My body image boss fight

diet culture dinos

Three weeks into my new and improved relationship with food, my resolve was tested. It was the ultimate way for the universe to get right in my face and ask, “Are you sure? Are you sure you love your body right now? You’re not still secretly waiting for a miracle to wake up thinner so you can be happy?”

What happened was that my partner told me he was worried I would reach the upper limit of weight he found attractive on my body.

In the face of this statement, I was shocked, but on some level I also knew it was about him and his own internal and as-yet-unpacked issues about bodies and their worth. I told him that if we got to a point where he was not attracted to me, we’d change or end our relationship so that we both had what we needed.

I was clear about my boundaries: I am repairing my relationship with food, and right now that means that I don’t restrict what I eat or when I eat, and I don’t worry about what I weigh.

I told him I wasn’t going to change to meet his expectations of attractiveness. And he told me he didn’t want me to, but that he had wanted to express his issue before it became a Big Deal in his mind. Which is fair. But also, not super fair. Because the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this issue was not about me. This was not about my body.

This was about diet culture.

Men are not immune to body shame and diet culture. My partner has been as focused on his weight and diet and exercise as I was previously. And the more we talked, the more he realized that he was speaking from a place of weight loss as a life priority, a place of delaying happiness until he hit a certain weight. He told me, “I keep saying I want to get under 200 pounds and then I’ll be able to have a really happy life” and I looked him in the eye and said, “You have a really happy life.”

I bring this sage wisdom to the table after several hours and a good night’s sleep thinking this over. I was scared — not of anything to do with my body, but I was scared because I knew if this became A Thing in our relationship, and he arbitrarily decided that a number on a scale made me unsexy to him, that I’d have to make good on my commitment to myself and break up with him.

There is no room in my life for conditional love or attraction.

But then I realized I was getting way ahead of myself, and we weren’t breaking up. I continued sorting through my feelings and realized that I was a little angry at him. My trust in him was a little rattled.

I had finally shed the giant boulder of shame and self-denigration and disgust with myself after thirty years of snowballing it bigger and bigger. This thing was HEAVY. And then, just three weeks after I had thrown it aside with a resounding, “Fuck that,” this person who I trust and who sees my most vulnerable parts and who loves me… picked it back up and tried to give it back to me.

Did I want to take this shame back, make his attraction to me my problem, chase a pants size to make sure I was pretty enough? Or did I want to slam dunk that giant ball of societal bullshit into a dumpster once and for all?

I am pleased to say that I chose to thank him for his vulnerability in expressing something difficult, but that I would not be changing my lifestyle to make him comfortable, and we would deal with the consequences of that.

After some more space and time to think, we came together again to talk it out a little more. And something that I’ve never experienced before happened: He apologized. Honestly, really, truly apologized. He said that it wasn’t about me or my body, and he was sorry for acting like it was.

After he apologized, something inside me shifted again, and I realized that I had put up a wall between us to protect myself from the same old things I had grown to expect from my ex-husband. A fake non-sorry sorry. An “I didn’t mean to hurt you” that really meant “I would like to hurt you but I don’t want to hear about your feelings when I do.” Being in an abusive marriage will mess up your expectations of other humans a little bit. After so many non-apologies that boiled down to “Well I didn’t mean it like that so you shouldn’t be upset,” I felt heart and loved and valued by a partner.

Where we had once committed to lose weight together and be the “annoying weight loss couple,” we now commit to working on breaking up with diet culture.



8 thoughts on “My body image boss fight

  1. I wish I knew why people can reject someone they love because of physical appearance. My father married my mother on the condition that she never become overweight. She struggled with her weight for so many years (my whole childhood) and then he ultimately left her. So sad. But I have to say that her relationship with food was never healthy (and still is not). My husband of 25 years also has an unhealthy relationship with food and struggles with a very big belly. I wish he could somehow figure it all out, but I would never leave him because of his weight. He is so much more than his physical body! I wish you well on your evolving relationship with food and thank you for sharing.

  2. This is very refreshing to read… following you working through the feelings helps me see clearer too. How many times have we (I) accepted to not respect myself out of fear of losing someone or something? Still doing that! The processing can take so long and we seem to learn more by our errors, unfortunately than through idealistic theories. Yes to negotiations and compromises and sincere apologies and taking responsibility. And NO to everything that divides us inside and ends up dividing us with our partners too… thank you Caitlin for expressing this struggle and positive resolution, it makes me feel hopeful for all of us gaining more strength and clarity.

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