Dear Readers: Every year I step away from my column briefly to work on other creative projects. (Anyone interested in my personal essays and photographs can subscribe to my free newsletter: amydickinson.substack.com).
I’ll be back next week. Today’s “Best of” topic from 10 years ago concerns what happens in a relationship when one partner gains — or loses — weight.
Dear Amy: I’ve been dating my girlfriend for three years, and I really love her.
I do think she is beautiful, too, but in the last year she has started to gain weight.
I’ve been hitting the gym religiously, have lost weight and am back into my former athletic form.
I don’t want to sound shallow, but it’s becoming somewhat of a turnoff to me.
I am attracting the attention of other (more attractive) females at bars and parties. I am not the cheating type, but it can be tough sometimes. I am not a shallow person, but sex is an important aspect of a relationship, and I really don’t want to lose my drive. I am only in my early 20s so you can imagine how tough it would be to limit my sex life because of something like this. I try to eat healthy when I am with her and attempt to get her to go to the gym with me, but it is hard to get her in the habit. However, I don’t want to tell her, “You need to go to the gym” because I love her and don’t want to lose her. What do I do in this sticky situation?
— Not-So-Shallow Hal
Dear Shallow: You seem afraid that your awesomeness will so outstrip your girlfriend’s attractiveness that you will be forced — forced! — to look elsewhere.
You don’t love your girlfriend with your whole heart, because if you did, you wouldn’t compare her to other people and immediately start worrying about how her weight gain affects you.
Did you embark on your own weight-loss adventure for your girlfriend? No, you did it for you. Getting in shape is like that. It is an important pursuit that yields many benefits, but it is ultimately self-serving.
You are shallow. Thin, fit, and shallow.
So, tell this lovely woman that her weight gain is a turnoff and that you’d feel best if she was a female version of you. She may then embark on a crash diet, suddenly losing an amount roughly equal to your body weight. — August 2012
Dear Amy: I disagree. I exercise and eat right so I have energy and can ward off short- and long-term health problems and stay attractive.
Luckily, I have been married to a man for 22 years who watches his weight and health too.
I know this will sound snarky, but I am appalled by the people I see who are so heavy. This puts a burden on our health care system. Being way overweight should not be the new normal.
— A in Illinois
Dear A: Many people thought I was too hard on “Hal,” but I was responding to the tone of his letter, as much as his statements. — August 2012
Dear Amy: Over the years you have published letters from people distraught about someone else gaining weight, and you always come down very hard on those letter writers.
Alcoholics have Alcoholics Anonymous and overweight persons have Overeaters Anonymous.
So, as a person who sympathizes with those writers, I’d like to know what helpful suggestion (aside from, in this case, telling Hal he really is shallow) or resource there is for those of us who feel this way about obese people but, apparently, shouldn’t.
Overweight people have a huge impact not only on their own health, but also on those they have relationships with, as well as on the greater society and our health care system. Yet it is considered anathema to voice negative feelings about them.
— B in Colorado
Dear B: If lecturing, challenging, or voicing negative feelings were proven to have an impact on overweight people, forcing them into a health journey, then I’d say go for it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. (And, I need to add, not all overweight people are unhealthy.)
The Al-Anon model might work for family members of food-addicted people.
This is about loving detachment and accepting that you cannot make choices for your loved ones. But “Shallow Hal,” the guy who wrote to me griping about his girlfriend putting on a few pounds, while he was so awesome?
He was just shallow. And there’s no cure for that.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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