Dear Prudence

Help! My Husband Is Frustrated He Isn’t Losing Weight Faster. But I Think I Know Why.

Dear Prudence answers more of your questions—only for Slate Plus members.

A scale and a hand grabbing potato chips out of a bowl.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Mariia Veklenko/iStock/Getty Images Plus and lukas_zb/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members. R. Eric Thomas is filling in as Prudie for Jenée Desmond-Harris while she’s on parental leave. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)

Q. Silent on snacking: My husband and I (both men) are each working to lose some pandemic weight. For better or worse, a lifetime of body issues and sporadic disordered eating has made me familiar with the science of weight loss, while my husband is newer to wanting to change his body. I’ve also read extensively about nutrition, and have a healthier relationship to food these days. Generally, I stay out of his weight-loss attempts; his body, his business. I think he’s beautiful, I love him no matter how much he weighs, and I tell him that often.

Here’s my dilemma: He has a tendency to snack absent-mindedly at night on high-calorie foods without paying attention to portion size (like eating peanut butter or cereal straight from the package, often until it’s gone). He’s discouraged by his lack of progress and frequently says he doesn’t understand why he’s not losing weight. It’s causing him considerable distress. I think it’s the nightly high-calorie snacks before bed! But I’m worried about overstepping by saying something, especially given my own history with food and weight. I would never want him to think I’m criticizing his choices or trying to change him. So far I’ve erred on the side of minding my own business, but I wonder if I should mention the snacking as a possible barrier to progress.

A: One of the things that’s been hardest for me to learn is that just because some fitspo trainer on Instagram tells me they know how to snap me into shape, that doesn’t mean they actually have some intimate knowledge of my body, my metabolism, or anything else about me. The trainers I trust always emphasize that there’s no magic bullet, and what works for one person may not work for another.

I write all that to say that this is, as you’re aware, a tricky area that’s as much about mindset as it is about physiology. It’s possible that your husband’s snacking is impeding his progress. But it’s also possible that stopping snacking won’t change everything, or anything. Yes, there’s science to back up your theory about the late-night eating, but I don’t want you to set him or yourself up for disappointment or conflict. You write that his lack of progress is causing him stress and I’m curious how this stress is coming out. Are you two talking about your weight journeys? If so, one of those conversations may be an entry point to ask permission to share an observation. Keeping it general—i.e., late night meals are harder to metabolize—rather than specific about his behavior may help.

However, you first need to make sure that he’s actually looking for advice. He may just be looking to vent. Each of us is capable of Googling, DMing an IG trainer, or whatever we do, so trust that your husband is capable of governing his own process. But make yourself available to him in the way that he needs—maybe it’s as a coach, maybe it’s not.

Classic Prudie

From the ages of around 7 to after college, my beautiful, loving wife of 20 years was morbidly obese. By the time we met when we were nearly 30, she had lost a huge amount of weight, and since then has been a very healthy fitness geek. While she was obese, she suffered from social anxiety and depression, and regaining her health gave her a huge amount of self-confidence. I’m very proud of her, but the issue is she has entirely erased any part of her life that took place when she was overweight. She has no pictures, yearbooks, or mementos, and when our athletic preteen daughters ask what she was like at their age, or about any event that took place before she lost weight (like her 16th birthday party), she deflects the question. I understand the desire to forget about what was a very traumatizing portion of her life (and she has gone to some therapy), but I don’t think it’s right to hide her entire childhood and the journey that shaped her so much from our children. Who’s right?