How Do I Persuade My Spouse to Lose Weight?
My husband is so overweight. How can I persuade him to lose weight? I have tried everything! Name Withheld
Paul Ciechanowski, MD, MPH, responds:
Instead of asking how you can persuade your husband to lose weight, a better question is: How can you create the circumstances to help him reach this goal? As a caring family member, you may be uniquely positioned to help him in several ways.
Direct persuasion on your part may backfire if your husband is not already motivated to change. He may feel that you are trying to control him, which will make him resist your help even more. In order to create the circumstances for change, ask yourself these questions:
- What are his views and perceptions about his weight?
- Does he think he needs to lose weight?
- How aware is he of the health risks of being overweight? Does he already suffer from diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol?
- If he wants to lose weight, does he have the tools to succeed?
For example, has he ever been physically active on a regular basis? Or does he lack the confidence to engage in regular exercise? Does he have experience regulating his own diet and eating nutritious foods, or is this something he will have to learn about?
The best way to support your husband may not be through examining his habits alone, but by examining your household approach to physical activity and healthy eating. You might try:
- Stocking up on nourishing foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean protein sources.
- Limiting availability of high-calorie snacks and desserts.
- Beginning to take regular walks as a couple or as a family.
- Joining an activity center, gym, or community center, or engaging in active group programs as a couple.
- Getting a pet. Research shows that having a dog increases the likelihood of regular walking.
These suggestions will not be a solution for everyone. Many times, people who are dealing with an overwhelming schedule, or shame about their weight, may not have success resolving the issue despite the encouragement of loved ones. Physical or mental health conditions can also be barriers to weight loss. Your husband may want to get screened for stress, anxiety, and depression. These are often accompanied by emotional eating and lack of motivation, which are also associated with weight gain.
Finally, remember that you have special insight into the obstacles your husband faces in trying to lose weight (like long hours at work, or joint pain). Consider what reasons there are for your husband not to change his behavior. Understanding what's keeping him overweight may help you both.