Here in the real world, one woman in five puts on a stone and a half in the first year of marriage.
* My wife and I have been together for ten years. I love her very much, but don’t find her attractive. After three kids, she is a couple of stone heavier than when we first met. She feels unattractive, but does nothing about losing weight. I haven’t wanted sex with her for months, and she never initiates it. I’m a fine one to talk, because I’m overweight, too. How can I improve matters?
>> That you have to be thin to be pretty is ingrained from birth in women, but as the feminist, Betty Friedan, wrote in the preface to her 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique: “There is a strange discrepancy between the reality of our lives as women and the image to which we are trying to conform.”
Bambi-like 14-year-old girls posing in fashions aimed at the wallets of women who have an average body-mass index of 26.2? Perfectly coiffured celebrities, who have personal trainers and armies of nannies, telling the less-fabulous that cakes and cheeseburgers are their favourite food?
Forget it. Here in the real world, one woman in five puts on a stone and a half in the first year of marriage. Toss in three pregnancies, zero time to herself, eight years of leftover fishfingers and, yep, your wife is pushing a size 16. I’ll bet that she wears a lot of black, hates shopping for clothes and wouldn’t strip off in a communal changing room, which is why she won’t go to the gym on her own.
Your wife doesn’t just feel under-confident about her body — she hates it. For every negative thought you have about her weight, she has 100 masochistic ones. It’s depressing, but depression is linked to weight gain, which raises the question: are women fat because they are depressed or are they depressed because they are fat?
In a survey by Psychology Today magazine, 15% of 3,452 women said that they would sacrifice more than five years of their lives to be the weight they want, and 24% said that they would give up more than three years. One third of women think that they are too fat to appear naked in front of their partners, and one woman in ten has to switch off the light before she can undress.
A 2007 survey, by Grazia magazine, tells us that 98% of women hate their bodies and that the average woman worries about her body once every 15 minutes.
As I said, for every negative thought you have about your wife’s body, she has 100.
Be kind, because nothing will change unless your wife believes that you are on her side. Logical arguments about health risks and reduced physical appeal will only make your wife feel worse. Yes, she needs to lose weight, but so do you, so stop pointing the finger. Accept that the problem is mutual and find a solution together.
Go on a diet together. Jeni Cook, a nutritionist and raw-food expert, says start the day with a green juice of spinach, apple and celery, eat a generous, healthy lunch and have a smaller protein snack before 7pm. Or try the alternate-day diet, which is surprisingly easy.
I can’t underestimate the importance of exercise. In his book, The Rough Guide to Happiness, the psychologist Nick Baylis says that “vigorously exercising for 45 minutes, three times a week for 16 weeks, is as effective as the leading antidepressant medication in treating depression”.
One study found that a walk in the park reduced depressive feelings in 71% of people. Go to the gym together. The good feelings generated by doing something with each other, and for each other, will strengthen your relationship, and begin to make you feel more positive about each other. Good luck
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