READER’S QUESTION: “My boyfriend doesn’t take great care of his physical health, and I’m not sure how to help him improve his fitness without throwing our relationship out of balance. Fitness is super important to me. I lift weights regularly, also enjoy steady-state cardio and interval training as part of my routine, eat a healthy high-protein and nutrient-dense diet, and even work as a trainer at a women’s gym part-time. Considering how important fitness is to me, it’s funny that I fell in love with a man who just isn’t that into it. He’s great in every other way – kind, intelligent, funny, motivated professionally, family-oriented, and supportive of my personal interests and goals. I just want to see him get stronger and take better care of himself.
He recently gave up vaping completely, and this is a huge win for us! However, giving up nicotine has also caused him to gain a few pounds because his appetite is back to normal but his metabolism is still suppressed due to his recent past of not eating enough. I’m trying to help him build more muscle and increase his metabolic rate, but I don’t think he’s that interested in working out regularly. I’ve gotten him to work out with me a couple times, but he only does so begrudgingly to hang out with me and won’t touch a weight when left to his own devices. I taught him some core exercises to improve his stability and posture, but he doesn’t do them regularly. It’s pretty important that he strengthens his core because otherwise he’ll have poor form when lifting or running. His recent decision to give up vaping is certainly a step in the right direction and makes me optimistic, but there’s still a ways to go.
I sense that becoming healthier and more physically fit would also improve his self-confidence and sense of masculinity. Right now, his attitude about his physical fitness is somewhat defeatist and places an unduly large value on genetics or natural ability. I want to help him because I know he’s capable of evolving in ways he doesn’t seem to think possible yet. What can I do to motivate him without being an overbearing/nagging girlfriend, hurting his confidence more, sounding superficial and vain, or annoying him (and exhausting myself) by constantly being in exercise trainer mode? I want to find a good balance so we can continue to enjoy our relationship with each other while also inspiring him to make his fitness a priority. Most importantly, I want him to know that I love him exactly as he is, even if I push him on this.”
EVIE’S ADVICE: It’s not uncommon for couples to have a mismatch in one area of interest or values, so you’re not alone in your conundrum. Ultimately, your question boils down to this: How do I make my boyfriend care about something he doesn’t care about? The honest answer is you can’t. Only he can make the choice to devote his time and energy in order to work toward achieving greater fitness goals. Constantly nagging him and complaining that he won’t work out is only going to increasingly get under his skin, create tension in your relationship…and possibly make him not want to dedicate time to his physical fitness even more.
That being said, couples and their values do rub off on each other. He probably admires and is inspired (at least inwardly) by your love of fitness. You’re setting a good example and also living a constant invitation for him to grow in this area – even if you never broach the topic again. If he finds the motivation to work out, he’ll certainly know who to come to for advice and inspiration.
Most likely, there is some form of movement he does enjoy, and you can encourage him to do that.
You can continue to invite him to work out with you, but leave it at that – an invitation. No pressure and no pushing. Beyond your theories of why he’s just not that interested in exercise, he may be embarrassed to go to the gym with you because you’re much more competent at the gym than he currently is. Or he may not be interested in weight lifting or running specifically, or those modes of exercise are too intense for where he is right now. Maybe he would prefer to go for a walk outside or swim laps or golf or play basketball or join Krav Maga. Most likely, there is some form of movement he does enjoy, and you can encourage him to do that – even if it’s not the optimal form of exercise in your eyes as a trainer. Any regular movement is better than no movement, and it’s a step that can be built on in the future – if he wants to.
The bottom line is that men will work out if and when they want to. You wouldn’t like it if he tried to impose his hobbies on you if it wasn’t something you were interested in, especially if you felt like he was desperate to change and mold you into what he wants. If he is unhealthy as a whole, you can adjust how you eat together when cooking at home or going out to restaurants, and lead by example. Whatever you do though, don’t try to change him by tearing his self-confidence down with constant comments about what he’s not doing well or should be doing better. Put yourself in his shoes and think about how you would feel if he were making comments about your body or exercise regime.
At the end of the day, if the only thing holding you back from this relationship is his lack of motivation for physical fitness, that’s not a reason to call it quits. Whoever you date will have different hobbies or interests than you, and that’s okay. It’s healthy to have your own thing going on outside the relationship. Think of your time alone at the gym as “me time” to reset and refuel with something you love. While you’re there, encourage him to do something he loves, whether that’s playing video games or going paintballing with his friends. As long as you’re both doing something that you enjoy and that fulfills you, it will benefit your relationship.
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