Parshat B'Haalotcha (Nosso outside of Israel):
Protecting Tender Souls

What to do about an Overweight Wife

Overweight wife
Dear Rabbi Lazer,

My wife is way overweight. Whenever she gets pressured by anything, she grabs chocolate rugalach (croissants - LB) to console herself. I've tried everything to get her to diet, but if she loses two pounds in one week, she'll gain back four the next. What do I do? I'm trying my best not to look at other women, but with my wife more and more turning me off, it's getting harder. By the way, I really appreciate all your health and exercise advice - it's really helping me. With appreciation and hoping to hear from you, Meir

Shalom, Meir!

  1. The first thing that you must know is that a husband's prayers for a wife are very powerful. In your daily personal prayers (which I hope you're doing), invest 5 minutes of prayer for her in your own words. Ask Hashem to uplift her self-esteem and ask Hashem to help you give her the love and attention that she needs, so that she won't have to find solace in sweets, which are none other than chocolate-covered poison for the body.
  2. Buy her a gift of a new pair of walking shoes and take walks together; start for short durations and work it up to an hour, at least three times a week. If you have small children, it's worth it to pay a babysitter during this hour. You can't imagine what it will do for your health and relationship.
  3. Diet never helps. You must influence her to change her thinking and lifestyle, but this should be done as a couple. Cakes, cookies, ice-cream and other sweets as well as soft-drinks and other sugary manufactured foods should be considered as if they're not kosher, just like keeping pork in your home, for these substances destroy health. Together, go on an eating regiment (lifestyle, not diet!) that is based on foodstuffs that are unadulterated by manufacturers. Get all white sugar, corn syrup solids and modified starches out of your life - that includes cereals, cakes, cookies and most manufactured foods. Compensate with the best fruits, veggies, fish, meat and poultry, and cheeses. Once you lower carbs, you can enjoy nuts and seeds without worrying about gaining weight.
  4. Meir, intrinsically, a wife wants her husband to love her more than anything. Make the first move and give her that love, and I promise that she'll bend over backwards to please you. Meanwhile, offer her an incentive of a nice chuck of money to buy new clothes every time she drops a size or two. This is much better than paying doctor bills and it's also a mitzvah from the Torah to clothe your wife (ksut).

Start with the above four steps and keep me posted. I pray for your success and her good health. Blessings always, LB

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Bracha Devorah

If your wife is turning you off, then that means you see her as a "body" which should please your eyes not a soul. Before "fixing" her, I suggest that you work on the root problem, which is not your wife's weight. You should start thinking of all the kind things she does for you, all her good qualities, the way she cares for your children, see the image of Hashem in her spirit. A wife is very sensitive and she can sense your attitude and it only distresses her and leaves her looking for comfort. Pray for her to find that comfort and the love she seeks in Hashem, for only He can satisfy the emptiness inside. Pray for Hashem to give her health (focusing on her wellbeing, not your desire for a beautiful wife). You are to love her unconditionally. How would you feel if she lost interest in you due to a physical problem? Rather than making her your improvement project, ask her how you can support her in reaching her health goals. Don't make her feel guilty for every rugelach, because guilt will only make her feel worse and hungrier. Surprisingly, when my mother needed to drop a few pounds she would replace her dinner with a cup of coffee and slice of pie! But, for her it worked, and she lived to be 90. You cannot take something from someone without giving them something they will like better. Find activities that you both enjoy that will give her things to look forward to and help her to be more active (without it being seen as exercise). Wear tzizit if you do not currently and look upon them to guard your eyes. Every day try to do something especially nice for her, maybe offer to cook dinner and introduce some delicious healthy recipe. Remember that you and your wife are one, and she is a mirror. Do you have a bad habit that needs your attention? Also remember that a husband is to give more honour to his wife than to himself Yevamos 62b. If you look down on your wife then you do not honour her. If you look on her weaknesses and do not see your own, you do not honour her. We do have a mitzvah to care for the bodies Hashem has given us, yet some mitzvahs are harder for some than for others so the best thing we can do is pray for each other and support each other with love and gentleness, but first look to see what mitzvahs we, ourselves, are struggling with before eyeing where others are falling short. Keep things in perspective: don't her good qualities far out -"weigh" her faults? Praise her for them, pray for her, thank Hashem for her, and count yourself blessed, and remember we can never justify our own sins because of another's.

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