Mismanaging stress is the real culprit here
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Dear Carolyn • My fiance and I have been together for five years. For the last few years, he has been struggling with a lot of stress trying to make money as an entrepreneur. As a result, he has been gaining weight. I love him for who he is and want to spend the rest of my life with him, so I try not to make the weight a big deal. But I have been losing weight on a plan that he suggested but hasn't maintained. He frequently binges on alcohol and food. I'm excited about my weight loss and like to talk about it, but meanwhile he is feeling pretty worthless and has mentioned to me that he feels fat and unattractive. I don't know what to say to him when he says that. I try to say, "I love you" and let him know he's fine, but the truth is, of course I would love to have him lose the weight. I'm just not sure if there is anything I can do to reassure him and make him feel better about himself. It is really starting to affect our intimacy and relationship because he doesn't feel good enough for me. But he really is — he's sweet, kind, generous, intelligent, supportive, funny, and I'm crazy about him. Is there anything I can do?

I Love You Just the Way You Are

Dear I Love You • You love him, yes, and "he's fine" in the sense that you aren't planning your exit over weight gain — but you are concerned that he's ballooning, and you are undercutting any platitudes on his appearance with excited talk of your own weight loss. And when people sense you're not giving them the whole story — when they detect efforts to protect their feelings — they tend to feel worse about themselves, not better. So, to help him feel better about himself, treat him as the equal he is. Ask vs. telling: "What can I do to help?" And, tell fuller truths, such as: Yes, his eating habits concern you, though the binge-drinking is the only urgent problem. No, these concerns don't diminish your feelings for him. Yes, you trust him to get healthier when the worst of the work stress has passed. Stress (and its mismanagement) is, after all, the real culprit here, a great argument for getting off the red-herring topic of weight.

Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.