Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Prospective Bride Biding Her Time Over Lover's Obesity

Love is a beautiful thing. When two people meet and create that indestructible connection with one another, it's something to be treasured by both the man and woman for the rest of their lives in holy matrimony. It's the best thing that ever happened to me.

But what if there is a concern by one of the two lovebirds for the other spouse? Not about that other person's commitment to the relationship, but with their physical ability to be in it for the long haul. I'm referring to the subject of obesity and how that can impact the wedding plans despite the love.

This is precisely the predicament that one of my readers finds herself in right now with her lover who is obese and she needs help trying to help him lose weight and get healthy for the sake of their future together. It's a common issue that I'm sure many of you will be able to relate with whether you are thinking about marriage or have been together for many years.

Here's what she wrote to me in that e-mail:

Dear Jimmy,

I have been a devoted reader of your blog for some time, and I applaud you not only on your weight loss, but on the help you give to others!!

I have no idea if you'll actually read this or take the time to respond, but I am genuinely not sure where else to ask.

I'm at a healthy weight, 130 lb at 5'6". I had my own weight loss experience in adolescence, about 75 pounds, so I can appreciate the sensitivity and the emotions that go along with the experience of being obese and then losing the weight.

My significant other is obese at 5'9", about 275 pounds. He was that big when we met, and I love him regardless of his weight. He's an active guy, and despite some minor breathing/snoring problems, he seems relatively healthy.

We are at the point in our relationship where we're thinking about marriage. My only hangup is his health--I don't want to be a widow at an early age! He does see a doctor regularly, but says his doctor thinks he's healthy. (I'm not sure if he has a "unique" doctor, or if he's lying about what the doctor says--I can't imagine a responsible doctor wouldn't be encouraging him to lose weight.)

He's been obese his entire life, and I know he has a lot of insecurities left over from childhood due to his weight. It's a really touchy subject.

My question is this--How do I broach this with him? What can I say that won't hurt him? My concern is honestly with his health, not the way he looks. Now that we're thinking of spending our lives together, I want it to be a long, happy marriage--not one cut short by preventable health problems. (As a side note, I stopped smoking, a pack-a-day habit, for the same reasons, so I don't think it's totally out of line for me to bring this up.)

Any suggestions? I've read your blog post about this topic, and have "waited for him to come back to me," but he's not coming back for help.

If you're too busy, I understand. But if you can take the time and help, this Midwestern girl would surely appreciate it.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

This e-mail really hit home with me because this is something that my wife Christine and I went through early on in our marriage, too. After I started livin' la vida low-carb and lost my weight in 2004, Christine revealed to me that her parents didn't want her to marry me because of my morbid obesity.

I was shocked to hear this, but I certainly can't blame them for their concern. It was serious as my reader notes and it needed to be taken care of. While it didn't prevent our wedding from taking place and many years of happiness together, we are a MUCH happier couple now that I have taken back control of my weight and health.

Here was my response back to this reader about her question:

THANKS so much for writing and I appreciate your sincere question about how to approach this man you love. When I got married to Christine in 1995, I weighed 350 pounds and Christine was only 95 pounds. She loved me and that's what drew us together. But she too was worried about my health like you are.

In fact, she bugged the crap out of me about it and I grew resentful that she was judging me and telling me what I NEEDED to do. I didn't want to hear it. It wasn't until I discovered on my own that I needed to eat a low-carb diet as my permanent lifestyle change that I made the changes needed to lose weight and get healthy.

How can you convince your man that low-carb or some other nutritional change is right for him? Eat that way yourself, show him how delicious and easy it is to eat this way, and encourage him to give it a try. Do it together and you may find great receptivity.

It will be difficult, especially when he wants sugary, carby foods, but you stick to feeding him low-carb. Eventually, he'll never notice the difference while his weight keeps dropping. BE THE EXAMPLE FOR HIM TO FOLLOW!

It's not a perfect solution, but you do have a lot more power than you think. YOU CAN DO THIS! I'm also a big believer in just being honest about how you feel so everything is out on the table. Yes, honey, I love you, but I'm seriously concerned about your weight for the sake of our future. Could you commit to doing something in that regard if I help you?

How could he say no if you give him the puppy eyes?

THANKS again for writing!

It is indeed a difficult subject, but one that needs to be out on the table. Tell that loved one exactly how you feel so at least he/she knows where you stand. Present it in a non-threatening manner and offer to give support and assistance in any way that you can. You might be surprised how well that is received.

Of course, encourage, encourage, encourage! That's something Christine was and still is to this day VERY good at. Positive reinforcement, especially when the going gets tough, is a necessary part of your strategy to help that loved one. Don't give up on them when they need you the most. Being there is most of the battle!

Incidentally, Christine's parents couldn't be happier or prouder of what I have been able to do to get my weight and health under control. They often tell me how much they care about me and that they are thankful I am Christine's husband. I wonder sometimes if they would feel the same way if I still weighed over 400 pounds.

That's neither here nor there because I DON'T weigh that much anymore. I'm fit, trim, and healthy as I've ever been because I'm livin' la vida low-carb. And I'm gonna KEEP ON living this way for the rest of my long and prosperous life. :D

If you are like my reader and have a loved one who struggles with their weight, then be encouraged today! Don't get down and depressed because THEY NEED YOU now more than ever. Take those feelings you have for that person and invest your time and energy into helping them overcome their problem with effective solutions.

I'm always here to help and would be honored to answer any questions they may have about the amazingly healthy low-carb lifestyle! E-mail me anytime at I'm happy to answer EVERY e-mail I receive and would be thrilled to hear from someone who wants to change their life forever!

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Blogger sjm said...

If HE doesn't want to change, then he won't.

Leading by example is all well and good, but the desire and the decision to change must come from the person.

You can't affect change ON someone!

8/21/2007 11:19 PM  
Blogger Kris The Grumpy said...

Seriously, I don't think there's a way to broach the subject without hurting him. There really isn't. Anything you tell him, he's already heard about 300 times from his family, friends and doctor. I'm in / have been in your situation, and the only thing I know that does work, is never to expect somebody to do something that you won't do, and to be there for them. I started Atkins, and I know this helps/helped my fiance get going and keep going. We're a low-carb household now. It helps if there's no opportunities around the house to fall off the wagon.
The way I remember it, *me* giving it a go (with my 40-ish pounds to lose and lax self-control) meant anyone could do it :D .

8/22/2007 1:44 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

I could not agree more, sjm. I've said as much many times here at my blog. :)

Kris, I'm so proud of you for being that example to Dave because it has no doubt been his primary motivation. Keep it up and don't ever give up!

8/22/2007 9:09 AM  
Blogger Pot Kettle Black said...

One of the best books I read doing my master's degree was Deep Change. It's about leading an organization through profound changes, "naked into the wilderness." The central premise of the book is that to lead a deep change involves doing a deep change on yourself first. Or, as one of my professors espoused in another class and another model, you have to "model the way". It's key. If she is going to change her SO, she's going to have to change first.

That said, I want to point to something that bothers me here. I was heavy when I married my wife. Actually, when I met her, while I dated her, when I proposed, when we got married, and for most of the first two years of our marriage. My wife might have been concerned, but she didn't "lead" me to health. She did model the way, by doing her own diet (and she didn't need to lose anything), and starting her own walking regime. But if she was worried, this didn't diminish the fact that she wanted to spend the rest of our time on earth together, however long that might be. I do not doubt your reader is being forthright, but I wonder if there aren't deeper things and this is a cover. Her SO could be hit by a bus the day after their marriage and she'd be an early widow. This feels like a lack of trust in her guy. She doesn't trust him to handle his business, doesn't trust his reports from the doc, etc, etc.

So, specific advice:
1- Take a deep look at what you're really saying when you're finding a reason not to commit.

2- If it's really important and not a proxy for something else, change your habits to model the way.

8/22/2007 9:23 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Excellent comments, Pot Kettle Black! I'm happy to see your advice includes being the example. That IS the key.

8/22/2007 9:26 AM  
Blogger Columbus Foodie said...

As a morbidly obese person myself, I can honestly say there probably isn't a way for her to speak to him about it without hurting his feelings. Most (if not all) morbidly obese people are well aware of their obesity, and do want to do something about it. For many of us, our spouses are the only respite we get from the prejudices the rest of the world seems to harbor for fat people. Would she be trying to change him if the issue was something other than fat? For instance, if he smoked or drank a little too much or had a predeliction for taking risks? Change can only come from him; she can lead by example - as they say, you can lead a horse to water, but can't force them to drink. If he shows interest in getting healthy (and weight is not the only benchmark of health - I know several fat people who can do triathlons), then support him and don't sabotage his efforts. If he falters and gains weight after losing, don't make him feel like crap for it. And if his weight is truly a dealbreaker and his size isn't something you're prepared to live with "until death do you part", do the kind thing and don't marry him, and let him find someone who is willing to be there and supportive 100% no matter if he's 150 lbs. or 500. Sometimes, when you're that big, you can't see your own inner beauty and your loved ones can. If she can't see that at 275, how can she if he were to get to 375? Or 500 even?

Health is a relative thing. Jim Fix died when jogging. Enjoy the time you have together, no matter if it's 50 hours or 50 years.

8/22/2007 3:36 PM  
Blogger Breadless MrsB said...

This post really hits home with me because in my marriage, I'm the overweight spouse. I was about 185 when my husband met me, which isn't exactly thin for my 5'6' frame, so I know being overweight isn't an issue for him. However, since we've been married, my binging tendencies came back (I stopped that while we were dating - hehe), and I have put on AND taken off a good 30 pounds at least twice since we've been married because of it. Everytime he sees me packing on the pounds, he "gets on my case", and I really REALLY resent him for it while I'm going through it. It makes me feel like SUCH a child that someone feels they can tell me what to do. And I always tell him that he can't MAKE me want to turn around. In fact, his "encouragement" turns me off and makes me want to eat more. But eventually I think to myself, this isn't fair to him. Sure, he's supposed to love me for who I am, but he didn't marry this 30+ pound depressed slug, either. But there's one thing he says once in awhile that makes me want to pick myself back up again - children. I don't know if that's in the bride's plans, but my husband will mention that our goal is to have kids in the next few years, and when that time comes, being obese can present a really tough fertility obstacle. I already have some female plumbing issues as is, and being significantly overweight could exponentially compound that problem. If kids are in the plan, that could be a huge motivator for him. Other than that, he has to want it. And I agree with Jimmy - setting an example is the best, non-intrusive way to encourage him. I know for me it's really hard to eat an entire bag of chips when my husband is sitting right beside me and only has a handful.....

8/22/2007 6:44 PM  
Blogger Jeff Hamlin said...

Perhaps she should be a doctor, Jimmy. Wouldn't it then be ok for her to call her boyfriend obscene names because of the weight?

8/22/2007 9:13 PM  
Blogger Carol Bardelli said...

Jimmy, I totally agree that love is a beautiful thing. God is Love and we're made in his image. When we love we are at our best.

I would share the potential bride's concerns if I were in her shoes. Her concerns are out of love.

As for obese people in denial or just not being ready to change we do have to extend patience and empathy.

BUT obese people pulling out examples like jogger Jim Fix dying at 39 (who had a horrendous family history of males dying of heart disease early) or pointing to the rare athlete who had a rare defect and dies prematurely on the field, that's not fair play.

Obesity is a real health risk with 300,000 people dying a year from related complications. How many active normal weight people die from 'weight related' complications?

How many athletes die a year in competition? Way, way less.

Great Post! As always.

8/22/2007 9:18 PM  

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