When reality TV star Kourtney Kardashian told boyfriend Scott Disick that she was struggling to lose weight, his response left something to be desired.
“Ugh, I feel like 93 (pounds) is the dream,” Disick told the petite 33-year-old, sparking a public backlash.
In Kardashian’s case, it was pregnancy weight that was making her feel insecure, but it isn’t uncommon for women to pack on pounds when they enter into a relationship. In fact, a recent studyconcluded that couples living together were more likely to become obese.
But when is it OK for your partner to weigh in? And is brutal honestyhelpful or hurtful?
“Nobody EVER loses weight because of being criticized by a loved one, in fact the opposite is true,” says Nina Atwood, therapist and author of“Soul Talk.” “Criticism diminishes self-esteem, and low self-esteem is related to increased weight problems. Brutal honesty is hurtful in this situation because it hurts the relationship by signaling lack of acceptance. When you love someone, you are supportive. Love is acceptance, so if the person you love accepts you, his only job is to continue loving you,” she adds.
“Many people think that being hurtful will motivate someone to do something faster,” says relationship expert Lindsay Kriger. “It’s possible that your partner wants you to lose weight, but isn’t sure how else to get you to do it. I have heard a wife call her husband a ‘fat pig’ before. Instead of being a motivating force, it causes people to shut down, do the opposite or develop resentment and anger towards the criticizer.”
There may be many reasons a man would address his partner’s weight gain, ranging from loss of attraction to being controlling, but it could be as simple as genuine concern.
“Sometimes we need to get things off our chest and we don’t know how to express something that is bothering us,” explains Marina Pearson, founder of Divorce Shift and author of “Goodbye Mr. Ex.” “I believe we are always doing the best we can with the resources we have. Being hurt by another person’s opinion is something to look at. And something to remember is that we are only hurt by something we judge about ourselves.”
Of course, it can be difficult to discuss such weighty issues without hurt feelings.
“There has to be a way to talk about the situation without blaming or criticizing,” says Beverly Hills-based psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish. “It’s very important to acknowledge out loud that you’re feeling hurt. It’s also important to take an honest look at yourself and ask if there’s any way your partner can talk about this without you getting defensive. The person delivering the critique also needs to ask, ‘Why do I care so much?’ And the receiving person should hopefully be open enough to do self-exploration and understand why they’re overweight. Discussing the matter could actually make couples feel more bonded.”
On the other hand, Atwood says if your partner can’t be supportive, kick him to the curb.
“If your partner tells you that you are fat, lose the partner first, then work on yourself,” says Atwood. “You should never put up with being criticized in a hurtful way. You may be allowing him to stay in your life because he reflects the bad feelings you have about yourself. To accomplish positive goals, you must first accept yourself, be honest with yourself in a caring way and then only allow supportive people close to you.”