Like men, women are getting fatter, as new research confirms. But if you’re worried about your partner's weight, what on earth do you do?
The latest research confirms what anyone with eyes probably suspected: Western women are getting fatter.
This isn't being sexist everybody knows that men appear to be getting fatter too but this research was specifically about women.
And what it said was that, of the 30,000 women who participated in the study, more than half had larger waists than the optimum size of 80cm. It said that women were morphing from a traditional pear shape, where fat tends to be stored on the hips, bottom and thighs, to a more dangerous apple shape, where fat is stored around the middle.
Why is that more dangerous? Because the fat is closer to important organs and increases somebody's chances of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancer and infertility, among other nasties.
All of this is of concern to men because many of these women are our partners or partners-to-be. Their health and wellbeing is directly connected to our own. And that being the case, the fundamental question is this: what can we do about our partner's weight gain?
The first thing we can do is to tread very carefully indeed. However kindly you put it, telling your partner that she's getting fat is never going to be easy. In fact, it's a conversation you probably should never have.
"You could say it in the kindest way possible but, if your partner already has a low self-esteem, chances are that she is not going to take it kindly," says relationship counsellor Elly Prior.
Prior also points out that by diving straight in you could be opening old wounds. "If that person has had a lifelong problem with weight, then your words are all too easily pattern-matched with childhood taunts," she says.
The last thing you want to do is remind your partner of some cruel playground teasing. And it's also true that her weight gain may be the sign of other problems, like unhappiness at work or with your relationship. In which case you'll have to tackle the root cause first.
But perhaps she hasn't always had a problem with weight. Perhaps her weight gain is a new phenomenon. In which case, your efforts are best directed by the state of your relationship and how you usually deal with contentious issues.
If you are good communicators, who have dealt well with touchy subjects in the past, it might be possible to bring up the issue directly, if kindly. But your best bet might be to avoid a direct conversation altogether.
Be in it together
So how do you talk to your partner about her weight, without talking to her about her weight?
The fact is, women tend to be pretty body conscious, so she's probably aware of her weight gain. If she hasn't mentioned it, she may be trying to hide it. If she's started shying away from getting undressed in front of you or wearing more revealing outfits, the last thing you want to do is make her feel worse.
One way out is to suggest joint action. According to Elly Prior, you could suggest an exercise regime for you both. You could tell her you want to start exercising for your own sake, and doing it together would help to keep you motivated.
This isn't such an easy solution if you already work out, of course, but you could always 'decide' you fancy a change. Maybe running all the time is getting boring, so you want to do a bit of cycling instead. Football is great, but you'd like to top it up with a few sessions at the gym and it would be fun to do it together.
As Prior suggests, you could couch it as wanting to do something together as a couple, rather than spending every weekday evening sat in front of the telly. It could even sound romantic.
Set an example
Another tactic, says Elly Prior, is simply to set a good example. The fact is, one partner often mirrors the other in the things they do and, importantly, the things they eat.
A recent study by researchers at the University of Queensland confirmed this. It found that, over a 10-year period, women who lived with partners put on four pounds more in weight, on average, than women who lived alone. It could be that your own eating habits are partly responsible for her weight gain.
For example, if you bring a chocolate bar home, she's more likely to have chocolate. If you buy pudding because you want it, she's likely to have some even if she wouldn't have bothered herself.
In other words, if you start eating healthily, she's likely to as well. If you announce in the morning that you're grilling salmon fillets for dinner, she's unlikely to grab a takeaway meal on the way home. If you say no to dessert, there's every chance she'll give it a miss too.
Benefits for both
Setting a good example and suggesting exercise regimes and healthy eating plans you can do together is a win-win, of course. She'll get healthier and you will too.
The only potential downside? You have to stick to it. But when you're in it together, that will be far easier to accomplish.