No one really wants to admit it, but sometimes our partners gain weight to the point that they become unattractive, and we don’t really know what to do about. So how do I tell my girlfriend she’s putting on weight without insulting or hurting her?

I don’t know if it’s just me, but overweight people are a really hard topic to discuss. It’s too personal, and some people take as much offence to it as sexism and racism. We live in a world that promotes body positivity, and whilst I completely approve of the promotion for healthy and diverse body types – it’s a different matter when it comes to relationships.

For me, the personal appearance of someone goes towards whether or not I’m attracted to them. If they look good at a certain weight when we start dating, but over the course of time gain (or sometimes lose) weight to the point that they look very different, I may no longer be attracted to them.

It would be no different if I liked someone who was clean and nice smelling, and over the course of the relationship they stopped showering so often and became horrible smelling. It’s not superficial if it affects your physical attraction to your partner, which is important for sustaining a successful long term relationship.

There have been studies and social experiments that have shown that men fear their partner being over weight, or gaining weight during a relationship a lot more than women. Women will also try and be more polite about their attraction in relation to their partner’s weight and appearance than men, as can be seen between these two videos showing tinder meet-ups in fat suits.

I asked my camera guy for his perspective on weight gain in a relationship from the guy’s point of view.

I hate this situation. I never know what to do and it will happen. It always happens. Girls bodies are complex. And things like birth control and menstruation mean of course their weight fluctuates. I always try to look my best whether I’m in a relationship or not. So I do find it kind of insulting if a girl lets herself go. I feel it’s incredibly insensitive to mention a girls weight at all. Specially as my mum forced us to watch The Karen Carpenter Story when I was young so my understanding is that mentioning a girls weight pretty much guarantees anorexia.

When a girl I’m dating starts putting on weight first I hope it goes away, then I start to resent her for not caring about her appearance, then I decide it’s time to be mature and have an open but delicate conversation about why it’s important to keep making an effort even when in a relationship but then I find it easier to take the cowardly way out and end things for pretty much any reason except her weight. My current cop out is that I always mention how I don’t find overweight people attractive before any relationship begins. It’s a bit of a dick move but at least they know how I feel about it going in and so far this has avoided awkward conversations and needless breakups. I’m sure there is a better way but I clearly seem to take the less mature way out and that’s definitely an area I need to improve on.

Firstly, I really want to reiterate that it’s not a “dick move” to be less attracted to your partner as they put on weight. You can’t control whether or not you are physically attracted to someone, no matter how much you care about them personally.

How you bring up the subject can be a problem however. For instance, just telling your girlfriend she’s gotten really fat and ugly is a dick move. Making fun of her for gaining weight is a dick move. I think most people would know when they were being mean about the situation, and I’m confident most people don’t want to do that.

As a girl, I’m very aware of my weight. I don’t check myself on the scales much, and I know I fluctuate in weight a lot because, well I love to eat a lot. So when I’ve put on weight, I probably already know.

It’s hard because I don’t want to be overweight, and I don’t want to become less attractive. Tackling weight gain however can be very difficult, losing the weight is much harder than putting it on after all. It’s very easy to take innocent comments about my weight as personal attacks, and I become extremely guarded on the subject.

In most relationship dilemas, I believe that communication is key. Sitting down and having an open and honest discussion is nearly always the best answer. However, from my own personal experiences, I know that on the subject of weight gain, it can be too hard to talk about it, and admitting to it.

I think the best course of action to start with is to promote a healthier lifestyle and weight loss routine. Figure out why your partner has gained so much weight recently. Are they eating more than before? Is the food their eating more unhealthy than before? Are they eating more take-aways? Have they stopped exercising as much?

If the weight gain is food related, then try and control the food your partner eats. Subtly. I don’t mean tell them “stop eating this.” or “you should only eat this amount of calories from now on.” Instead, why not offer to cook dinner more often? You can pick healthy, low calorie meal options. As a bonus, it’ll also give you brownie points, because who does’t love having their dinner made for them?

You can start making lunches together too. Why not try buying some bento boxes and making you and your partner’s lunch together? It’s cute and caring to have matching lunches, and you can make sure to put healthy options in the lunch. There’s lots of easy tricks to it too, like picking chicken or fish over red meats as the protein, and packing it full of veggies over carbs.

If you think your partner needs more exercise, there’s lots of fun and discreet ways to promote it. You suggest going swimming, which is both a fun date and a great work out. Think about walking to destinations together over driving, and set the pace at a brisk walk which is fantastic for cardio. You can do lots of sports as a date idea, from axe throwing and archery to a rowing boat date (and letting her do a bit of rowing) or bubble football.

Going for walks in the park, along the river front or just camping and hiking is a great way to get exercise without telling your partner you think they need to exercise more. It’s also great for you, because by doing it together you’re keeping yourself healthy and you bring your relationship closer.

If the situation gets to the point where non of these suggestions work, or they aren’t effective and your partner is still gaining weight, or simply isn’t losing weight and you don’t believe you can be attracted to them anymore, then have a talk about it.

Be open, be understanding and under no circumstances should you be accusing. Explain fully how you feel about their weight, how it affects your relationships and what you think is needed to happen to makes it better. Listen to them explain why they’ve gained weight, any fears or insecurities they’ve been facing and be as supportive as you can. Weight gain is often a symptoms to other, more serious issues, such as depression.

Finally, if nothing changes, and you’ve stated how you feel about their weight affecting your relationship, and they refuse to try and lose weight, you can leave them. It’s not cruel to leave a relationship that no longer works for you. It would be cruel to stay with them if you no want them. And it’s ok to tell them it’s because of their weight gain.

I understand guys don’t want to give that as the reason. It sounds horrible, and they’ll probably bitch to their friends about what a jerk you are. However I strongly believe it’s best to be honest, and if a guy were to break up with me because I’d gain a ridiculous amount of weight and refused to do anything about it, it might be the kick I need to finally think “Actually, yeah, this is totally unhealthy and I need to fix it.”

Finally, I want to say this is also something guys should think about themselves too. Female body image is more scrutinised than mens, but I think it’s only fair both parties be aware of their looks. Guys are just as capable of gaining weight and becoming less attractive to their partners, so be careful not to come across as hypocritical and get yourself to couple spin classes!