Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Guest Post! Gina From Fit by 41, Maybe 42

I am tickled to present my first guest post, written by Gina of Fit by 41, Maybe 42. I had hoped to link this but better yet, Gina kindly agreed to guest-blog for me. Later in the week, I'll be posting her husband Danny's viewpoint. Gina writes movingly about the sticky problem of

When a Spouse Calls You Fat

(Or boyfriend, girlfriend, mother, father -- anyone who you've emotionally invested in)


My husband, Danny, is my soul mate. We've been married for almost 15 years. We click in every area of our lives. When we disagree about stuff, it's usually done respectfully. We listen, we talk, we honestly want to understand where each other is coming from. We're both thrifty and don't fight about money, a common thorn in marriages. Other than some heated debates on how to reprimand our kids, the only thing we fight about, I mean nasty bringing-out-the-worst-in-each-other fight about, is my weight.


He first brought it up after a year of marriage. He was 22, me, 27. We were taking a walk, hand-in-hand. I was happy. Birds were singing. La la la la la. Then, out of nowhere, he asked, "So, when are you going to lose the 10 pounds you said you wanted to lose?" {cue the screeching sound of a needle scratching an LP as she lets go of his hand}


He just mortared in the first layer of bricks that would eventually form a wall around me.


I was mortified. He didn't understand why; he thought he was helping me by holding me accountable to my desire to lose 10 pounds. I'm not really sure how that bomb was smoothed over, but it eventually did (but not without some damage).


We continued with our beer-drinking, wing-eating, happy-go-lucky college-going lives. I guess I gained. He brought it up, again. Fight. Smoothed over. More bricks layered the wall. Resentment compounded for the both of us.


In my heart, I did want to lose the weight. I was successful years ago (pre-Danny) on a popular liquid diet. I gained it back and (now say it with me) "plus some." (Isn't that the common story)? But, that liquid diet didn't work anymore for me. I was active, but as far as food went, I didn't know what to do. And I was freaking stubborn. The more Danny pushed the subject, the more I rebelled. ("He's not ---munch munch--- going to --- munch munch --- tell me ---munch--- what to do!")


He really took my weight-gain personally, he thought it reflected my lack of love for him. At one point, he said point-blank I was obese, and he never thought he'd be married to a fat woman and tried to explain that every man desires a pretty wife. He barked that he was going to assign himself as my personal trainer. (More bricks). He'll tell me what to eat and when to exercise. He'll do it with me. He bought me a scale (trying to be helpful). I resented and hated that thing. Eventually, that scale met its death from a second-floor window after one of our conflicts about my weight.


I told him I didn't want him policing me. I (post swearing and yelling) agreed I was gaining too much but to let me do it on my own. I would begin to cut back, and as long as he thought I was trying, it would appease him. We'd be "happy," again, for several months. Then I'd gain weight, and the confrontations would start over. That was the cycle.


We wanted to start a family (there were many more good times than bad). I wasn't losing but wanted to be at a healthier weight while pregnant. Around this time, he asked me to give his way a try. I agreed. My ill-informed way wasn't working. It was actually a little fun to do this project together. But, we weren't always together. He was working as an airline pilot and would be gone for days at a time. I had to police myself and found a calorie-restricted diet. I counted calories, measured, and wrote everything down while working full time.


I was losing weight and felt so hungry. Then, one time I ate a cheese crisp. Something snapped. I ate another, then another. I foraged in the apartment for more food and binged. Panic struck in, "What have I done?! All that work ruined in 10 minutes!" I had heard of bulimia where people binged and purged. "Okay, just this once. You'll learn from your mistake and not do it, again."


I didn't learn. I did it again. And again. Danny didn't know. He saw a wife sticking to the plan. (smile pretty. kiss. kiss.)


Good news: I was pregnant with our first child! I had to be healthy for the baby. No more throwing up. Somehow I was saved from the addiction of bulimia. Thank goodness, but my addiction to food grew. Over the years I was a closet-eater. I was a in-the-car-rip-it-open-as-fast-as-you-can eater. I was a hand-shaking-forget-the-plate eater. I was having an affair with food, particularly ooey-gooey pastries.


Danny didn't see me eating, but he saw the results. He didn't know what to do. He said, "Gina, if you loved me, you would stop. Do it for me!"


The wall got taller, and I was pulling away from him.


Sometimes he'd be so angry. "I'm not happy! I'm going to tell you you are too fat and need help. Other men are afraid to tell their wives that. Instead, they behave like cowards and have affairs. I'm not going to cheat on you, but I am going to tell you I'm not happy." I remember thinking (briefly) I wish he would have an affair and leave me alone.


Part of his unhappiness was that I wasn't interested in sex anymore (I couldn't stand the idea of him seeing me exposed, vulnerable, and I felt safer behind the wall of bricks. Plus, I was a new mother and worn out). He felt I rejected him and chose food over him. He couldn't seem to understand why I didn't initiate intimacy, and I couldn't understand why he would want intimacy with me.


See, here's the paradox I couldn't wrap my brain around: he says that even though he's been unhappy with the weight gain, he found me physically attractive, is in love with me, and wants to be intimate. It breaks his heart that I choose food over him.


Confronting me about my weight is not an aphrodisiac. Telling me I'm fat and obese (although true) is not the sweet-nothings I want whispered in my ear. He knew that bringing up my weight wasn't going to get him any, but had to let me know, anyway.


One day, I saw he stopped wearing his wedding ring. He didn't feel I was committed to him. Neither one of us wanted to celebrate our 8th anniversary. It was some sad, sad times. What did I do? I turned to food.


My new neighbor who was large, too, asked if we could be walking partners. We both lost weight. My mood was elevated. Danny and I got along. I became pregnant with Skye, my 4 yr old.


Life has been a blur with a new baby, job losses, more moves and changes the last few years. I gained it almost all back and am 10 pounds away from my highest (as far as I know...I threw the first scale out the window, remember). Fortunately, Danny began to grasp that my weight-gain wasn't about him; I have a real problem with my relationship with food. His focus on my weight went from an aesthetic view, to a it's-coming-between-us view, to I'm-concerned-about-your-health-view, to I-love-you-the-way-you-are view.


We both built that wall. It's slowly coming down. I finally believe him that he truly desires me for me as me. I reach out to him. I let him be there for me. I tell him my secrets. I tell him my failures and weaknesses. I tell him because I trust him with my heart, again. I know he loves me. When someone feels loved, they feel loving.


I'm still tempted by the sweets and go overboard, but I'm learning about food, nutrition and have completely revamped our weekly menus. Now I'm doing it for me because I want to and am no longer distracted by someone else's wants. What I want is ringing clear, uninterrupted.


Danny had no idea how hurtful those first few comments about my weight could be. He grew up in a fit, athletic family with one brother. He was raised in France where weight wasn't an issue for 99% of the people, especially young people. He also has a beautiful, fit, no-nonsense German mother who tells it like it is; if it hurts your feelings that's okay as long as it's the truth and would help you.


If I was an alcoholic or drug-addict, and it affected my behavior, health and our lives, shouldn't he speak up?


Danny is honest and has great integrity. He's a loving, warm, wonderful father. (He watches our child now while I sit and write). He's honorable and passionate. He's funny and makes me laugh.


He is sorry for many of the things he has said. And I'm sorry for hurting my body so much and for hurting Danny as he watched me do this to myself. It's been a journey. Neither one of us wanted to give up on this marriage nor ourselves. We both wanted to become better people, better spouses, better parents. And we both worked at it.


"Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose."
Helen Keller (1880 - 1968)


I am a worthy purpose.

10 comments:

  1. This is an excellent post. Thank you for sharing it with us!

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  2. Wow. This is such a powerful story - thank you for sharing it, Gina.

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  3. Wow - I can't wait to hear Danny's side too. I remember the first time my husband said something about my weight - knocked the wind right out of my sails. He learned quickly that I'm a tad bit sensitive to that issue (and by a tad bit, I mean I dove head first into a carton of ice cream and came up for air 40 pounds later).

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  4. The Merry and Shelley - Thank you, and you're welcome. As strong as Danny and I are now, we found ourselves reliving some of those moments I wrote about. It still stings a bit to be honest, but it was very therapeutic for the both of us to write about some of our experience. I sure it can help someone.

    Jill - Oh, gosh, it hurts, doesn't it? Then we hurt ourselves even more by using food to cope! Me, too, Jill. Me, too. (hug)

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  5. I meant to say, "I sure HOPE it can help someone."

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  6. Gina, I think this is just as great as the first time I read it & not sure what you changed. There is give & take on both sides & I think so many of us get caught up in the blame game & men really push our buttons rather than open them becasue we think so differently. I am so happy you got thru this! Food is an addiction to many & we all have to keep working at it each & every day.... keep moving forward, keep the consitency, don't give up, change the lifestyle.

    Thx again for this great post!

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  7. Great guest post! Excellent and interesting writing, Gina!

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  8. Jody - lol "...men really push our buttons rather than open them..." Thank you for stopping by and for the motivating words of encouragement.

    266 - Thank you!

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  9. This is not something you see talked about much and I love to see the coming together that Gina and her husband show... an evolution. It does seem not unreasonable to object (tactfully) to a partner's weight gain, especially if it's on health grounds... but the paradoxical thing is, weight is one thing you really cannot control for someone else. If nagging worked, the world would be a different place. I think all you can do is enable in a good way-- keep junky foods out of the house, encourage regular meals and lots of running around, notice and make much of progress, and "be the change you want to see."

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  10. Wow this is a very powerful post. It had me on the verge of tears. Thank you for sharing such an intimate and vulnerable story.

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