Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: Weighty Matters

This reader has kept herself trim while her husband has steadily put on weight. Is there a tactful way to persuade the man she loves to loose a few pounds?

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The Independent Online

Dear Virginia,

Since we married 20 years ago, I’ve tried to keep myself looking as good as possible. But my husband eats and drinks whatever he feels like and takes no exercise, weighing 7st more than me. The man I married was very attractive. This one still could be, but he has no intention of making any effort to be so again. Sex was always good but now I feel undignified climbing on top of him. I would love to know how other women who still love their husbands, but cannot fancy them in such a deteriorated state, cope with this problem.

Yours sincerely,


Virginia says...

It’s that phrase “climbing on top of him” that sends shivers down my spine. Are you really saying that he’s so fat you can’t have sex any other way? How grisly.

But it’s odd, isn’t it, how many men seem to equate letting themselves go with some kind of macho image. They seem fearful that if they were to take care about their weight and their appearance and their clothes, they’d be seen as weak in some way or, horror of horrors, “gay”. “You’ve got to take me as you find me!” they seem to be saying, as they belch and fart, their teeth fall out and the buttons pop off their shirts like so many bullets.

But often their slobbishness doesn’t actually seem so much a case of not caring. Sometimes it’s almost carefully contrived, to show how little they care about personal hygiene or looks.

Myself, I feel that all this bluster about not caring and being rough-and-ready and “I’ve got more important things on my mind than my looks” actually hides a terrible insecurity. Perhaps your husband fears that he’ll never get his youthful figure back, and so, instead of bemoaning it or trying to improve matters, he tries to make a virtue out of what he sees as inevitable. And it’s a shame. Because since so many men do let themselves go – far more than women –  your husband only has to lose weight, take up exercise and buy some new clothes, and he’d be a rare glamorous oldie. He’ll stand out like Clint Eastwood against all his blubbery contemporaries. This might be worth pointing out to him.

Could you suggest you both go to Weightwatchers? Could you admit to him that, actually, you don’t fancy him any more? And perhaps let him know that you really don’t like having sex with him when he looks like this? You’d have to put up with all the blustery comebacks about how shallow you are and surely it’s the inner man you should find attractive. But ride them out.

What you have to do is persuade him how serious you are, and that, shallow or not, it’s difficult to fancy him when he’s so unattractive.  And also persuade him that if he were to lose weight, he’d become an absolute stunner. Every man and woman wants to be found attractive to the opposite sex, whatever they say, so hold out this carrot to him – that he, has the chance if only he’d try, of becoming a real oldie knockout, who’d make all the women in his circle long to get their hands on him.

Readers say...

Get over it

Just imagine for a second this letter written in reverse, with a man complaining that his wife has let herself go! We all change with time, whether it’s putting on weight or losing our hair. Both, in my case. The person you married is still the same. Get over appearances.

Dan Thompson, Worthing

Help him get fit

You should have sympathy with your husband. I bet inwardly he constantly vows to lose weight, even while eating junk food. He fears hunger and feels he needs comfort foods, though he never feels satisfied. Anything in early life can trigger the hunger hormone to be over-active, from abuse to abrupt weaning.

Very tactfully, suggest an activity: perhaps go camping in an area with good walks, hire a narrowboat, walk in a park or swim outdoors in the nearest lido. His satiety hormone might just kick in, and you could have plenty of “healthy” food ready: tomatoes, fruit, proper baker’s bread. He may not win the battle, but please be supportive, and enjoy and encourage the times when his satiety hormone rules his appetite.

Sally Parrott, by email

Next week’s  dilemma

Dear Virginia,

I am a single parent and I’m trying to teach my son to play the piano. The problem is that he just won’t practice. My own music teacher was a very angry woman, and I’m trying not to lose my temper with my son, but it’s getting difficult. He’s seven years old and he’s musical, that’s clear, but although he’s good at other subjects at school, when it comes to piano he just refuses to work at it. I’ve tried rewards, punishments, bribes, praise – nothing seems to work. How can I get him to do it? It’s only quarter of an hour a day.

Yours sincerely,


What would you advise Sonia to do?

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