Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week: What do you do when you’re finally trying to love your body as it is — but your spouse isn’t on board? Have your own questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi Scary Mommy,
I have been on a journey to love and accept my body and move on from the crash dieting and over-exercising carousel I’ve been on for nearly my whole life. I have been truly learning to love and respect myself, and just enjoy food, exercise and life without constantly obsessing about carbs and calories and my pants size. The thing is, my husband shockingly doesn’t seem on board with this new change. He says things like “So you’re just going to give up?” or suggests we do a “weight loss challenge” together where we weigh in each week. The thing is, he’s physically fit by literally anyone’s standards, so he definitely wouldn’t be losing (nor does he need to lose) weight. So, it feels pretty targeted at me and I am obviously hurt and angry that he set back my progress and self-esteem in this way. I keep shutting him down, but I can’t seem to get it out of my head that he clearly doesn’t find me worthy or attractive in the body I have now. Where do I go from here?
Okay, maybe not just yet, but I’m not saying that completely in jest either. Because it’s a serious red flag that he would rather you live in a constant state of emotional turmoil and unhappiness with your body than relax and enjoy your life, pants size be damned.
Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt for a moment, though. You say he’s very physically fit — how hard does he have to work at this? If he’s the kind of person who’s never had to struggle with his weight, he may not even understand just how much it affects you on all levels. Especially since he’s a man, and dudes usually don’t have the societal pressure that women do to be unrealistically waif-ish. Have you ever expressed to him how much it hurts you to live under the constant strain of being hyper-conscious about every calorie taken in, every calorie burned, every “bad” food and “bad” weigh-in and guilt because you can’t squeeze into a certain size and envy over some Instagram influencer’s six-pack abs? Because that’s fucking exhausting — but it’s also so deeply ingrained in many of us that we bear the burden in silence, except maybe when we gripe about it to our equally-beleaguered girlfriends.
So I say, break that shit down for him. Tell him exactly how it feels to live like that, and how it isn’t flippin’ fair for you to order the sorbet (or skip dessert altogether) when what you really want is the decadent sundae with the damn cherry on top. Tell him that you’re firm in your decision to support your own mental health by finally accepting your body as it is, and you’re gonna need him to be on board with it too.
If he wants to exercise together once in a while, fine. Exercise is good for you, but only if you can do it with the right intentions behind it — not to lose weight, but to support your overall health. And if you can’t do that right now, he’s just going to have to accept it. Loving yourself is a process, and it’s going to take a long time for you to “un-learn” the habits you’ve probably spent almost your entire lifetime cultivating.
If after you explain everything to him, he’s still too much of a dense cabbage to realize how important this is to you … well, it’s time for counseling. Obviously you don’t want to toss out an entire marriage based on something like this, but a refusal to move past it would indicate a deeper issue (i.e., his selfishness) that needs to be addressed — because chances are, it’s showing up in other places in your relationship too.
Hopefully, though, it won’t take a measure that extreme; only an explanation that you’re much happier when you can be at peace with your own body. Because if he truly loves you, your wellbeing will matter to him much more than your measurements.