Two weeks ago, Lora received a letter that she passed on to me. I am not going to reprint it here, but I will give you an overview and then let's go from there...
The letter happened to be from a young woman, 27 years old, married for almost four years. She's had two children in this short time. Barbara (not her real name) was a slight woman when she married, barely tipping the scales at 108 pounds. A year ago she found herself at a heart breaking 242 pounds, more than doubling her weight. She told us that with each pregnancy she gained more and more. I know this must sound familiar to at least some of you...
However, as Barbara's weight increased (even modestly in the beginning), her husband began making her feel badly about it, at first teasing her gently, and over time crossing the line to cruelty. He's told her time and again that he does this to make her want to do something about the weight, and that she "doesn't seem to care enough herself."
Six months ago, Barbara began a low carb diet and has since shed forty of those pounds, bringing her to 202 at the time of her letter. She wrote because her husband is unsatisfied with her slow progress and is pressing her to have weight loss surgery.
Surprisingly, her letter was not an indictment of her husband's behavior (her husband is slim, by the way, and always has a Coke or a beer in his hand), but rather she was simply giving background and seems to actually blame herself for her own lack of progress and "failure". Now, Lora and I wrote a joint letter to "Barbara" personally and privately, but it's prompted me to make an appeal to those spouses and partners out there that need to be a support system.
First, understand that everyone loses at a different rate... Forty pounds in 6 months is certainly great progress, and celebrating and congratulating this achievement surely beats berating it.
It's an interesting fact that people don't love others merely for how they feel about that person; rather it's because of how that person makes them feel about themselves. Berating a person will not foster love or progress for either your partner or yourself.
I've never seen anyone achieve lasting weight loss from being ridiculed.
This is an extreme case, and I believe most are more subtle. If you've ever found yourself making a "little" joke about your partner's weight, you've started a slide down a slippery slope.
Let's take a few minutes to look at ways you can be your partner's support system. After all, if you both have the same goal, why not work as a team?
Think Before You Speak: When tempted to make a comment about food, weight, diet, etc, ask yourself if it will "feel good" to be on the receiving end.
Make Them Feel Attractive: If you've allowed a weight gain to put physical distance to what was once an intimate relationship, work on putting the closeness back. Even if it only starts with a look, an embrace, or holding their hand. It can mean everything to them.
Be There: If you know you could spend more time with your partner each day, make the commitment to do it. Plan activities you can both share. Start a home project together, go to a concert, or take a weekend get-away.
Don't Sabotage: If you're not low-carbing with them, at least make it a point not to indulge in his/her favorite foods and drinks in front of them. Don't leave a box of candy or a bag of chips on the counter. You get the idea.
Don't Compare Them: Never compare them to "how they used to look" or worse yet, to "the girl at the office".
Provide Stress Relief: A primary reason for anyone to waver from their diet goals is stress. Stress from work, from family, from finances... or from you. So help to alleviate that stress two ways:
Be the one he/she can count on to be his/her biggest fan. Be a cheerleader.
Allow them their space: (Yes, I know I just said to spend more time with them, but if the problem is that you're too demanding of their time, then a little alone time each day might be a great help.) Encourage them to spend some time in silence every day. In our high-tech world, we are surrounded by and immersed in information — streaming in via television, e-mail, voice mail, fax machines and pagers. Silence can be a blessing.
Help them to pursue their passion: Does your partner love to paint, to sing, to sew? Activities that absorb one completely slow brain waves and allow the person to make better choices in their lives (and in their diets.)
Let the tears flow: Allow them a good cry when they need it and be there to pick up the pieces when they're ready.
Let them vent: Being supportive means allowing the other person to have their feelings. It means listening. It means resisting the temptation to "fix" the person, the feelings, or the problem. It means accepting them unconditionally even if we're uncomfortable with the feelings, even if we don't understand the feelings, or even if we'd react to the same situation with entirely different feelings.
Laugh together: Nothing creates a stronger bond and builds relationships more than shared laughter. Rent a classic comedy film, or tune in to "Nick at Nite" or the Comedy Channel. Or get out of the house and go to a comedy club!
Provide physical stress relief: You could offer a backrub; draw a bubble bath; or bring home a foot massager. Or just take walks together.
I recently read an interesting definition of "Supportiveness":
"Supportiveness is characterized by expressions of appreciation, thanking, and esteem-building that make others feel accepted and welcome."
If you've always tried to be supportive, great! If you know you've done some harm, please take this advice — don't let guilt keep you from doing what's right and it's never too late to do what's right.
The old maxim that "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem" is never more true than in situations such as this. Be a friend and treat your partner how you'd want to be treated. The rewards are amazing...
Just My Thoughts,
Netrition: "The Internet's Premier Nutrition Superstore"
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