How To (Nicely) Tell Your Partner That They Need To Lose Weight

Let’s assume that your partner has recently gained weight. I’m not talking about a few pounds as I believe we should accept our partner the way they are, even if that means with “love handles.” But, let’s say you’re really worried about your special someone’s health and want to talk to them about it because it’s affecting the both of you. How do you do that? What’s the best approach?

Chances are your partner will immediately take it as negative feedback or criticism. Mr. Sutton, psychologist at Stanford University, sustains that nowadays people aren’t used to giving or receiving criticism anymore. However, without feedback and criticism, there wouldn’t be any progress – anywhere.

When we notice that a friend’s button up shirt is quite tight around his belly, we might not hesitate to teasingly ask whether he’s gained a couple pounds. However, the closer we are to someone, the harder it gets to give them honest feedback – particularly when it comes to delicate topics. Weight is just one of those touchy subjects – especially among women. A nicely intended reference to the muffin top can quickly lead to several days of the silent treatment – uh oh! If someone points a weapon at us, we have two possibilities: attack or defense. This also happens in relationship discussions, especially since we (uncounsciously) perceive words as weapons. We almost always react by defending ourselves against even the most positively formulated criticism.

Everything we say can be interpreted in different ways:

He says: “Honey, the traffic light is green.”
She says: “Who’s driving – me or you?!”

The statement “Honey, the traffic light is green” can be received very differently. While the man could have been making a purely factual statement, the woman took it totally offensive as if he was trying to tell her how to drive. This is the tricky part. It’s hard to predict with which ear a communication partner will receive a message, however, you can do certain things to minimize or cushion a possible defense reaction. When it comes to a weight discussion, it’s vital to be prepared and start a conversation cautiously, yet with courage. Today, I want to show you how to disarm your words or, at least, call a truce before kicking off “the talk.”

“Sweetie, maybe you should do without that piece of cake today?”
That’s an honest comment, but it won’t get you anywhere. A study on 1,300 women showed that by trying to manipulate their eating behavior, their partners actually caused the opposite reaction. Cravings and binge eating increased among those women, they started taking laxatives or developed an unhealthy attitude towards food and eating in general.
Therefore, it’s best to not interfere and control, but give support instead.

Create an appropriate atmosphere
Enough time and a calm atmosphere are the right conditions for the talk – maybe in the evening, when calls and e-mails don’t come in every other minute. Warning: holidays are usually a rather hectic, emotional time and therefore not ideal timing.

Be appreciative and respectful
What goes around comes around. If you start a conversation with appreciation and respect, chances are that your partner will treat you in the same way. Make your loved one feel that you mean well. So-called “stroking,” that is using flattering words, can be of great help when it comes to conveying to your partner that you’re doing this for their own good.

Watch your body language
A gesture or facial expression says more about what we’re thinking about others than a hundred words. Adopt a posture that conveys affection, not rejection. An attentive look with your head slightly inclined to reveal your neck shows the other person that you, too, are vulnerable. Don’t cross your arms, but try to lean towards your partner instead.

Be fare and square
Even if the truth isn’t always pleasant, honesty is the best policy. Frankly express your thoughts rather than surprising your significant other with a scale or fitness equipment for their birthday or secretly booking active vacations instead of an all-inclusive resort. Up-front and honest doesn’t equal rude or mean. It’s not what you say, but how you say it – so choose positive words.

Send first-person messages
Let your partner know you “come in peace” and that you’re not exactly sure how to best approach this topic. Ask whether he or she is okay if you just give it a try. They’ll most likely say “yes” – which is a positive first step.

Turn accusations into wishes
Some people sustain that accusations are just badly expressed wishes. Therefore, make sure you convert accusations into wishes before uttering them. Take time to think about what you really want from your partner. As most people like to lead a healthy, vital life your partner may even wish for that very same thing and you can discuss how to make this wish come true together.

Motivation, not pressure
Suggest activities you can do together and that guarantee a healthier lifestyle for the both of you. Jogging as a couple, taking dance classes or cooking fresh, healthy meals several times per week are excellent examples. By the way, did you know that couples who head out for a run together on a regular basis have more and better sex? Yep, true story. You’ll burn additional calories and strengthen your relationship at the same time. Let’s go, start your first couple workout!

Seek feedback
Ask your significant other how you can best motivate them, what would help them and how you can support them. If the talk goes well, you should seize the chance to find out how he or she would like to be approached about this topic in the future. In case your conversation goes down like a lead balloon, you should still ask your partner how you can address such topics in the future and what they’d need for you to be able to freely express your needs and make suggestions. No matter how you do it – always make sure you’re setting a positive example. If you, too, snooze instead of getting up for a run, spend your evenings on the couch shoving chips in your mouth or widen your belt every month, that’s not a great prerequisite for success (neither yours nor your partner’s). Men and women tend to converge in the course of a relationship – so you better start with yourself. Be the change you want to see.

If you are the one getting weight-related feedback from your partner, try to take a deep breath and accept the criticism as something positive instead of getting all defensive as an immediate reflex. Not that easy, is it? 😉

Bye for now,


Vera Schwaiger Vera studied dietetics & psychotherapy. She lives her life according to what Einstein once said: "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." View all posts by Vera Schwaiger