couples counselingeating and weight

My Wife Is Fat

Reader Wife Is Fat writes:

I felt compelled to send you a message after reading the Husband is Overweight entry because my situation is a bit reversed.  I’m in the army and my wife is the overweight one (200lbs and 5’4″) and she knows it.  She gained weight after she was pregnant with our daughter (she had hyperemesis gravidarum which messed her diet up) so I’ve tried to be patient.  After about a year and a half she has finally started to make half-hearted attempts because she wants to lose weight before having another child, in case she has another complicated pregnancy.  Half hearted attempts include paleo or various other diets for a month at a time without exercise.  Finally started some 21 Day Fitness routine where she exercises and follows a portioning diet but that lasted about a week and a half and she just made brownies the other day.  If I complain or refuse to eat them, she says, “Well, I’ll just eat all of them and just get fatter.”

On top of all this she has several tools and people at her disposal but I think she is too self conscious to get help.  I’m an endurance athlete by the nature of my job,  I’m familiar with nutrition and training. We have a gym in our garage even.  My suggestions fall on deaf ears because “women’s bodies are different”  Her friend across the street is a Crossfit instructor with a child of similar age and she just says “Crossfit doesn’t help fat people” …Sure.  I found a group similar to Stroller Strides at the park I run at, had some initial interest and I didn’t think she could really make an excuse for that one since we already have  a Bob.  She wants a “fat friend” to do it with her and don’t expect it to happen.

Ultimately, I have a hard time with this because I’m extremely self driven (also according to some of your articles I have narcissistic traits too), wake up early in order to workout before work.  I offer to watch our daughter when I get home but usually my wife is tired by that time or doesn’t really want to work out.  She refuses to put our daughter in any sort of day care (she’s 18 months old).  I will say she is a nurse and works nights once a week so I understand she is tired after working but that should be one or two days.  She recently got an appointment scheduled to remove her mirena because she thinks that is the source of her weight gain among other side effects, this is also when she stopped following the 21 day plan.

I’ve mentioned that I would like her to lose weight a couple times ( as subtly as I could and mostly because I want our family to be more active as our daughter gets older) but that gets a retort of “You’re a real asshole.”  I feel like there isn’t a nice way for men to put it.  I’ve thought about getting separated (for this and some conflicting personality issues) but its not quite to the point of “I’ve had enough” and I’m afraid of my daughter being raised seeing me as a villain if we did separate and it lead to a divorce.

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Dear WIF,

I’m sorry you’re so upset.  You can read this post, in which I give advice to another man whose wife is overweight.  Basically I say that if he stops telling her to lose weight, she might decide to on her own, but if it’s a dealbreaker, then leave. I give the same advice to you. What you should not do is remain in a relationship where your daughter continually picks up on the idea that you’re dissatisfied with her mother’s appearance and that you consider her mother to be lazy and unmotivated in addition to physically unattractive.  So, either get out, or get therapy so that you can make peace with your fat wife.

If you have narcissistic traits, it’s good that you can admit it (and read this), and please realize that this means that you’re even more sensitive to how others perceive your wife.  You’re a guy with a fat wife, and that is not comfortable for you.  It would be enlightening to explore the origins of your current dissatisfaction and your marital dynamic in your childhood.  Was one of your parents passive aggressive (like both you and your wife seem to be)?  Was one depressive and unmotivated and the other condescending and detached?  (That would parallel your wife and you.)  Was one a caretaker and the other a narcissist?  Was one the guy who said, “No biggie, 24 hour shifts don’t make you exhausted for more than one day afterward and we should put our year and a half old into daycare despite this child being the emotional lifeline for you since I provide you with limited emotional support and implicit criticism?” Just asking.

Here’s some good news for your wife though, since I doubt you think she’s smarter than you about much: she’s right about the exercise.  Exercise doesn’t make women lose weight as easily as it does for men, because women’s bodies are different.  In fact, exercise makes people hungrier and doesn’t work for weight loss overall, according to research.  Of course it has loads of other awesome benefits and can make your body look more toned, and intense exercise (like your wife is unlikely to start with) may hasten weight loss, but in terms of calories in, calories out, I never lose weight from exercise because a 30 minute run burns 250 calories (I’m slow) and then I’m hungrier for two apples later.  Yup, two apples negates a run.  O cruel world. This is why you see so many runners who aren’t rail thin, and are even overweight.

Your wife needs to eat less and differently to lose weight, and this can be supplemented by exercise for all sorts of good reasons.  But we don’t even know if she genuinely wants to lose weight; it’s hard to access internal motivation when you’re being subtlely (or unsubtlely) commanded to do something or risk your husband’s loss of love. (Read this about how Type A, narcissistic guys criticize their stay at home wives. because I think a similar dynamic is at play even though she works.) Food, and probably caring for your baby, seems to be her source of emotional support.  If she wants to examine this in counseling, great, but that counseling is also going to focus on your “subtle” comments that undermine her self-esteem and may end with her leaving you, then losing weight and attracting a new guy that is nicer to her.

I also suggest couples counseling, because you both need it before you have an affair or model a crappy marriage for your kid.  By the way, if she wants another baby, you better watch out if you have one, because that will really stress your marriage to the breaking point if you haven’t worked on it by then. I also think that she might in fact want another baby in part because maybe then you’ll get off her case about her weight, and also it might make it easier for her to say that she wants to stop working nights, since having two kids is harder than one.  Maybe this isn’t the case but I’ve seen a lot of couples in this situation.

If you wanted concrete communication advice, it would be to say something like:

“Hey, I’m sorry I’ve been acting like an asshole about you being overweight.  Upon introspection, I believe that in addition to my own dislike of fat, on myself and others, I also feel we are getting into the same dynamic as my parents, where she sat around and watched TV and he would shake his head [or whatever their dynamic was; I’m guessing it wasn’t perfect].  I also want to apologize for talking about Crossfit all the time, which is difficult and intense for even super fit people. In fact, if I’m honest with myself and you, it’s not the same issue for me that you’re inactive as it is that you’re overweight.  If we both tried to limit our sugar intake together, this would be a good first step that would make me happier.  Also, I think we should go to couples counseling because our communication needs work and we barely have sex anymore [I’m just guessing that part].”  If you love her and can say that, add it in.

To be honest, your wife probably isn’t going to lose weight till your child(ren) are older.  She has no motivation and you may be more difficult to deal with than you realize (come on, eat her homemade brownie, or at least half of it).  I am a big Stroller Strides proponent, but if my husband told me to do Stroller Strides when my first baby was 18 months old, I would have told him to stride out of the house while I cried and ate ice cream.  I didn’t exercise from the birth of my first child till the birth of my third three and a half years later.  People either need intrinsic motivation to exercise.  Intrinsic is stuff like “I want to be healthy” or “I want my awesome loving husband to think I’m hot.”  It is usually not “I want to appease my narcissistic husband although I am certain that no amount of weight that I could reasonably lose would be enough to make him prefer me to a Crossfit loving 25 year old.”

Hopefully you can stay and be happy; if not, make your decision and allow your wife to live her life free of you and criticism, and you can get one of those Crossfit women and start enjoying your life (till she pops out a baby and exchanges the kettlebell for a Moby wrap).  Good luck and keep me posted.  Till we meet again, I remain The Blogapist Who Says Your Own Counseling Could Really Help Shed Light On Many Aspects Of Your Life.

For therapy, go here for Dr. Whiten and go here for other clinicians in her group practice Best Life Behavioral Health. For coaching with Dr. Whiten, go here. Order Dr. Whiten’s books, 52 Emails to Transform Your Marriage and How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family, and listen to The Dr. Psych Mom Show on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or anywhere else you listen to podcasts.

This blog is not intended as medical advice or diagnosis and should in no way replace consultation with a medical professional. If you try this advice and it does not work for you, you cannot sue me. This is only my opinion, based on my background, training, and experience as a therapist and person.

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11 Comments

  1. Catherine
    August 6, 2015 at 10:35 am — Reply

    Good advice. I don’t know the whole situation there’s always 2 sides to every story. For me I want to feel attractive for my husband and feel good about myself. If I had help with our children as he says he offers to care for their child I’d be out the door in a heart beat! I hope they work it out before they have more children. We don’t have any stroller strides or mom groups in our small town :-/

  2. August 6, 2015 at 12:51 pm — Reply

    It sounds to me like the wife is depressed, and he’s not helping. I’m really sad for her because I’ve been there and done that. I put weight after starting antidepressants, and every time my now-ex boyfriend mentioned it, I died a little inside. It was only when he left me (likely in part for getting fat) that I realized how much time I’d spent feeling bad about myself, which ironically made me turn to food for comfort. I still haven’t lost the weight, but I’m working on it, and in the interim I’m discovering that there are nice men who find me attractive as I am. I’m relieved that I’m not stuck in a negative feedback loop with someone who didn’t love me unconditionally. If this guy isn’t willing to confront his own issues and meet his wife with love and tenderness to find a way forward together, she’s better off without him.

  3. Overweightwife
    August 26, 2016 at 5:32 pm — Reply

    My husband is in the AF and he loses weight just by deciding too. But. After 12 years I realized I want to be happy and healthy = not skinny. So I use MyFitnessPal, as does he, and it’s a great way for us to be supportive of each other in our healthy lifestyles, without having to work out the same or micromanage each others lifestyles.
    It may be a good tool for your dynamic.

  4. Young husband
    July 16, 2019 at 2:59 am — Reply

    I think you’re being pretty unfair to the husband here. He is allowed to express his concerns about how his wife’s weight gain is affecting their marriage. I’ve only been married two years and my wife and I haven’t been physically intimate for a year now as she has gained weight and just isn’t confident in her own skin. I don’t push anything and I support her because I love her. But if I’m honest, it makes me feel unwanted. She never initiated any physical intimacy and has even started avoiding kissing me sometimes from fear that it will turn into something more. I give everything for my wife and would never want to guilt her with the pain I feel due to her not wanting to be with me physically. And I will never be unfaithful to her. I just wanted to share this perspective as it is hard for me as a husband. I know she is hurting too. But it hurts me so much.

    • Fred
      January 18, 2022 at 11:45 pm — Reply

      Completely agree.

  5. Charles Halbery
    September 10, 2019 at 5:11 pm — Reply

    Totally understand I’m married to an overweight woman who I love dearly but
    Do not find sexually attractive at all. I find sex difficult to instigate and feel almost relief when not required to do so. Sorry if this offends wo.en but I can only be honest .

  6. Bashar
    May 23, 2020 at 12:33 pm — Reply

    I just came across this today, I know it have been posted years ago and I hope people who this was based on are in a much better place.

    Before I wrote my comment, I read the original question and read your answer to it. Then I re-read this and your answer to it.

    Generally, people tend to sympathise with women – self-included – and feel that men are assholes for having feelings or frustrations towards their wives.

    This guy is suffering in his marriage, he sounds like he loves his wife, that he has been trying and trying for years, and also he sounds like he’s a person who brings in ideas (i.e. Gym in the house) and face rejection continuously, and it’s frustrating him.

    So just from a rant, you made all those assumptions about his wife and himself.. gave out these drastic, serious “advises” and accused him of being a narcissist (even if he was being sarcastic of what you have written in your articles) and finally recommended that he leaves his wife for a CrossFit chick!

    Seriously… Can a psychiatrist say all this without inviting the couple to a session and hearing from both sides??

    I think your response is a perfect example of how this world has become. This is just like when people line up against victims of Covid-19, demonising the raped teenager because “she might have been wearing” I think this needs to be readdressed and the husband needs to be heard and appreciated for what he feels.

    You have no right to demonise him or make him feel guilty for having some negative feelings or frustrations!

  7. Fred
    January 18, 2022 at 11:44 pm — Reply

    Dear Samantha,
    You are one condescending bitch. Rather than answer a person’s question, you berate him and assassinate his character, his parents character, upbringing, etc. Lines like “It would be enlightening to explore the origins of your current dissatisfaction and your marital dynamic in your childhood” says you’re really in over your head here but are afraid to admit it. The f*ck does that have to with anything? Just answer the fukn questions and keep your bullshit personal attacks to yourself. God Almighty

    • January 19, 2022 at 8:01 am — Reply

      Ron, that is what therapy is, we explore what went on in your past to make you react the way you are reacting in the present. I’m sorry you don’t like the post but thanks for reading!

  8. sick and tired
    May 19, 2022 at 3:13 pm — Reply

    Most people do not understand how hideously, hideously awful struggling and struggling and struggling to look thin is for some people.

    There’s a reason some of us have to cut half our stomachs out and reroute half our intestines is we hope to ever again be a single digit size. Then there’s the whole problem of skin removal. It really is that hard.

    The lowest I have ever been able to weigh in middle age is 199 lbs, and that is with a strict raw diet, 1500 calories a day (1750 if I exercise), and a commitment to exercise half the days in the month. Lower than 1750 calories and I’m hungry all day. Even working up to jogging my first 6K, I STILL weighed around 225 and wore a size 18.

    There is only but so much I am willing to go through. I’ve been through the semistarvation thing in high school where I only ate one bowl of cereal, one tiny cup of yogurt, and one apple all day and then struggled manfully not to overeat at night because I was so, so hungry. I weighed 120 lbs and people still tole me I looked fat. I ran 15-20 miles a week in college, was in the vest shape of my life, and struggled to stay at 135 lbs. I wore a size 8 pants that look like doll clothes now. PEOPLE STILL TOLD ME I LOOKED FAT.

    In my experience, NO amount of exercise is EVER enough and NO amount of calorie restriction is EVER enough. In addition, should I lose weight, then the terrible cycle of fear of regain and self-hatred over weight regain begins. Seriously, I could probably eat 800 calories a day for the rest of my life and maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe I might, might, might, might make it down to the “normal” size rack again. THAT’S how hard it is.

    Eating less than 1500 calories a day is literally starvation rations and one is constantly, constantly hungry. I will not do it again … especially since people have always considered me fat no matter what I did and what size I wore.

    For fuck’s sake, leave us fat people alone.

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