I am into fitness and met my wife at the gym. We became good friends and got married. She has since then let herself go. She has put on 10 kgs and I kept warning her of the weight gain and would keep motivating her to get back into fitness and to eat clean which she ignored. Now she has been telling our friends and her parents that I body shame her and that she is depressed because of me. I am shocked that my friendly, honest and constructive feedback and trying to motivate her to get fit has been viewed as body shaming. I am very upset with the way she has sullied my reputation for being a true friend to her and I am feeling very distant from her. What should I do?
Honest feedback leads to honest emotional reactions. You must understand that the truth is often a most uncomfortable pill to swallow. Sometimes the hard truth can feel a lot less welcoming that a clever lie. Human beings enjoy being comfortable and the truth is known to create a certain level of discomfort.
However, there may be many versions of the truth that are rendered by unique perspectives. There is seldom a consensus on what is really the truth. Everyone believes that ‘their truth’ or ‘their overarching logic’ is the only one that can stand through the many tests of time and circumstance. Your truth is ‘Weight loss is the path towards a happier life. However, what is her truth? You must ask her to find this out.
People can be asked questions so that they are motivated to reveal the exact cause of their emotional distress. Her reaction to your ‘motivation’ seems like it stems from a ‘certain type of distress’ that may be masquerading as anger or any other potent emotion.
While she says things to tarnish your reputation in front of your common friends and her parents, is it possible that she may have felt that your constant reminders of her weight gain in some way tarnish the way in which she sees herself? Has she been verbally bullied about her body in the past and perhaps you were just another one of those ‘pesky people’ who keeps telling her things she is unprepared to listen to?
This situation isn’t as simple as to succumb to an oversimplified response logic of either ‘accept your body and move on’ or ‘build your body to be the best representation of you and live fit and fabulously’.
A lot of young girls are subjected to constant comparisons, objectification and unwelcome commentaries on ‘what their bodies represent’ to the oft debated topic of general aesthetics. Their weight, grooming, complexion, hair, body type and even choice of career and partner may have been examined and cross examined and you may not be fully aware of the several hoops through which she may have had to jump to be where she is today.
Due to being frequently subjected to comments on ‘how they look’ or ‘what they should do to look a certain way’ or ‘what standards they must aspire to’ – this continue to be a touchy topic. While the debating and finger pointing can feel exasperating, infuriating and alienating for a woman, it would be worthwhile to understand what her perspectives are on ‘weight gain’ in general before you proceed to give her any further ‘uninvited advice’ on her weight gain.
While there is proven merit to being fit and following an exercise regime to feel light on one’s feet and agile in one’s mind and body, it may not be a priority for everyone and people have the right to exercise their freedom of choice when it comes to their bodies and minds.
It is but natural for you to feel distant from her since you feel like she’s ‘attacking your reputation’. It would be worthwhile to schedule a chat with her on how hurt you feel about the fact that she is making you look ‘insensitive to her’ when in fact ‘her best interests’ are what you really say you want. It is important for you to be completely honest and vulnerable with her about this. If needed, bring in an arbitrator or bring this up in front of a qualified relationship counsellor. Not every
difference of opinion has to end in combat.
Your response to her response will further determine the way in which she sees you. It is important for her to trust you and trust that you have her best interests in mind. You will need to be patient, sensitive and yet assertive if you feel like she is simply refusing to understand your point of view or even negotiate for a win-win situation. Go prepared with your points and be clear that your acceptance of her as a person has nothing to do with your rejection of her eating habits and that you still care for her and her well-being as you always say you have. It is important for parents to feel re-assured about our intentions towards them from time to time. This isn’t merely a strategy at generating ‘the fuzzies’ but is recommended as a way to show ‘positive regard’ and respect to a person what they represent to us in a significant relationship.