chubby hubby 88.
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Dear Dr. Batya,
My husband has been extremely overweight for many years. He has probably been on every single diet that exists and been in every single kind of weight loss group. The bottom line is that he is still extremely overweight, and his health is surely in danger, if not now, then surely in the future. We have been through millions of conversations, nagging, crying, pleading, begging him to wake up and realize that his life is in danger and that he has a family he supposedly cares about. Nothing seems to help. I even suggested a psychologist, of course, and he realizes this is what he needs, but he's still not willing to take the step and make the appointment. The answer is always the same: "Don't worry, you'll see, I'll lose weight." I feel that if he doesn't get outside help he will never be able to do it - the proof is already there. How can I get him to actually make up his mind and get help, no matter what that help may be? Thanks.
Sadly, you have touched on a very important aspect of weight loss - a person has to really want to lose weight himself. While you desperately want that for your husband, until he chooses to see this as an opportunity to have a better and healthier lifestyle, your pleas will simply fall on deaf ears. Rather than losing weight through a fad diet, he needs to realize that he must actually make real changes in his life. This is the true challenge he must choose to accept in order to have long term success. This takes time, lots of patience and tremendous persistence.
Once he does learn how to control his weight, these skills will be useful for weight management throughout his entire life. To lose weight, your husband not only has to be motivated but his reasons for choosing weight loss must be sustainable over time. That means a few weeks after beginning a program, when his motivation might be lacking, his reasons for wanting to lose weight will have to be important enough to encourage him to continue.
Weight loss is usually easier to accomplish when you have outside support. He is very lucky to have you as one of his greatest fans. You can be a good example to your husband, and he in turn can be a great role model for your children. You can help him make wise food choices and keep only "good food" in the house, help prepare appetizing meals that are tasty yet nutritious and offer variety, exercise with him at his pace and the list goes on.
There is no time like the present to get started. While it might be tempting to nag, instead you can gently point out the advantages of seeking a healthier way of life. The best reason to lose weight is indeed for better health. After all, you are what you eat. Many people who lose weight notice they have less pain, more flexibility, sleep better, feel better about themselves and have much improved lab test results. His clothing will be more comfortable, he will feel more energetic, be less fatigued, feel in control and look younger, among other things.
What are his excuses? I suspect that he has many, and needs to learn to be honest with himself about just what they are in order to effectively change his behavior. This is where a clinical psychologist may come in.
A good weight loss program, whether offered in a group, with behavior-oriented therapy or tried on one's own first starts with determining one's short and long term goals. Let's say, for example, his long term goal is to take off 20 kg. A short term goal may be to take off five kg. With this in mind, he can then look at concrete daily changes that he can implement that will make a difference. Perhaps he will cut out eating at night, or have breakfast every day or commit to walking a half-hour three times a week.
Achieving good health is a long term commitment. If your husband thinks he can lose 20 kg. and then be done, he will regain all of his weight and then some. Yo-yo dieting is familiar to many who place more effort on weight loss than on health maintenance. He must change his behavior and thinking and this can only take place gradually over time. Most people know how to lose the weight and have done so many times. The goal is to keep it off. If your husband is a real couch potato or a computer addict, he will have a hard time leaving behind these sedentary activities for a more active life.
Make sure that everyone offers your husband lots of non-food rewards and incentives along the way. It may seem silly, but we all like to be praised for our efforts. Just remember, inch by inch is a cinch!
The writer is a licensed clinical psychologist in Ra'anana. This column offers general psychological advice and is not intended to replace treatment by a mental health professional.