"Is there any right way to ask someone to lose weight for you?" That's the question a guy anonymously asked the world via a recent Humans of New York feature. The world was quick to inform him that no, it's not okay to ask your significant other to lose weight for you, especially when it's simply for the sake of losing weight.
“At first I told myself I could get past it. I said, ‘Let’s just see how it goes,'" the HONY Facebook post began. "Everything else about her was exactly what I wanted. I didn’t want to ruin something good for that one little reason. But it’s been 1.5 years. And I feel horrible, but I just can’t get past it. And I feel like a bad person for being bothered by it."
"It" was his significant other's weight, and people didn't hold back on informing the guy that he was right to feel like a bad person for being bothered by it.
The post has so far accumulated over 9,000 comments, many calling out a dysfunction in his relationship. "Break up with her now," one person commented. "Don't wait. She deserves someone who loves all of her, and you need to be with someone your type. The only shame is in waiting. Do it now."
"The easiest weight she can lose is to drop your sorry dead weight ass," another said.
Others still were quick to defend the man, pointing out that despite his internal struggles with his partner's weight, he obviously cared about her. "He's grappling with the fact he's not physically attracted to someone he deeply cares about," another commented. "He's not some raging, misogynistic douche bag. He's a real person, telling someone something he feels very conflicted about."
So is it right or wrong for a guy to want his partner to lose weight on his behalf? Turns out, at least one expert also leans on the side of 'nope, not okay'—especially when it's playing a role as to whether or not you're attracted to the person.
"Men who demand their mates lose weight are typically fighting off profound insecurities about their own imperfections and inadequacies," Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D. and psychotherapist who specializes in relationship and family therapy, told Men's Health. "These guys suffer from narcissistic personalities and need constant external validation to prove to the world they're special."
In short, if you find yourself in a position of wanting your partner to have a different appearance so you can feel better about yourself, you might have some deeper issues going on.
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But the issue of wanting a loved one to lose weight can go beyond just aesthetic reasons. Obesity has been linked to a number of different health issues, and as Hokemeyer points out, there is a big difference between wanting someone to live a healthier life and wanting someone to lose weight for appearance's sake.
"The first is based on compassion and empathy for your mate," he said. "You want them to have a better life experience. The second is based on a narcissistic need to feel better about yourself. You care less about their feelings and challenges, and are motived by a desire to have them make you look good."
"Wanting your partner to change their lifestyle is very legitimate if it's based on a concern for your partner's physical and emotional well being," he continued. "No one wants to watch the person they love self-destruct or fall into self-defeating patterns. Not only is it damaging to your mate, its also damaging to the relationship and your own emotional and physical well being."
A partner living an unhealthy lifestyle is a very legitimate reason to show concern. As Hokemeyer pointed out, it's not just a matter the health of your partner, but of yours, as well. In fact, there have even been recent correlations made between an increased risk of diabetes for men with obese partners.
So how can one go about helping a loved one make changes to their lifestyle? Hokemeyer said the most important thing to remember is that change is tough, and the best thing you can do is to offer positive support. (You could even try working out as a couple like Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky.)
"The best way to help people making change is to support them on this journey," he said. "Avoid judging them for the setbacks that are inherent in these stages and as best you can join them as a partner, not an expert, coach or parent."
Just because your main role in this situation is to be a supporter doesn't mean there isn't anything you can do. On the contrary, actively setting an example for your partner of what a healthier lifestyle looks like is crucial to helping them succeed.
"The best way to encourage others to adopt healthier habits is to adopt them yourself," Hokemeyer said. "By modelling the behaviours you want to see in your mate, you will not only improve the quality of your life, but you will also allow them to join you in a way that affirms their dignity instead of degrading them with judgment and demands." (Pro tip to help inspire change and improve your own health: Adopt these 5 old-school weight-loss tips.)
As for the man in the HONY Facebook post—and really for anyone in a similar situation—it comes down to figuring out the motivating factors behind desiring weight loss in a loved one. One commenter put it best when they said, "If you're concerned about her health, approach it from that angle. If you're concerned about her appearance, you should probably just stay single."
This article originally appeared on Men's Health US.