Trigger warning: This post discusses eating disorders, body image and weight gain in a relationship.
‘Does my body look bigger to you?’
It was a question I already knew the answer to.
I wondered silently whether he had noticed my body change gradually over the years or if it had snuck up on him as quickly as it had me.
It was dark so I couldn’t see his face, but I felt his body tighten. I held my breath. I needed to hear him say the word.
He knew his answer wouldn’t matter one way or the other. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, I thought.
Why aren’t I breathing?
He was taking too long to respond. A dead giveaway,,. Come on just say it.
Still a small part of me held onto to the hope that he would say nothing had changed. That, rather than a lie, it would be the actual truth. That my perception of my body would be so skewed and dysmorphic that — ‘Well babe, you’re a lot stronger than when I first met you,’
Still not breathing…. Is that a nice way of saying I’ve gained weight?
‘I mean your body looks almost the same.., but babe… your back, for example! It didn’t look like that three years ago. You’re so strong now!
Bless him. He thinks repeating himself might turn this into a compliment.
I exhaled quietly and rolled over. I couldn’t issue more than a quiet ‘uh huh’. It was the collision of my worst nightmare with the truth of how I already experienced myself. Unequivocal confirmation that he saw it too.
Do you still love me like this?
I couldn’t work up the courage to ask. I knew, of course, what he would say. Without hesitation he would gush that has always loved me and my body — ‘from day one!’ — and would continue to, ‘no matter what, forever’! And I knew, with equal certainty, that he would mean it with his whole heart.
I don’t love me like this.
The Next Morning…
I woke the next morning with a low key emotional hangover, which was strange because I hadn’t cried or gotten angry. Most of what I felt had been shame. And nausea. And embarrassment. The humiliation!
But now I just felt a bit numb and also… detached?
Where is the impulse to get on a diet? Where is your fight to shame-train so hard you can’t walk for 3 days? What are you doing to fix this situation?
In the same breath: Is it a manifestation of depression to feel like I don’t care enough to do anything about it or is it the part of me that’s trying to self-accept and break old, unhealthy patterns? Is it just an excuse either way? Am I letting myself off the hook too easily? Who’s really accountable here?
Seemingly on autopilot, my body navigated to the coffee machine.
Why does someone need to be accountable? Can’t we just chalk this up to to a ‘phase’ and LET IT GO?
It’s not a phase if it has been happening for years. It’s a trajectory.
Yes, but aren’t I happier? Isn’t life… fuller? No pun intended…
An entire breakfast was in the works. Muesli, greek yogurt, a few raspberries.
Why does it matter? 135lbs or 150lbs — who the fuck cares apart from you? No one. Just You. HOW MUCH LONGER are you willing to do this to yourself? The emphasis you put on your body and its size is up to you. By the way, have you noticed that we’re in the middle of a pandemic and maybe now isn’t the best time to be obsessing over what you looked like 4 years ago compared to now? Maybe you should just eat some damn food and chill, yeah?
I had found a spoon and was drizzling PB over my bowl.
At every age and stage of your life, at every weight and fitness level, you have failed to look at your body and be happy. It’s not about size or shape. It’s about finding acceptance for that fact that your body will always be in a flux. And that there there is nothing wrong with how it looks no matter how life ebbs and flows. I believe in you. I believe you are capable of acceptance, of body neutrality. I even believe you’re capable of body love.
My personal pep-talk was well timed with the sprinkling of cinnamon I was adding to my bowl.
You know what it looks like and how it feels to show yourself kindness and grace and you know what it looks like and how it feels to punish yourself with restriction and forced exercise. You have spent years navigating between the two, doing your best to give your body the best you could at the time. And today, today you get to choose between the two again because the work is never over. You always have to consciously decide to give your body what it needs. You will have to choose grace over shame. You will always have to choose you.
As I sat down to eat, I took a deep breath. This bowl is nourishment. I deserve to be nourished. I exhaled and took a bite.
This bowl is fuel. I deserve to be fuelled. And another.
This bowl is love. I deserve to be loved. And other.
Body Image and Weight Gain in a Relationship: Closing Thoughts
My eating disorder recovery is ongoing. My body dysmorphia recovery is ongoing. My journey to self-acceptance is on going. Some days are easier than others. Recently, I have had a lot of hard days.
Some days I feel closer to my body and at peace with it. Some days I still feel at war. Food is intrinsically linked to how I feel about my body on any given day.
I know that global circumstances are playing a big role in eating habits and relationships with bodies right now and that I am not alone in this. I also know that there are far more complicated and difficult realities to navigate than weight gain in a relationship. But, I wanted to share with you a real conversation I had with my partner just a few days ago because I believe there is power in vulnerability and strength in taking a bite.
If you have personal experience with weight gain in a relationship, I would love to hear from you. x