My girlfriend is in the process of losing weight, and the topic comes up between us occasionally (at her instigation), usually with a context of "I'm going to be so much hotter in a few months".

She's very much doing it for herself, and I don't think there's unhealthy body image stuff attached. From a purely objective standpoint, I can acknowledge that there is room for her to get slimmer without being unhealthy. I, however, being thoroughly enamoured with her, think she's the hottest thing on two legs irrespective of what size dress she wears. I generally express this opinion, but I'm a little worried that it might come across as rubbishing something that she's doing for herself.

I don't want to express either "you shouldn't lose weight" or "you'd be hotter if you did lose weight" - I think she's gorgeous, and I think she'll still be gorgeous if she lost some weight. It makes no difference to me, and it's her body anyway, I have no say in the matter even if I did have an opinion. How do I respond when she brings up the topic, so that it doesn't come across like I'm either being unsupportive of her efforts or telling her she needs to lose weight?

This subject is interesting. I'm going to assume your girlfriend's personality suggests that she isn't too sensitive about this stuff given the information.

Objectively, anyone who can healthily lose weight, should lose weight if the goal is overall health. (Even slight variations of weight have medically-proven effects on health and lifespan) [1]

Please, do not ever tell anyone that they shouldn't lose weight, barring serious medical concerns (and never tell anyone, especially your girlfriend, that they should lose weight, either). [2]

Your viewpoint is healthy, so don't be ashamed of it. Embrace it. Personally, I think you have the right idea, you're just having trouble expressing it.

When she says:

I'm going to be so much hotter!

You say:

If you get any hotter I think I'll melt.

Something like this expresses your opinions of her currently, without telling her that she should or shouldn't continue.

You should also mention something positive to ensure that she knows how you feel. Something like:

It's awesome that you want to be healthier, and I'm proud of you either way, and [insert gushy comment about how pretty she currently is]

In fact, the less you mention weight, the better. If I were in this situation, I'd keep it in the context of health.

Non communication tips that might help:

  • Be supportive with your actions. Eat healthy with her. Go to the gym with her. A team effort shows that you're on her side no matter what.

Clarifications:

[1] I'm not suggesting you should be modifying your weight if you are at your normal healthy weight for your build. I'm saying that anything other than average weight is not ideal. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/04/03/522475728/carrying-some-extra-pounds-may-not-be-good-after-all

[2] Please do not mistake my suggestion on weight loss comments to come from a medical point of view. There are people who need to lose weight and there are people who need to gain weight. If the problem is immediately-life-or-serious-harm-threatening, it's okay to speak up. If not, I recommend leaving it to the doctors or go to medical school because otherwise it's not really your business.

I have a very similar situation in my relationship where my SO is trying to better themselves despite me thinking they're already perfect. My advice for you is to get excited and stay encouraging! When discussing this, focus on the benefits for her, not yourself--that's the reason she's doing this after all.

For example, try asking if she has any goals (or if she doesn't, it could be fun to set some!). Is it fitting a certain size of jeans or a certain swimsuit? Or maybe it's a weight number. Once you know what she's working towards, you can specifically mention this when discussing her plans:

I'm excited to see you in those jeans, I know you'll make them in no time if you keep this up!

Or even compliment her on what you've seen her doing

I can't believe you already ran X miles this week—you're kicking butt!

Don't overthink this. If she's decided to do this, then she has her own reasons and as the SO, the best thing you can do is push her forward!

Weight is a touchy subject. My partner and I have both varied our weight quite a bit over the past 10 years or so and over that time we have both been sensitive in our self image.

What I have learned is that it is much much better to focus on health than looks. Since you don't mind either way, you can emphasize that you like how she is now while still being supportive of her health. Even though weight and health are tied together (it's possible to be unhealthily over/under weight), it's also possible to be a healthy weight and have an unhealthy food lifestyle or an unhealthy relationship with food. The number on the scale is just a number.

It's so great that you're focusing on being healthy and I really appreciate that. The number on the scale doesn't matter so much to me as long as you are looking after yourself!

This, in addition to sufficient compliments/gushing on her current looks will give her support in the right direction and still allow you to compliment her all you like.

I think she's gorgeous, and I think she'll still be gorgeous if she lost some weight. It makes no difference to me,

At the same time you state:

From a purely objective standpoint, I can acknowledge that there is room for her to get slimmer without being unhealthy.

Now I actually disagree that this implies "she's not doing it for me". That it does not change that she is first choice for you actually means that she is not trying to effect a change on your choice but rather on how happy she feels you can be about it.

So likely the right frame of mind is "I cannot imagine right now being more infatuated with you than I am but are certainly open to let myself be surprised".

And in some manners it can turn out like interior decoration: you cannot really imagine assigning any significance to it but when getting to live with its results, one has to acknowledge that it does actually make a difference.

So keep your mind open about being impressed and don't sabotage her efforts by closing your mind to the possibility of being appreciative of the results.

For me personally it's not as much the result of dieting (when starting from reasonable size that is) but of exercise that's most relevant: I like touching something feeling alive, and basic musculature does that job better than either fat or bones.

Again: nothing wrong by letting your tastes be led by who you chose to embrace anyway, but be open about appreciating changes even if they don't aim to change your choice.

  • I know exactly why she's doing it - she's aiming to be a professional singer, and apparently most gigs won't hire women above a size 12 (UK sizes) at the absolute maximum, and smaller is preferred. Given that she's been working on it since before we started going out, I'm confident that she's not doing it particularly for me. – Tam Coton May 17 at 10:05

How do I respond when she brings up the topic, so that it doesn't come across like I'm either being unsupportive of her efforts or telling her she needs to lose weight?

In contrast to the other answers provided, I think you should not comment on her looks/weight at all - not even compliment on them too much.

Losing weight takes a lot of discipline, endurance and determination. She seems to be self-aware enough to know that she is looking good already and will look even better in the future, so don't stress the superficial and obvious.

What I would do/hope to hear from my partner in a situation like this:

  • Coming back from a run? Tell her how you admire the determination to get up running despite the hot sun/rainy weather/comfortable couch!

  • Eating salad instead of cake? Let her know how you would not have the fortitude to resist the temptation!

  • She had a moment of weakness/skipped the workout and is now back at it? That's some really good resilience. She should be proud for not quitting, but getting back at it where most people would use this situation as an excuse to not even try any more.

  • (and so on...)

Those things work when she has started the workout already, if, however, she is not at that point yet, you might encourage her by getting involved yourself. It is much easier to remove yourself from the bed in the mornings if you're not going to work out by yourself.

If you are not interested in joining her on the diet or workout, you could still tell her how seeing her progress helped you to pick up some good habits yourself, like meditation or simply walking in the park for recreation, rather than watching TV.

By focusing on the mental, rather than physical, aspects of her efforts you can show encouragement and care, without giving her wrong impressions. Of course, whatever you say should be one hundred percent honest at all times though.

A woman once gave me some advice that seems to work quite well. You only need tell her 3 things:

  • you love her
  • you think she's sexy
  • you think she's beautiful

I changed the third one by adding a 'to me' at the end - as the song goes, "you are so beautiful, to me."

Specifically to losing weight, if she says, "I'll be hotter...", you could respond with, I love you now and I'll love you then. Or, if so you'll still be sexy in my eyes. Or, you'll always be beautiful to me.

You should definitely tell her how you feel.


Why?

If one of her motivations is that she believes that you'll find her more attractive afterwards and she later discovers that your opinion of her attractiveness hasn't changed then she might feel a bit disappointed or possibly even decieved if you haven't told her otherwise.

I'm not implying that not telling her is a form of deception, I'm just saying that it's possible that she might feel that way, especially if it's a bigger motivational factor than she's letting on.

Sometimes people get ideas in their heads about how people will react to something that turn out to be drastically different from how the person would actually react and it can be very disheartening when that happens, especially if a person has gone to a lot of effort.

All in all though, it's better to be sure and being able to be open and frank about your feelings is important in a relationship.


How?

When she next brings it up, sit down with her and have an open and frank discussion about it.

Ask her if she's losing weight purely for health reasons, or of part of her motivation for losing weight is because she thinks she'll be more attractive.

Whatever she replies, tell her that her weight loss won't make you find her any more or any less attractive than she already is. Then reassure her that you will continue supporting her, but you just wanted to make sure she understands how you feel about it because you don't want her to be under the false impression that her losing weight will affect your opinion of her attractiveness.

After you've discussed it with her, go ahead with whatever she decides, let your mind be at ease and don't bring it up again unless she wants to discuss it further.

Generally speaking, honesty is the best policy.


Afterthought

This is an especially difficult subject because for many years the world has conflated skinnyness with attractiveness, and the media has made sure to reinforce that notion as much as possible.

As the saying goes though, beauty is in the eye of the beholder - everyone has different tastes in what they find attractive (e.g. skinny, fat or muscular; men or women; tattoos or no tattoos; dark or pale; make-up or no make-up). For every person that finds someone attractive, there's another who doesn't.

Hence I personally think weight loss should only be done for health reasons or if a person truly thinks that it makes them look better in their own opinion, and not because of the opinions of others. Either way, for some people it can be a slippery slope, and it shouldn't be done on a whim.

  • I know exactly why she's doing it - she's aiming to be a professional singer, and apparently most gigs won't hire women above a size 12 at the absolute maximum, and smaller is preferred. Given that she's been working on it since before we started going out, I'm confident that she's not doing it particularly for me. – Tam Coton May 17 at 6:12
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    @TamCoton What country do you live in? That sounds like a completely ridiculous policy. Even if it's legal, it's unethical. Anyway, if you're absolutely 100% sure that she doesn't think you'll find her more attractive afterwards, then I don't quite understand what your question is asking. – Pharap May 17 at 10:11
  • I'm not saying she doesn't think I'll find her more attractive afterwards, I'm saying that's not her primary motivation. She's doing this for herself, not for me. And I'm in the UK. Supposedly they justify it by saying that's the size costumes they have, and you have to be able to fit into them. – Tam Coton May 17 at 15:36
  • @TamCoton That's a really poor excuse and if it's true then someone ought to do something about it. In my part of Britain I've never heard of such a policy (granted I'm not a singer, but I've visited places that have live acts). Anyway, if you're not concerned that "being more attractive" is part of her motivation then like I say, I'm not sure what the point of the question is. At the moment it sounds like you're saying "I want to tell her that I won't find her more attractive, even though I don't think that's one of her motivations". – Pharap May 20 at 9:50

I've been having the same conversation with my wife for the past twenty years, except for that period in there when we had lost the weight (alas, she gained part of it back and I gained almost all of it back). In her case, there are other body image issues, which also play into it. This may also be the case with the OP's girlfriend as well.

My advice?

  • Acknowledge her feelings. If she needs to lose weight, she's aware of it, and may become upset if you tell her otherwise.
  • Affirm your perception of her. You're entitled to your view of her, so stand your ground.
  • Don't argue about it. If she wants to challenge your view, don't get drawn into an argument; it will go nowhere.

Example: "Yes, sweetheart, you could stand to lose some weight. We both need to. I want to have a lot of years to spend with you, so I don't want either of us to drop dead of a heart attack. That doesn't mean that I don't find you drop-dead gorgeous."

You are treading on thin ice here. Apparently (mentioned in one comment) she feels like she has to reduce weight due to professional reasons. That is a whole lot of pressure and she can use all the support she can get. A significant other who tells her that they could not care less about any change is sabotaging her efforts. This will be worse if you don't show any inclination to follow her example. If the body image she thinks she owes her job is deprioritized and ridiculed by you, that is akin to a passive-aggressive sabotage of her career choice and the personal efforts she thinks she has to pursue.

At the same time, adopting that body image and the respective personal standards means that if she is successful, she'll be viewing you with those metrics as well. Whether or not she actually judges you with those metrics, you'll feel bad about it and resent it.

So try figuring out whether you can actually figure out a manner where you can join a gym membership or do some common or separate fitness activity that will make you both move in a similar manner without getting on each others' nerves. Join her efforts in finding, preparing and enjoying the kind of food required for her endeavor.

Yes, you did not sign up for that. Tough. She did not sign you up for that either, but what we think we may manage and what we actually do are different things. If she gives up at one point of time, you can keep going yourself and if she does not pick up again eventually and decides to follow a different track, you can phase out your efforts slowly before she, in turn, starts feeling inferior to you.

But whatever you do, "I love you the way you are, it's fine if you fail what you have set out to achieve" while setting a demoralizing example yourself is not going to make her as happy as you think it would. Being an actual partner here might not be as cheap as mere words.

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