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What Do I Do When My Boyfriend Calls Me Fat?

This blog was written with help from Chelsea Kramer, LMFT who is a Seattle Therapist specializing in grief, trauma, and health challenges. Thanks so much for sharing your expertise, Chelsea! Be sure to check her out here.

"What do I do when my boyfriend calls me fat?" is a commonly Googled question. I’m addressing it here to provide some advice and encouragement on how to handle it when a significant other calls you fat. The most commonly searched question was about boyfriends, but for the remainder of the post I will use gender neutral wording, as this scenario could come up between partners of any gender identity. 

1. Assess the intention.

Fat is not a bad word, but all (most?) of us have been socialized to believe that it is a bad word. If you’re not sure what your partner’s intention was, ask them. Consider saying, “What did you mean to communicate to me by saying that?” Or even more pointedly, “Did you mean that as an insult?” 

If your partner intentionally uses language to be hurtful towards you, that’s a red flag. You may want to assess if this is a relationship that makes you feel good on a consistent basis. Check out this Power and Control Wheel from The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

As a fat-positive provider who has learned from fat activists, I want fat to stop being a bad word. But if your partner 1) thinks that being fat is bad and 2) is pushing you to manipulate your body... then that’s a red flag. This is a good moment to check in and evaluate if you and your partner are really on the same page about health, body respect, your individual autonomy, and what makes you worth loving. 

2. Refrain from calling them names in return.

Set an example of the kind of mature and mutually respectful relationship that you desire to be in. Name calling is not an ingredient in a healthy and loving partnership. This is one of the reasons that addressing your partner’s name calling is critical. 

3. Set them straight on your feelings about your body. 

Maybe you’re working through accepting and respecting your body and need them to know that those comments hurt your progress. 

Maybe you’re totally content in your body and think that if they have different expectations of your body, they need to readjust them. 

You might feel comfortable doing this in the moment right after the comment has been made. OR maybe you need time to regroup and plan out what you want to say to them. It’s totally OK to revisit this conversation later. You may want to check out this post on how to deal with comments about your weight for more ideas on how to get this conversation going. 

4. Notice how you talk about your body around them

If you are working on your own relationship with your body to shift that relationship from a critical one to an accepting one, pay attention to how you’ve been speaking about your body in front of your partner. 

When you critique yourself or speak negatively about your body, you may inadvertently be sending mixed signals to your partners about how you want your body to be spoken about. Instead, strive to notice how you talk about yourself, choosing words of kindness and self-acceptance. 

Depending on the relationship you have with your partner, you might even let them know this is something you are working on. You can say something like “I know I’ve been struggling with my relationship with my body and it’s something I’m actively trying to work on right now. I’m going to try to start talking about my body differently moving forward. I will probably slip up since it’s a new thing I’m learning. Something I would love from you is for you to speak about my body with kindness as much as you can.”  Which brings me to our last few tips…

5. Establish boundaries 

Talk about what you are and are not comfortable with your partner saying about your body or health habits. 

I promise you, it will be helpful for a healthy relationship to have clear and defined boundaries about what kind of comments you are not ok with. 

If you’re worried this is going to offend your partner or push them away, that might be true. However, this will likely be a win for you long-term as you get firm on what you are looking for in a partner and what you will or won’t tolerate in their belief system or their feelings about bodies, health, fatness, your autonomy, etc. When communicating boundaries, it’s helpful to use the word AND not BUT. When we use the word BUT, you negate what you said before it.

Some examples of how to establish these boundaries: 

  • “Hey, I know you want the best for me, but I’m not OK with you making comments about my body shape or size, or my weight.” 

  • “I’m working on being confident in my body exactly as it is. I’d like for you not to say anything about getting in shape, toning up, getting ready for summer, or getting fit.” 

  • “I love doing active things with you, but when you associate it with losing weight or burning fat, it activates the negative thoughts about my body. I want to move my body for the joy of it. Please don’t make comments about burning calories or getting in shape.”

  • “I’ve noticed you’ve called me fat a few times. I’m not OK with that and I don’t plan to manipulate my body just to lose weight, especially not just to please you. If you don’t think my body is worthy of love exactly as it is, then I’m not sure we’re right for each other.”

6. Go to counseling / get help

If you believe that this relationship has potential and you want to keep trying to make it work, consider seeing a counselor (especially someone who is fat-positive and eating disorder informed) to help your partner learn how to support you in your journey of self compassion and body acceptance, respect, care and love. 

If going to counseling is off the table for your partner, this might be another red flag. Maybe the two of you aren’t on the same page about the amount of work and effort you are willing to put in to develop and maintain a healthy relationship.  You could always seek a therapist or counselor individually to help you assess your situation and decide how you want to proceed moving forward. 

If you are able to get a productive and open conversation going with your partner, be patient. Even with effective communication, some issues won’t be solved immediately. What’s most important to assess is your partner’s response. Are they genuinely concerned about your well-being, do they have your best interests in mind and are they willing to see things from your perspective and honor your wants and needs? 

Sometimes a partner might say that they have your best interests at heart when they make comments about your weight, as if this is just because they want you to “be healthy.” You are the best judge of your partner’s honesty and meaning. If they truly want the best for you, then they’ll be willing to learn about the Health At Every Size® or weight inclusive approaches and support you in how you want to pursue health and happiness. 

I hope you’re able to take gentle care of yourself as you read this. Remember, you are worthy of exactly the type of love you want, exactly as you are! 


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