How to Get Husband to REALLY Look at Himself?

Updated on August 05, 2017
M.6. asks from Woodbridge, NJ
11 answers

We've been married a long time :) We have 6 kids, a beautiful grandbaby, a home, a life - we love each other very much. I am in my 40s and hubby is in his 50s. I work (not super hard, but I put in effort) at keeping myself up. I watch what I eat, I exercise moderately, I do my hair/makeup/perfume/dress nice daily, even though I work from home and do not have to. I care about what I put into my body. I am no supermodel by any stretch of the imagination, but I look relatively fit, can still wear a two piece bathing suit, and generally folks guess my age at about 35. My husband comments often and appreciates that I look "good" and finds me attractive.

My husband does literally nothing to take care of himself. He is currently 40 or so pounds overweight (and carries it all in his stomach). He won't exercise, eats anything and everything. He blames me for "shrinking his clothing" because he has to go up yet another pant AND shirt size now (so I told him that he needs to wash his own clothing so that doesn't happen anymore). I know in my heart when he looks at himself, he really doesn't "see" what I see - an overweight middle aged man who is begging for a heart attack. He is currently on 3 types of medication - all of which he would not have to take at all if he lost weight and exercised on a somewhat regular basis.

Of course, beauty is only skin deep. I get that - and this has nothing to do with how attracted my heart is to my husband on a daily basis. But honestly, if I met him in a bar, he would not be a person that considered to be physically attractive. His inability to care about his health and how he looks is more of a turn off than actually how he looks.

Suggestions of how I can get my husband to care more about his body and his health? I have tried cooking him special meals - same as I eat, which he eats and then walks over to the cupboard and eats and eats and eats some more. Or like today, he skipped the lunch I made him and went to McDonalds stating he was too busy to eat the lunch I packed . . . but had time to drive 5 miles one way for fast food. He will exercise with me once in a great while, but usually has some mysterious pain show up that prevents him from doing anything for a couple of weeks (usually I just ask him to walk with me - not run or bike or do cardio - nothing that should injure him). I tell him that I want him around with me for 50 more years to please take better care of himself. I tell him that he can gain 200 lbs and I will still love him but for his own sake to take better care of himself. Nothing works. I don't harp, beg or cajole him and I stopped saying anything about the fast food or snacking since that didn't help and nagging is not my style. Obviously, I'm not going to leave him over this. He isn't depressed or anything - does lots of things he loves and we just came back from a week's vacation out of the country and have our daughter's wedding in two days.

Thoughts?

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C.C.

answers from New York on

There will be some similarities in my response here to the responses to questions from moms who want to have healthy children.

First of all - yes, if he is so certain that you are "shrinking his clothes", he should do his own laundry to keep an eye on that unfortunate situation!

As for "eats and then eats some more from the cupboard" - if you are preparing a meal, just remember that he likely needs more calories than you do! You might be totally satiated by one small piece of grilled salmon, whereas he might need two pieces.

As for McDonalds at lunch - doesn't that sound exactly like all of the moms here who complain about "eat the snacks, leave the sandwich"?! If you prepare lunch for him to take to work (which, by the way, is *very* generous of you), maybe you should refer to all of the posts here about healthy lunches for kids - finger food vegetables, cubes of cheese, etc...nothing that requires too much "effort" to eat.

Lastly - keep exercise fun. Take a couple's dance class, go on a sunset hike, do pushups on top of each other (no clothes required).

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H.W.

answers from Portland on

If it were me:

I'd reread what I wrote, with fresh eyes. First, I would thank my lucky stars that I have a good enough metabolism and genes (and hormones!) that I am able to look younger than I am and not have to work too hard to keep fit. These are blessings which you should count twice. For some, these are impossibilities. Hormones affect men, too-- it's not just women who go through a change near middle age. So, I'd be very thankful that this time in my life was being kind to my body and then...

....I'd realize that by comparing myself to my husband, I'm being unfair to him. He's his own person with his own metabolism and hormones and genetics. When we say "I do", we take vows to love and honor that person in all forms. I would take this to heart and be honest with myself.

Honest in admitting that, even if I don't say it out loud, my husband knows how I feel. Our words are one thing, and our actions are far more transparent. People have to be stupid to NOT notice the looks (or even, the 'vibe) one receives when they go to the cupboard and 'eat and eat and eat'. I would admit to myself that, in my behavior, my husband knows what I think of him.

I would try to see my own self through new eyes. What am I doing that is helping him to feel good? What am I doing which inadvertently cements these patterns? Silent, even covert disapproval, is still obvious and he would likely be highly aware that I'm disappointed in him. I would not try to tell myself otherwise.

I would also try to have compassion. These things don't happen in isolation. I'm going to give you a bit of insight in what I've gleaned from your past posts... you and your husband have had to emotionally walk away from your very impacted son. It might have been 'the right decision', but I'm going to guess that, in his heart of hearts, your husband has grief about this. It's a grief that might go on for a long time as he comes to terms with the fact that you can do everything and not fix a heartbreaking situation. Men are fixers, generally. They feel good being able to solve problems. This is something which, as a father, he couldn't solve.

You wrote recently, in a time of crisis, "both my husband and I are under tremendous stress - he eats when he is under stress and I have severe panic attacks, so last night while I am shaking in a corner crying from a panic attack after getting the call about Joe's most recent attack, my husband is standing at the cupboard consuming everything in sight". If it were me, I'd have a lot of compassion. I am certain, in that situation, that my husband would not look down on me for having a panic attack, he would understand that there is stress and try to be of comfort. This is your husband's coping mechanism, whether the stress is prevalent in the moment or not--it can be residual--he's still feeling it in some way. Add to that, the stress that comes with the knowing that one's spouse is disappointed in them.

I'm going to add something here from my own experience, and I think a lot of people can relate: when people who tend to easily gain weight lose it, they do tend to gain it back and quite often, end up even heavier than they were before. I have seen this with both myself and close friends. They don't always say it out loud, but I can tell a truth: many of us beat ourselves up over this. It feels hopeless that it's so hard to lose weight. It feels hopeless to lose weight and not be able to maintain that loss. That, in itself, is stressful. Hence, overeating can become a spiral. (I mean, if you're going to be worse off than you are now, it's easy to fall into the 'why even try?' mentality.) Consider that your husband is doing a lot right now, watching his grown children leave, marry, coming to terms with the fact that he cannot 'do better' for one of them, coming to terms with the fact that middle age is happening and he's not getting any younger. It can be stressful and frightening.

If it were me, as I nearly always suggest, I'd go try and see myself through new eyes, gain a new perspective and compassion for the situation. A counselor would really help. Part of the family dynamic we don't talk about often is changing our own behavior so that we can allow others to change theirs, to give them room. I believe that what goes on in my own head starts with me, so that's where I'd start. With me.

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J.B.

answers from Boston on

Speaking as someone who is overweight, please let this go. You have said your piece. His hearing is fine, so he heard you. He's a grown man and in charge of his own health. People who are overweight are very aware of it. We feel it every minute of every day. We see a number on the scale, or feel the pinch of a waistband or the need to tug a shirt down over an expanding midsection. We see our flabby belly when we take a shower or dress or undress. We feel disheartened and disappointed when shopping for clothes, hoping that the ill fit is just bad lighting but knowing that we really need to go up a size. When we work out, we feel embarrassed at how our shorts ride up or chafe, how we jiggle, how we get out of breath or our joints or feet hurt with minimal effort. We feel humiliation and shame, and we know that when we're eating a burger and fries instead of something wholesome that we're making it worse but in the moment, that taste is more satisfying than a goal that seems far off and unattainable. Guys are better at glossing over it and pretending to not notice the changes, but they feel it too. They know what they look like, they know how lousy they feel, they know the health risks.

You and your husband have a very stressful life. You have kids in the military and a high-needs young adult child who will require long-term care. You have your ways of coping with stress. Maybe his way of coping with stress is to eat junk food and not exercise. Maybe getting fit feels like one more impossible goal, one more source of stress, one more way to try and fail, so why try at all?

Now I get that you understand that eating well and exercising are ways to deal with stress and function at a higher level, be his best, and be there to enjoy life in the long term. Intellectually, he knows that too. But his heart isn't there. Until he chooses to change, he won't. And nothing you can do will make that happen sooner than he is ready. Stop talking to him about his weight and health. No matter how good your intentions, it feels like judgment. And it's humiliating. And totally, completely, 100% ineffective.

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T.M.

answers from Tampa on

You really come across harshly. He is probably painfully aware of his weight. I am overweight too and I get it. I work a very demanding full-time job with a substantial commute. My kids are in Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and I volunteer with PTA. When I'm not working, I'm typically dealing with kid activities or just getting kids fed, homework done, baths and bed. Right or wrong, I prioritize myself last...at the end of the day, I just have nothing left to exercise and focus on my weight.

It sounds like your husband has the weight of the world on his shoulders. You have a lot of kids with at least one being special needs. Financially, that is huge for someone to carry. My guess is that he's just emotionally worn down and spent. Try to give him a bit of a break.

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J.C.

answers from Anchorage on

If he changes it has to come from him and be for him. You have voiced your concerns, now let him be. But, if he hasn't had a check up with the doctor in a while I would encourage one, maybe seeing his lab results can motivate him if his health is poor.

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B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

Have you tried asking him about details for his funeral?
Does he want a plot, a casket and burial or cremation.
How soon after he's gone are you allowed to date again?
That sometimes can get them started thinking about doing what's needed to put the funeral off.
He's gotta want to - and until he realizes he has a problem and wants to change - there's nothing you can do.
BUT - he's 50 - metabolisms can change a lot from 40 to 50 - and really? 3 medications from only 40 lbs over weight?

I'm 55, menopausal, hypothyroid - and I could stand to lose a LOT more than 40 lbs.
And I've tried, and tried, and TRIED - and keep trying.
I've decided I'm built for famine and I'd have to practically stop eating altogether in order to drop a single pound.
I can just SMELL a brownie and gain 5 lbs - I don't even have to eat it.
To put some perspective on this - I wish I ONLY had 40lbs to get rid of.

Continue being active - make it look like fun and see if you can get him to join you on a walk or bike ride every so often.
Don't forbid fast food but try to cut it down to once a week - especially soda.
And if you can manage that - then once every 2 weeks, etc.
He's ultimately an adult and he's got to live life on his own terms - not yours.

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K.G.

answers from Fort Myers on

I wouldn't go with the death route. I would schedule physicals for both you and your husband, go at the same time. Maybe mention when you are scheduling, tell whoever that you are concerned about your husbands health, weight wise.

Go for walks after dinner, insist he comes with you. Talk to your kids. Don't gang up on him but maybe have the kids say they are worried about his weight.

Good luck, let us know what happens.

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N.B.

answers from Oklahoma City on

We see ourselves how we see ourselves. I recently saw a photo of myself and I didn't even recognize myself. I have avoided having my photo taken for years. I have changed in the last few years and I was shocked at how much I have aged. If I hadn't had my clothes on then I wouldn't have know that person was me.

There isn't any way for you to make him see himself as you see him. The only thing you will do is push him away. You need to accept this is what he looks like and how his body looks.

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C.T.

answers from Santa Fe on

That's hard. I don't know how you would motivate another person to start working on a healthier lifestyle. He has to be motivated within himself and he has to want to do it. Have you had a serious talk about how worried you are about him and how you don't want to lose him?

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Y.H.

answers from Atlanta on

Have you tried cooking classes for yourself?

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D..

answers from Miami on

All you can do is not bring junk in the house. Cook nutritious meals that are tasty, don't have much bread or pasta in the house, and hope that at some point in his life, he will decide that he wants to change his own lifestyle.

If you don't have a good life insurance policy on him, you had better get one. You don't ask, either. If he balks, you tell him that his pride is not going to pay the bills if he is hit by a car.

Sometimes people getting older makes them reconsider. Hopefully, he will.

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