I am not thin. I was not thin at 13, so chances are (and gravity being what it is) I won’t be thin at 113. But neither am I “fat.” I would say I’m about 10 to 15 pounds above where I’m most comfortable with my body — which describes the average North American woman.
I married a man who, happily, couldn’t care less, so any pressure I feel to remain a healthy weight comes solely from within — and from my waistbands, which are presently straining at the seams. I’ve never obsessed about my weight, but I know when it’s time to pay closer attention to what I’m eating and how much I’m exercising.
I would like to say that I’m equally accepting of my husband’s weight, but that wouldn’t be true. When we got married, he weighed in on the high side of healthy for his height — not exactly fighting fit, but not flabby either. He lived downtown and walked everywhere, which naturally countered his love of any food containing large amounts of bread or sugar, and preferably both.
Six years later, after two kids and a move to the suburbs, he has gained 50 pounds. At first we joked it was a “sympathy” weight gain, but my baby bump has returned to (almost) normal, while his remains. And two years ago, just before turning 40, he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
I would like to say that I’m the kind of person who has waited supportively by while her partner takes the time he needs to reach the conclusion that something has to change. I would like to say I’ve been unequivocally nonjudgmental and understanding of the fact that since his diagnosis there’s been no sustained weight loss or genuine effort at improved fitness. But those would be lies. Truth is, I’ve been nothing of the kind.
Maybe my impatience stems from growing up in a home where self-delusion about food and struggles with obesity were part of the psychological furniture. Maybe it’s because we both work outside the home and, with the vast majority of the household management already in my hands, I resent the needless additional burden of worrying about his food issues.
But I’ve found myself becoming increasingly intolerant of his inability to take his health into his own hands. And it’s not just his health: His poor eating habits don’t exist in a vacuum. I work evenings, and so I make dinners in advance to minimize the chance he’ll take the kids to a restaurant or pick up a pizza on the way home. And they can’t help but be influenced by the choices he makes for himself, even if he doesn’t necessarily allow them to order what he’s having. (“Dad, can I have some Coke too?” “No, son.” “Why not?” Crickets….)
Beyond that, there are the vows we made to each other when we got married: “In sickness and in health.” But what if someone’s sickness (in a world full of true and tragic illnesses) is entirely self-imposed? What if they view efforts to help as unwelcome? What if they’re potentially shortening their lifespan or threatening to impose on you a life of care-taking by consciously and constantly making terrible food decisions? I feel alternately furious with him for inflicting this on himself and his family, and guilty for being furious with him.
Less important, but inextricable from the weight gain, is the issue of attraction. I’ve always knocked the superficiality of those who simply want their partner to look better, but there’s no denying that I’d like him to care more about his appearance — for himself and for me. If I do what’s reasonably within my own power to remain attractive, do I have the right to expect the same?
(Photo: Polka Dot)