• Thu, May 19 2011

Hunger Games: My Husband Made Me Lose Weight

Doctors! They’re jerks just like us!

My husband was, ironically enough, a doctor. A doctor from an anonymous coastal metropolis where women walk around the grocery store in bikinis, who married an average-sized Midwestern girl.

While we were dating in college, the issues started. He convinced me that I should start drinking diet soda; the old empty calories and corn syrup argument. I never liked the weird aftertaste of fake sugar, and didn’t really see the need. I was 5’7”, 135 pounds, and had been since high school. My natural weight. What was wrong with that?

Although I took ballet for 4 hours a week, danced in extracurriculars, and walked everywhere during the week, he started lecturing me on the lack of physical activity I was getting. He convinced me to start lifting weights. My roommate got concerned at this point, and reported me for having an eating disorder. We were enraged by that. I certainly didn’t have an eating disorder; I was mostly ignoring him and eating whatever I wanted, anyways. Just the diet soda and the weight lifting. I told her I was just trying to be healthier, and at that point, I think that’s all it was.

After college, we moved in together, and he warned me that if I stayed at this weight now, with this metabolism, that he wouldn’t be attracted to me by the time I got into my late 30s. He designed a diet for me, full of diet frozen dinners (easier to track your calories that way instead of adding up ingredients in cooking),that topped 1000 calories a day. I was famished all the time, and didn’t have enough energy to cook anyways. I was 140 by that time; I hit his target goal for me, 125 pounds, with the diet. He encouraged me to continue the diet, however. “Anything else you lose will just make you more beautiful.”

For some reason, I ended up marrying this guy, and I started to get mad. I would watch him eat whole packages of candy for breakfast (his excuse was they’re fat free and he needed the calories for weight lifting), but then I would get berated for eating chocolate chip granola bars (chocolate=fat fat fat!).

As our marriage was deteriorating, he came home from a particularly frustrating day at the hospital and blurted to me that he watches me eat with fear in his eyes. I couldn’t believe my ears. I imagined him watching me in slow motion as I shovel food into my mouth. Imagined my 75 year-old body, arthritic hip and all, trudging along on a treadmill to keep my weight down for him. I imagined missing out on baking cookies with my grandkids with my comfy elastic track pants on.

After I left him, I realized it was completely whack that I had escaped high school without a body image issue, but then got one from someone who was supposed to love me unconditionally. I started eating to spite him. And it really was comforting to eat and not feel guilty, an idea I hadn’t embraced since high school. I still find myself feeling guilty for drinking calories, and I still weight lift, but I am healthier for being away from the stigma. I am now 10 pounds over my original, natural weight, and perhaps I should lose it, and perhaps it will eventually disappear as my eating returns to its non-vengeful norms. But I am not overweight, my BMI is normal, and my loved ones continue to ensure me that I am beautiful.

The vengeful eating isn’t healthy either (trust me, I know), but it’s comforting. It’s just one baby step at a time, and I feel like I’m heading in the right direction. This may not be a cut and dry eating disorder, but this person definitely messed with my mental and emotional relationship with food. I trusted him as a boyfriend/husband, that he wanted the best for me, and as a doctor, that he was promoting a healthy lifestyle. I’ve come to realize that doctors are just as easily affected by eating disorders and unhealthy relationships with nutrition, and I allowed his unhealthy ideas of diet and body image to change mine.

As the divorce was finalized, I had several friends come forward to tell me that they never had a great opinion of him; they always thought something was askew. They never came to me with their concerns because they thought that I was happy. As for my college roommate, she obviously saw something unhealthy developing in me, but didn’t talk to me directly about it. Please talk to your loved ones directly if you think an SO is influencing their diet in an unhealthy way. Even changes that appear superficially healthy (cutting fat, switching to diet soda, dieting, exercise) can become unhealthy if the motivation behind them is toxic.

I left the divorce with my self-esteem crushed, but I take pride in the strength I had to realize the situation, leave it, and put myself back together. I certainly won’t ever be the same girl from high school again, but maybe one day soon, I’ll be the confident, 135 pound girl with healthy reasons to be healthy, with a man who will adore my elastic track pants and cookie recipes years down the road.

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  • Dove

    After getting to the 4th paragraph I had to skip to the end to make sure you left him before I could bear to read the rest.

    You are unbelievably smart and strong for getting out when you did. Any abusive relationship is hard to leave, but emotional abuse can be very tricky to deal with, because it’s never as overt as being (literally) hit in the face with it.

    • Anon.

      Thank you! Emotional abuse is very, very difficult to figure out sometimes. I’m glad that I’m around family and friends who love me for the right reasons.

  • E.D.

    Good for you! DH and I try to keep each other in check, but it’s nothing like what you described.

    I’m nearly 5’6″ and my target is ~155. I’ve only actively tried to lose weight twice. The first time was in grad school, where long hours crappy diet and inactivity took me all the way up to ~195. I got to about 165 solely on diet, but I was miserable at that weight – 2 or 3 headaches a week. Over the past 8 years, I gained about 20 lbs of it back.

    This time, I did a combination of diet and exercise for months and couldn’t lose weight. Around the same time I realized I should probably get my thyroid checked. My levels were low and once I got onto a good dose of medication, the weight started coming back off.

    I’m right around 165 now and this time, I know I have to be careful about the diet/exercise balance – so far not much in the way of crankiness and no headaches.

    • Anon.

      Congrats to you and your SO for striving for a healthy, balanced life where we lose weight and diet for the right reasons! I am proud of you, and proud of all women who are strong enough to read these submissions and face out stories head-on.

  • Topf

    Oh man. I have a friend whose bf does that to her. I have thought about talking to her about it but it isnt that easy. Every time I have done the smallest gesture of disliking his treatment of her (even without me saying a word), I have to endure days of intensive and “innocent” tries of her to show me how great he is. It makes me wanna puke every time.

    So no, it is not easy to tell your friend that you think her SO is going to drive her to have an eating disorder. Just like with all abusive behaviors, she probably has to realize on her own.

    • Dove

      You can always say something like:
      I love you, and only want you to be happy, so please feel free to pretend I never said this but I just want you to hear it. He isn’t treating you right, and you can do better. I’ll support you no matter what, I just had to tell you how I feel.

      This works best after a drink or two.

      I said this to a dear friend of mine, and her response was basically, “I know he’s a jerk, and maybe I’ll leave him.” She hasn’t, but my saying that hasn’t created any drama either, and at least she knows I’m in her corner, whatever that may be.

    • Anonymous

      It wasn’t until a friend said something like this to me until I started thinking about it on my own. Sometimes the abused get comfortable; they sometimes need a nudge, even if it’s just a nudge to think about what is going on in their life.

  • andrea dunlop

    Good for you for seeing that the problem was him and getting the hell out of there. If a bf ever made any comments about my weight I’d be out of there like THAT; aside from the psychological stuff- I just wouldn’t feel like getting naked with him again. Ever.

    • Anon.

      Thank you! And this psychological stuff was all relevant to dieting; he played many, many more games like this in other aspects of life.

  • Marco

    what a damn shame!!

  • porkchop

    What is your problem, Dr. Crazypants? Dr. Anorexia by proxy?? Dr. “I’m so controlling I have a panic attack if my wife tries to decide what to eat”??

    Lucky for the rest of us, Dr. Lifetime Original Movie has no time to see patients because he has to spend 18 hours a day shitting on the Hippocratic Oath (plus on-call nights).

    • Anon.

      …and eating candy for breakfast.

      Thank you for your heartfelt words, and thank you for the giggle!!

  • PlatypusShankie

    More power to you! I was in a similar situation (not a doctor, but a SO), and good gracious it feels wonderful to not have that going on any more. Yay for cookies and elastic track suits! :)

    • Anon.

      Thank you! Forget 50 years down the road, I think I wanna rock elastic track pants and cookies TOMORROW.

  • Baker Girl

    Congrats on leaving the Dr. McDick!!!! No one should ever treat anyone they “love” that way. I hope you find a WONDERFUL man who loves you for you and wants to bake chocolate chip cookies with you (brownie points if he bakes them for you!) (

  • Kelly

    First off, this goes to show that most men suck! Secondly and just as importantly, doctors suck and no NOTHING about nutrition and how to lose weight. You’ll end up gaining weight eating less calories than you should. I am a large result of that! But seriously, why is it that many, many woman get involved with these stupid, douche bag guys. We need to find more worth in ourselves and realize that we are not better off just because we have a ‘man’ in out lives. I’m sorry that you had to endure years of abuse.

    • Anon.

      Thank you for your kind words. At least I’m out now instead of 50 years down the road. Men do suck.

  • Jo

    Thank you for sharing your story. It’s hard to believe anyone (your husband, no less) would ever tell you you needed to lose weight when it sounds like you were already very thin.

    Congrats on being strong and moving on!

  • Jane W.

    blurted to me that he watches me eat with fear in his eyes

    Good on you for leaving him. Intellectually, I pity him because he clearly has some body image issues of his own. Viscerally, I would like to send him some turd-filled Twinkies.

  • becca

    My ex was the same way. He tried to control what I ate, even though I was skinny.He ridiculed my for every calorie. I became so body-conscious that I stopped running every day.

    Of course, it started out as an awesome romance and took me a year and a half to leave him. Over that period he also started to alienate me from my family and friends. I was always questioning my own worth and judgement.

    If a few people I cared about had told me he was mistreating me, I may have had the strength to listen to my own heart and leave before the abuse went from emotional to physical.

    it is hard to get away, and hard to love yourself after something so traumatic. But emotional abusers are masters of manipulation, and you are on the feel-good side of leaving, and you will be stronger and happier than before. I have learned that it takes time to un-learn the shame that an abusive relationship brings.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for sharing your story, too. I am glad that you called him your ex. We are both better for it.

  • kc22

    My husband is like this but in a different way. I lost 100lbs with 50 to and lift weights. Now he says I have no womanly features (besides round hips and round butt) and I look like a man when I am at the gym. 20 years of this and I feel like I am drowning.

    • porkchop

      You talk like someone who wants to leave. But abuse forms the strongest attachment, so don’t feel like you were weak for staying. Just remember that he is wrong about you, and no one would ever put you down like that unless they were afraid.

  • Kerry

    What a twat that man sounds

  • Kat

    What a jerk. He didn’t deserve you.

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