Dear Dr. Repler,
My situation might seem very trivial but to me it is a very frustrating one. I am 50 years old and happily married, for the most part, and have four children. Only my oldest daughter is married. My second daughter is in shidduchim right now, and that is exacerbating the problem.
I have always been overweight, ever since childhood. In my teen years I went on lots of diets, trying every new fad, and of course I lost weight. But once I got down to a good size, I went off it and the pounds literally flew back on. When I started to date for marriage, I slimmed down and my husband had no idea how I used to look. I kept the weight off until I got pregnant. I gained 50 pounds with my first pregnancy but only lost 30, and so it went as I had three more pregnancies. I have been a stay-at-home mom and with the coronavirus and the kids all home my weight really is out of control.
My husband has been driving me crazy to lose weight and even blaming me for the hard time our daughter is having getting dates. He says, just one look at me, and no one will even consider her. Now my daughter is crying over this. She agrees with her father. It’s not that I don’t want to lose weight, but it’s very hard. This is definitely hurting my marriage physically and emotionally.
My husband suggested that maybe I should do the surgery, but I’m terrified of doing that. Do you really think that this is affecting my daughter’s chances in shidduchim? Do I really need to take such a drastic step?
Losing weight is a very difficult endeavor and being hard on yourself will only exacerbate the situation. I hear your frustration and can imagine that it’s very painful that your husband is also unhappy with your weight gain. The idea of surgery is controversial and you must consult your physician before considering it as an option. There are many ways to lose weight and even though they are difficult, they may be a better option than surgery. Sometimes surgery helps people get a very big head start and then they are able to keep the weight off. But, this is not a decision you can make on your own.
On the other hand, one can only lose weight for themselves. Your husband and daughter’s pressure may actually make losing weight more difficult because when you feel bad about yourself, you may turn to food to comfort yourself, which will likely make you feel worse about yourself and will become a negative cycle. Eating for comfort is very common and can really impact weight loss negatively. If you are someone who eats for comfort, you may want to explore this further to help you gain other coping skills when you are upset or feeling stressed. Seeking professional help for weight loss and/or coping skills can be helpful. In the mean time, you can try some of the following ideas to help you take control over your eating:
Keep a food diary or a food log is two fold. Firstly, if you know you will be writing everything down, you may not indulge in extra treats. Secondly, by writing everything down, you may be able to see patterns that are destructive to you and this will help you identify those patterns and target them so you don’t keep falling into the same traps.
If stress is what is triggering your eating, then you will need to decrease your stress level. Exercise is a great stress reducer and it will also help you in your weight loss journey. Thus, it is imperative to try to work some exercise into your schedule. Walking, or exercising in another way, with a good friend can help you feel better emotionally and physically.
Try to identify when you are really hungry and when you are eating due to boredom, stress, or feeling upset. Eating smaller, healthy (whole grain carbohydrates with vegetables and lean proteins) meals every 2-3 hours will help you keep your blood sugar stable and keep you from being hungry. If you feel “hungry” an hour after you ate a healthy meal, you are likely stressed, bored, upset, etc. In this instance, drink some water and take a walk or do anything to keep your mind off of the munchies.
Even if you know how to diet and lose weight, joining a weight loss group or seeing a nutritionist can help as a support system.
Do not let your setbacks define you. If you have a hard day or even a hard moment, do not beat yourself up. Just start again and learn from your mistakes. For example, if cleaning the kitchen at night is your trigger, ask your husband or your daughter to help with clean up. Some experts suggest cleaning up right after dinner so you’re still full and won’t pick at the leftovers. But if you know you will pick regardless, have someone else do the cleanup and get out of the kitchen for the night.
Whatever your triggers are, try to learn them and then do things to prevent them. Some people do not bring the things they love to eat into their house so they will not be tempted. Others will make themselves lower calorie options of the things they love so they don’t feel deprived. Figure out what you need, and make sure to do it for yourself.
Additionally, tell your husband in a loving way that you need his support to lose weight and he needs to be your cheerleader (not someone who will put you down and trigger more emotional eating).
Lastly, be your own cheerleader! Do not put yourself down and do not let any of your mistakes set you back. Focus on the positive things you are doing to be healthier and lose weight and give yourself credit for doing something that is really hard! Hatzlacha in this challenging situation.