Baby Got Fat

Finding a healthy way to navigate a weighty issue

by Yusef Najafi
Published on January 29, 2009, 12:00am | Comments

There's no easy way to tell your partner that he's gained weight -- and that it's time to do something about it. For a local, 44-year-old gay man, his partner's family provided the ''my, you've grown'' wake-up call. Asking to hide his name, for obvious reasons, he tells the story of visiting his Brazilian partner's family on their turf -- the land of sinewy beach gods -- a few years ago.

''I hadn't thought I'd gained that much, but when we got to his father's house and walked up to the gate, before his father even said 'hi' to me, he said to [my partner], 'He got fat,' in Portuguese.''


(Photo by Ljupco Smokovski)

It was harsh, but true. After all, there was a time when the couple shared each other's clothes, each weighing about 165 pounds. Mr. Anonymous guesses to have been 30 pounds heavier during that Brazil trip, and adds that the torment didn't end with his father-in-law.

''My partner has a nephew who at the time was 2 years old. We were walking down the street, and at one point I looked over and he was sticking his stomach out, filling his face with air, and pointing up at me and sort of waddling. I was mortified.''

Mortified, yes, yet motivated to do something about the extra pounds. He got a personal trainer. He even tapped a nutritionist to help him diet. And although he says keeping the weight off remains a struggle today, looking back on that trip remains a reminder to keep working on it.

Luckily, you don't have to mortify your partner to make him realize he's gained more than just a few extra pounds. In fact, Michael W. Payne, a licensed therapist at Hearts and Minds Therapies in Dupont Circle and Old Town Alexandria, advises against it.

Payne, who is gay, says weight gain can stem from a wide range of reasons including depression, a lack of motivation or some other underlying problem. Regardless, it's a topic you should broach delicately.

''Invariably, for the person who's gained the weight, it's not something that's lost on them,'' he says. ''They probably already know.

''By directly criticizing the person, it just makes them feel worse and maybe even more hopeless,'' Payne adds. ''Before saying anything, it might be good to look at the big picture and see what the partner thinks is contributing to it.''

Payne says it would be beneficial to find a way to combat your partner's unwanted weight collaboratively.

'''Hey, we don't do things together anymore, we've gotten kind of into a rut,' or 'We used to like to play tennis together, why don't we start doing that?' or 'Why don't we sign up for this exercise class at the gym and work out together?' Those are just a few examples,'' he says.

Payne suggests the partner without the weight problem also take a greater role in the couple's diet, whether that means cooking healthier meals at home, or steering them away from restaurants with unhealthy offerings.

If trying those initial tips doesn't get you anywhere, you might need to seek some external help.

''Again, to tell the other person, 'I'm not attracted to you anymore because you've gained a lot of weight,' that can come across a little harsh,'' Payne warns.

Instead, he suggests bringing up the idea of couples counseling by saying things like, ''We're in a rut,'' or ''We don't have sex anymore.''

These are, says Payne, ''things that are a more general commentary and that aren't pointing the finger at the partner, but are more, 'I'm not happy with the state of the relationship and I want to do something about it.'''

To get in touch with Michael W. Payne, call 703-622-2993, e-mail mpayne@heartsandmindstherapies.com or visit www.heartsandmindstherapies.com.


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