On Sunday I was on cloud nine. I’d been making great progress toward my 200-pound squat goal — 160 for three sets of five, thank you. I had a decent Oly lifting session Saturday morning. Everyone had been napping and sleeping through the night, and I just felt good.
At lunch, I was babbling with excitement to my husband on how good it felt to feel strong again. I flexed my bicep in a joking manner and said, don’t I look strong?
His response: You do look strong. But you also look fatter.
Poof. There went the air out of my balloon, the wind out of my sails. I think any woman would be perfectly in her right to toss her water in his face, but I didn’t. Instead, I got quiet and thought about it.
I’m six months post partum. I am under my pre-pregnancy weight and still thinning out as I really get back into working out. I’m not overweight on any doctor’s scale, but I know I look best when I’m more in the 125-pound range versus the 133 pounds I am right now. I plan to get there, but I’m honestly in no hurry.
When my husband said I looked “fatter,” he was right. Before my lifting meet, I’d gotten down to 128 pounds. But after a two-week visit to Chicago and no limits on eating, my weight has crept back up. Portillo’s and Lou Malnatti’s, hello!!!
I don’t mind that my husband was being honest. I know he wasn’t calling me fat and, after many years of dealing with his dubious word choice, I know that he wasn’t trying to be mean.
To him, fat is just an adjective, same as tall or purple. For me, and probably for a lot of women, the word “fat” feels like an insult. It shouldn’t be.
After an afternoon spent in silence, he came up to me and asked me if I was mad. I told him I wasn’t mad. I was hurt.
That morning, I didn’t ask him for feedback on what I still need to work on. The list in my head of what I need to improve and work on is miles long. At that moment, I wanted a high five, encouragement, and reassurance that all of the time spent in the gym had me looking healthier and stronger.
He apologized, but the sting still lingers.
It’s funny. I am a part of some amazing social groups on Facebook, some made up of lifters and others made up of bloggers. Both are fantastic systems of support. When someone posts how they had a bad day, or that they’re frustrated with their progress in the gym, 10 others respond within minutes to lift that person up.
That kind of cheerleading isn’t natural for everyone. It certainly isn’t for my husband. The silver lining to that is when he does tell me I’m doing a good job or gives me that proverbial high five, I know he really means it.
Women especially are their own worst critics and it’s easy to take what others see as constructive criticism as straight-up tearing down. I get very defensive when I feel like someone is nit-picking what I do or say. I think that’s natural.
But I do try and see where they are coming from and if it’s in a place of trying to help me or hinder me. Depending on the answer, the relationship between me and that person changes.
After our spat, my husband asked at what point it would be appropriate to bring up his concerns about my weight gain.
My gut response: NEVER! Unless I specifically ask.
But that’s not entirely fair. When you are genuinely concerned about someone’s health and happiness, you should be able to bring up these issues and talk about them like an adult.
Here’s what my husband could have said if he were truly concerned about my weight creeping back up:
1. Wait to talk in a neutral place and time. Get the kids to bed and make sure there are no emotions leading into the conversation.
2. Without a condescending or judgmental tone, ask how workouts are going and if I felt I was on my way to reaching my goals.
3. Offer a compliment or acknowledgement of the work I’ve put in to working out, then state the concern. For example: “I’m proud of you for all the hard work that you’re doing balancing workouts with the kids and everything, but I’ve noticed you’ve gained a few pounds. You still look great and you’re the hottest woman around, but I wanted to see if you’d noticed that, too.”
4. If the conversation gets too emotional, end it and offer to talk about it when I am ready to talk about it.
5. Offer encouragement. Ask “how can I help” and mean it. If what would help is him taking the kids to the park in the evening so I can get another workout in, or refocusing our meal planning to include healthier choices, then do it.
6. Reassure me that this concern is not coming from a place of spitefulness, but truly out of wanting to help me be the best version of myself. It ultimately is my body and my choice to work out or eat bonbons; but that doesn’t mean those choices don’t have real-world effects on relationships.
I know my husband wants what is best for me and wants me to achieve all of the goals I set for myself. It still doesn’t make what he said right. He was being truthful in his statement, but it was not at all the right time to say it. He knows that now and I’m sure he will be more careful in the future. At least he better be…