the issue, and your precise wording and even past actions that she might have drawn some un-implied meaning from about how you feel about her body.
My suggestion is to try implementing some of the Do’s and Don’ts before you broach the topic. Who knows, she may change on her own from these! However, if you try these and it’s still not working, then it may be a good time to sit down and have a chat.
Do yourself a favor and don’t mention words like ‘overweight’, ‘not attractive’, etc. Keep the discussion purely related to the health aspects of the issue. If you’ve both gotten a little plump, make it about both of you – tell her you need to improve your own health and you’d like help/support and would appreciate if she joined you on the journey.
If she blows up or it doesn’t end well then don’t broach the topic again. Just keep trying to implement the Do’s and Don’ts, and remember that she will only change when the pain she experiences from being overweight and unhealthy outweighs the pain of exercising and eating right.
A Recommended Resource
I’ve recently been reading an excellent book that can apply to this kind of situation (along with many other situations common in relationships).
Yes, it’s a bit of a self-help/relationships book… but hey, if you’ve found your way to this post you’re basically seeking both self-help and relationship advice. So why not get some advice from a pro?
The book is below (Affiliate link):
I cannot tell you how much this book changed my perception of relationships (not just intimate ones).
The underlying theme is that you can take the high-path by choosing to act in certain ways, shift your perception, adopt an attitude of good will and more. My favorite quote that the book starts out with is this idea from writer Thomas Moore –
Slight shifts in imagination have more impact on living than major efforts at change
It means that if you can’t control or change something, then change your perception or thinking about it instead. By doing so you can often have a greater impact on the issue than if you had actually changed it.
I’m probably not doing this book or its ideas justice, but I think the content would totally help out those struggling with trying to ‘change’ their partners. It has certainly helped me to be less distressed about some issues that I couldn’t change with my partner. I’m still working on this, but am happy to report that I am no longer as bothered as I was before about the thing, and nothing actually changed… only the way that I think about it has changed.
You can’t force someone to change, but you can help them to adjust their pain/pleasure drivers so that they make healthy choices and are more inclined to work out and eat well.
There is a right way and a wrong way to go about trying to get your partner to work out more.
Positive reinforcement is always the key, as is knowing how to approach the subject in the right way. Making your girlfriend or wife feel bad about her body is rarely going to give a good result.
Above all, remember to be realistic. It’s not fair to expect someone to always be beautiful forever, and just because your partner starts working out doesn’t mean she’ll automatically look like a model. Focus on the benefits of being healthy rather than the aesthetics.
And finally, if you can’t change them – try changing yourself instead! Ultimately we only have control over one thing, and that’s our thinking, which in turn dictates how we react to things. This could be a great lesson in how you can find a better way to react to this situation too.
If you’ve found yourself in this situation before, please drop me a comment below! As a female, I’d be happy to answer any questions that I can.