Q: My girlfriend gained weight. Is there a right way to encourage her to slim down again, or do I avoid the issue all together?
A: There are certainly benefits to maintaining a healthy weight, so I wouldn’t say never acknowledge it. But I would advise you to think very, very carefully about how you do it.
You know that tiny thing you’ve thought about suggesting? Maybe something about more cardio each week? OK, now imagine that comment from every angle—and then thoroughly check for the back doors, side doors, and trap doors you might slip into where she demands you tell her “what you’re implying.”
There’s no such thing as being too careful here. We ladies are oh-so-sensitive to comments about physical appearance, and our significant other’s opinion matters a ton. Tell us we might benefit from more gym time, or point out our recent obsession with those super-caloric (but delicious) Starbucks seasonal lattes? You’re toast. You would never intend to hurt our feelings, but once a weight remark is out there, you can’t unsay it. All we’ll hear is, “I don’t find you attractive anymore.” That damage can linger.
Think big picture. This is your GF’s life, and her physique. If she is both content and healthy at her current weight, stay mum. If she loves her body, then why shouldn’t you?
But, if she’d actually like to get in better shape, pick up on words that might suggest she’s a bit insecure about those few extra relationship pounds. Hint, hint: if she criticizes her body, she’s looking for you to affirm she’s gorgeous. Tell her. Then, step a bit further. “If she is coming to you for advice, or complains about her weight, it is always best to validate her feelings, and offer to support her,” says relationship expert and clinical psychologist Andra Brosh, Ph.D.
How? Maybe make fitness a couple thing. Does she hate working out? Ask if she’ll hit up a new gym…with you. Does she complain about her weakness for ice cream? Say you’ve heard a lot of people feel better dairy-free, and then see if she’ll try it…with you.
In other words: Advise where appropriate, but never criticize. Encourage, but never push. After all, like Brosh says, “unsolicited advice, or trying to ‘fix’ her will only create problems and hurt feelings." And at the end of the day, focus on health. Work on eating better, trying new things, keeping it playful and just being happy—together. That way, you cannot possibly lose.
About the hot girl: Claire Austen is a 20-something freelance writer, sports enthusiast, and polka-dot-lovin’ everygirl trying to bridge the gap between what men know about women and what women wish men knew. She gives smart, super-honest advice about your biggest dating and relationship conundrums.