Nicole realized she had never expressed her feelings, or even her goals to lose weight, to her husband, but assumed that he would notice her change in behavior and follow suit.
I didn’t think it was possible to survive solely on a fast food diet, but my friend Nicole’s husband has proven me wrong. For as long as I’ve known him (and longer, Nicole assures me) he’s skipped breakfast, had Burger King for lunch and McDonald’s for dinner. We’re pretty sure he thinks that the word “grocery” in grocery store translates to “beer and toilet paper.” Yet, somehow, he stays thin without lifting a finger. All this was tolerably cute and quirky until Nicole had her first child and found herself fighting to lose the baby weight.
Nicole saw a nutritionist, read books, started working out – she was on the warpath. I’m certain that completing the first two weeks of the South Beach Diet as her husband chowed French fries in front of her while watching Master Chef was almost as difficult as childbirth. Not to mention the fact that, in an effort to be sweet, he would always bring an extra cheeseburger home for her. After a two-hour workout, that was hard to say no to. Nicole met me for a drink one night and was in tears. This first year of parenthood was supposed to be about partnership, and she felt totally unsupported.
She sipped her club soda as I indignantly tore her husband apart between bites of my spinach artichoke dip, washed down with gulps of pinot gris. That’s when I realized I was doing the exact same thing as he was. It dawned on me, maybe he didn’t realize what he was doing. After apologizing for my insensitivity I asked for a doggy bag for the remaining 1200 calories of my appetizer.
I then delicately reminded Nicole that her husband wasn’t a mind reader, and that she’d probably have to get really clear about what she wanted from him.
Communicate Your Goals
Most problems (really, on some level, ALL problems) in a partnership begin with a lack of communication. Nicole realized she had never expressed her feelings, or even her goals to lose weight, to her husband, but assumed that he would notice her change in behavior and follow suit. She made a list of why it was important to her that he support her in her new diet and lifestyle choices. As I suspected, the problem wasn’t just about the French fries.
It's Actually Not All About You
It might feel selfish to impart your new healthy ways on your partner but, in fact, it shows that you love your partner. No matter how thin someone is or how healthy they appear to be, there’s a real foundation behind the old saying ‘you are what you eat.’ Beyond the fact that Nicole wanted her husband to eat better in front of her to make her own choices easier, she simply wanted him to have a long healthy life, alongside her. Furthermore, she wanted him to set a good example for their child. Childhood obesity is a trend Nicole wasn’t interested in contributing to.
It's Just Food, It's Not Love
My brother used to jokingly say that to me when, growing up, I’d reach for seconds. It does sound corny, but it is true. Sure, Nicole really did want those extra cheeseburgers her husband was bringing home, but their junk-foodie goodness was no match for the fact that she felt completely invisible to her husband. How could he not notice what she was going through? How could he not notice how frustrating it was every day for her to get up and still, months after childbirth, not be able to fit into her clothes? Feeling out of shape and invisible is a lethal combination, and could have easily spun Nicole into ‘giving up’ mode.
How To Not Give Up
Look for support not just from your partner, but from your friends and family. Or, if like Nicole you are a new mom, there are tons of exercise groups, mommy and me play dates, even mommy and me Yoga. This is where the beauty of Google comes in. If you can surround yourself with people in the same situation, you won’t feel so alone and you can move forward, maybe even with less resentment for your partner. Most hospitals, churches and even community colleges have support groups for dieters, or for almost any difficult lifestyle change (quitting drinking, quitting smoking, drugs, etc.). If you still can’t communicate to your partner how important it is to you that he or she supports you in your lifestyle change, do your best to remove yourself from the situation when it arises. Nicole found the strength to refuse those extra cheeseburgers by treating herself after workouts with pedicures, shopping for cute new workout clothes, or even just time alone reading (somewhere she couldn’t smell fast food).
Nicole also accepted that, now that her husband knew how important these changes were to her, she would have to be patient as he did his best to dive in. The beginning of any journey is difficult, but it was that one small step, the day he came home with a grocery bag full of actual food and they cooked dinner together, that made all the difference.
Finally, if your partner is unwilling to take that first step and stand by you in your mission, examine what his or her motives might be. Try to set aside the anger, frustration and resentment momentarily to see the situation from his or her point of view. It will be easier for you to move forward if you can let go of the anger and realize that you can’t control the actions of others, you can only do yourself a favor by taking control of your own.