I’m writing to get some insight on a problem that I’m having with my spouse regarding my weight loss. My husband thinks he knows it all when it comes to exercise, specifically and each time I “fail” at some attempt to lose weight, he thinks he has the right to tell me about my lack of consistency, dedication and the like.
Some background: When I met my husband, I was 225lbs. Surprisingly, I didn’t have any major health complications but I was uncomfortable at that weight because it was the biggest I had ever been. After about 3 or 4 months of dating, I told my husband that I wanted to start back with my exercise and eating better. My husband is an ex-British Army officer who at his peak used to do runs with 50lbs packs on his back. When we met he was in good but not great shape and offered me advice on how to train. I did tell him that I knew how to exercise but I just hadn’t done it for sometime because of school and work but I was open to his suggestions. He seemed put off that I said I had previous exercise experience (I was a former high school athlete and had lots of experience with weight training, kickboxing, step aerobics, etc).
He thought all I needed to do was lots of cardio. But I was 30 years old at the time and told him that I needed to do some weight training because women lose muscle over 30. Bad idea! For the next hour, he told me in painstaking detail how he helped a 300+ woman lose weight by showing her how to do mostly cardio workouts. I should have known right then this wouldn’t be the end of his exercise “advice”.
I eventually did my own thing and dropped a size or two using a combo of weights and cardio. While my husband didn’t outright discourage my solitary efforts, he didn’t seem satisfied or even very supportive unless I was following his exercise advice. We did 1 round of P90X together last year and I dropped another 2 sizes. My husband almost seemed like he did all the work pushing me to stick with it and while he did dispense some tough love when I was backsliding, I did all of those lunges, push-ups and plyo jumps.
If I start a new training program and decide to either tweak it or switch to something more enjoyable, I have to hear his mouth about my lack of discipline and consistency. I was diagnosed with ADD primarily with inattention issues so that explains but doesn’t excuse my constant switch in plans but I often feel like my husband reverts back to being an Army officer and forgets I have choices about how to lose this weight.
If I say I’m doing something new, he fires off a speech. If I try to explain my rationale, I’m being defensive. If I don’t respond while he’s nagging, I don’t respect his opinion. He is a wonderful man, a great provider and protector but it’s as if his support of my weight loss efforts comes with a price – his incessant criticism when I want to do something different.
I have actually considered counseling but something about it and Black men (regardless of country of origin) don’t mix. I’ve suggested it and he balks saying the problem is with my lack of follow-through. Any advice?
Your husband sounds so… so very awesome. Then again, you’ve got to know you’ve got some culpability, here.
First and foremost, let’s establish a few things. I know I’ve written about my support system before – my Mom, my Sorority sister, and one of my best guy friends? Well, that guy friend is a Marine.
They don’t play. They just… they don’t. If your hubby is anything like my dear friend, the Marine, then I pity you. It’s just… it’s a long road to hoe, and your hoe ain’t never big enough. (Pause?)
There are a lot of intermingling problems in here, but the biggest of which is the fact that he seems more invested in this than you appear to want him to be… and perhaps that’s because he’s not telling you what you want to hear. It’s not a matter of him simply wanting you to submit to his military expertise and know-how, it’s a matter of him critiquing the fact that you seem to have difficulty picking a program and simply following what you have in front of you.
A lot of times, people pick programs and tweak them before they dive in nose first, but then question why they’ve not yet received results. You don’t tweak before you get to see whether a program can work for you – you tweak as you progress through a program and realize you’re reaching a plateau. This may see something that he can see, and you can not – you’re working hard, committing the time, not getting the results you should be and getting discouraged… and can’t see why.
Sometimes, we fail to realize that our spouses are able to see things we cannot. Once I moved to NYC, I was instantly frazzled and frustrated. Felt like stress was causing me permanent anxiety all throughout my limbs, and was constantly feeling that tingly anxious feeling. I was all ready to blame it on the city, pack it all up and move back, and sure enough my fiancé came at me with the one sentence that said everything I’d forgotten:
“When’s the last time you practiced yoga?”
In all of the finding a place, getting my kindergartner (!) registered for school, reshaping my business, planning a wedding, combining our assets, and the other things that come with building a family…. I’d forgotten about the one thing that kept me sane, but he hadn’t. We keep our spouses around for a reason and, if they’re good to us, they prove it when they spot the things we can’t – or don’t want to – see. They don’t do it because it’s fun to nitpick us (unless you’ve got a total jerk for a spouse), they do it because you have to identify a weakness in order to strengthen it. If I (and my mister) know that my worst habit is that I procrastinate, terribly, then he does what he can to make sure that I stay on task.
As far as the therapy goes, hmm… as much as I want to tell you to go to therapy anyway, you’d still be paying for it with the family money and that’s relatively dishonest, at least in my eyes. You do appear to have a lack of follow through but more often than not that is compelled by something else, and a therapist could help you identify and address that issue. Often times, that fiddling with the program and only experiencing minimal results comes from our own fear of succeeding, more so the results of that success – unwanted attention, being ostracized (because many of us know we picked on and clowned the thinner women when we were heavier… how many of us want to be told “Boo, you need a sandwich!” hmm?) – and instead of achieving our goals, we pretend to actually be pursuing them while still sabotaging ourselves on the sly.
Now, dealing with the hubby… I think it’s time you simply exercised some silence in regards to this. Start working out outside of the house. Go for walks, jogs or runs in the morning time or later in the evening, but go alone. Express your need to do some soul searching – since he seems to turn his nose up at the idea of therapy – and do it on your daily excursions. I understand his desire to see you succeed, but I also understand his inability to understand that life isn’t as easy as it is in [whatever the British equivalent of the Corps is], where you simply fall in line and do what your fellow struggler is doing. Real life is far more fluid, and we take the shape of our environment. Your task is to figure out how to incorporate fitness into that life, and him barking at you about “failing” isn’t going to help. We don’t fail – we trial and error, and when our efforts don’t bring results, we change the experiment.
Oh, and as far as that 300lb woman he helped lose weight? I’ve been that woman before. Cardio is great, but so is muscle. To me, that feels more like he “doesn’t want you bulking up like a man.” Yeah, because that happens overnight. This is why you can’t tell everyone everything, and after you realize you’ve made that mistake, you’ve got to just do whatever you can to not make it again.
The bottom line is you clearly need some time alone in your own brain with your own thoughts to figure yourself out, and as much as we love our spouses, yours isn’t making this any easier on you. As much as people harp on the necessities of “tough love,” not a single member of my support system practiced tough love. We laughed, cried, shed tears together, got chills together, but not once was i berated, made to feel bad because of my alleged “failures,” or made to feel like my thoughts or opinions were invalid. Even with my mean ass Marine friend, he pushed me when it came time to test my limits, but when I came up short, he’d tell me “What did you do? What were you supposed to do? Did the two match? Do you think that is why you didn’t achieve results?” You may be like me, and simply not respond well to that snarky kind of criticism, and that’s okay.
Silently advance on your goals. Keep both your victories, and your struggles, to yourself. Trust me – just like hubby can see you’ve got a few self-sabotage issues, he’ll see that you’ve dropped a few sizes. And, like most spouses, he’ll simply tell you “Dang, I don’t know what you’re doing, but I like it!”