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Dear Emuna: My Overweight Husband
Dear Emuna

Dear Emuna: My Overweight Husband

Help! My new husband is gaining a lot of weight!


Dear Emuna,

My husband and I have been married for a couple of months and he is steadily gaining weight. I believe this is happening because he works near his parents’ house and often visits during his lunch break. My mother-in-law works all day but prepares lunch for my husband before she leaves. While it may be very nice of her to go through the effort of preparing lunch and saving us a lot of money, her freezer is stocked with every kind of chocolate bar and mousse cake, etc... I can’t say I blame my husband for helping himself to these goodies because he has a sweet tooth but his pants are telling me the truth. I try going brisk walking at night but he always has a different excuse not to join me. And he’s not interested in working out in the morning or joining a gym. As a health-minded wife I prepare healthful meals and snacks which he enjoys. But is there anything I can do to help him? I don't want to deal with diabetes and high blood pressure and all that stuff later on because my husband and his mother are being negligent about his health now.

Concerned Wife

Dear Concerned Wife,

I do think there is something you can do now. Take a deep breath and relax. Your constant focus on weight and health is more likely to drive your husband in the opposite direction so pull back.

It’s very normal for men to gain weight in the first few months of marriage. Often they self-correct. Sometimes they stay a little pudgy. Rarely does it become a serious health risk. Either way, you should stay out of it unless asked. Treat your husband as an adult and not as a wayward child.

It’s also a mistake to blame your mother-in-law. Your husband is out of the house all day. He has access to sweets wherever he is. If he wants it, he will get it.

Additionally, it is frequently true that children who are not allowed sugar at home “go a little nuts” when they are faced with treats in public. I don’t know if this is operating here but, perhaps, instead of resenting the goodies in his mother’s freezer, you should stock your own. If your husband is eating treats to excess outside the home, having them available in his own house may actually diminish the tendency and the craving.

You don’t mention if there is actually diabetes and high blood pressure in the family or if you are just being extra careful. Negligent is a strong word to use. We should all be conscious of our healthy but sugar in moderation is unlikely to tip the scales, literally or figuratively.

You want your husband to feel at home in his own house and with you. You don’t want him to feel pressured to exercise or under scrutiny whenever he takes a bite of food. You may believe you’re doing this for his own good but you are making his home uncomfortable and perhaps even pushing him back into his mother’s arms, thereby raising a host of other issues!

It is impossible to live in the world today and be oblivious to weight – either as a health issue or an appearance one. It is everywhere we look and your husband can’t possibly be oblivious to his situation.

So change your tactics. Treat him like the grown-up he is. Make your home, kitchen (and freezer!) more inviting. This is much more like to produce lasting results – in all areas.

My Wife’s Middle Age Crisis

Dear Emuna,

My wife is fifty-something and she is not the same person she once was – at least not at this point in time. She has gone from calm and rational to hysterical, crying at the drop of a pin and yet completely unavailable emotionally. She seems to resent her family and her responsibilities, including me. I’m not sure how to respond. I want my old wife back. Any advice for me?

Bewildered Husband

Dear Bewildered,

First, relax (this seems to be my favorite piece of advice these days!). Your wife hasn’t been taken over by zombies or even a dybbuk. This is a perfectly normal phase of life – and reaction. All women go through it with similar emotional roller coasters. (Just be grateful she hasn’t packed her bags and moved to a ranch in Montana!)

But I’m a little troubled by the phrasing, “I want my old wife back.” If you say that to her, I can guarantee it won’t be effective. Because, if you truly love her, you just want what’s best for her as opposed to your “old wife” which sounds like the situation that was best for you.

Give her a break. Take some of those responsibilities off her hands. Help with the kids, the chores, the daily grind. Give her space. Give her support. At this point in time, your needs need to take a back seat. You need to let go of your expectations of how things “should” be and just try to accommodate to the new reality.

This is not a permanent state. I promise. But it can be challenging. And how you, as a couple, emerge from this challenge may be determined by your response. Your best chance is when you wife feels your love and support, your concern for her and not your anxiety about who’s making dinner, folding laundry, filling out forms, driving carpool…You don’t want to make that ranch too appealing…

Boundaries for In-Laws

Dear Emuna,

My in-laws are very difficult and manipulative. They suggest activities that are very hard to implement like going to the park in the 100 degree heat or driving 2 hours each way to the zoo with my young children. When I refuse, they attack me and try to encourage my husband to bring the kids and visit without me along (which besides being hurtful and offensive wasn’t the issue). They are constantly putting both of us in an awkward position. What should I do?

Miserable Daughter-In-Law

Dear Miserable DIL,

I don’t think it’s what you should do. This is another classic example of the statement from the book of Genesis – “Therefore a man should leave his parents and cling to his wife” – This is your husband’s job. He must put his foot down and make clear to his parents that 1) his first loyalty is to you, 2) the two of you (and the grandkids) come as a package, 3) if they can’t be courteous and respectful to you then neither of you will come at all and, a lesser but still significant point, 4) the activities suggested must be suitable for you and your young children.

I know it sounds harsh but boundaries and priorities must be established and held strong. Believe it or not, when all parties know and understand the parameters of the relationships, it actually leads to happier, healthier ones.

Setting boundaries with your in-laws is one the first and most common tests a marriage faces. It’s up to your husband to get an A.


May 18, 2013

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 25

(16) jessy, June 12, 2014 1:19 PM

Dont be unequally yoked- fat husband healthy wife

Be yoked together equally as far as is possible with what is apparent. You are a health conscious, nature loving animal loving individual who likes to swim and work out at the gym. Maintaining he temple God has entrusted us with is important to you. Please do not put yourself with a person who has no self discipline in those areas of life that are important o you. Eventually even with all the patience of Job you will begin to resent them. Two cant walk unless they agree.

(15) Anonymous, May 26, 2013 4:13 PM

Fat Husband

To the wife who is not happy with her husband's weight. The fact is that I really commiserate with you, and feel your pain, but I have learned from experience, that only the person who can bring about change, is the overweight person himself, or herself. They have to be uncomfortable enough to want to do something about it. No amount of nagging, or whining will help. It is that way with every addiction. As far as Emunah saying that sugar is ok in moderation, I have to vehemently disagree. Sugar is the worst thing in the world for you, and there is no such thing as moderation. The reason for that, is, as with other addictive products, sugar is very addictive, and most people are not satisfied with just one cookie. There is sugar in virtually everything, even listed under different names, such as fructose, corn syrup and sorbitol. There is natural sugar in fruits, which are healthy, but they too are carbs. So, if in addition to natural sugar plus artificial sugar, that is found in all sweets, it is no longer about moderation. Hence, the craving grows, and that's when the problem starts. The best thing is to try to stay away from sugar (not fruits) as much as possible, if not completely. Ideally, if parents would not allow their children to eat so many sweets from a young age, they would avoid a potential obesity problem, as well as not revving up the sugar addiction. Other than continuing to make healthy foods, there is not much more the writer can do. Keeping some sweets in the house, is like putting an obstacle before a blind person. It will not calm his addiction. He will only crave more. It's like saying, "just keep a little alcohol in the home of an alcoholic. He and only he can make the changes.

(14) Anonymous, May 24, 2013 1:43 PM

M.D. & Husband

Good points by Emmuna and the responses. Nagging won't help, but the book "Wheat Belly" is a good resource and has worked for both my wife and me. I have recommended it to my patients.
Perhaps it's time for a general physical exam with diabetic & cholesterol screening?

Talk with the mother-in-law afterwards and if she won't change the meal options, then take a look at what Emmuna said in the next response about boundaries for in-laws. I liked the idea of going for walks.

A tip for the general physical exam--ask the doctor's office if he can have the fasting labs (cholesterol & blood sugar) about a week or so BEFORE the physical. This will save you time by having the results ready.

At our Schul, we have a number of people with diabetes, cholesterol & obesity. For Kiddush and other events, we try to offer healthier vegetarian options. This reminder automatically goes to anyone sponsoring an event with food.

(13) Hava, May 24, 2013 9:27 AM

Make your kitchen more inviting to him

I think she's doing a great job by providing healthful meals and snacks for her husband-how about asking his mother for the recipes of his favourite foods and adjusting to make them more healthy.

Any other change has to come from him-setting a good example , being supportive and praying for him is all a good wife can do.

I get upset when a healthful lifestyle is downplayed publicly as there is not enough awareness as to the true power of nutrition combined with excercise to prevent disease and for quality of life.

I had always followed the generally accepted health protocols, ended up very sick in early 30's-eventually reversed it all by getting rid of the 'acceptable in moderation' rubbish. Be more aware, read 'eat to live" by Dr Fuhrman MD.

(12) Suzanne, May 23, 2013 4:31 PM

I have to agree with the other respondants

It is NOT OK for a spouse to get overweight. My husband did and it put a lot of strain on our marriage. When I met him he was nice and slim but started to put the weight on in his twenties. By the time he was in his 50's, he looked like he was 9 months pregnant all the time and he acted like I was the problem if I didn't swoon over him in the bedroom. Now, in his 60's, he has diabetes. His family, although most started out in life, slim enough was all over weight, too, so this is a multi-generational problem of out of control eating. Marriage is hard enough without all these extra added problems.

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