How to help your spouse lose weight without ending up in the doghouse

When your spouse decides to lose weight, how can you show your support and help her reach her goals?

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  • “Do these jeans make me look fat? What do you think, should I go on a diet?”

  • Uh, oh. You are in dangerous territory here. You have noticed that your wife has been putting on weight, those jeans do make her look fat, and she should go on a diet. How can you support your wife's decision to lose weight without ending up in the dog house?

  • Focus on health

  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that being overweight increases the risk of coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, liver and gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis and gynecological problems. That's a lot to worry about if your wife is overweight.

  • My husband is a stress-eater. Between my coming down with a chronic illness and his starting a new business, he was under a lot of stress a few years ago. Not surprisingly, he began to put on a few pounds. Then a few more. Then many more. I gently let him know that I was worried about the health risks involved with his weight gain. I told him how much I loved him and needed him to be here for me and the kids. My concern became an added motivation for him to eventually lose weight.

  • Let your spouse lead

  • Your husband will only lose weight when he decides, not you. There may be a number of reasons why he's not ready yet. The Mayo Clinic says that unemployment, financial pressure, health problems, relationship conflicts, work stress and fatigue all contribute to emotional eating. Allow him the time to work through those stresses and decide for himself when he is ready to lose the weight.

  • Acknowledge how difficult it is

  • Losing weight takes more than self control. It requires planning, goal setting and changing a lot of habits. Tell your wife that you realize how hard it is for her, and that you are proud of her efforts and accomplishments.

  • Don't nag

  • I do not know of a single heavy person who doesn't realize that he is overweight. You do not need to point it out to your husband. Name calling is always hurtful, even when done in jest. Don't become a food Nazi. Let your husband lose weight at his own pace. Do not criticize when he slips up.

  • Compliment your spouse

  • Notice when she starts to lose a few inches. Tell her she looks good in those jeans. Let her know that you can really see a difference, and that she looks fantastic.

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  • I recently lost 25 pounds when I started clean eating. My husband's compliments made me feel proud of my achievements and also made me determined to keep the weight off. I enjoy looking good and feeling good, for my husband and myself.

  • Celebrate milestones

  • Those first 10 pounds can be brutal. Celebrate your husband's early victories to encourage him to keep going. Get excited for him when he breaks through a weight loss plateau. Get really excited for him when he reaches a weight that he hasn't seen in a long time. Suggest you go out to a movie or offer a foot massage as a reward instead of celebrating with food.

  • Don't sabotage your spouse's efforts

  • If your wife is on a diet but you are not, don't cook her favorite meal or bring home her favorite pizza. Get rid of the unhealthy snacks and treats around the house. Splurge while you are at work or when your wife is not around. Don't offer her a bite of your dessert or tell her, “Come on, it won't hurt you to have some just this once.” She has plenty of temptation without you adding to it.

  • Join in

  • Cook healthy meals for the whole family so your husband doesn't feel like he's on his own. Get a couple's gym membership and make it a date, or try an activity like biking, tennis or hiking together. You might find that you lose a pound or two, yourself. You'll both be creating healthy habits that will benefit you for a lifetime.

  • Losing weight and improving health are noble ambitions. With your love and support, your spouse will surely meet her goals.

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Shelli Howells is a creative fiction writer, and a mother of six.

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