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.
53 thoughts on “How To Get Your Girlfriend/Wife To Workout: Tips From A Female”
This is a great article for men to read who want to help their wife or girlfriend lose weight without eroding her self esteem or giving her an ultimatum. Positive reinforcement is the key. It also goes for the reverse too – if your husband or boyfriend has been putting on the pounds, wives and girlfriends also need to be encouraging. Develop a workout plan together and become a team in the exercise regimen. The two of you can work together on losing weight. Go the gym together and start eating healthy together. It will strengthen the bond and you both will begin to look and feel great.
Thanks for the feedback Steph, I hope I’ve got it right here! I agree that it works the opposite way for women trying to convince their men to get fitter. There might be slight differences in the way you can approach a male, but the underlying concepts are the same.
My wife of 16 years has always worked out religiously, but she doesn’t ever challenge herself. She does it more as a stress relief instead of trying to have a better body like I do. So when we workout she will get upset at me if I tell her to challenge herself. Popping off sets of 20 deadlifts with no sweat does nothing. Same with squats. But she always gets offended. Now her body would be considered “skinny fat”. Yes she is small, but she has very little muscle definition and her legs/glutes are suffering the most. She does not take criticism well. What do I do?
Hi Loving Husband, I don’t think anyone takes criticism well, really. Would you enjoy being on the receiving end of that, if the roles were reversed?
Is there a problem if she uses exercise as stress relief instead of trying to have a better body? Maybe that’s just the way she likes to do things. Who says that we have to exercise for the sole purpose of getting a better looking body?
I’d suggest taking a step back and respecting her personal boundaries. You could try implementing some of the advice in this article, but it sounds like she’s not unhealthy if she’s working out religiously. You may have to just accept her for who she is. The easiest thing would be to try and change your perspective on the matter, if you’re open to that.
The whole “change yourself” argument defeats the purpose of asking for advice. It puts the blame on the man who is reaching out. Hope you can understand that as well.
Hi Jay, I can see this point of view for sure, and I admit this line of advice may not seem all that helpful. I definitely understand where you’re coming from, and I know it can really be asking a lot to request someone who is already hurting to look within to see if/how they may be involved in creating the issue that they’re already struggling with.
I assure you it’s not intended to put any blame on the man reaching out but instead was intended to be offered as a way to empower him to be able to gain control of the situation in the only way that he can. At the core of it, you ultimately can’t control what other people do, but you can control your reaction to it or the meaning that you give to it.
I’d encourage anyone reading this to give some real consideration to this option, even though at first it really does feel like a bit of a cop-out. However, if you can learn how to do this, it may offer a feeling of being in control of the aspect that you actually do have control over, i.e. taking full responsibility for your part in the issue. A great question to ask can be: “How am I contributing to this issue of my partner never wanting to work out?” in an open and curious way, and see if there is some aspect of your behavior that may be contributing. It may be nothing, but then again, you might find something useful by being curious like this.
Ugh….so nothing? Like…if a man lost his job…and got one making balloon animals…that didnt pay well, but he loved the job…and the woman was fed up and really wanted him to get a good paying job….that would be….just thats who he is? Learn to live with it?
Everyone would probably have their own opinion or way of dealing with this, but since you asked I’ll share mine: we can’t control what others do or what happens around us, all we can do is control our actions and reactions to what occurs outside of us. Another term for this is ‘personal responsibility’.
So, in the situation you shared, I would say that if she had a problem with it, she could express her opinion and make a request for what she needs from him; thus exercising her personal responsibility. However if he chose to continue making balloon animals, then that’s something she’d have to either learn to change her reaction to (a perspective change), or change her circumstance (maybe it’s a dealbreaker for her and she decides to leave the relationship because of it, or she could choose to take action to earn income to supplement his pay). In both cases, she’s taking personal responsibility for her own happiness.
An example of not using her personal responsibility would be to blame the husband for ‘making’ her not happy because he doesn’t earn enough money, and not doing anything personally to change the situation so that she could be happy.
From personal experience, as soon as we make our happiness or internal emotional state dependent on someone or something outside of ourselves, that’s basically a recipe for pain (if your expectations aren’t met).
I agree with 40% of this buy I love how most females criticize men over these topics assuming all are indeed shallow to the point, physically and mentally… I agree that no one sex or age should be harassed, embarrassed or purposely shamed but when a spouse calls the other out honestly, well fact is the truth hurts but it’s still honesty, ESP when one is obese and at health risks or multiple right? My question is to both sexes, why are you ok with such results? Let’s not sugar coat things based on feelings like this articles publisher and so many more! Let’s make health awareness both men and women no matter age an issue that needs to be addressed no matter if you like what you hear and see! Yeah it sucks being rejected, overweight, truth, bigger clothes or unhealthy but it’s more helpful than eating yourself into a fib and possible death! You want to personally feel healthy and attractive then bygod be healthy and attractive. Nothings ever easy, ESP positive results and of hard work and dedication scare you away then my friends your not meant to be in an relationship anyway… Goodluck to all!
I hear you James, but I think it can be tough to strike the right balance between ‘tough love’ that works out well, versus calling out the truth and it being cruel or demotivating to the other person. I agree sometimes the harsh truth may be what’s needed in order to create action, but I feel like it really depends on the person on the receiving end. Speaking as a female, I feel we are generally more sensitive to how things are communicated and are typically more emotional creatures than logical ones. I think it’s important for guys to know that there can also be a lot of shame and lack of self-worth around our physical appearance due to how much the female body is stereotyped in popular media. It’s unlikely that men have experienced this to the same level that females do. As a result, most women I feel are not as able as men to receive ‘facts’ and have them just be straight data and not take it personally, particularly if it’s about the way we look. We’ll more commonly read into the message and get emotional about it. That is why I recommend caution in the way you communicate things to any female partner and to do it in a kind way.
For those of us who are lucky enough to be in a relationship, I suggest that you would have a better sense of your partner and how best to support them. Do they work better with criticism/the hard truth, or are they more motivated by possibilities?
Loving Husband, I’m with you.
I have worked out my whole life and when I met my wife she was working out too and would so with me (somewhat). I’m big on weight training rather than all the cardio. Still do both. This is the one big argument in our marriage.
Little background. Before I met my wife, she was very big I understand. There really are no pictures to see, because, she didn’t like getting her picture taken for being overweight. She got gastric surgery and lost half her weight before I met her. I thing that is what frustrates me the most, is she went to all that trouble and money and now is in the not working out phase.
We joined a gym that she liked. I went, we bought a Peloton, which we both used. She hasn’t done it in a year. I built a home gym in the garage to make it easier on both of us. She just goes out there to say goodnight.
She works from home and no kids at home. So time is not an issue.
She does take walks, but she is like 10 years younger than me and I’m working out even harder now. I get depressed seeing what is happening to her. She is on high blood pressure medicine for the first time since I met her. When she was heavy she was on it.
Frustrated in the US
That is super frustrating, and not an easy situation to deal with. It seems clear from your back story that you value your health and fitness. One thing to keep in mind is that we all have different value systems. So it could be possible that your wife does not value health as much as you do, but instead maybe she values something like comfort, or connection, or something else.
Our values drive our behavior, so one possible tip I could offer is to see if you can find out and understand what it is she values most – then see if there’s some creative way you can link that to her health. For example, if she values connection with others, can you help her figure out a way to create that connection through exercise/training? Without the values part in place, unfortunately it’s highly unlikely that there will be any motivation there.
Haha no wonder this is such a great article! I see at the bottom of the article you are a woman 🙂
When I first saw the topic of your article I got annoyed already so this reallyis a touchy subject isn’t it. It triggered my bad vibes mode big time.
Then when you said women are not the most logical creatures I started giggling.
This is well written, covers everything in a great way and I think your points are spot on!
Any man that wants to get his lady to lose a little must read this and take note every word here. We are very sensitive creatures and when it comes to any aspect of our bodies, tread carefully because it is a risky business.
Hi Lynne, thanks for sharing your thoughts! I’m very glad that you agree with the points given 🙂
I agree that it is totally a very sensitive topic, but can also feel a little sorry for the guys that have to put up with our funny moods sometimes. I think it really is true that the majority males do think differently than females. They tend to be a lot more logical and not driven by emotional thinking, so I hope this article helps anyone in this situation.
Why? Because some of you refuse or deny accepting honesty, integrity or maybe the thought of ones overall health and wellbeing?? Now, I’m not saying if a man or women puts on 10 or 15lbs a year, ESP during holidays, to plummet them into oblivion but I am saying if your spouse let’s themselves go beyond easy fixes or possibly afib then let’s address things regardless of feelings! Here’s a news flash and a factual statistic I bet most sensitive females didn’t know or care to understand. Nearly 68% more males care more about their visual physical condition than women on an everyday personal basis across the board and nearly 80% of men worldwide as a whole care about what the opposite sex thinks of this so… hey, I’m not saying we all need or gotta be alike but I am calling out all the Debbie downers, lazy, excuse making lizzos out there and not just females either! You have to want to try 1st more than want a pity party, safe space or vitimhood. No excuses guys and gals!
Exactly James Prater.
I really like your post, it has a lot of methods I could use to get my girlfriend to workout with me in the future.
As someone who advocates barbell training, how can I get my girlfriend to follow my routine.
Also, what are your thoughts on females doing weight lifting exercises.
I honestly think weight lifting is the best way for a female to get into shape! If you can get your girlfriend lifting with you that’s awesome. She will probably see more drastic results, faster, in her physique by lifting heavy than doing cardio or other low-intensity work like yoga etc.
The question is how to get her interested. Some women can be a bit scared of lifting heavy weights because they feel they might become overly muscly (never really going to happen to the average woman, due to naturally having a lower amount of testosterone). Perhaps you could point out that gaining muscle improves your metabolism, allowing you to eat more freely without gaining weight.
You’d probably need to test the waters by seeing if she has any interest in barbell training. Try to point out the fun aspects of it, tell her why you enjoy it and see if she shows any interest. Mention if there are already a few female lifters at the gym so she knows it’s fair game for both sexes.
However, I’d suggest looking at a more female-friendly routine for her. Not sure about your routine, but guys tend to focus on the upper body, whereas females like to work more on lower body (legs and butt). If you do get her interested in lifting, she might like the routines in Strong Curves as they are specifically designed for female bodies. Good luck!
WOW! I’m totally blown away by this piece Jollie. I think this is by far one of your best articles thus far. It is so well written, factual and highlights so many salient points that women who are trying to loose weight may face. Although the article doesn’t directly resonate with myself I know countless women who have gained a few unwanted pounds (post pregnancy) and felt their partner took the wrong approach to aid their weight loss journey. The women I encountered said they felt were body shamed and filled with emotions of guilt for “loosing control of their weight”. For health reasons alone I think it is extremely important to be proactive and eat healthy, however I do appreciate how arduous that can be at times.
Thanks for the lovely feedback Charlene! I’m so glad to hear this feedback, so thank you for taking the time to comment 🙂
Definitely agree with focusing on the health reasons – and I think your blog recipes definitely help with making healthy food choices here!
What to do if my gf immediately shuts down and won’t even discuss working out? I’ve tried hinting at it nicely and politely while being positive and supportive. But it is no use.
Without knowing her or your exact situation, here are my thoughts: It’s possible she’s very insecure or has had prior issues with body image, and painful associations can very easily make any hinting from you feel like a huge slap in the face for her. Her brain might be screaming something like “he thinks I’m fat and doesn’t like me!”, even though this may not be anywhere near true at all.
I would suggest not hinting at anything in the future if she is shutting down; instead try and focus on something simple to begin with, like going for a walk with her each day. And make this activity about you wanting to spending time with her, not trying to get her burning Calories (that’s just a pleasant side benefit!). If you do this right and she enjoys spending time with you (while also being active), that will start to form some positive associations when she thinks about exercise/moving her body and she may even start to enjoy getting out and exercising. It may be a very slow process and trying to get her to change sounds like it would greatly hurt progress, so don’t do it in this case! Hope this helps!
This is a great article and everything makes a lot of sense. I feel like I’ve been following these tactics, but it’s not working. My girlfriend is not terribly overweight, but she should lose 15-20 pounds. The problem is that some of her medication has slowed her metabolism, so she has to work a lot harder and eat carefully… but she really enjoys food, wine, excessive amounts of salt, and soft pretzels. She also makes many excuses as to why she doesn’t workout. Here’s a few notes:
1) I, myself, workout 5 days a week, and I’ve been doing it for 12 years. I’m very healthy. I’ve told her how great it feels and that it’s easy to do if you make it a required part of your day. My schedule is way busier than hers and I find time to exercise, so she has no excuse.
2) I never ever insult her body. In fact, I go above and beyond to make her feel sexy. I truly do think shes sexy. But I would find her more attractive if she was thinner like she used to be.
3) I’ve told her it would make me very happy if she would exercise 5 days a week and make sure she stays healthy. I also tell her not to fret about eating super healthy – just be reasonable. I’ve also suggested eating healthy on the 5 weekdays and then enjoy whatever she wants on the weekend.. But she just eats and drinks freely every day.
4) She has a fitbit which should make it very easy to set goals… but she won’t use it. I’ve praised her for having that fitbit, telling her that it’s super cool that she can use it to set goals, and I’ve considered getting one myself.
5) I do my best to do active things with her, like bike rides, but the weather in Michigan is only nice for a very limited period of time.
6) Her mom recently told my girlfriend that shes the heaviest she’s ever seen her, and that bummed her out really bad… so I very much want to avoid negative feedback! However, it did motivate her to eat better… for about 4 days.
7) She regularly complains about her belly, arms, “double chin”, and cellulite… but she chooses to try things like “dry brushing” rather than exercise.
8) She does a really good job of keeping the rest of her life together. She’s super smart, organized, cooks really well, keeps a clean living space, maintains good relationships with people, excels in her career, and shes almost always in a great mood.. so it seems that someone with these attributes should be able to keep up with exercise!
I’m running out of ideas. Eventually, I will have to be completely honest with her that I want her to lose weight, but I am terrified that this will shatter her and damage our intimacy… What are your thoughts?
First of all, props to you for doing all the right things and not making her feel bad for how things are going. I can’t really give advice about how it will go if it does end up coming to an honest conversation, because I don’t know either of you, but for what it’s worth here are my thoughts.. There’s no taking away from the fact that it’s a tough situation! Can you try spending more time with her while you do your exercise? As in, involve her when you go to do exercise. I’m not sure what you usually do (gym?) or how your schedules line up, but maybe you could convince her to take exercise time alongside yours. If that doesn’t work, how about trying to instill small habits like this one?
The whole premise of this operation hinges on her taking her own initiative to exercise and then getting hooked on it herself. So can you find something that she already likes doing (hanging out with her friends, or enjoying food) and tweak those things so they are more healthy? For instance, if she enjoys great food, how about trying out some healthy new recipes together? Or if she likes hanging out with her friends, somehow try and get her making friends with others who would do something like group fitness classes together.
It sounds like she does care about her appearance, so maybe try and use that to an advantage in this whole ‘subtle convincing’ stage. I would also say try and figure out her internal beliefs/thoughts/feelings about exercise, eating healthy, and eating. Finding out what kind of meanings and preferences/priority she associates with ‘exercise’, ‘eating healthy’, ‘relaxing watching TV’, ‘drinking wine’ etc may uncover some hidden beliefs that are driving her ultimate behavior. (E.g. if she associates ‘eating healthy’ with: ‘I am doomed to eat plain, boring, unsatisfying food’ then maybe she’s already decided in her mind that she’d rather be slightly overweight than do that.)
If you can uncover and change those meaning associations, you may be able to change her behavior. Alternatively, you could go all out and try and do the confrontation – just make sure it’s done in the best way possible. Wishing you heaps of luck!
Hey, thanks for the tips, I’d like to get your thoughts on my situation.
A few years ago my girlfriend had gained a LOT of weight quickly (like 40 lbs in a couple of months). I didn’t say anything to her directly, but I did use your techniques (somewhat) and she did start exercising some, but wouldn’t change her diet (which is the REAL thing that makes you gain/lose weight). It wasn’t until she got on my computer (without permission) and read some private messages to a friend where I asked him for advice that she actually made a change, and WOW did she. She lost ~40 lbs and looked amazing, she was even lifting with me.
Fast forward and she has completely stopped working out. She hasn’t really gained weight, but for one I miss working out together, and for another, she lost all the muscle tone that she got. I’ve been trying to use your techniques again, but she would just rather sit and watch TV (and she even derides me for working out alone, saying “Are you trying to make me feel bad?”.
I feel like the only thing that makes her work out is fear. How can I ease her into working out until she starts having fun with it, without having her be scared and feel bad about herself? I want this to be a fun activity we can do together.
Glad to hear that some of the tips did work (at some stage). It’s a tricky situation you’re in, because as you know, ultimately you can’t really make anyone do anything they don’t want to.
I don’t know the full story, but were you able to identify the reason why she stopped lifting with you and essentially fell back into old habits? Also, how does she feel about this change? Happy, sad, or neutral? Understanding her feelings about it all may really help shed some light on why she’s acting as she currently is. Don’t underestimate trying to understand how she feels or why she’s doing a certain thing – in my experience, women really love it when their guy cares enough about their feelings to really try and understand her and empathize with what she’s feeling (WITHOUT suggesting solutions/giving advice – this is usually pretty tricky for a male to do as it can sometimes feel pointless, but it is doing something good, trust me!).
Essentially though, what you want to do is this: get her to associate positive thoughts and feelings with healthy behavior like working out or eating healthy. You could also try ‘piggybacking’ off activities or habits that she does have.
It’s a scientifically proven fact that particular thought patterns in our brains can get ingrained through habitual use. For example, if you’ve had a hard day at work, and time you experience this stimulus, you go sit down and watch TV to relax, you’ll eventually associate watching TV with that relaxing, great feeling that you get. You’ll want to sit and watch TV just to get that feeling. This can work in any way that you let it – if you try and ‘wire’ new habits or activities to a particular stimulus, you can do that too. Through constant practice and use, the neural circuits in your brain get wired to fire at the same time (and thus become ‘linked’ up).
You could try getting your girlfriend to ‘link up’ her brain in healthier ways. Look for something she really likes doing, or try to understand why she likes doing that task (watching TV may be one of them). You may be able to subtly lead her back to when you two were working out together. You could always also use positive motivators, e.g. “I really miss working out with you, you’re my favorite gym buddy” etc.
Don’t underestimate the power of questions too – by structuring your questions effectively, you can help a person to focus on positives that they may not otherwise think of. For instance, questions like “hey, what was your favorite part about when we used to go to the gym together?” almost force a positive response and force the person to think about good things.
Definitely don’t use fear as a motivator, and always be genuine. I’d really try to focus on the positives and try not to let yourself be too bogged down by her not wanting to join you or any derision from her – just keep setting a positive example and maybe she’ll be able to realize that she’s missing out on time spent with you. Even though it may not feel like it’s working, if you keep it up for long enough, it does add up, and could hopefully result in a positive change on her part.
It’ll probably be pretty tough for you, but hopefully you can get through to her in the end. Good luck!
For a lot of women, getting her to exercise will work if you do this :
“Hey, honey. I will watch the kids for you if you wanted to go for a walk.”
If you aren’t offering childcare, you aren’t really helping her to exercise.
Wow Sarah, that’s such a simple one, that must be overlooked by so many males! Thanks for sharing this great tip – I must admit that since I don’t have any kids, I didn’t even think of this one!
Have tried all of the above and still she around 20kgs heavier than me for th last 10years. I know we have 4 kids together which is hard. I suppose its kinda so much skinnier. It makes it so hard to just cuddle comfortably. Id be happy if she was more near my weight not even skinny because im a bit taller. Wont ever leave my wife but honestly it is just annoying. Would be happy if she consistently walked around th block just once a week. I said ill look after the kids. And done th cooking thing and try to go as a family but just is sooo hard to be consistent. Even as u mentioned try to get her togo with other mums and friends but no success. Anyway rant over guess ill just have to accept it .
Hi Geoff, that’s tough. Glad to hear it’s not something you’d ever leave her over though. It must be really hard to find the time with 4 kids! The only thing I can say is don’t give up, even though it might feel like you’ve tried everything. Consistency is definitely key, and if you/her can be consistent, even small changes may add up over time. Whether it is just walking around the block a few times a week – try going with her or linking it up to something that she likes? Making food substitutions/changes can also be a small change that may make a big difference over time. Don’t underestimate the mental factor either – does she want to lose weight or is she happy as she is? The key is to get her to the point where she is making the change for herself. Good luck 🙂
I was in a similar spot to your wife; and I was a veggie for a long time.
Keto changed my body completely with a little exercise on the side.
Being tired all the time from looking after kids also helped crash my motabolism and libido. Cutting out carbs by upping the fats was awesome! Still felt I was treating myself by eating bacon, cream, coconut oil and mayonnaise on everything; AWESOME! Went back to carb-junk eating during a rough patch and gained almost all the weight; took a year though. Getting back on to keto though- I was regularly told I looked 20 years younger! So why did I go back to carbs; old bad habits under stressful situations. Check out Dr. Gundry on YouTube, he was president of the American Cardiologists Association and speaks openly about what the best diet is for us all. Weight gain is UNAVOIDABLE especially after having kids if we don’t change what we eat in order to support the hormonal function. He has a great book called the Longevity Paradox which outlines all this. Good luck to you both.
That is some awesome advice MiaoMiao, thank you for sharing your story!
Thanks for the tips. Now i realize i was wrong in approaching her regarding her unhealthy lifestyle and figure. I was so dumb not figuring this out soon.
You’re most welcome John. As the saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar… Positive reinforcement rather than negative will usually always have a greater chance of success! Good luck.
Like your article. My husband was all negative and still throws in statements as if I’m a project. He lost 20lbs and is doing great as he was focused on his health. I on the other hand know I’m overweight, I’m total veggie lover and it’s been tough trying to find the right plan to stick with. Although, I feel great and I love myself so I don’t feel a “need” to lose pounds. I think I’m beautiful as I am. My husband’s thoughts matter some and at the same time he’s got lotsa flaws of which I don’t need to name cause I love him either way and will accept him as he is, imperfect.
Hi Rosa, it sounds like you have a great awareness of self and I commend you for loving yourself regardless of weight. Well done for cultivating such a healthy self-esteem to know you’re beautiful no matter what, and for accepting your husband as imperfect. Although your motivation might not be to ‘lose pounds’, perhaps a way to reframe things for you that could help would be to cultivate those healthy habits because of your self love? It sounds like you’re already super appreciative of your body and if you are wanting to express love to yourself that could also come in the form of slowly introducing healthier lifestyle changes as an expression of self-love to your amazing body. And hopefully this approach will help you start seeing results, without any negative connotations. Thanks for your comment!
This is an amazing article. I mentioned it several times to my fiancee and it needed ended well. I love her and I’m very much attracted to her, lately her tommy has started getting bigger. I will try this and hopefully it turns out well. Thank you
Thanks for the positive feedback Nathan, I’m glad you’ve had positive results out of this! Good and loving communication is key and it sounds like you have that.
Why not just be honest and tell male readers that we have zero chance of motivating our girlfriends to work out consistently? It’s entirely dependent on their fickle mood and hormones.
Haha, sorry to hear this Some Frustrated Guy! It might feel that way at times (and maybe that is the reality) but let’s try and work with that and figure out how to make a shift. Hope you might be able to apply some of these techniques at a time when her fickle mood and hormones is agreeable 😛
Bingo. You tell it like it is. But I would add, negativity tends to produce disappointing results, as expected.
Hi Jolie –
My GF and I are going on 4 years. She’s 27, I’m 35. I’m an avid workout person (I never miss a day) and while I don’t expect that of my partner, I would hope it would signal to her that staying fit and making a consistent exercise a part of life is very important. She & I both had fancy Gym memberships and would go together a lot.
It was amazing, but being in NYC all gyms are closed and she can’t motivate without a live class to push her. doing it in the house just leads to lazy workout, or more often no workout at all. She refuses to get on a scale or do any sort of Quatified Berfore/After Goal/Program. She put on 20-30lbs and it’s quite a turn off, and she knows she has, but poses in front of the mirror and says “I look great” She truly seems like she’s trying to make me accept that this is who she is and she’s not going to change. That’s at least the way I’m taking it. So all the positive reinforcement seems ineffective because she’s constantly telling her self this stuff to mask a what she knows is weight gain. And it’s been getting under my skin so much. I’m really sad & embarrassed to say that I’ve gone through all the ‘Don’ts’ on the list. I’ve lightly brought up the issue over the last 2 years as I’ve seen her enthusiasm for exercise wane.. and things just seem to be getting worse and no doubt will get harder with age, children, more sedentary new coding job, etc. So Cutting to the chase… I’ve said things I shouldn’t.. and within the last month I even got to the point of Ultimatum.. something like.. “I don’t think I can ultimately be with somebody for the long term that doesn’t at least try to stay in shape with age.” So the damage done from all the ‘Dont’s. She holds resentment towards me with working out, and I’m hoping to keep trying to influence her to make a life change, but I’m starting to lose hope. I’m willing to go back to Positive Reinforcement only.. but I just don’t feel like I have a lot of time. We’re thinking about Kids in a few years and she’s got so many amazing qualities that I love, but my physical attractiveness is waning with her weight gain, and there is a Laziness factor to it that is also an unattractive personality trait. All this talk, incredibly harsh I know, but I only have one life to live she’s just not seeming to take it seriously that this is an issue for me. Nor is she coming to the conclusion on her own that working out is the right thing to do for herself. What are your thoughts?
Hi Brian, sorry to hear your situation, that must be really tough when your partner changes in an area and it starts to feel like you both value different things.
Ultimately, you can’t change her. I would suggest the best thing to do is turn your focus from her, back on to you. At least when you’re focusing on you, that is an area that you can control. When I say focus on you, I don’t mean your exercise habits. I mean your thinking and the way you are seeing the situation. Whereas if you’re just looking at her, you cannot control that (and as you’ve experienced, it’s easy to unintentionally damage the relationship when you try).
I’d recommend checking out the book I mentioned in this article – it may be helpful to you. The concepts covered allow you to flip the script, so that when you feel unhappy with aspects of your relationship you can turn those in to loving actions instead. I’d suggest working on your relationship to try and resolve the past hurts. Also, try looking beneath the surface. Maybe staying at home and the weight gain has actually caused her to lose self-esteem and she’s stuck in a rut herself. She might need your support to get out of that, not your judgement.
In my opinion, the best way you can tackle this is counterintuitive – it is to ignore the weight-gain situation altogether and focusing on loving her despite her weight gain. That will create a positive environment where she is most likely to change and improve herself as you make her feel more genuinely valued. You can’t do much else than that.
By the way, if you mentioned she is driven by live classes, would something like a Peleton be useful? They do have that accountability/live aspect that might be what she needs.
I hope this is helpful and best of luck.
This article was not helpful. The first two advices dealt with providing the guy with perspective on coping with the issue.. There are hardly any guys commenting their success stories after reading this so I’m definitely not the only one
Hey, sorry to hear this didn’t help you out and thanks for sharing your feedback. I’ll make some updates to try and make this more useful.
Do you mean you tried some of the tips and haven’t had success? It’s a bit of a catch-22 because ultimately, you can’t make someone change. The best you can do is shift your perspective and try to help the other person move towards what they want (which is hopefully to become a healthier version of themselves) by creating a supportive and encouraging environment.
Totally agree with you. We already know the woman’s perspective because we’ve been dealing with it for a while already before seeking advice like this blog post. However, it’s still helpful to be reminded of how women might see the situation. No matter how much we dislike the the female perspective, there is literally nothing we can do to change the female psyche. It them becomes a matter of changing our tactics. But the motivation needs to be a heart of love for the women we love. We want to see them healthier and happier. We are willing to join them in the fight, not throw them in the gym and wash our hands. Without the right motivation — a heart of love — then our tactics can quickly become manipulative mind games born out of the frustration of unmet expectations. It doesn’t seem fair. But women arguably have the harder time in all aspects of society and also have to go through childbirth, which we will NEVER fully comprehend. So we men have got to suck it up and pick up the slack. Our women are relying on us to do so.
Thank you! I wish I could highlight this comment, bold it, and pin it to the top so everyone would read it!! This is the most loving response I’ve read on this article for a while. Guys, pay attention. It is this kind of response that will help create the loving, helpful and inspiring environment needed for a woman to change. Having your partner on your side and by your side instead of feeling like they are just against you because you don’t look a certain way makes all the difference. Thank you again for leaving this comment, I can see that you did get the core message of what I was trying to communicate in this article.
Hello, I like the article and felt it had some good reminders as well as tips. The issue I have is the subliminal representation that I saw. The image for people of color is negative, the couple was overweight and not working out and the one woman was with no self-esteem, while the white people were all positive.
Thanks for bringing that to my attention Joe. I have updated images now to hopefully remove that representation which you saw. It can be difficult to find images so the previous ones were just what happened to be available at the time, it was certainly not intentional!
I’m able to get my gf in the gym with me most days but she does one of the old people water classes then sits in the sauna or rows 500m taking a break halfway through at a 4 minute split time. It’s about as effective as you’d imagine. The rare times she’ll actually lift with me she does two sets of 1/4 ROM squats then says she’s tired. Compounding matters she eats like a pig. As much as I do and I’m a man with 5″ on her, train lifting and cardio six days a week, and am currently trying to gain weight. As if that’s not bad enough she eats snacks too.
It’s very frustrating. She’s taller than most women but still 180lbs is insanely fat. It’s not just a lack of attraction anymore, at this point I feel disgust. It’s starting to feel hopeless. If she had actually put in effort she could have easily gone from 180 to 130lbs by now.
I’d be fine even if she didn’t have a gym body. Just skinny would be a million times better than now but she can’t even seem to manage that, and skinny takes no effort whatsoever. It feels like she doesn’t really care if she can’t even put that much into the relationship. I’ve made it very clear that I don’t like fat and prefer fit or skinny so it’s not a lack of communication. She was actually underweight when we met too. Really let herself go in the worst possible way.
Hey there Anon, it sounds like you’re really frustrated with your current situation and that really sucks that you’re starting to feel hopeless and repelled by your girlfriend.
I’m guessing this was a bit of a way to vent for you, but in case you’re not aware, what you’ve shared comes across as really quite judgmental about her physical appearance and what she should do to ‘fix’ it. Judgement is one of the biggest killers for a loving relationship.
You’re setting yourself up for pain if you need her to be a certain way for you to feel happy in the relationship. Although the ideal situation is if she did what you want her to do and conform to your preferences, it sounds like it could be possible that she just doesn’t want to do that. At this point you may have a decision to make. Let’s hypothetically assume she never changed. Would you still be willing to continue the relationship? Can you still love her when she’s just being who she is, or does she have to fit into a version that you’ve created for her? These are not always easy questions to answer, but worth getting the clarity for yourself.
So the answer is, you cannot tell her. You have to indirectly hint and try this pavlovian positive conditioning and hope she takes the hint. And if she doesn’t, you have to ignore your own biological attraction system and lie to yourself and pretend it doesn’t matter, hoping the resentment does not continually build over time (it will). Its a bait and switch tactic isn’t it? I would never enter into a relationship with someone who is out of shape. So i found someone attractive and fit. We date. Then we are in a long term relationship. Once the commitment (ring) is there she no longer gives a shit and lets herself go. And we aren’t allowed to even notice it openly. Real nice.
Is the real answer that, of she doesn’t take the hint, the relationship is doomed?
I know if i say it openly she will take it bad. I know she isnt seeming to get it this indirect route. For every workout she does theres 10 cookies and backs of chips. I know my resentment will continue to build. It seems like she doesn’t care about maintaining her attractiveness to me now that we are committed. I know my biological sexual instincts are not going to disappear any time soon. So is it just that the relationship is doomed?
All other issues can be talked about and worked through openly. But i guess not this one, so if it happens, then its up to luck whether you are able to work through it.
Hey Jack, thanks very much for sharing openly here. I totally get your frustration. It’s not an easy topic to discuss for sure and I agree it’s really annoying not to be able to tackle something like this head on.
The real answer is: everyone’s different so it’s a matter of figuring out what you (and her) are willing to accept, and then to communicate it (if you choose to do so) as kindly and effectively as you both can.
It sounds like that resentment is already starting to build for you, and you’re right that if you don’t do something to address it, it’s likely the relationship will suffer.
Generally there are two options you have to decide about first: You can live with it, or you can’t. If you can’t live with it (sounds like you’re leaning towards that way), then you either figure out a way to work it out within yourself, or, you try to work through it directly between yourselves. Sometimes even communicating what you’re feeling may be enough for her to realize this is meaningful for you, and as a result she may or may not conduct herself differently. A good question to ask yourself though is this: if she didn’t ever change, could you live with it?
I think this issue CAN be talked about and worked through openly, but it can be a tricky one and easily backfire if it’s not communicated carefully, so I’d recommend giving it some genuine thought about what you’d like out of the conversation before you attempt to do this.
If you do decide to go ahead with discussing it, a couple of tips are to make the conversation about YOU and your loss of attraction/growing resentment, and really get clear for yourself on what’s causing that first. It’s important to recognize that there are more types of attraction than just physical. For instance, have you also been losing emotional attraction over the course of time? If so, why? Is it that you’re interpreting her lack of care for herself as a sign of disrespect towards you? Remember that everyone interprets things differently, so make this about you and your experiences, not about ‘her letting herself go’ (even if that may be true). If you make the conversation about you and not her, it is less likely to make her get defensive or feel shamed.
Also, don’t forget that once things are said they cannot easily be unsaid, so really think before you bring this up. I really feel for you as I know there’s no easy answer here.
Just some encouragement too though, not to underestimate the indirect route. It may seem ineffective or crazy to begin with, but over time it can and does have an effect, especially complementing and affirming her for who you want her to be (fit and healthy). Yes you may be essentially almost ‘pretending’ that she’s someone that she’s not currently, but people typically rise or fall to meet your expectations of them. Also, don’t negate the influence that you may be able to have over her. For instance, if you’re not partaking in the cookies and chips regularly, she may herself start keeping her consumption in check if she notices you taking a more healthy lead.
I know this isn’t a lot of the direct or practical advice that you might want, but it’s the best I can offer. Really hope you can invest the time and energy in re-focusing on strengthening your relationship in other ways first too, that may also all indirectly impact this particular issue you’re having too (even though it might not feel like it yet).