Getting Your Girlfriend to Lose Weight

Quit rubbing your eyes; you read that title correctly. :)

I recently received a question about this from a reader, and I decided to re-post his question and my response on the blog.

Before we get to that, a few words of caution…this is an incredibly sensitive, yet important topic.

Sensitive because most women, whether they are truly overweight or not, feel terribly self-conscious about their weight. If you mention weight to a woman, you run the risk of being the catalyst for anything on a spectrum of hurt feelings to severe eating disorders.

Important because most people wouldn’t dare tell a truly overweight woman that she is overweight, because, let’s face it, telling a woman she needs to lose a few pounds is about as socially offensive as stabbing a baby seal in the eye.

While it’s true that most of the starved and airbrushed models make “regular” women feel bad about their bodies, there is a counter culture of “loving your fatness” that, in my opinion, is just as dis-empowering for us ladies.

A woman is most empowered, sexy, and beautiful when she is at her healthiest! And as her man, if you can encourage her on a path towards health, you and she will be better for it.

Here is the original email and response:

Hey Liz,

I love your blog, it is very insightful and awesome. I have an issue: my girlfriend is overweight and unhealthy. I fear for her health. How can I get my girlfriend to lose weight? I know I can’t control people but what are some specific things you think I can do to get her to lose weight?
–Name withheld

My Response:
First of all, you are right that you can’t control other people. Ultimately it will have to be up to her to lose weight. She must be motivated to do it for herself (not just for you) for it to really work and have lasting success.

That said, you can help get her inspired to make a change towards better health!

I suggest you have an open, honest conversation with her about this. Hinting or making subtle suggestions will either go unnoticed, or she will probably get the wrong idea (ie. she will assume you don’t find her attractive anymore and feel bad).

I’ve actually had a similar conversation with a boyfriend about his health habits, so I can tell you right now that it takes courage! You run the risk of hurting your partner’s feelings. However, in the long run, it will strengthen the partnership if you can handle it well.

As the yang (masculine) partner, you have great power to lead your woman to grow herself for the better. Most men can’t handle doing this, though, because they don’t know the difference between something in her that needs to change and something in her that pisses him off because HE needs to change. You need to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally before talking with her so that you can stay strong in your yang leadership.

Before having an honest conversation with her, you need to have a very honest conversation with yourself about WHY you want her to lose weight. You mentioned that you fear for her health. I’m going to assume (and forgive me if this is not accurate) that you also want her body to look better because then she would look sexier. If there is even an ounce of truth to this, then you need to get congruent about it before talking with her. Otherwise, if you only mention health, but have other motives too, she will sense the ulterior motives and feel betrayed.

Also, you must be in touch with your love and compassion for her. If she senses that you are judging her or you no longer fully accept who she is as a person, then she will not be open to the conversation. One of the communication principles from NLP is “Accept the person, change the behavior.” She has unhealthy behaviors, but she as a person is beautiful. Stay congruent with your total acceptance of her person–even if she gets upset and doesn’t believe that you fully accept her. Keep telling yourself that she is beautiful, no matter how upset she gets.

When you have the conversation, make sure you are both open and receptive, and in a place where you can talk privately and give each other your full attention. Start with a preframe like, “Can I talk to you about something that’s on my mind? Will you be open to hearing it? It’s something that I worry you might not want to hear.” Only proceed if she says yes. Now she will be open.

Next, share vulnerably, openly, and honestly. I know this might sound crazy, but it is better to bare your honest thoughts about her body than to try to make it “sound good.” Again, I’m only assuming here, but I know that when this issue came up for me in the past, I used to say, “I only fear for your health.”

Then one day I said, “This is making it more difficult for me to feel attraction for you, and that’s hurting the relationship.” Don’t get me wrong, this was one of the most difficult conversations I’ve ever had with a partner, but it didn’t turn into a fight the way the other ones did when I was trying to cover up my true feelings. Your girlfriend will appreciate your honesty even if it hurts in the moment.

Now remember, it’s practically an offense punishable by death for a man to tell a woman that she’s fat. She might react at first with shock that you are even saying this to her because most men wouldn’t dare. She might not, but it’s worth the warning just in case. Stay strong and don’t get defensive. Let her react and get upset as much as she needs to; just keep telling her that you think she’s beautiful and don’t get caught up in her drama.

When she calms down, she will likely express her own desire to lose weight. Listen to her because she might need to vent and share about her struggles. Fat is often a cushion that stores repressed emotions. Stay congruent in your belief that she is beautiful and that you accept her completely as you listen.

Then, offer your support. Tell her that the two of you can make dates to go to the gym together; plan nights out at restaurants with healthy options. It’s also a good idea to own up to any “enabling” behaviors. For example, I had to stop asking my partner to get us donuts for breakfast when he was trying to eat healthy. Offer her your congruent and full support by changing any unhealthy habits you need to change as well.

And then, of course, you need to stick to your new, supportive actions!

There is a chance she might not want to change, in which case, again, you can’t change her. However, it’s my belief that most people want to be their healthiest and best looking.

Being healthy includes emotional and mental health. This is why it’s so important that you stay strong, open, and compassionate with her. You are calling her to a higher level of health in all areas, not just in her physical body. This is a great gift you can give her as her partner; just make sure you are ready for it. If you can support her through the process, you will both be better for it on the other side.

Comments

  1. Amen and hallelujah.

    These culturally repressed and buried topics brought to light

    Thank you Liz for having the courage and authenticity.

    If people want to hang onto their fat, or stop growing in their beauty, physical or otherwise, that’s fine, but you’d have trouble convincing me that most of the people I meet deep-down, really, truly, want to feel more attractive and sexier.

    If someone, my partner or otherwise, wants to feel more attractive and sexier, I definitely encourage it in the healthiest ways I can.

    I loved some of the action steps in this article, and feel they could be highlighted/summarized:

    1. Pre-frame by asking if she’s open.
    2. Don’t repress feelings or sugar-coat the issue. Be clear and vulnerable.
    3. Stay strong and present during drama + emotional reactions.
    4. Allow her to calm down and express.
    5. Plan actions that help support her.

    Rock on :D

  2. I’m facing this conversation today and I’ve been gleaming the internet for good approaches. Appallingly most are written by men and off the mark.

    Liz, you succinctly stated the case, thank you….Hope you get a change to read my comment.. You are helpful.

  3. Bob jones says:

    Hey I really liked the article, some great information. I need your help?? What if I already had this conversation with my gf on a couple of occasions and she says that she wants to loose weight but then never really puts in much effort. She tells me she goes to the gym a lot but she has looked the same for over a couple of year now and nothing is really happening. Like I said iv already had this conversation a couple of times before and I know if I bring it up again all hell is going to break loose, what should I do?

    • Hi Bob,

      Great question! A couple of suggestions:

      1. Has she seen a doctor? If she really is eating right and going to the gym and still not getting results, she could have a hormone imbalance or some other underlying issue that could be preventing her from getting healthy.

      2. Weight is often a way to mask repressed emotions (repressed emotions are often stored in the body as physical symptoms of illness other things that prevent good health). When someone takes steps to fix their health (like going to the gym), those emotions can release, making someone feel worse, and unsure why they feel worse, they will start to “procrastinate.” It’s important to realize that she is not doing it because she is lazy. I had a surgery recently to release a tongue-tie and had wild mood swings for a few days afterwards. This kind of thing is typical, though not openly discussed unless you’re “woo-woo.” Sigh. Anyway, in either case, continue to show love, support, and compassion. Shaming someone, or accusing them of not making enough effort, will only pile on more negativity (which often results in piling on more weight!). Assuming it’s not a medical issue, and you think it might be emotional, start by asking her about how she feels about her body, what being in shape would mean to her, what she might be afraid of. Talking through things will help the emotions release. It might also be good for her to see a therapist (though sometimes that can be difficult to recommend to another person). Good luck and good for you for wanting to inspire your girlfriend to greater health!

  4. This all sounds great but we live in the society of instant gratification and laziness. People are so set in their ways, and even if they realize they need to change, they make minor changes for a short period of time and then give up when they don’t see results (and complain about it – “it’s too hard” or “I guess I just can’t lose weight”). Most people are not willing to commit to a lifestyle change, which is why shows like the Biggest Loser do so well, because it’s so rare for someone to actually do it. Ultimately if your partner is not willing to do it in the long run it is probably a reflection of some underlying issue in the relationship. It sucks because there’s nothing worse than feeling like your partner is letting themself go…

  5. Quentin Mabury says:

    I have had this talk with my girlfriend a couple of times. this post was very insightful. i have not been supportive like i should. i will follow your instructions the letter when she comes home from her trip. wish me luck! And if you can do anything for me… please pray for me. I do not want to hurt her.

  6. John Cheese says:

    Hi Liz,

    I took your advice and unfortunately, it seems to have completely blown up in my face. She says I’ve killed the relationship, that no one has ever said anything so disgusting to her before and that she no longer finds me attractive because a man would never say something like that to his woman.

    I’ve reassured her that I love her, still find her sexy and attractive but that I just wanted to be honest with her before it would get any worse.

    I asked if she’d rather I lie about it and pretend everything is okay and she said “Yes, it’s common sense that a guy should never say this”.

    I feel I’ve done the right thing by bringing it up but I feel extremely guilty about upsetting her and am tempted to just say that I didn’t mean it and don’t want to lose her before it’s too late (we’ve been together for 2 years and I think she may be the one!).

    She says it’s over between us because she now feels nothing for me. I just don’t know what to do. Any advice?

    • Hi John,

      I’m sorry to hear that things blew up in your face. This is a difficult conversation even when it’s handled well, and it sounds like you did handle it as well as you could. From what you wrote here, it seems to me that the real conflict here is one of whether or not you want an honest relationship. My advice is to give some more serious thought to whether or not you want to be in a relationship with a woman who told you straight up, “Yes, I’d prefer that you lie to me than be honest.” It’s difficult to have a healthy, emotionally mature, or intimate relationship unless both people are honest, and prefer honesty from the other person. This includes being willing to listen to the tough stuff. That said, not everyone wants this kind of more intimate relationship, and there is nothing wrong with her wanting a relationship that values positive encouragement over brutal honesty. The question is, is this the kind of relationship that you really want?
      Good luck!

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