Saturday, November 16, 2013
Why I Can't Eat with My Husband, and Shouldn't
"No," he argued with the magazine. "Not putting down the fork makes you fat."
I had to take a few minutes to give him a basic biology lesson in that, yes, your man can make you gain weight -- well, not make, but surely enable you. Men need to be aware of that, and it can become a problem. Doubt me? Just do a search for fat wife and see how many blogs and articles you find with men complaining about their wives' weight and no longer finding them attractive. The reverse is true as well, but less frequent --there are roughly half as many posts about fat husbands, and we're as likely to write as a man.
And looking over those posts from men, I had to wonder what role they might have unknowingly played in their wive's weight. Or if they had in fact encouraged it at some point as way to take the pressure off themselves. My first husband once told me that he sometimes wished I was fat because he wouldn't have to worry about anyone else looking at me. I should point out, he's an ex-husband and his desire to have me fat was only one of his problems.
Avoiding that all too easy change that having a man in my life creates is a delicate balance that I particularly struggle with on weekends, when we spend more time together and when his eating choices are more likely to outweigh mine.
First of all, being in a steady relationship often means less exercise for both of you. Often it means sometimes you don't push yourself to do things you might have done while single. You'd rather be home with him than pushing yourself to go to the gym, or the studio, and workout. You're more likely to spend a Saturday night munching goodies at a movie or piled up on the sofa than dancing at a club.
Even if your eating habits do not change, that can lead to adding a few pounds for both of you.
The more insidious problem, I've discovered, is eating together. Whoever cooks, in our case me, controls the menu a large part of the time, although portions may be very different. There's also shared control with whoever shops. My husband does know his way around a grocery store -- in fact, he goes with a list every week because I often don't have time to leave the house -- and sometimes he brings home foods that I should avoid. I have converted him from ice cream to frozen yogurt, and he's allowed potato chips because they don't tempt me. But heaven help him if he brings home a bag of Cheetos. He'd best plan on eating them quick. And it's only through the girls that I've come to tolerate Oreos without needing to demolish the bag. In a house where the man cooks in addition to shops, a woman wouldn't stand much of a chance.
Most women, when it comes right down to it, unless they run a fitness studio, are physical trainers, or make a very dedicated effort to work out frequently, cannot eat with their man without gaining weight. I have to remind my husband of that on a regular basis. Especially on the weekends when, after a week of planning the menus, I often default to letting him have his way.
He may disagree that I don't sit around and I get a lot of exercise. He frequently tells me I don't eat enough.
Then I will remind him that if we ate the same meals and worked side by side every day, I would still gain weight. He will look at me like I've lost my mind. I will remind him that he carries more muscle mass than I do, and because of that just sitting around, maintaining his body, burns more calories than it does for me. So those times when we do splurge and enjoy a pizza (I cannot remember the last time, but any way, it happens), those extra calories are going to drag around on my thighs a lot longer than he'll feel any pinch in his waistband.
In addition, I know I'm fighting my age, when it's so easy to say, well, everything else is going to pot, who cares what I weigh. That cute pair of jeans I bought last winter cares because they won't let me in. And my long term health cares because a lot of the diseases and issues women (and men) deal with as they age are brought on by what and how much they eat.
So five days a week we either eat separately or he eats with me -- I plan and prepare the meals. I do my best to make them healthy and balanced and equally attractive to preschoolers and my spouse. Portion control is out of my hands, so he can eat as much as he wants. Because of our schedules, we only manage dinner together two to four times a week, depending on whether or not he can wait until I get home. The nights I cook, I try to make enough for leftovers the other nights.
Weekends, I try to avoid the most outrageous food choices without making him feel too deprived. Those meals we manage together are often eaten out and then I have to watch how much I eat, even if it means leaving food on my plate or getting a carryout box and enjoying leftovers another day. I can't imagine how tough it would be to have a lifestyle that included dining out virtually all the time and trying to balance healthy choices with a healthy relationship in that situation.
So yes, contrary to my husband's defensive attitude, he can, while not make me fat, make it a heck of a lot easier for me to gain weight. Any partner can. They can also make it easier to be healthy by adopting a healthy lifestyle with us and encouraging us to take the extra time we need for a regular workout, or even joining us in that workout. Other than working out together, my husband does those things that make it easier for me to strive to be healthy.
Ultimately, however, no one can put the blame on their partner. While they can make healthier choices together and one can easily sabotage the efforts of the other without being aware of it, it really does come down to the choices a person makes for themselves.
When we settle down for some evening television and he loads up a bowl of frozen yogurt while I'm trying to occupy my hands with crocheting, that's a battle that only I can fight. And I have to admit that sometimes I'm going to lose, but I can do it on a single serving scale (really, only a half cup?) instead of joining him bite for bite.
And when he hears me complaining about my weight, he knows not to brag about how his is staying the same. Instead he tells me I still look great to him and doesn't raise his eyebrows too often at my portions. In that way, he helps me be healthy instead of making me fat.