Q&A Wednesday: But… HOW Do You Date While Losing Weight? | A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss

Q&A Wednesday: But… HOW Do You Date While Losing Weight?

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Between the “Dating While Fat” post and the “Should I Date While I’m Losing Weight?” posts, I’ve received a few e-mails asking me about my real position on the matter, because it’s obvious that I managed to date and even become engaged along my journey even though I discourage dating during a weight loss … so what gives?

As my most recent e-mailer put it, “I am going on this journey for me and am SCARED TO PIECES that even after accomplishing so much, for any of us, dating could still be hard… because someone was a former fat girl.

I think dating is complex when you’re going through this kind of journey, but I think I also have to be real about “journeys” in and of themselves. For someone like me, that includes getting beyond a lot of negative experiences that I was clinging to, understanding my emotional eating habit, getting to know my new self, and essentially redeveloping who I am to be a person who values activity, fitness, and eating healthier. Like, that’s a lot.

But for someone who simply has five, ten pounds to lose, theirs isn’t much of a “journey,” to the extend that the word implies seriousness, discovery and depth. For them, it may just be “Damn, I need to lay off the beers.” And that’s okay, too.

Journeys are different, and just because mine was some giant, convoluted situation doesn’t mean that everyone’s will be, but some are, and that’s what I’m talking about now. Dating will be easy to embrace for some, but if you’re carrying “the secret” of being a formerly obese emotional eater around, it feels like hell. It feels like your partner isn’t embracing the fullness of what makes up who you are. That being said…

Because of the nature of my journey, and because I’d have to explain so much about my emotional eating and where it stemmed from, it’s something that I never shared up front. I don’t think anyone should. It’s a personal thing that requires a lot of vulnerability, and I’m a staunch supporter of protecting yourself – not everyone can be trusted with your vulnerability. Not everyone can be trusted to do the right thing when left in the presence of someone vulnerable and, sometimes, helpless. If I couldn’t trust him with the keys to my house, where my child and I sleep at night, I wasn’t going to trust him with that story. (As with all other things, your mileage – and standard – may vary.)

My past experiences with emotional eating are a part of me, in some ways a big part, but they aren’t the totality of who I am. I’m a mommy. I’m a pianist. I’m a teacher. I’m a computer programmer. I’m a food snob. I’m an [amateur] economist. I’m a lot of things. All of which can be cannon fodder, and when things start to get serious, I’d gladly share my past experiences with being obese and being an emotional eater.

Now, I am, by no means, a relationship expert… but there are a few things that I think people should realize when it comes to dating:

1) Develop some boundaries. Everyone doesn’t need to know everything, and a little mystery is always better than information overload. To me, dating is all about making a new friend – because, in my experience, being a good friend is a requirement for a “good relationship” – and there’s more than enough to talk about between one another prior to becoming serious than that. There’s no reason to put everything on the table up front. It’s dating, not employment. I don’t need his emotional resume, and he doesn’t need mine. In the beginning, I’m trying to figure out whether or not I can stand being in your presence, and likewise for my companion.

2) People go into dating for tons of reasons – looking for a life partner, auditioning for a friend with benefits, just to have a good time, so on and so forth. Be realistic about which one of those you are, and then make sure that your boundaries are set accordingly. In short, someone you’re not serious about shouldn’t have so much information about your personal life, anyway.

3) Think about what the ideal response is to what you share when you share it, and be ready to walk away if the response is unfavorable. If your journey is anything like mine was, and it’s filled with landmines and pot holes that make things both bumpy and overall rocky, then you want someone who is going to be supportive… not someone who is looking for a trophy to reward themselves with, only to run when you experience a set back. We always talk about “down ass chicks,” but how often do we talk about someone other than “the woman” being “down?” Perpetually supportive under any circumstance? Do we not deserve that? Should we not demand that of our partners, and be comfortable walking away when they cannot offer that?

4) Be very clear about who you are – in other words, don’t present a facade – and do not change just because you think you’ve found the perfect partner. Be who and what makes you happy, and look for someone attracted to that. It makes dating much more enjoyable, more fun and less likely to result in blabbing away about things you really can’t trust someone with in the first place.

It was a long time before I opted to start dating during my journey. I had already lost about 110lbs, and felt like I had figured out my emotional eating thing. I remember going out on a date with a friend, and he took my daughter and I to a restaurant. He’d already known about my past experiences because, well, we were friends… but I was finally single and ready to date.

I ordered a giant salad with grilled chicken on top and requested that the dressing come on the side. My daughter got her usual, grilled cheese with fries, and I didn’t touch her plate once (something I used to do incessantly.) The friend commented on how proud he was of me, and specifically asked about “what I was doing to keep it off.” I mean, I won’t lie. He had much more finesse than most when it comes to that topic. To a lot of people, there’s nothing worse than being involved with a rabid yo yo dieter, because “you can’t guarantee what you might wind up with months down the road when they get sick of the diet and binge on something crazy.” I told him that I’m not a dieter, but that I prefer to cook everything from scratch. I told him that I didn’t “do” processed food, that I stayed pretty active, and I did what I could to constantly learn about myself and keep myself from falling back into my old habits. I’m an honest person, and because he was a friend and not a stranger, I felt comfortable being vulnerable in his presence. He responded in kind, by being supportive and encouraging.

While he was tactful and supportive of me, many were weirded out by it. As I’ve shared before, I’ve gotten everything from “So… you’re not gonna get fat again, are you?” to “I could never get fat like that, what happened to you?” and I’ve answered, matter of factly, “I just had a lot of learning to do… but I know now, and thank goodness!” However, because I need more sensitivity and finesse than that in a partner, they’re no longer in the running.

Ed, my fiance, handled it beautifully. He and I were friends for months before he came on my radar and he was even a supporter of my blog. One night, I just innocently slipped him my number, and the rest was history. We spent hours talking, and we talked about my past with emotional eating. Very calmly, he asked, “So… what do you look for from your partner to support you with that?”

I was sold.

He actually was with me, and supported me throughout another 30lbs and a few more emotional roadblocks. He was all the support I could’ve ever needed.

If it isn’t clear, I’ll say it plainly: Be realistic about when you’re truly ready to do this. Planning to invite someone into your life is a big deal, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Be honest, deliberate, and afraid of nothing. You are who you are, and you want someone who is going to accept you as well as support you onward toward being who you want to be. Be well-versed in the art of self-protection, but be yourself, and be okay with walking away from a bad situation. It’ll make your life happier, and enrich the life of any person[s] you bring into it.

Thoughts, y’all?

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes health, fitness, nutrition, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She now lives in New York with her family, and is working on her 4th, 5th and 6th certificates.

13 Comments

  1. ATR

    November 7, 2012 at 7:49 PM

    So far most of my experiences have been ok. There was a guy that laughed at the fact that I went to Weight Watchers meetings…I returned no calls or texts after that. If it comes up I don’t mind sharing my how much I lost, how I did it and a vague reason why. I don’t just put it out there though. I wouldn’t share any deep emotional things in the beginning.

    I don’t force my food choices on anyone but I won’t let someone talk me into something I don’t like or don’t need. I’m serious about my food though, lol. I have no shame ordering things the way I want. I’m kind of proud of that because what folks think about my food used to be an issue for me. So far the guys I’ve met have been ok with that.

  2. Meg

    November 8, 2012 at 12:12 AM

    I have had different experiences. I was used to dating at around 160-180 pounds. At that weight, my body was still more of the, as I’ve heard, “thick fine” range b/c I carry my weight proportionally and my hips, behind, and breasts are ummm, rotund. I had a little tummy but not much. I actually never heard anything negative about my weight at 180 except when I was dating an a**hole who told me where I ranked on his list of sexual partners and that I wasn’t number one b/c the other girl was a little smaller than me. Ugh. Needless to say I moved on. Another relationship ended in part b/c my partner was self-admittedly superficial. He never said anything directly to me but I found out my weight (210) was what he blamed for his inability to officially commit and the drop-off in our sex life. What dumbfounded me is that he was critiquing my body while he had a potbelly and hotdog rolls of his own to be concerned about. It was so hurtful and shallow. I’ve always been proud of my shape. It’s not perfect but I never really had internal body image issues and I was used to receiving compliments. I became so self-conscious b/c it was such a blow to my confidence. I thought our relationship and love was deeper than that. I understand the importance of being attractive to and attracted to your partner. However, when I suggested we workout or walk the dog together he wasn’t down. Add that to all the junk and fast food he’d bring in the house and it just didn’t add up for me. I wouldn’t have had a problem losing weight b/c I honestly needed to. The problem can in his unwillingness to help me get there. The flipside of this is that I’m now faced with one potential suitor who I like but it morbidly obese. He asked me was he sloppy & fat and I just didn’t know what to say so I told him that he wasn’t sloppy b/c he always looks well put together and dresses nicely (which he does). He does need to lose weight but I believe in taking people as they are right at the moment. I feel just as shallow as my ex because I wouldn’t want to date him long term as he is right now. I feel like it’s hypocritical.Conversely, I’m worried about the other suitor as he’s a bit of a fitness buff. I feel self-conscious. It’s like I know you like my behind but can you accept my belly too until I work it off? Dilemmas, lol…

  3. Debbi

    November 9, 2012 at 12:04 PM

    Thank you sis for addressing this! I respect and appreciate your response!!!

    I think your point (and I LIKE IT) is what is most important is to have supportive people in our lives’ no matter WHAT our past is/was because we all have one.

    I love the boundaries suggestion and agree!

    I think you also hit on a deeper issue which is how we feel about OURSELVES! With some things I have going on in my life, what I am realizing is that we draw people to us who reflect how we feel about us.

    So if we ACCEPT nonsense maybe we don’t feel we deserve more?

    Blessings!

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      November 9, 2012 at 2:37 PM

      I’m not sure if I’d say it’s because “we don’t feel we deserve more,” I think it can also be that you don’t know what “more” looks or feels like. If all you’re surrounded by is dysfunctional relationships, or actual respectful, quality relationships aren’t encouraged by the people you’re around (“Girl, that’s a “good man! So what if he [insert foolishness]!”), or if you are still trying to figure out what it is you DO deserve… then it takes time to figure it out.

      I think we draw people to us who reflect how we feel about ourselves, but I think lots of times we don’t acknowledge when long standing relationships become toxic, debilitating and unhealthy. We “keep people around” for a lot of reasons, and we let those reasons minimize what’s most important, which is making sure that our connections with people are healthy. Like, you don’t keep a man around who treats you like crap just because the sex is good. (And let’s not front – if we’ve not done this ourselves, we’ve got friends who’ve done it.) Good sex can be had in a mutually beneficial healthy fashion that doesn’t result in having to put up with a scumbag… and it’s worth waiting for and hunting out. It’s better for your spirit. Just like keeping a dirtbag around just because he has money. That kinda mess just feels toxic. I won’t even lie. I’ve done both. And I felt like I’d gotten the wind beneath my damn wings again when I set both loose.

      Also, dating is non-committed to me. We’re dating. Not exclusive. Not engaged. Not married. I can walk away at any time. That kind of “desperation,” for lack of more fair descriptor, clouds our ability to understand that we CAN, in fact, walk away at any time because we want more than that. It might mean that you aren’t as “popular” as your girlfriends, but you may need to be okay with that, too. It’s looking for a life partner. Not a popularity contest, IMO.

      These kinds of topics always feel like someone’s hopping up on a pedestal or soapbox trying to “tell you something,” and that’s not my intention. I just want to be clear that this isn’t the place I’m coming from with it… I just FIRMLY believe that women need to be more comfortable declaring what they want and politely declining (polite because it’s the right thing to do as a human being, not because we’re prissy, ladylike flowers) that which doesn’t meet our standards. That’s all.

  4. Tatiana

    November 9, 2012 at 2:23 PM

    This topic has really been driving me crazy. I started dating for the first time ever 2 years ago. Being 100 lbs in the 1st grade has always made my weight a significant factor in life. I knew my weight held me back from dating (in an effort to protect myself from perverts and users).
    I made the decision to lose weight at 296lbs and haven’t looked back. Strangley along the way no new prospects presented themselves. After losing 120lbs. I got involved in a totally inappropriate relationship just to have an experience. I know that was me being desperate for attention after so many years.
    Recently, I’ve been dating more. I’m about 20lbs. away from my goal of 150lbs. During my journey I’ve learned how good it feels to treat myself well. I spoil myself every chance I get. I try to stay focused on how to honor myself physically and emotionally for the best quality of life possible.
    The problem I have is that I can’t seem to find a man who is willing to treat me as well as I treat myself. I have short changed myself so much that I refuse to let anyone else give me less. I know I’m not crazy for feeling this way but it’s hard for the first time in life I feel ready to be in a relationship.

  5. Arnita

    November 28, 2012 at 6:17 PM

    Wow, this is deep and you make me want to cry with this. As I read this, I believe this is part of the reason that I have held myself back from dating. I truly want someone supportive of me working to become a better all around me and it is tough when you have to figure out the basics for yourself first. Thanks for this Erika…you rock!

    • christine

      January 30, 2013 at 4:08 PM

      Has anyone gone out with someone who has gotten not upset but acted “funny” because you wouldn’t eat?? I had a date and they guy was kinda upset because I wouldn;t eat any pizza, needless to say it was our last date lol

      • Erika Nicole Kendall

        January 30, 2013 at 8:19 PM

        Hmmm…..now THIS is interesting. Could this be a Q&A question by itself? LOL

        • Rooo

          May 25, 2013 at 6:52 PM

          I had one send me four boxes of Godiva — yeah, y’all know you heard me — for my birthday after I’d told him I was a lowcarber.

          He also referred to me as a “fitness buff” at an extended family party in, shall we say, a less-than-admiring tone of voice.

          I’m nobody’s “fitness buff”. Those lunatics that dance in B’way shows and teach me Pilates on the side? And the 8th-degree black belt that gave me my last (and final, LOL) colored-belt test? Those are fitness buffs.

          He is a, shall we say, larger-than-usual dude. I have no problem with that. I kinda dig those. The words “go to the gym” or “here is a new recipe” did not cross my lips ever while we were dating.

          And yet soon after the “fitness buff” comment he saw fit to taper things off because … ?? o.O

          You know I have my theories but feel free to draw your own conclusions, BBG2WL fam.

          (Sorry, y’all. On top of all, my trainer is leaving — rather abruptly, after some of us saw the writing on the wall some time ago and inquired and he told us “not to worry” (gotta stop listening to men who Speak With Authority While Lying Through Their Teeth) — and though I went on to class this morning with another instructor who is very good, this is someone who was giving me special help with a condition other trainers just … didn’t seem to have the ingenuity to figure out, and I clearly feel some kinda way about it. :-( )

          • Erika Nicole Kendall

            May 27, 2013 at 8:54 AM

            “I had one send me four boxes of Godiva — yeah, y’all know you heard me — for my birthday after I’d told him I was a lowcarber.”

            FOUR boxes? I’m not gonna front – my husband will occasionally bring me a chocolate croissant from one particular bakery in the city if he passes it by, and I may eat it on the spot, or I may save it for another time – but he doesn’t bring me FOUR.

            Why would you need to be that excessive with it? I mean, even if you’re used to showing love with food…you don’t buy FOUR boxes of chocolate.

          • Rooo

            May 27, 2013 at 10:40 AM

            “Why would you need to be that excessive with it?

            Boy’s a Taurus. And stands about 6’3″ 280 and change (maybe more; I never either asked or forced him on a scale; that’s not how we roll).

            And his mama suffers from serious health troubles related to that kind of consumption. And you know how that can ripple through the family. (Baby brother is big too, but he’s a martial artist, so at least that helps a little.)

            Other than that, I got nothin’.

            /K-ye shrug, girl version

  6. christine

    January 30, 2013 at 10:38 PM

    He was really heavy but I was cool cuz in his profile. (don’t judge me lol) he said he was trying to lose weight. People were ordering slices, I said I wish I could have that, he asked me if I wanted one I said no. Go to the ladies room, come back and there’s 2 slices of greasy pizza, and it’s almost. 2am so it’s not like I can go for a walk later…smh..guess I was too rigid for him

  7. Neecee

    May 8, 2013 at 8:13 AM

    Fortunately the guy I am seeing now has seen me at my heaviest 347 pounds and my weight was NEVER an issue. We have been friends for over 10 years now that I have lost weight He could not be more Proud of me. He has been so encouraging -when I decided I had to do something HE was with me 150% in fact he is losing weight too.

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