Telling Your Wife, "It's Time To Diet"

Q: I don't consider myself a superficial person at all. I have been with the same woman for over five years now and have treated her with lots of respect. I know my wife has been under a lot of stress lately with her job and, as a result, has been eating a lot more than she used to. She stopped going to the gym altogether. The other day when we went to the mall, she was trying on some clothes and wanted an opinion from me on a dress she was considering. She liked the way she looked in it, but seeing her in this dainty outfit, I realized just how much weight she had put on. Clearly she was no longer the size she once thought she was. When she asked me how she looked, I told her she looked great. But I lied. How on earth should I break it to her that maybe it's time for a diet? Am I a horrible person? Thomas-33

Dr. Pamela: No, you are not a horrible person. On the contrary, you sound like a caring and concerned husband. It's a good sign that you are taking the situation seriously. Close to two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, nearly 50 percent higher than 30 years ago, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Extra pounds increase the risk of disease and decrease the chance of recovery. More weight means more effort to breathe and more effort to move. That lack of movement can lead to or heighten depression — and from there it's a downward spiral. Since weight gain is a health issue, you should muster up the courage to have the talk with your wife.

It's a big emotional punch for a woman to notice a gain in weight, to feel fat or bloated. So, when you do talk to your wife, remember to be sensitive. Believe me you're not telling her anything she doesn't know or that she hasn't seen in the mirror.

Even so, there is no good time and no magic words to begin the discussion. But I can tell you when NOT to bring up the subject.

  • When she is getting ready to go out.
  • When she is feeling down or depressed
  • When her family is coming to visit.
  • When her reunion is in a week
Instead of raising the topic yourself, wait for your wife to bring it up. Then mention that you would like to be healthier, too. If it seems right, ask what her health goal is. Let her tell you what she wants to do. Ask what you can do to help. Does she want you to help with the cooking or your support by not bringing home fast food? Does she need an exercise partner?

Be a partner, but don't nag or remind her of her diet. Look for physical activities you can do together, like walking, biking, or taking a couples dance class. Learn about nutrition and help with meal planning. Your message to your wife needs to be clear: I love you, you're important to me, and if you want to be healthier, we can do that together.

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