Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I need some advice. Since COVID-19 restrictions started going into place last spring, my girlfriend and I have both gained weight. I’ve put on about 10 pounds, and she has put on more than that — if I had to guess, maybe 20 pounds? It’s noticeable on both of us, to be honest.
We weren’t super in shape to begin with — I’d call us average. But before COVID, we would go to the gym on weekends and maybe once during the week. Ironically, we also cooked more at home and ate healthier. Now we order out quite a bit. I tried making us salads for lunch for a while, but my girlfriend would just order delivery and I hate to say it, but we have burgers or pizza or tacos pretty regularly.
So I thought I was being a good guy and on Christmas, I ordered her a subscription to an app that helps with diet and workout plans. She got really upset, she cried, she accused me of finding her unattractive, which is absolutely not true, but if I’m going to be blunt about it, yes, we both looked better before we gained weight — that’s just a fact. Does she look bad now? No. But I know adding pounds makes me feel disappointed in myself and judging from her emotional reaction, it’s bothering her too. I guess the app gift was a misstep, so what’s the right way to motivate her — and me — to be healthier? That’s really what this is all about is health.
First, cut yourself some slack in knowing you two are not alone. A recent WebMD survey of 1,000 Americans found nearly half of women and a quarter of men had packed on pounds since COVID-19 crackdowns, for all kinds of reasons. Being home more consistently means easy snack access, and many people turn to familiar or indulgent food for comfort.
It didn’t help that when gyms shut down, it disrupted the fitness routines of many. The advice to “hunker down” isn’t exactly synonymous with “be super active and burn a lot of calories and while you’re at it be sure to eat really healthy.” And don’t forget to get plenty of sleep while you’re tossing and turning with pandemic-related anxiety about your job/family/health/future/etc. Ugh.
Nope, the gut-punch that is COVID-19 has also proved a waistline expander for many. So kudos to you for seeing the problem and seeking solutions now. No time like the new year to make some positive changes and start building new habits. Avoid attempting major sweeping changes all at once; that’s a recipe for failure. Start small with achievable goals, such as taking walks together a few times a week, or limiting the frequency or types of food you’re ordering.
Also, as humiliating or embarrassing as it may be to talk about one’s weight, this is a time when it will really pay off to be excruciatingly vulnerable with your partner. Avoid hurting her feelings by talking about your own. Share how your own weight gain has made you feel and share your motivation to make healthy changes. By focusing on your own work and journey, you’ll motivate her to examine her own self, and hopefully come along for the ride.
Let me guess: the bathroom scale that throws sarcastic jabs whenever you step up on it was sold out? Dang. Well, your healthy lifestyles plan for one was certainly a great Plan B, buddy.
And what makes you so sure her “emotional reaction” to receiving your awesome gift came from her frustration over gaining weight? More likely it was a response to your Christmas present that not-so-subtly told her, “Hey babe, you’ve got a lot of work to do on yourself right now, and I’ve got it all figured out for both of us.”
I thought you said you were both struggling? Then why the heck didn’t you at least wait until New Year’s and get the plan for both of you? And, follow me here, why didn’t you talk with her about it first? Something like, “I feel like I’m in a funk. Do you feel like shaking things up a bit, honey? I’ve been looking at this app — what do you think of it? Is this something you’d like to try with me to kick off 2021?”
There’s still an opportunity to do just that. But big picture, you need to stop worrying about motivating her and start worrying about motivating yourself if you’re truly so disappointed. I’m guessing she isn’t twisting your arm into eating burgers, pizzas and tacos with her. If she wants to go on a health kick with you, great. If she doesn’t, then do the darn plan yourself while continuing to tell her you love her and that you’ll both work together to get through this crazy time.