What your weight-watching, water drinking, exercise obsession “diet phase” says to your insecure female significant other.
Disclaimer: I’m a woman. I have less testosterone than the majority of this article’s readership and I am fully aware that this article is a result of my feminine estrogenic insecurities.
About a year and a half ago, my long-term boyfriend decided he was unhappy with his weight. At just over 6’ tall, he clocked in at about 205 pounds —the most he ever weighed by a long shot. He was never the scrawny type, but at the same time, he wasn’t fat by any means either—comfortably hovering around 180 for most of college. So when Mark broke the 200 barrier in the fall semester of our senior year, he had a colossal freak out. He drank nothing but water, started playing basketball almost every day after class, and stopped the 1 a.m. runs to Cook Out, the milkshake and hushpuppy king of North Carolina. Little by little (or maybe a lot by a lot), he began to shed weight. His weight-loss journey began right after Thanksgiving —and by the end of January he lost 30 pounds. And if you’ve ever been around weight-loss, 30 pounds isn’t exactly “discretely” losing weight. Thirty pounds is a legitimate physical transformation. (We’re talking the buy-a-new-wardrobe-because-your-pants-are-falling-off-your-ridiculously-skinny-body kind of weight-loss.)
Needless to say, people noticed. People would come up to me and say, “Did Mark lose weight?” Yes. “Did he try?” No. He had a tapeworm. Yes. Every time someone asked me, I felt proud to say that Mark was committed to becoming healthier. As an avid runner, I had high hopes that we’d emerge as “the running couple”: waking up before class to go on runs, racing in 5K races on the weekends, and shopping for perspiration whisking socks with our spare cash (none of which actually ever came to fruition). But eventually, I got sick of answering peoples’ queries about my boyfriend’s weight-loss and began to examine my true feelings about his three-month metamorphosis.
1. “Yeah, I tell you you’re not fat, but that’s just because I can’t actually say, ‘Yes, you’re a morbidly obese chunky monkey,’ when you ask me.”
Like I said, Mark was never fat. I never saw him as a candidate for weight-loss. He wasn’t scrawny like my 95 pound cross-country-running boyfriend in high school —and I wasn’t afraid to sit on his lap because he weighed a considerable amount more than me. In fact, I liked his size. And it was one of the physical features that initially attracted me to him when we first met.
No. I am not one of those girls who sit in front of the mirror and sucks in her flat stomach thinking that she’s fat. I am not one of those ridiculously obnoxious girls who ask, “Babe? Do you think I’m… chunky?” and goes deep-sea fishing for some sort of forced reassurance like, “No, Diana! Not at all! You’re perfect the way you are!” But honestly, put yourself in my flats for one minute, guys. My boyfriend, my masculine, burly, and perfectly shaped boyfriend, the one with chiseled shoulders and a sculpted back, thought he needed to lose weight. And he didn’t! (Okay, fine. Technically, his BMI might have fallen into the “overweight” category at 27 [a BMI of 25-29 is considered “overweight”], but how accurate is that system anyway?)
If he thought he was fat (when he visibly wasn’t), did he think I was fat? Did he really love that grey dress that I always second guessed because of the way it clung to my midsection and my hips? Thoughts like this bombarded my mind. I began questioning if he really thought I had a “nice body” or if I had somehow become physically unattractive to him because I had indulged in a heaping slice of “Adam’s Peanut Butter Fudge” cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory last weekend. And this was only magnified by number two.
2. “Alfredo sauce? You’re getting the Alfredo sauce?”
Now don’t get me wrong, I eat a generally well-balanced and healthy diet. I tend to steer clear of foods high in saturated fats and even prefer organic produce, dairy and meats as opposed to the alternative. But that is not to say that I don’t enjoy a 1,000 calorie milkshake every once in a while (or maybe a little more frequently than that). And when Mark and I went out on dates, I didn’t want to be that aforementioned hyper-self-conscious girl whose order went something like this: “Salad, no dressing. Chicken parm, no cheese, no sauce— and baked not friend please.” I wasn’t a cheap date. In fact, I usually ordered three courses when we went out because I’m one of those girls who always made room for dessert. But during Mark’s Nazi-diet phase, I felt like I had to at least order my dressing on the side. Or not get a drink. (Or if I did get a drink order the Skinny Martini.) Or peel the skin off my chicken. Or not put butter on the pre-meal bread the waiter kept bringing to the table. What usually ended up happening during this two-month Jack Lalane kick was this: after our dates, when we’d go back to my apartment to watch a movie, I’d sneak into the kitchen when he went to the bathroom, stick my head in the freezer and shovel spoonfuls of Rocky Road in my mouth until I heard him flush.
3. “You mean your clothes from when your (insert some ridiculously young age at which I was both underdeveloped and malnourished) … they don’t still fit you?”
Like I said, I’m a runner. In fact, I ran cross country and track all through college. But just before the end of my very first semester of collegiate athletics, I got a stress fracture in my left foot and couldn’t run for the next three months. Add that to the fact that I was tearing up the buffets in the Cafe every night and you’ve got the recipe for disaster. That’s right. I gained all 15 of the infamous Freshman Fifteen… plus two more. Needless to say, by the time Mark and I met and started dating, I was roughly the size of a woman who was about to give birth. To triplets.
And while Mark’s diet phase happened two years after my pseudopregnancy weight gain –and I even weighed less than I did when I began college–I still wasn’t itching to try on my clothes from high school. Maybe it was a mental thing and I had some skewed recollection that I was some lanky skeleton of a creature in high school (half true) and that there was no way I’d ever fit into my clothes from “way back then”—but I had no desire to even put myself in the situation. But no. It wasn’t quite the same for Mark.
In fact, the day Mark broke out his old soccer shorts from his sophomore year in high school also happened to be the same day I noticed that his jeans were so big on him that they bulged and sagged under his belt. In fact, the day Mark broke out his old soccer shorts from his sophomore year in high school also happened to be the same day he tried on a pair of my skinny jeans (just for kicks) and zipped them up with ease.
Like most things, though, Mark’s obsession eventually got to me. I could no longer stay silent. I cracked. We were at Outback and Mark was commenting on the calorie counts the restaurant had newly added to their menu.
“A Bloomin’ Onion… wow… that’s a whole day’s worth of calories.”
“Mark!” His head jerked up from the laminated menu and he peeled his eyes away from a number just one digit short of a ZIP code. “Stop! Please just stop!” My initial freak out (which included dropping my face in my hands and taking three deep breaths before explaining myself) was shortly followed by a soft-spoken, rational lecture that was somehow both watered down and affective. I told Mark that his self-consciousness about his weight only made me question my comfort with mine. I told him how sometimes I liked indulging in an extra-large milkshake and plate of cheese fries. And I (somewhat reluctantly) confessed to him that I had to suck in extra, extra hard to zip up and squeeze into those denim shorts I bought my senior year in high school.”
And my handsome, sturdy and burly 180 lb. Mark took it like a man. He humbly apologized and proceeded to tell me that I was not only beautiful, but the perfect size and that there was not one thing about me he would even tweak. Relieved, I reached across the table, squeezed his hands and returned my own version of the same profession.
“Can I interest you two in an appetizer this evening?” asked the waiter who was absurdly oblivious to the fact that a “moment” was happening at our little corner booth.
“We’ll take the Bloomin’ Onion,” Mark said. And just like that, his weight-watching, only-water-drinking, exercise obsession, “diet phase” exited as the focal point of our relationship.