“I don’t want to walk into my 40s with a paunch. I want to look good in my clothes. I don’t want to wade into the pool at the community centre with my love handles!” declared my husband one morning.
That extra bit of body peeking over the waistband of his swim shorts? I didn’t say it aloud, but I thought at the time that he was being vain. My husband had been grumbling about losing weight for some time now. I understood — I could stand to make a few lifestyle changes myself, but I’d fallen into a pattern of excuses.
If he wanted to commit to his health, I was with him one hundred per cent. But while I was prepared to see my husband attempt to turn his life around, what I wasn’t prepared for was how I’d feel when he actually achieved what he had set out to do.
It was unsettling to see my husband suddenly doing “better” than I was, personally and professionally. He was coming into his own in his 30s. Meanwhile, after a successful and ambitious youth, I worried I was plateauing.
We started dating almost two decades ago. We shared a love of bingeing Netflix, watching cricket matches for hours, sleeping in mornings and enjoying food. As in-sync as we seemed, we were also very different. It’s one reason we fell in love. Back then he was reserved, I was loquacious. He thought things through, I charged headfirst. He was always self-analyzing, I had supreme confidence. We brought out the best in one another.
I felt our relationship shift when our daughter was born in 2008. My husband became more social, and read up on religion, politics and women’s rights. He experimented with new recipes, learned to ski and struck up an interest in stand-up comedy. I, on the other hand, slacked off writing that book I’d wanted to pen since Grade 10, and dutifully put off salsa or bharatanatyam dance classes.
I felt like he had raced past me in life.
One day, my husband walked right past a formerly substantial colleague, now as lithe as a teenage ballerina. He spent a week raving about how much weight his friend had lost, and wanted to give the Keto diet a shot.
It bears noting that my husband’s version of the low-carb, high-fat diet didn’t include any of my favourite foods: Twix bars, kettle chips and that delish double-layered chocolate cake from Metro. He stocked up on cauliflower rice, while I remained loyal to the plain white stuff. As he conscientiously grilled chicken or fish for his lunch, I’d watch sucking on just one spoonful of Nutella. Before leaving for work in the morning, he’d make two glasses of a rose-tinted breakfast smoothie in the new blender we swore we’d use together.
I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to use that blender as a bludgeon.
He did this every day for months. While I admired his growth into a woke, fit and sexy man, I paid scant attention to my own. I felt like he had raced past me in life.
Two years later, he’s 20 pounds lighter, his clothes fit a bit too sexily for my liking and he doesn’t burp as much (it’s the little things). Two years later, I’m still struggling to come to terms with what it was really all about: my lack of discipline and fear of change.
Letting go of my resentment
My initial reaction to my husband’s changes was indignation. I may have snapped “Don’t you like me just the way I am?” at my bewildered husband on more than one occasion. He had reason to be confused — he had never asked me to change. I fumed he couldn’t see that the healthier he pushed himself to be, the more my own self-doubts came into focus. I was projecting my insecurities onto him, but this self-realization hadn’t yet dawned on me.
For example, if there’s one thing I live for, it’s cuddle time. We’ve long savoured those 20 minutes before our daughter launches herself into our bed, every morning, wiggling in between us and declaring her presence in our lives. In my resentment, I felt that he had taken that special time away from me — you’d find him at the gym every morning, sometimes even on weekends, instead. I’ve done my bit to sabotage his routine, faked illness, the blues and even diarrhea to get him to skip. He fell for it (once!), but quickly wised up to my sulking, fake tears and occasional threats of divorce.
“We can work out together, you know,” my husband reminded me one day.
Something clicked. He was right, of course.
As I marvel at my husband’s discipline and focus, I increasingly recognize that I am an individual apart from him. It’s important to have a marriage that challenges you to be your best self, and challenge me is exactly what my husband did, although unwittingly. I’m working on letting go of my resentment before it turns into full-blown animus towards a sweet man who was just trying to look good in board shorts.
These days, I’m trying to meet my husband halfway. My meals have become healthier. I lug myself to the gym at least thrice a week (and binge watch Netflix on the Stair-master... because let’s face it, it’s BORING!). I’ve switched to egg whites, and there’s no sugar in my coffee or tea. I still refuse to ski. And it feels… good.
My husband’s doing his part to keep things even-keeled in our relationship, too. He’s loved me, and more importantly lived with me, for far too long to know not to disregard my feelings — that saint of a man has been accommodating them for over 18 years and counting. Cuddle time is back. He never tells me what to eat or not to eat. It’s always “us.” I appreciate that.
But I may have spoken too soon. Last week, he sauntered into our kitchen looking a bit too thoughtful about — what else? — bread.
“We need to go to Costco. That bread? The low-carb one with the protein? We need to load up. I need to put some weight back on!”
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