Dear Dr Victoria, I am engaged to the most wonderful man and we are planning a Christmas wedding this year. When I first Matt I was a size 18 and had suffered from really low esteem for years, too many to count actually.
I have always been large and suffered the most awful bullying at school because of it. 3 years ago when I met Matt I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I couldn’t believe that anyone as gorgeous as him would ever find someone as large as me attractive. I worried secretly for months that the relationship wouldn’t last and he would find someone thinner. Without knowing it, all this anxiety had a profound effect on my weight and was amazed when I dropped 2 dress sizes without any knowing to a size 14, which I have sustained for the last year.
Matt is delighted with the ‘new’ me and now that the wedding is approaching, is encouraging me to drop at least another dress size so I look even better. If he hadn’t come up with the idea, I would probably have thought about it by myself but now that he has, it’s put the huge amount of pressure on me and has had the reverse effect on me. I think I am hungry all the time but I keep telling myself I’m on a diet. I’ve even started to put weight back on and am finding some of my size 14 clothes have become tight. I am terrified of going up a size but even more terrified of not losing more weight in case I disappoint Matt on our wedding day. I’ve noticed recently when we go out for a meal he does little things like suggesting we only have 1 glass of wine with dinner and water or foregoing the desert for coffee. He doesn’t come right out and say anything but I know he is trying to calorie count for me.
I’m trying hard not to spoil things between us but I feel under so much pressure that I am secretly blaming him for my weight gain. After all he came up with the idea of a slimmer version of me. I don’t know how to approach this subject with him without me feeling like a complete loser. Can you please suggest a way to make him accept me at the weight I am?
Dr Victoria replies:
The thing is, you don't have any sound evidence that your fiancé doesn't accept you the way you are. He has suggested that you get down to a size 12 before the wedding. What he doesn't realise, especially if he has never been overweight himself, is that this is easier said than done – it's not just about eating less – it's also a fraught emotional issue.
He loves you, he wants to marry you and spend the rest of his life with you and he found you attractive when you were a size 18. To me that doesn't sound like a man who won't accept you if you gained weight. Bear in mind that he isn't criticising you, telling you that you aren't attractive, bullying you or issuing ultimatums. More than likely he imagines that this is something you want too and he thinks he's just supporting you in what all brides want on their wedding day – to enjoy their big day and look their best.
You may not have told him openly, but I'm sure he's picked up that you've had self-esteem issues that have improved as the relationship has grown. Perhaps he's assumed that this isn't just down to your relationship becoming more secure but that it's also down to losing weight.
I'm sure your fiancé thinks he's doing all the right things – trying to second guess what you want without putting you on the spot and encouraging you in your attempts to make healthy choices without singling you out. Notice that he hasn't said “you shouldn't be eating that”; he's saying “why don't we try to eat healthier”. Actually it's quite common for both partners to gain a few pounds once they start living together. Could it also be that he's aware of this or has even noticed that he's put on weight himself?
Of course, you don't want your fiancé or husband to be critical of how you look or make you feel that you're not good enough just the way you are, but try to be balanced about things and don't assume the worst of him. If you were overweight for years in the past, it's all too easy to carry on thinking the same self-critical things you did when you were bigger and then to interpret the innocent and well-meaning comments of others as criticism.
Which brings us to the question of what you should do now? You're not entirely comfortable with the current situation so something has to change. But just as you need to balanced by being kinder on yourself, you need to be balanced in how you tackle this. You correctly sense that it's not right to burden your fiancé with all the years of insecurity, to blame him and expect him to fix it. But he needs to know a little of how you feel so that he can understand he needs to be more sensitive. Equally, accept yourself that when he makes comments about you both being healthier, the hidden meaning is unlikely to be the worst case scenario you're assuming - that he thinks you need to lose weight and if you don't he won't love you anymore. Don't let yourself blow it out of proportion.
If you want to take some small steps every day in order to live a healthier lifestyle then go ahead, but do it because you believe you deserve to be treated well and that includes looking after yourself. You may then find you lose a few pounds or at least your weight stabilizes. Don't set yourself a harsh target of being a size 12 or losing a stone in a short period of time if it's unrealistic. If you believe in yourself, why would you want to set yourself up to fail? You don't need to be a size 12 in order to look and feel great on your wedding day. When you're wearing a flattering and well-cut dress, few of your guests will be able to tell the difference anyway.
You have the full support of a loving fiancé. This is something that you can work out together. Keep a level head and remind yourself of this in moments of doubt.