About two years ago, I sat my husband down on the couch, the one I dyed purple because it made both of us happy to have a purple couch, and I told him that I was fat. That I had been fat for years. That I was tired of trying and failing to do anything about it. And so I was going to be fat for years to come. What did he think about it?
I wasn’t asking for his approval. We never have thought that we required the other’s approval for things like this, and he didn’t mistake my question for a request for it. And in many ways, this felt a little redundant to even be talking about. He lives with me. He sees me naked almost every day. Surely the state of my body was not a surprise to him in any way.
Except that he sort of flipped out.
I was a little shocked. My husband has always, clearly and unmistakably, found me attractive. He has never cared about the current mainstream beauty standards and how closely I matched them. He thinks that I am wondrous and amazing when I am happy and content with myself, and he loves what my body can do for me and us. No longer fighting to fit my body into molds made to sell clothing and self-hatred and and thereby making me deeply unhappy should be a good thing. So what was going on?
It turned out, after some conversation and going around in circles, that his definition of the word ‘fat’ included being unable to do things. That ‘fat’ was a limiting condition that kept people from participating in activities, caused severe health issues, and that got in the way of living the life that people wanted to live.
Let’s be clear about a few things. First, I am not going to argue about the relevance of those connotations for anyone else. I am not writing about anyone else. I do not live in other people’s bodies, I am not married to other people, and so we’re going to skip right over whether my husband was right or wrong to define fat in such a way. Not the discussion at hand.
Second, this would be the point where I offer up the justifications of how I’m not really all *that* fat, how I’m really just a bit more than average, right? And perhaps a long paragraph or two about the things that I have done to try to lose weight and excuses about why they didn’t work for me. Well, I’m skipping it. I’m fat, the details are not relevant to anyone except me and the medical professionals of my choice (although apparently terribly important to a wide variety of people who don’t know me and never will get a chance to after they open their mouths), and doing so would just reinforce the idea that this is something to be justified anyway. Instead of what it is: a fact.
Once we had both figured out what he was reacting to, we spent some time cuddling and calming down, and then started to unpack his reaction. What was he afraid of? How did our lived experience of my body match or differ from his fears? Were there things about his fears that rang true for me? What did we want to do, if anything, about the situation?
Some things were easy to refute. My weight did not keep me from doing the things that I and we wanted me to be able to do. There have been people in his life for whom this was not true, and I understand that this fed his fears. But it was not the case for me. Yes, being fat is statistically likely to increase health issues. So is growing older. So are depression and stress, and being depressed about my weight and stressed trying to lose weight didn’t seem like the better alternative.
Finally, what life did we want to live? I didn’t want to compete in body building competition, or win Mrs. America. We liked the life we were living, and I could do all of it, and he could do all of it, and so who cared about the things where my weight, or his, might be an issue? We were not inhabiting those spaces, not spending time with those people, and – until I’d decided to bring this up explicitly – it hadn’t bothered us. So we decided to let it coast. See what happened. Keep an eye on my health, and his health (he still eats like a teenager), and make sure that we were still doing the things that we wanted to do.
And it worked for about a year and a half. Until there was a medical reason to do otherwise.
During that time, we achieved pregnancy and then lost the baby just before three months. That story is told elsewhere, and not the point here. About five months after the miscarriage, I asked my doctor when we could talk to fertility doctors if we decided to go that route. She said we had to show that we’d been trying to get pregnant for a year after the last proven sign of fertility, and a miscarriage counted as a sign of fertility. I didn’t dare ask how many miscarriages we’d have to have before they no longer counted. My doctor also said that the fertility doctors were likely to have more options for me if I lost a bit of weight, and she named a number that seemed very achievable in seven months. So I set off to do it.
And along the way, achieved pregnancy again.
The diet I picked explicitly stated that women who were using hormonal birth control might be wise to also use barrier methods until they were at the maintenance stage of the diet. I didn’t mention that this was an attraction for me . . . and a mere two months later called up the diet support person to explain that I was going to stop the diet, since dieting and pregnancy are frowned on at the same time.
Separate-entity baby is still about three months off at this point, but I haven’t looked at a scale in months. I have no idea how much I weigh. I am very clearly pregnant to other people, in addition to being fat. I eat the things I need to for the baby, and don’t worry about my weight.
I went to the doctor the other day, and was asked to step on the scale. I politely declined. The nurse moved onto taking my blood pressure with no comment. It was lovely, and unstressful.
I will need to let them take my weight as I approach the end of pregnancy, to watch for water retention, but as soon as that’s done, I expect to go back to ignoring the scale. Not ignoring my health, not ignoring my levels of exercise and food intake. But the scale can’t tell me anything useful about my health, and I refuse to use it as a substitute any longer.
Is this the right choice for anyone else? I don’t know. I’m not a medical professional providing care to someone concerned about their weight. And chances are reasonably good that neither are you!