Negative comments about appearances always hurt. I’ve never been overweight so maybe I don’t understand what it’s like to endure true scorn, however, I did encounter general bitchiness as a teenage ballet dancer, where there seemed to be an ongoing contest as to who could look the most in need of a sandwich.
While women’s comments usually come off as bitchy, most of the time I think men don’t realise how much their words can hurt. When I was 15, I had a huge crush on a guy I worked with. One day he saw the photo on my student card, where my cheeks happened to look particularly puffy. As a consequence of this photo, my crush decided to call me ‘Chubs’ for the next 12 months – even though I was the furthest thing from chubby. I’m not going to blame him for sparking an eating disorder, but it was around this time that I developed restrictive eating habits. I honestly believe he had no idea how deeply his teasing affected me.
When I was 19 I dated a guy who was very into working out. One day we were talking about my exercise (this was pre-weight lifting, when I was just a runner) and he told me that if I ever stopped running he would stop dating me. Luckily I was a much stronger person by then and I dumped him soon after. I was not going to give up exercising – I think that will always be something I do – but I did not need some douchebag telling me to burn calories. Especially when I know I had a pretty slammin’ body at 19!
My husband and I have a pretty honest relationship when it comes to talking about our physical appearances, especially because we invest so much time into training, gaining and leaning. We will tell each other when we are looking great, but we will also – carefully – comment on what parts of our bodies need more work. While Rob always tells me I’m beautiful, I also love the fact that he will be honest with me when I ask. This is how we are, and I don’t take his comments to heart. Sure, if he called me fat or told me I needed to lose weight, it probably would hurt a lot and I wouldn’t be so strong.
I’m generally pretty careful about judging overweight people without knowing their full situation, but I don’t like when people make excuses and don’t accept responsibility for their bodies. But one of the trickiest situations to comment on is when women have had children, especially given that I haven’t had any.
I don’t believe in strenuous exercise after childbirth such as many celebrities promote. I know several women who have given birth and lost all the weight and more solely by breastfeeding. I truly believe the weight should come off naturally: you gain extra weight to house the baby, and once you no longer have them inside of you, your body should cease storing extra fat.
Again, neither Rob or I would make any sort of negative comment towards a woman who has recently given birth. But a woman who gave birth 10 to 15 years ago or more and still claims she can’t lose her baby weight? That’s a different story.
Last week a friend of mine complained that she hadn’t lost a single pound of her baby weight after ten weeks, and argued that people who say the weight simply falls off are liars. It took all the strength I had to be tactful. The second my friend found out she was pregnant, she cancelled her gym membership and began “eating for two”. For someone who was already overweight to begin with, she gained a lot more weight than she probably should have. She is no longer pregnant, yet seems to continue her “eating for two” habits by eating burgers and chocolate almost every day. When she decides to “be good” and have a salad for lunch (pasta salad, I might add) she rewards herself with a muffin and Coke in the afternoon. She refuses to do any exercise.
Am I surprised that she hasn’t lost her baby weight? No. But am I sympathetic that pregnancy perhaps led her to develop out-of-control eating habits? Yes. I am definitely not going to believe her warped ideas of weight loss. She also has a friend who gave birth five years ago and has not lost the weight. My friend seems to believe that, unless you lose the baby weight immediately, it will be stuck to you for life.
Rob is slightly harsher than me, so I responded with what he (or any knowledgeable person) might say: that the idea is complete BS (I should also point out that she and I are quite close and honest with each other, so I knew I wasn’t going to offend her). She then responded that no man should ever comment on a woman’s weight, especially one that has given birth. Her theory is that women’s bodies work differently and men don’t understand how we store fat.
While I can very slightly agree with that, it got me thinking. Do Rob and I have a normal marriage in that we can comment on each other’s weight/body fat without being offended? Or is this somehow a dangerous behaviour I’ve never thought about before?
We have talked about what might happen to my body when I become pregnant. Rob is convinced I will be beautiful and glowing, and I know he would never pressure me to lose baby weight. But I know that I would never let myself carry excess weight around for years either. In general, given how dedicated we are to training and clean eating, I don’t expect either of us would gain a significant amount of weight for no reason, unless something traumatic happened.
Can you talk honestly about weight with your partner? Or is the topic off-limits? Do you think negative comments hurt more when they come from someone of the opposite sex?