By the time I turned 19, I had already deeply internalized the unspoken rule that if I wanted to meet a guy and get married, I had to be thin. For years I had been bouncing around diets—from Weight Watchers to Atkins, South Beach to Cabbage Soup, and back to Atkins—trying desperately to lose the excess weight I had carried since childhood. But it just wasn’t happening.
I was worried: Why would anyone want to go out with me? How would I find a guy to settle down with, if I couldn’t get my weight down? My biological clock was ticking!
One day my mother called me up and told me how she had just bumped into a family friend who lost half her body weight and looked amazing. My mother had gotten the number of the nutritionist this friend was using, and in no uncertain terms informed me that I had an appointment set up for six weeks later (this nutritionist was popular, apparently). It wasn’t exactly what I had planned for myself, but I quickly resigned myself to realizing that this was just what I needed. I wanted to meet someone, and this was how it was going to happen.
Six weeks, a one-hour appointment, and $150 later, I was the proud new owner of one very restrictive food plan. Basically, I was told to eat giant-size salads with a maximum of two teaspoons of olive oil each day. Throw in some lean protein and a sprinkling of carbs, and you get a pretty complete picture of what my mind and body survived on for the next year. My lips still pucker and my chest still burns at the thought of the obscene amounts of vinegar and lemon juice I would use to flavor my otherwise bland and unsatisfying salads.
But, I soon realized, it wasn’t all bad. It was “working.” The weight was flying off, and I soon met a really great guy (obviously thanks to the weight loss).
On a day that we had planned to go on a date, I wouldn’t eat one of those giant salads. Giant salads made me bloated, and, naturally, I needed a flat stomach when I was on a date. I was in a bind: Having a thin body was clearly a crucial piece of falling in love, but I couldn’t be a starving grump every time we went out. I wanted my infectious personality to shine, but that would be hard if I was hungry after not eating all day. I found that the perfect formula was to nurse a couple of venti skinny vanilla lattes throughout the day and to eat a plate of boiled string beans and hummus before going out. Perfect.
I followed the same pattern of eating on the days I picked my wedding dress, bought my sheva berakhot (post-wedding week celebrations) clothing, and of course, on my wedding day.
Once we were married, I relaxed a little. Within two weeks my brand new wardrobe was tight. The following years saw a lot more of the same. I fought fat by restricting my food, exercising rigorously, and by following the latest diet trends. And I always, always gained it all back—and then some.
The most shameful part of it all is that I dragged my husband into this life with me. Most nights we ate separate dinners; it was either that or forcing him to join me in eating steamed fish and veggie packets. He was lucky if I even allowed 100 calorie packs in the house. His clothes were evicted from our closet, replaced by my growing wardrobe to accommodate my ever-fluctuating size. And he spent one too many hours sitting patiently on the bed while I begged him to help me find something flattering to wear. Scratch that, he had to stand—the bed was usually covered in piles of identical black dresses that just didn’t fit or feel right.
My husband respected my determination to improve on myself, but he would express obvious hesitation at my mention of a new food concept. He would evaluate it: Maybe eating like a caveman is really healthy for you, but how does that differ from the idea last year when you insisted you needed to measure every ounce of protein?
At the end of the day, he was always genuinely supportive because that’s the kind of man he is. But above all he was simply confused at why I insisted on changing my body; if it was good enough for him, why wasn’t it enough for me?
I am happy to report I have since made great strides with mind, body, and food after stumbling upon a series of YouTube videos which introduced me to the enlightened world of “intuitive eating.” This is different than dieting; it speaks a truth I never knew existed. It is a very real way of life where I CAN eat whatever I want, and as much as I need. No gimmicks, no packaged food, no measuring, no calorie counting, no protein powders, and no scam. It taught me to take my body’s natural innate lead to nourish myself for complete satisfaction. For the first time in my life, I was getting to live alongside food, not in fear of it.
The energy in our home is now lighter, brighter, and happier. Getting dressed is just a morning routine, planning our weekly dinner menu is a quick conversation, and for the first time in seven years we sit down together at dinnertime and enjoy the same food.
In hindsight, I realize how severely dangerous it was for me to drag my husband down this crazy road. I forced the man who loves me so deeply to tarnish his respect for me. I turned something trivial into the be-all and end-all of my existence. Every time I twisted his arm to evaluate my fat, I was forcing him to see me in a light he never would have seen me in otherwise. He had always just loved me because of me, and that didn’t change with my fluctuating shape and size.
Why do we do this to ourselves, to our spouses, and to our marriages? We pick at flaws that no one else sees and blow them up until that is all there is to us. We need to maintain the positive image our spouses have of us. Rather than forcing them to see us in the negative way we view ourselves, let’s try to turn it around. Look at yourself in the mirror and see yourself the way your partner sees you. Notice your bright eyes, your confidence, and your curves. Lift your head, raise your shoulders, live, laugh, and most importantly, love yourself. Remember, you are real, raw, and true. You are authentically beautiful.