Posts Tagged ‘BMI


girlfriend is getting fat

Reader F. G. writes:

My girlfriend is getting fat. What can I do?

Dear F.G.:

Holy loaded question, Batman! That’s quite a lot to take on. First, I have to address a few, ehm, political issues.

Let’s start with the term “FAT”. This is such a weird word in our culture. It means “big”, it means “unhealthy”, it means “ugly”, it means “having mass”… I have to wonder which of these your girlfriend is becoming. Is she just getting bigger? Is she becoming unhealthy? Are you concerned because she’s becoming unattractive to you? Or because you’re worried she’s going to come to irreversible harm?

As you probably know, our culture is obsessed with being thin. Regardless of how much we rail on about the harmful effects of anorexia and bulimia, or how many of those Dove “Campaign for Real Beauty” commercials we see, we still live in a more fat-phobic society than one that celebrates actual health. We equate being thin with being attractive, even though “skinny” girls are often in just as much (if not more) trouble than “fat” ones.

Therefore, saying your girlfriend is “getting fat” makes me want to punch you in the face. Given the weight we give that word (haha, pun intended) in our culture, the fact that you would use that word to describe your girlfriend makes me feel like you’re probably a crappy boyfriend to begin with. Don’t ever talk about a girl getting fat if you care about her. Period. We have enough issues with media-inspired self-loathing; we don’t need help from our (supposedly human) boyfriends.


Size isn't always a good indicator of health. Image: Michal Marcol /

But we must talk about the real obesity epidemic in our country. Yes, lots (if not most) people are overweight in our great nation, and few are doing anything to stop it — i.e. exercising and eating better. It’s just so easy to get cheap, fast food and sit on your butt in front of the TV all day.

Being overweight also means someone is generally much more likely to get life-threatening diseases like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, etc. Extra weight can also harm joints and cause other mechanical problems. So while it’s dangerous to encourage girls to hate their bodies and be thin, it’s equally dangerous to let them think it’s okay to be unhealthy and overweight.

As a real, loving boyfriend, you are allowed to care about your girlfriend’s weight as a health issue. I’ll give you that much.

Now let’s decide if your girlfriend really has an issue, or if you’re just being a shallow jerk.

I have a love-hate relationship with the National Institute of Health’s Body Mass Index, because it doesn’t always work. This is because people are individuals, and not numbers, so being “average” doesn’t actually mean anything. Many of my friends who are more in shape than anyone I’ve ever met weigh a lot (muscle weighs more than fat, FYI), and thus have a BMI that is a bit too high for their height. The BMI doesn’t take your fat percentage, cardio fitness, or muscle mass into account, so it’s not always totally useful.

Still, if you look at the BMI calculator, you’ll see that a “normal” weight is about 40 lb. in any direction for a given height. For instance, for my height (5′ 7″), I can be anywhere between 118-160 lbs and still be “normal”. That’s a pretty big range. So if your GF is just gaining weight, she could still be in a healthy range, technically. And you’ve got nothing to worry about (beyond your awful fat phobia).

Basically, what I’m saying is, if she’s just gotten a bit bigger over time (perfectly natural as girls age), or maybe she’s going through a rough patch and is just gaining a bit of weight as part of it, my advice is for you to change your attitude about “fat”. Girls gain weight. It happens. If it’s not life-threatening for her or isn’t part of an unhealthy lifestyle change (maybe it’s just her metabolism, or she’s on a new medication), then you need to just be emotionally supportive. If it’s just a few pounds, she’ll probably lose them once her life gets back to normal anyway.

A friend of mine once asked what he could do about the fact that his GF was getting cellulite. I told him to dump her and find a new GF if it bothered him, but good luck because we all (at least 80-90% of us) have cellulite. Girls who don’t have cellulite are either extremely lucky, or have been subjected to unnatural surgery (gods bless ’em). I told him to deal with the fact that girls get dimpled skin on their asses as they age, or get over having a normal, healthy girlfriend.

I offer you the same advice, if you’re just over-reacting to an increasing number on your girlfriend’s bathroom scale. Deal with it. Or be shallow and date a 19-year-old until she starts gaining weight, at which point you can just repeat the process eternally and never have to be emotionally mature or deal with a real, human girlfriend who has imperfections.

If, however, you are really concerned because your girlfriend has picked up some unhealthy lifestyle habits, then I will gladly offer you some better advice.

1. Don’t be the pot calling the kettle black. Chances are, if your girlfriend is eating poorly, you are, too. One of the hardest components of a weight-loss plan is that our closest friends and relatives hold us back by offering us cake, candy, cookies, and cheeseburgers. Maybe you have the exact same (crappy) diet as your GF, and she’s just got a less hyper metabolism (tends to be the case in women vs. men). If you want her to be healthier (and possibly thinner), you’re going to have to commit to it, too. Anything you ask her to do, you’ve got to be willing to do right alongside her.

2. Talk frankly with her about your concern for her health. Notice I said health, and not weight. Screw the numbers, screw the BMI, screw the cellulite or muffin tops. Tell her you want her to be happy and healthy, period. Make sure you’re not accusing her of being a fatty, or of being unattractive, or of any of the other fears we girls fall prey to when we’re gaining weight. Have a discussion with her, meaning listen to her side of things. I’m guessing she knows she’s been gaining weight. She’s probably less happy about it than you are. Work with her to come up with a plan for helping her out.

3. Help her set goals. Like most mammals, human beings train really well if there’s a reward system in place. Sometimes, looking and feeling better is a reward unto itself, but that can take a long time to take effect. If she’s not going to become more healthy merely for her health’s sake, she’s going to need something to strive for that will actually motivate her. My sister and her husband had a trick where if she made a fitness goal (lifting a certain amount of weight, running a certain distance in a certain amount of time, etc. — NOT losing weight), she got a present, like a pair of boots she really wanted or a new dress. Make the goals reasonable, of course; if she’s very over weight right now, shedding pounds may be an easy goal to accomplish in a few weeks’ time, as weight loss is always easier at the start of a training regimen. A great idea is to make her promise to eat 5 vegetables a day for a week, and if she accomplishes this, at the end of the week she gets a non-healthy treat, like ice cream. This limits her intake of unhealthful food by making it a reward rather than a right, and pushes her to replace the unhealthy food with good stuff during the week.

4. Be supportive. In every aspect of the word: emotionally, physically, spiritually. Do research for her on new workouts or recipes. Volunteer to cook meals. Pack her lunch. Buy her a new pair of running shoes or a set of exercise clothes. Sign up for a gym and go with her every night, or take her out for a walk before dinner. Listen to how she feels. (Pro-tip: that’s what makes a good BF in the first place.) Don’t ever tell her she looks fat, and don’t rail on about your disappointment if she misses a goal. Losing weight and being healthy can sometimes take tough love, but she should get that from a trainer, and not her boyfriend. She needs real love from you.

So, there you go. Godspeed, amigo.

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