Wedding Woes

My BF vs. his body

Dear Prudence,

I don’t know how best to support my boyfriend in his relationship with his body. We’ve been together for about four years and he’s been chubby for most of that time, which he’s been comfortable and even happy with. He has worked from home since COVID began, but his company, after delaying their return to in-person work several times, finally announced that they wouldn’t be returning in person at all but instead transitioning to a fully remote workplace. This has been really difficult for my boyfriend as he hates having home and work in the same place and had been really looking forward to finally “going back to the office.”

The issue is that he’s an absent/emotional eater and grazes constantly throughout the day when he works from home. Stressed out about a project? He snacks. Anxious about a meeting? He snacks. Bored? Excited? He snacks, sometimes to the point where by the end of the workday, he’s on the couch with a food coma and too full to eat dinner. He’s always been a big snacker, but having constant access to our kitchen during the workday has exacerbated the habit by a lot. I honestly wonder if the stress of his work situation has triggered binge eating disorder or something similar, though I haven’t broached that with him.

He’s gained a lot of weight over the past couple years, and although he never expressed discomfort with his body before this, recently he’s made some comments about being frustrated by his “lack of self-control” (his words) and said some cruel, disparaging things about his current weight and how he doesn’t fit into his clothes. I think he looks great regardless and have told him as much—I have zero issue with his weight gain except that he’s upset about it. It’s really difficult to watch him struggle with this and see him so unhappy in his body when he used to be the opposite.

So my question is, what can I do to support him? We already go for daily walks together, and I’ve made it clear to him that I don’t think less of him for any of this, and my (deep) attraction to him has not changed now that he’s heavier. I’ve also felt him out about finding a similar job somewhere else if working from home is detrimental for him, but he loves his job and his coworkers and has great benefits on which we both rely for insurance, so he’s loath to leave. I love him and I hate seeing him be so cruel to himself, and I want to do whatever I can to help him through this—I just don’t know how.

— Stumped in Seattle

Re: My BF vs. his body

  • Can you talk to him and reiterate that you love him in any way shape or form and ASK him if he wants help with the eating?  It may be as simple as working with him on shopping habits.  I know as a WFH person if it's in the house I'll eat it - so don't bring it. 
  • I'd try to convince him to get into therapy. 
  • It's interesting how WFH can affect people so differently.

    We were only allowed to do it for about 2 months at the beginning of the pandemic.  I was eating WAY better and healthier because I never fell back on fast food for lunch.  Whereas at my office, my food options of what I keep or can bring in are so much more limited.  It's so easy to say "nah" and go to the Wendys or Popeyes across the street or because I didn't have time to pack a lunch. I also exercised more because I suddenly had an extra 60-90 minutes in the day.

    The main thing is the bf needs to ask for or strongly imply he wants help.  Otherwise, the LW's message that she loves and is attracted to him just the way he is, could come across that she doesn't really mean it.

    If so, I agree with both of you.  Therapy could be really helpful.  Or even a group therapy like Overeaters Anonymous, could help him with tools on how to eat more mindfully and commiserate with others in the same boat.

    As well as controlling the foods they have in the house.  Nothing is off limits, it's important to not make any foods "bad".  But if he mindlessly eats from boredom or stress, have healthy snack foods available that will be just as satisfying.  Grapes, carrots, and cucumbers are my go-tos for things that feel snacky but without many extra calories.

    He also might benefit from a meal plan schedule.  Like eating a snack or mini-meal every 2 hours during his work day.  But only if he enjoys that because it gives him a sense of control.  It's a detrimental idea if he would find it onerous and difficult to follow.
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  • I also think having a discussion about if/which snacks they keep in the house may help too. 1) it’s a lot harder to snack yourself into a food coma on snap peas and celery sticks, and 2) simply not having it home may help with the problem. I think LW has been great about it so far. 

    As someone who grazes when bored and who has struggled with more time at home the last few months I totally understand BF. It’s hard. My solution is just not to keep certain things in the house. I’ve had to tell H not to buy them. Because when I’m confronted with “am I truly hungry and if I am then I need to make this healthy snack,” vs “I feel like eating right now for no discernible reason other than it sounds good and hey look, there’s some cheese and a Twix bar” I usually skip the snack if I only have the healthy option. Granted I also probably have some amount of ADHD and executive dysfunction so take it all with a grain of salt. 

  • This has a lot of potential to go really badly. If he is saying to LW that he wants to lose weight and wants help with that, then LW could offer to help with meal plans or healthy snacks, but it doesn't sound like that's what he is saying.

    Offering to help him lose weight or trying to make food changes without his asking are going to read to the BF that LW is less attracted to him or feel controlling. If the BF really does have an eating disorder or disordered tendencies, that kind of message is likely to trigger disordered eating. Likewise, I could see a suggestion that he go to therapy sounding to him like LW is saying he is broken or not good enough.

    I think LW has to be really careful to respond to exactly what the BF is saying in the moment, rather than looking at this as a weight or food problem for them to solve.
  • This is tough! When I work from home, I graze more too, so I get it. I feel like I can’t do this at work because although I know they’re not - I do feel like my coworkers could be judging the amount of food I eat.
    Actually I said this before.  Hypnotizing did wonders for me more than therapy. 

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