BEL MOONEY: I find my wife less attractive as she puts on weight. How can I help her get slimmer?

Dear Bel,

My wife and I have been together for more than 20 years and I love her very much.

But the older she gets, the less effort she seems to be making to maintain her weight.

She always had to diet to maintain a healthy weight but the diets are getting less and less ­frequent and her weight is gradually increasing.

She does zero exercise and when I suggest that she should to improve her health, she always has a list ready of excuses as to why not.

I’m fortunate in that I am naturally slimmer and I exercise a lot.

But rather than motivating her to do the same, she simply sees that as my fortunate genes and ­comforts herself that she’d never be able to achieve the same, even if she did try.

The truth is (and I won’t deny it) I find her less attractive as she continues to gain weight.

The lack of effort in her care for her appearance does bother me.

I am fearful as she gets older that she will ­continue to make less effort and at some point, her health will suffer.

I have tried lots of approaches — supportive as well as critical — and while she appears to know that I am right, it rarely seems to result in any action.

How can I help her back to a healthy weight before it is too late?


These days, mentioning weight is opening a can of worms, even though the obesity statistics tell the dismal truth and the NHS is under pressure.

I have a friend who was sacked because she dared to express the rational view that those who are overweight might do something about it themselves, instead of always citing ‘mental health’ or ­opining arrogantly that fat is beautiful.

There will be people (probably women) reading this who will be angry with you for expressing your problem so ­succinctly. But I admire the honesty which ­identifies two issues here.

First, you are rightly concerned about the future health of a woman who doesn’t care very much about her weight. ­Second, you admit, as a man, that for you fat is just not fanciable. Those who say that appearance shouldn’t matter are ­idealistic — but not necessarily right.

I suspect that were your wife to be ill and taking medicine that caused her to pile on the pounds, you would be ­nothing but sympathetic. What bothers you is that she could try to lose unhealthy weight but doesn’t care. You’ve been ­trying ‘lots of approaches’ so I’m not really sure what I can add.

As one who took no exercise at all until I was 59, and am now a convert to weight training, I know that one of the crucial benefits is the huge boost in morale as flabbiness is diminished.

That’s a win-win. I wish I could give her a pep talk.

I fear you may come across as both complacent and bossy each time you try to ‘sell’ diet and exercise. It might be better to make a start by working together instead of nagging her then going off to do your own thing.

Like a couple I know, you could share weekly sessions with a personal trainer. You should work out healthy fortnightly menus and always shop and cook together. You could buy some free weights and exercise bands, put on the music you both loved when you were young, and prance about for an hour a day at home.

Look up chair yoga exercises and do them with her. If you enthuse to her that together you can make it fun, and that you want to share a healthy future because you love her — then she might just have a go.

Will I ever get over the death of my first true love? 

Dear Bel,

Back in the early 2000s when I was about 16, I met a boy in a chat room — I’ll call him Tom.

Funny and handsome, he lived in Ireland. I’m in England. We began to talk all day every day. We would chat away with our webcams on, email, text and phone each other for hours. It was easier to pour our hearts out in ways we may not have done to our ‘real’ friends. This may not make sense, but I fell with all the full force of a ‘first love’.

Tom said he felt the same and from then he called me ‘the fiancée’, not just to me but to his family and friends who I would sometimes speak to during our calls/chats. Our conversations now included hopes for our future life of getting ­married and naming our children. It was the typical teenage certainty that life would just land in our laps.

The inevitable eventually happened with two young people ­hundreds of miles apart — I was devastated when Tom told me he’d slept with someone who became his girlfriend for a time. There were tears on both sides but we did reconnect and often chatted online and on the phone over the following years.

The last time Tom surfaced we had a nice chat about where we werein life. He sent me a ­message again a few days later but I didn’t reply — I was busy in my last year of ­ university and just starting a new relationship.

Fast forward just over a year and I had been thinking about Tom for a while as this was the longest we’d gone since we ‘met’ without some form of communication.

Investigating social media I ­discovered he had died that very weekend, at 25. Shortly after his last message to me Tom was taken ill and found to have cancer.

This was over a decade ago. Now I’m in my mid-30s. The weight of carrying this on my own and never being able to grieve openly or get closure is like a millstone around my neck.

I now have a lovely, kind fiancé, but how could I ever tell him about Tom and lay bare my grief? I don’t think that would be fair on him and I wouldn’t want to risk upsetting him or our relationship.

I feel guilty for not replying to his last message and that he went through so much. Did he know how much he meant to me?

I brood on all the ‘nearly’ moments when we talked about meeting but didn’t. Perhaps he thought I’d never find out, or maybe he didn’t think of me at all. Am I being ridiculous?

I would welcome your views on how I can put this to rest, or at least carry it with me in a healthier way.


First, let me hold out a sympathetic hand and assure you gently that you are not in the slightest bit ‘ridiculous.’

Your story (unedited length three times longer than I can print here) touched me deeply and I understand why part of you remains lost in that dream. Tom was your first love and those deep awakenings into adulthood must never be belittled. Who dares say they are not real? In a realistic future, you might have crossed the Irish Sea to meet, even moved in together, become bored, quarrelled, been unfaithful, wept, and parted. Or been happy.

But circumstances dictated that all your many ‘meetings’ remained on screen and on phone lines. And tragically, Tom was destined never to grow old. His sweet ghost remains perpetually ‘funny and handsome’ in your imagination. Isn’t that fantasy a mirror for all the unfulfilled youthful longings and lost loves so many of us cherish secretly in our hearts?

Contact  Bel

Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week. Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY, or email Names are changed to protect identities. Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

The question is — what now? Being in love with a ghost can be very destructive; it would be terrible if you were to allow the boy you adored to become a malignant spirit poisoning past, present and future.

You say I’m the only one you have talked to about this, which is a shame. Carrying these memories — the shock of finding out about his early death and then subsequent grief — by yourself is clearly very lonely. You are now engaged to a ‘lovely, kind’ man, and will make a future with him. An adult relationship requires honesty and trust. You seem almost ashamed of your touching first love story, but I ­cannot believe that the man you want to spend your life with will fail to understand.

You write, ‘I don’t think that would be fair on him and I wouldn’t want to risk upsetting him or our relationship’ — but I profoundly disagree. Yes, we can all retain some privacy and needn’t share youthful misdemeanours, but I believe your fiancé has the right to know about something that’s afflicting the woman he loves.

The relatively speedy death from cancer of anybody age 25 is terribly sad, and can even call into question our views on life, death and religion. So I think you should talk about it all. There is no need to be lonely any more.

In confiding in each other stories about what you were each like at 16, what choices you made, those early passions and first disillusionments, you and he will be helping to build and strengthen your future life together. And I think it would be healing to allow poor Tom to become a part of that process. You can achieve closure and peace by making a pilgrimage.

The time has come for you bravely to step forward into the next stage in your life. You tell me you know where your first love is buried. I suggest you and your fiancé plan a short holiday in ­Ireland this spring, when you will be able to put flowers on Tom’s grave and say a prayer for his soul.

And finally… there isn’t a league table for suffering 

It’s good to be back in the ­saddle, while re-learning things you take for granted, like ­getting out of bed, going to the loo, walking (with sticks) and climbing stairs.

So — back to work. My last ­column featured a nearly 80-year-old unsure whether to let her ­family give her a party.

And among all your lovely, kind wishes for my hip ­replacement came this wee blast from Joan N:

‘I was incensed at your reply to the lady having her 80th birthday. We are talking about someone with her own ­bungalow, no money worries and a lovely family, so don’t you dare tell readers that every ­“problem matters to the ­person who is experiencing it”.

‘This lady does not have a “problem”. She has a “dilemma” which thousands of people would walk over hot coals for. After all your years of advising readers on their ­“problems”, do you still not know the difference?’

Joan got me on a bad day when I’d just got back from ­hospital and was miserably struggling with physiotherapy exercises. So I called her out for unnecessary hostility, and ­finished: ‘You clearly have ­problems of your own — but that doesn’t excuse your tone.’

I do understand how readers facing terrible issues will always tend to place themselves on a ‘league table’ of suffering — shouting that their pain is worse than yours.

Nevertheless, I’m correct to point out that any problem really matters to the person experiencing it. Some are luckier than others; some are more resilient, and so on. We don’t have to make comparisons.

Instinct told me Joan’s rather rude email was inspired by her own situation. Indeed, she wrote back to explain: ‘I, too, have a problem; a life-limiting medical condition that I live with every day. I have no family to help see me through it.’

She was sorry — as I am. So I wish you courage, Joan, and I thank you sincerely for helping me make this point.