Reader Question of the Week: Weighty Issues

'Questions?' photo (c) 2008, Valerie Everett - license: weekend I like to post a question someone sends in and let you readers have a go at it.

This week’s question comes from my Facebook page, where a reader asks:

Help! Over the last few years my husband, who used to be in great shape, has gained about 60 pounds. I’m not attracted to him physically anymore. I try to keep in great shape, but he doesn’t make an effort. What should I do?

What do you think? Any thoughts for her?

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  1. You can try fixing him healthier meals if he will let you. Ask him to take walks with you. Do what you can to encourage him but never nag him or disrespect him. If he refuses, continue to love him and find ways to please him since this is what the Lord asks of us. We are called to love them in good times and bad times, when they are skinny or heavy…We can’t control them. We can only control our attitudes and behaviors towards them and pray!
    Lori recently posted…My Messy, Productive KitchenMy Profile

  2. workinprogress says:

    I agree with Lori. The only things you have control over are what you purchase at the grocery store and how you prepare meals. You can suggest going for a walk in the evening, or a bike ride on Saturday afternoon, but other than that, you really need to let him come to his own decisions regarding his weight. Look at this as an opportunity to let God teach you how to love your husband unconditionally and show him love even when you aren’t feeling it. Pray before he comes home from work every day that you could see your husband as God sees him, and that HE would enable you to show love and affection to your husband. When thoughts of his weight come to your mind, choose to take those thoughts captive and choose to think on his positive qualities. When you feel yourself being angry about his weight, say aloud (in private), “God, I choose to forgive my husband for not taking care of himself, and I choose to love him unconditionally.” After a while, your heart and attitude WILL change, trust me.
    Having said all that, are there factors that could be contributing to his weight gain such as medication or injury?

  3. I agree with what Lori wrote above!

    When we got married, my husband was 6’4″ and about 280 lbs. His family has a tendency to diabetes, and although it isn’t full-blown in him, he still struggles with losing weight, especially around his middle. For me it wasn’t the struggle you had of having an in-shape husband who gained weight, but when we were dating I had to learn to look past the weight to the man my husband is. I never thought I’d be attracted to someone who was on the heavier side, but I learned that it is possible, and even to be wildly crazy about his looks. I learned to focus on the positive aspects of his appearance–I won’t go into detail ;)–and not on the fact that he has stretch marks on his abdomen from putting on a lot of muscle and weight in high school.

    My encouragement to you right at this moment is to learn to look past the weight for the man you married. He’s still there, and that means the important parts of him that you were attracted to are still there, also.

    In the long run, I agree with many of the things Lori said. Try to carefully start cooking more healthful meals for both of you (and for your children, if you have them). Don’t expect your husband to go on a “diet” by himself. If he’s recently put on a lot of weight, there is probably a lifestyle reason for that–has he recently lost a job? Quit exercising? Taken up smoking? Contracted a disease?

    If he has simply become lazy and refuses to take care of his body, that’s primarily a sinful issue that needs to be dealt with between him and God–but, if you’ve been reading Sheila’s posts lately, you know that you do need to confront him with his sin. As Lori said, don’t be nagging, demanding, or disrespectful, because that won’t help at all.

    I would suggest that you start using less white flour and white sugar in your cooking (just cutting out these two things alone can have huge health benefits). Keep soda and sugary beverages out of your house entirely, or at least minimize their consumption. Buy skim or 1% milk if you don’t already. Avoid eating out, and make it a point to have meals together, at the table, as a family–this will minimize grazing. Keep your husband occupied in the evening (even if it’s not doing a physical activity) so that he’s less likely to raid the fridge. Don’t do activities that encourage eating; instead, try volunteering, visiting a nursing home, taking up disc golf, etc. I’m sure you have ideas that you and your husband will both enjoy. :)

    Bottom line? You’re not in this alone! Prayer is a powerful thing, especially when combined with action motivated by love for your husband. Jesus loves him even more than you do– and Jesus loves you, too! Rest in the comfort of that knowledge. :)
    Jaimie recently posted…My first experiences with kombucha!My Profile

    • workinprogress says:

      I was trying to view this through the filter of Sheila’s posts this week, but I still can’t see that “confronting” is the way to go here. For one thing, a wife would have to first make sure she is coming to her husband clear of her own agenda in “confronting” this sin. In other words, he is going to see straight through your “You’re in sin by not taking care of your body” to the fact that she is having trouble accepting his extra weight. You just cant go to him in this spirit. I really don’t see this going anywhere positive. I’d love to hear from any wife who has successfully “confronted” her husband in sins of poor eating habits, lack of exercise, smoking or drinking… if you have, then you’re my hero and you need to sell your secret to the rest of us. You’d make millions :-)
      I’m not trying to be flippant or sarcastic, but I really don’t see this as a viable option.

      • I got my husband to quit chewing tobacco (yes, gross) by telling him how much I loved when he gave me oral, and I know how much he enjoyed it too and loves how much I love it, but I couldn’t let him do that while he was using tobacco because it was gross and might give me infections.

        That worked. He has been off of the stuff for a month now. Reminding him of the serious and unavoidable health risks didn’t help – it just made him angry – but talking about enhancing our sex life sure did the trick!

        Now we just have to work on the drinking, because apparently loving me isn’t enough to stop that from ruining our relationship in various ways. Sigh.

      • The way I “confronted” my husband–once I realized, finally, that nagging wouldn’t work (it NEVER does…), I explained that I really wanted him to take care of himself for MY sake, because I want to live as long a life with him as I can, and I want him to be healthy for his whole life.

        By “confront” I don’t mean saying, “Honey, you are sinning by being overweight, and it needs to stop.” I just mean, actually saying something about how you feel, instead of keeping your feelings inside and allowing resentment and frustration to grow.
        Jaimie recently posted…My first experiences with kombucha!My Profile

        • Exactly! I really value your comments, Jaimie! I, too, married a big guy. My husband is about 6’5″ and weighs around 350 lbs. He’s a very muscular, very athletically built guy, but he has a belly. In high school, he was very active- although he was always a really big, husky kid, he spent a ton of time outside running, biking, going dirtbiking and four-wheeling… and then he ruptured a disk in his back. Suddenly, a guy who used to lift 200 plus pounds like it was nothing wasn’t allowed to lift more than 50 lbs. He can’t run, he has to be much more careful about how he moves when messing around on his dirtbike.

          He’s still very active and works maintenance at a Bible Camp (which means that he’s always running around site!) but we’ve taken a hard look at how much we eat and what we eat. I’ve learned that really, his weight is his decision. I can be supportive and encouraging, but it’s up to him!

          I agree that confronting him doesn’t mean putting him on the spot or being offensive in any way. Just telling him that you want him to be healthy, so he can stay around a long time, or even for a specific goal (my husband really enjoys hiking in the Black Hills, and last year, he noticed that he doesn’t have as much energy as he used to) can really open up the lines of communication. Keep in mind, men are just as sensitive about their weight and appearance as we are, but they may not express it as much as we women do. Be careful about his feelings. In my case, my husband was teased about his size through all of his school years, and his weight has always been a painful topic for him. Be aware of that, and be sensitive to his feelings!
          Little Wife recently posted…Frugal Friday: Homemade Stovetop Air FreshenerMy Profile

          • I hear ya! My man is athletic and active too, is an Eagle scout, played football and basketball in high school, loves camping, etc. When college started he didn’t get to do as much of the active stuff as he used to, and that was when he started putting on weight. But then we got married and we both started eating better, and we didn’t have a car for a while so we had to walk or bike the mile to school/work and back every day.

            Bottom line, I love him, and I want what’s best for him. :)
            Jaimie recently posted…My first experiences with kombucha!My Profile

  4. I maybe didn’t say this as gently as I should have on FB, but my basic opinion is the same. This is mind over matter. You’re going to have to choose to find him attractive. Think about, and maybe even make a list, of things that you can find attractive – the way his eyes crinkle when he laughs, or the way he works hard to provide a comfortable living, or the sweet way he rubs your back when you’re not feeling well, or the sound of his voice when he first wakes up, etc, etc, etc. Focus on those things, and always be on the lookout for more attractive things – both physical and non-physical.

    I’m not assuming the question asker has been nagging, but I do remember a pastor telling us once (in regard to another person who was nagging my husband about his weight), that “no one ever nagged someone thinner.” And men are sometimes so sensitive to nagging that they hear it as nagging even when we don’t intend it to be nagging. So I encourage you to just be careful about mentioning it at all. Make healthy food, do active things as a family, and then just acknowledge every thing you can possibly find attractive about him. Hopefully that will all work together to get things moving in a healthier (relationally and physically) direction.
    Megan G. recently posted…date nightMy Profile

  5. Why don’t you make sure he does not have any medical issues. Thyroid dysfunction causes weight gain among other symptoms.

    • So does low testosterone! My husband has been overweight for about 8 years.(very sensitive about his weight too)..He went to the dr. and found out he has the testosterone of a pre-pubescent boy! So anyway, when a guy stores fat, testosterone can convert to estrogen…making it easier to store fat….so anyway, combined with the rx of testosterone and a low-carb diet, my husband has lost about 40lbs….and he feels so much better! He has the energy to do things now and our sex life is fantastic….Plus he is much more confident. Which is a huge game-changer, in my opinion. When a man feels confident, he feels more “like a man”…in every way.
      Another thing that may help is to not make your husband diet alone….When the dr. put my hubby on a low-carb, I decided to do it with him. Misery loves company, right?! lol, but also, it gave him a support system…It became a “we’re in this together” type of thing, which helps him to not feel isolated. But now our entire household has a ‘healthy’ mentality about food…even our 7 and 8 yr. old ask us from time to time “is this healthy mom/dad?” which is a great switch!
      If I may share the back story, however, my dad of 50 died suddenly and, in my opinion to soon….But there were several factors there, poor, poor diet, no exercise, overweight,and heart problems. When he died it was kind of a wake-up call for my husband and me. He asked me to be completely honest with him and to tell him what I thought of his weight (he already knew what he thought and saw when he looked in a mirror, but wanted to hear from me)….so I carefully told him that I loved him dearly and wanted to live a long time with him…enjoy our retirement together, watch our children grow and find God’s will for their lives, etc, etc.(I understand death is in God’s control, but I believe He gives us the sense to take care of ourselves, and in some cases, like my dad’s….I beleive our life can be longer if we do so)….but that I felt he had gained quite a bit of weight since we were first married and that I was concerned. Our daughter(6 years old at the time) had also mentioned his weight and that really had an effect on him…So he went to the dr….
      Different things work for different people… husband had to have a ‘wake-up call’ moment, or several…before he was ready to do anything about it.

  6. a friend of mine shared something a while ago that has stuck with me ever since. as she was walking through a difficult circumstance, she said that she prayed:
    “Lord change my circumstance.
    Or change my desire.”

    God promises to give us the desires of our hearts when He is our first and foremost desire.
    so He may do that through a change in circumstance. or He may due that by surprisingly changing our outlook or desire.
    but when our souls are smitten with Him, He WILL do it, friend!

  7. A couple of things come to mind here – firstly I think it’s unrealistic to be physically attracted to each other for an entire fifty years or so of marriage. People change, you’re both going to get old, sick and you need to look past all of that .

    Secondly, I wonder how you would feel if this situation were reversed and your husband was saying these things about your weight gain. I know if it were me I would be so hurt. How would you want your husband to respond if it were you who had become less physically attractive?

    Is he still making an effort with his appearance – wearing decent clothes, after shave or has he given up? Perhaps you could buy him something nice to wear and compliment him on it. Perhaps he thinks “she doesn’t care what I look like so why should I?”

    Is he just bigger than you’re used to or is it actually a health concern? I think I would only address it if he was seriously at risk of diabetes or heart disease and then I would frame it in those terms rather than an attractiveness perspective .

    And I agree with the other posters about being supportive with your grocery buying and meal choices. If he has to give up high calorie foods, you have to as well so be prepared for that.

  8. Heres what i know from experience – you can’t make a person do anything that they don’t want to do. They have to get there on their own. So you learn to focus really focus on the good and ignore the bad. You ask God to help you change your attitude; you learn not to be smug and self righteous; you recognize that you’ve changed also; as God works on your attitude, you recognize that intimacy is still a beautiful thing because you still have each other. If you listen to the world you would focus on the fat and forget about all the other positives of the man and that just creates a negative spiral.
    On a different note – every culture is different, and in some its a sign of girth, wealth, and prosperity. Where I come from there is actually a calypso song called Big Belly Man.
    nylse recently posted…Notes From My DaughterMy Profile

  9. Every Body Matters by Gary Thomas is a great read. Speak about how physical and spiritual discipline are connected. Great book. Read it first, and if he is open, I think he would benefit from reading it. I’ve been an athlete all my life and got a lot out of it. Diet is key too! If you do the shopping and the cooking, you can control what is served in your home and that is huge. As we mentioned before, get rid of as much sugar, which flour and processed foods as you can. Perhaps even asking him to help you as you want to get a bit more fit yourself and would love if if he could help you by joining you on evening walks etc. – that way you are the focus and not him but he will benefit from it. A bit “underhanded” so to speak, but if you do it for a month, a habit has been created and hopefully he will begin to enjoy it and want to do it himself.

  10. LOVED Jaimie’s advice here!

    Many of the comments here are all about this wife needing to “change her thoughts” and “take more responsibility” and “not be unrealistic.” Well, it sounds like she’s trying to do just that by asking the question in the first place! I feel bad for her, reading these replies, as if it is as easy as thinking different things.

    The fact is, yes, people change, and yes, people look different, and yes, we should be committed to each other no matter what. But that doesn’t change the reality that our attraction to someone is going to change alongside their appearance. It’s a physical response, not something that she’s choosing to do (or else she clearly wouldn’t be choosing it!) I agree that positive thinking can certainly help change perspective and keep us from digging a hole of resentment and frustration. However, that only goes so far, and she’s going to feel stuck.

    I agree with the poster who said she should chat with her husband about this. No, saying, “I don’t like that your fat now” is probably not a good idea. But open communication does not mean nagging. There are ways to be clear about the concerns/frustrations this wife is having. She could even phrase it by putting it on herself. Maybe say something like, “Remember when we used to work out together? I feel like my sex drive has waned recently and would love to do that kind of stuff again with you. I’ve heard exercise can get the libido running.”

    There’s also probably a reason this husband has gained weight if physical appearance once really mattered to him. I’ll bet that if this wife were able to identify the root of that problem, she’d be able to really get somewhere. Maybe she could even say, “Seems like it’s been a while since we’ve had that honeymoon experience in our sex lives. How about we dress up Friday night and I’ll wear a nice dress and a pair of heels?” Doing things like this to rev things up might spark his desire to take better care of himself.

    My husband was overweight when we dated, and I know how hard it is to struggle with loving someone SO much and SO desiring your physical reaction to kick in, yet not really knowing how to get it in gear. Yes, we have to be loving and gentle with the way we approach these things. But her husband also has a responsibility to take care of himself, for his sake as well as hers. If he’s not, and especially if he’s being unhealthy, I think it’s a good idea for her to gently tell him she’s concerned about his health (maybe mention something that she’s concerned about herself as well so he doesn’t feel attacked) and ask if there’s anything she can do to encourage him in that.

    Beyond that, pray. Pray, pray, pray because God governs the desires of our hearts and is on our side through it all.

  11. The extra weight gain, the sloppy dirty dressing, not showering for work, long infected toenails, bad breath, farting… It wasn’t like this at the beginning, but he has just let himself go! Sorry, but I am turned off too.

  12. Let me give my take on this as an over weight husband. We are very sensitive about our appearance it is tied to our ego which is tied to how we feel as manly men. My wife had a talk with me about it and the thing that worked initially was I needed to get fit to be here to provide and support my kids and wife ( manly). The second thing was as soon as I started. There is and was lots of praise and support and word of affirmation like “wow your arms are looking sexy since you have been working out”. What ever you do do not tell your husband that he doesn’t get you turned on anymore. That will kill his Ego huge. Just keep his masculinity in mind.

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