When a loved one or partner keeps gaining weight, concerns about their health may make us wonder: should I say something? And if you do, what’s the best way to broach the subject without hurt feelings or a fight?
Dr. Vijaya Surampudi, a physician with the Risk Factor Obesity Weight Management Program at UCLA Health, knows firsthand how difficult conversations about weight can be. Such discussions can bring out frustrations, self-doubts, and even tears, so it's important to approach the talk in a considerate way.
“Weight is an extremely sensitive topic,” says Surampudi. “When you encourage a loved one to talk about their weight, be prepared for the conversation to get emotional, and difficult.”
Surampudi recommends some different approaches for starting such conversations.
The first is to ask an open-ended question, such as "What do you think about your health?" or "How do you feel about your weight?" This method gives your partner some control over the direction of the conversation.
Another method is to discuss the topic as a mutual goal, rather than something that is just about your partner or loved one. For example, you can talk about your own weight-loss goals and ask your partner for help. You could say, "I’d like to be healthier so I’m going to work on losing weight, and I’m going to need some support."
Making weight loss a group activity is often a successful strategy, says Surampudi. "It gets couples to be proactive."
Surampudi cautions against focusing on how weight loss will make your partner look better; instead, she says, focus on how it will improve their health. Strive not to be accusatory or to use prescriptive language. “You’ll just end up arguing,” she says.
If your partner begins their journey to a healthy weight, it's important to be a source of support for them along the way. Surampudi encourages her patients to set goals that are manageable so that measured progress inspires them to continue on their path. (Small goals can have a big impact on those working to lose weight, too; a loss of 10 pounds, for example, takes 40 pounds of pressure off the knees and ankles.)
"It's important to be there for your partner as they work to reach a healthy weight," says Surampudi. "Remember that health always comes first."