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He won't stop eating

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  July 21, 2010 09:01 AM

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1. We chat at 1 p.m. today.

2. If you are one of the people reviewing a self-help book, remember that your one-line review is due by July 31. Don't be late. I will track you down like the English teacher you feared in high school.

Q: Dear Meredith,

My boyfriend and I have been dating for three years, we live together, and we are both in our mid-30s. We have an excellent relationship. A little over a year ago, he was diagnosed with a medical condition that causes him a fair amount of pain. The treatment for this condition is a steroid, and one of the side effects of the steroid is excessive hunger.

This is the problem. My boyfriend -- we'll call him Frank -- no longer works out because of the pain he's in, and he eats everything in sight. He has put on a lot of weight. I love him, so please believe me when I say that I am concerned about his weight not for shallow reasons, but for health reasons. Don't get me wrong; we both love junk food, but I can control myself around it. He can't. I tried not buying junk food, but then he started buying it. So then I started trying to buy and make lower fat/lower calorie food for him (i.e. frozen yogurt instead of ice cream, reduced fat cookies, etc), figuring that at least he could binge on *slightly* less awful stuff. But instead he just went out and bought the full-calorie version. He bought me a huge box of chocolates for Valentine's Day, and it took me awhile to get through them, so eventually, he just finished them off.

Also, I work out regularly, and I've offered to bring him along. I've even offered to change my workout schedule to go with him to the gym, but he has declined my offers.

A couple of months ago, I bought a bag of candy for myself and hid it in my closet because I didn't want him to eat all of it before I could have some. One day, after I ate one of the candies, I left the wrapper on my desk, and he saw it, and asked where I'd gotten it (not in an accusatory way, but to find out where they were so that he could have one). I didn't want to lie to him (although I guess hiding the candy in the first place was sort of a lie), so I told him I was storing them in my closet to keep them safe. I said it in a joking way, but he felt terrible. He pretended to laugh about it, but I could tell his feelings were hurt - probably both because I'm not the type of person to hide things from him, but also because he feels sensitive about his weight gain. This is the crux of the problem. I want to talk to him about his food consumption, maybe explain to him that I am worried about the stuff he eats and the subsequent weight gain and the potential health problems, but I don't want to hurt his feelings, or make him worry that I am not attracted to him as much because of his weight gain. Weight is such a sensitive topic, and in his case, he has very legitimate, very real medical reasons for his weight gain. It is possible to control it through diet and limited types of exercise, but who am I to pass judgment on him for not being able to manage that? It is hard enough for the average person to eat right and exercise enough, and his situation is not average.

So my question is this: Do I tell him I am worried about him and risk potentially hurting his feelings? Or do I wait for him to realize he needs to change his habits?

– Worried in Waltham

A: WIW, I have to tell you that when my asthma gets really bad, my doctor gives me prednisone, a steroid that makes me very hungry. On the rare occasion that I'm on the drug, I want meatballs. And four bowls of cereal. And those breakfast pastries that come with a frosting packet that you squeeze yourself. I empathize with your boyfriend.

I think the issue here is that he doesn't know how to manage his hunger. A nutritionist can help.

Your boyfriend already knows that you're worried about this. He already caught you hiding candy. He's not going to be shocked if you sit him down and tell him you want him to see a nutritionist so that he can better manage this intense hunger. Tell him that you need him to do this for both of you. You're worried about him, but it's also difficult for you to manage your weight when you live with someone who's making fast food runs.

He's in pain, he's hungry, and he feels bad about himself. It's almost impossible for a person in that position to come up with a plan for weight loss. Be his friend. Tell him that you want him to be as happy as possible and that no one should have to figure this out by themselves. That's why there are medical professionals for this kind of thing.

Again, he already knows what you think. All you have to do is help him come up with a plan.

Also, after you have the talk, I highly recommend making out with him. Let him know this isn't about attraction. It's about love.

Readers? How can she talk about weight without hurting his feelings? After the candy incident, does she have to worry about hurting his feelings? Will he get defensive if she tries to help? Do you ever hide sweets from your partner? Feed.

– Meredith

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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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