‘I love the person he can be sometimes, but the weight issue is getting in the way’
PROBLEM: My boyfriend has always been super obese but lately he has grown to be even bigger. It can be embarrassing to be seen with him out in public sometimes and my family makes me feel like I’m just settling for whatever comes along. I don’t mind a chubby man, but he is far beyond that, to the point where I am worried for his health and our relationship in general.
We have discussed gastric bypass surgery and he seems to be onboard with it but I’m not getting many updates on what his plan of action will be. I hate to keep bringing it up because I don’t want him to feel like I don’t love him anymore. I love the person who he can be sometimes, but the weight issue is getting in the way. How can I continue to stay on him about the surgery without seeming to be trying to force it upon him?
I want him to know that if he doesn’t plan to better himself that I won’t continue to stay without coming out and saying that.
ADVICE: It is too late to spare your boyfriend your judgement as he already knows that you are considering ending the relationship. His weight may well be a response to criticism in that he may be putting on extra weight because he can feel the pressure of not living up to expectations. If you really love him, and want him to be healthier and happier, then you might look at your own influence in the relationship and the impact it is having.
You might be generous enough to let him know that it is your worry for his health combined with your fear of embarrassment that is the issue
Currently you are in a phase of measuring – measuring your boyfriend’s weight and also measuring the level of embarrassment you feel in public with him. You might reflect on your own experience of being measured (eg, at a job interview or handing in an assignment) and remind yourself of the stress it puts you under and perhaps also see the subsequent fear of not being good enough, smart enough or beautiful enough. This is what he is going through, possibly all the time. It seems that at the beginning of the relationship, he had a break from judgement in his private relationship with you, as you like chubby men, but the shame you feel both from your family and the public has shattered that safety and now he has nowhere to just be himself.
Very often the overweight person themselves is the harshest and most punishing of critics
Our society has a huge intolerance (indeed bigotry) about fat people, and we blame and shame them with righteousness and add to their belief that they are not welcome in our world of body rules. Eating disorders are on the rise and the suffering that accompanies them is intense and sometimes life threatening. In terms of mental health difficulties, eating disorders are complex, difficult to resolve and often require a combination of medical, psychological and emotional interventions. In order to get the help that might begin a journey to self-esteem and recovery, the person requires all the support and faith in them that those close to them can muster. Very often the overweight person themselves is the harshest and most punishing of critics, so the belief of others in them may take some time to break through this barrier of self-loathing.
Think of any time you achieved beyond what you thought you could. Was there someone who championed you, who could see your potential and was a constant presence of support throughout your efforts? If you want your boyfriend to be successful in achieving a healthy lifestyle, you need to be this person for him – otherwise your influence is negative and might actually be harmful. Can you help him find pleasure and joy in his body? Can you create positive influences by cooking together, enjoying fun exercising (dancing, swimming, etc)? This might slowly get him to the place where he thinks he deserves to enjoy his body and then he might be open to seeking whatever help he chooses.
Surgery is indeed an option, but it seems he has a reluctance and this needs to be delved into; can you have a discussion where you are curious rather than secretly trying to push him? You can do this if you are sure you are not going to drop him if he chooses not to go ahead with the operation – he will pick up your emotional ground and respond to you with false reassurance if this is the case. If you cannot find it within yourself to love him as he is, then perhaps it is better for him that the relationship ends as his daily life is an experience of not being good enough.
ou might be generous enough to let him know that it is your worry for his health combined with your fear of embarrassment that is the issue and if you are sincere in this statement, he might hear the truth in it. Changing habits, particularly eating habits, is hard and it is natural to baulk at the challenge.
If we are to succeed, we need the cheering support of our back-up team, especially at the starting point, then at our first failure, then the second and so on until we get to the place where we are happy to be fully ourselves. It is a privilege to be considered a candidate for this team – try seeing it as such.