Lisa, 39, works for an insurance company, sitting down all day. A size 7 when she married Fred, Lisa – 13 years later – found herself squeezing into a size 18. She has been trying to lose weight for years, without much interest from hubby. He doesn’t have a weight problem and doesn’t feel he needs to accompany her on walks. (I wonder if Fred develops a health “issue” and has to go on a special diet or regimen, will Lisa adopt the same attitude? “Sorry, old man, but I’m a salt fiend. Make your own meals if you can’t eat salt.”)
Once, Lisa says, when she was trying to do up her jeans and the zipper wouldn’t zip, she blurted out, “Oh, gee, these darn jeans!” The way she remembers it, “Fred just looked up quietly and, half scared to say it, remarked, ‘It’s not the jeans. If it bothers you, do something about it.’
“He would never tell me that it was time to lose weight as he knows that would really hurt my feelings,” says Lisa. “I already know what I have to do. His only complaint is that he doesn’t like to hear me complain about something I can do something about!” Indeed. None of us likes listening to complaints of any sort. “Put up or shut up” could be the Canadian motto. This would be especially apt for couples who fatten up together; when you’re chubby yourself, it’s inexcusable to kvetch about your partner’s weight gain. So don’t.
Take Maritimers Archie and Peggy, both over 40. Archie put on an average of 20 pounds per year for the first few years of the couple’s marriage. Peggy didn’t exactly look like Teri Hatcher either. “We are pretty well on a rollercoaster ride at all times,” she says. “When he is up [in weight], I’m down and when he is down, I’m up. One Halloween we were invited to a dress up party. We couldn’t imagine what we would dress as. Then I said, ‘Let’s go as Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus!’ As if no one would know who we were!”
Sometimes, though, misery doesn’t like company; instead, misery wants a makeover. So even though both halves of a couple have expanded to Hindenburg proportions, only one partner signs up for a weight-loss program. When he or she begins to make headway, obviously trimming down, the other partner may be inspired to do the same.
That was the case with Lucy and Bob, a Calgary couple in their 40s. Lucy put on about 40 pounds in the four years after she quit smoking. When she noticed that a coworker had dramatically transformed his physique for the better, she was prompted to get some personal fitness training. Over the past year, she has seen a big difference in herself, so she began urging Bob to consider the same program. “Lucy’s been after me, day in, day out,” Bob says. Later, he adds, laughing, “She stops at calling me ‘Fatty.'”
Lucy’s words paid off and Bob enrolled. “I am feeling much better,” he admits. The change in their appearance makes the couple feel positive about their future too. “We want to look good for our retirement,” Bob jokes.
Theirs is a good-news story, where teamwork paid off and there seem to be no hard feelings. Sometimes, according to Sandra Bueckert, the personal fitness trainer who helped the couple, the second partner becomes a saboteur because he or she secretly doesn’t want the spouse to change. As weird as it may sound, the leader of two mates has been known to dress differently – sometimes more provocatively – which “can surprise the other person a bit.” Suddenly, spouse number 2 starts showing up with little gifts of pastry or chocolate and slyly offers second helpings at mealtimes. I ask you: is that someone who just loved their mate the way they were, wobbles ‘n’ all? Or is it perverse?
Sometimes, a mate will admit that the slim version of the spouse is the preferable one and that his or her sexual interest has waned now that, shall we say, the spouse’s moon has waxed fuller. One woman, I heard about has cut her husband off sex until he loses weight but, naturally, she didn’t want to talk about it in Chatelaine. (Who knows? – he might find less critical takers.) A more courageous fellow chose to correspond with us over the Internet. “When my wife ‘Candy’ substituted granny panties for bikini panties after her weight gain, that’s when it began,” says “Robby?’ “Those up-to-the-waist panties do nothing for me whatsoever. We made love less often and, of course, she would gain more weight.”
Candy is now back to her old shape and has won back Robby’s physical affection, which explains why he feels able to be truthful. You’ve got to hand it to the guy for honesty, and it works for them, I guess, but his comments wouldn’t score with me if I were his wife. It’s doubtful Robby looks like he stepped out of a Calvin Klein ad himself.
The tight-lipped mate is probably wise. One Toronto woman says when she suddenly realized she still had a “mummy tummy” long after the birth of her baby, she asked her husband, “Why didn’t you tell me I still needed to lose weight?” His reply? “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”
The topic of excess fat is perilous terrain that only the bravest spouses dare explore. Do so at your peril, remembering two adages: “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” and “Handsome is as handsome does.” Personally, I see only a couple of circumstances in which spousal weight gain is grounds for confrontation: first, if one spouse is trying to lose weight but the other is uncaring, and second, if the overweight spouse simply gives up caring about whether her partner finds her appealing. But those cases are rare. Most couples are acutely aware of and care about each others’ feelings.
Me, I’m hoping there will someday be a point at which we can say, “This is me. I will never be Heather Locklear or Harrison Ford. And guess what? I’m fine with that.” And the love of our life will say, “Me too.” I’m thinking 50 may be the magic age.