Love on the Scale
by Pat Washburn

Lots of people unwind in front of the TV after work. I get home from work at 1 a.m., and my TV choices are pretty limited. Thus it was that I found myself watching Jenny Jones do a show on "I Hate My Mate's Weight."

For most of my life, I've been called "fat." Some people are nicer about it - "big," "large," "woman of substance" - but the bottom (really!) line is that I don't measure down to the size this culture calls beautiful.

Most of us who shop the plus sizes aren't stupid. We know what causes our condition - eating too much and exercising too little. And we know how to fix it - eat more veggies and less chocolate, spend more time on the exercise bike and less time watching Jenny Jones.

It's a matter of motivating ourselves and believing in ourselves, of understanding the emotional triggers for overeating and finding other outlets for those emotions. It's got a lot more to do with love than with linguini.

Seeing these guys - they were all guys - complaining about their overweight wives got me thinking about losing weight. I've been up and down the scale myself: In one stretch a few years ago, I lost 100 pounds, but have gained nearly half of it back. I'm trying to motivate myself to move back the other way.

Earlier that day, I'd gotten e-mail from a friend in Kansas, whose mother has taken up writing "helpful" letters about her weight. This hurt my friend a great deal - after all, if your mother won't accept you the way you are, who will?

Her strategy: "As I read her next letter, when I get to the part where weight is mentioned, I'm going to take a fat red magic marker and draw a big red line across the page. Then I will send it back to her with a note saying that it is at the red line that I stopped reading, and inviting her to resubmit her letter after she has removed all references to weight. Weight will simply no longer be an acceptable topic of conversation for us. If she brings it up on the phone, I will give her one warning to stop, and then I will hang up."

It sounds harsh, and perhaps it is. But I understood completely. Anytime someone tries to nag me about my weight, it produces a counterproductive response: I want to eat a large chocolate bar, and often do at the first available opportunity. And as I thought about those couples on Jenny Jones, here's what I wanted to ask the men:

"What have you done to encourage your mate? Have you told her you love her?

"Have you told her what you really like about her - not just once in the past year, but today? Have you helped her to see herself as beautiful?

"Have you praised her for the things she does well - raising your children, for example? Have you encouraged her to do things that validate her - taking classes, finding time for a creative pursuit, spending time with her friends or family, studying her religion, going for a better job, learning a new skill?

"And once you've done everything in your power to see that she has a fulfilling life and a supportive spouse, have you tried taking her for romantic walks on the beach or in the woods?

"Have you tried taking up a new sport *with* her, something she's interested in for herself and not just because of you, and encouraging her to progress at her own pace?

"Have you tried cooking nutritious, balanced meals for her?

"No? Then no wonder she's overweight."

Published September 27, 1996
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