My man is supportive and loving; talkative and kind. He is driven and goal oriented, helpful and reliable. He is romantic and handy… and he spoils me to death. So, why do I hate my stupid skinny boyfriend? Look at the picture below and you will see why.
My stupid, skinny boyfriend is blessed with the body of a God (and not to mention he has a handsome face, too!). He can eat whatever he wants and never gain a pound. Chicken parmigiana, pizza, candy galore. It doesn’t matter what he shoves down his esophagus, he still needs to gain 10 pounds.
Our dieting differences definitely put a strain on our relationship during the first year we lived together. We would part ways at the grocery store and all hell would break loose. He would fill his cart with brightly color packages of cookies, chips, and soda and I would fill my cart with green and brown packages of low-calorie, all-natural, low-sugar items. I had great intentions, but as soon as we unpacked the groceries, I would find myself wandering into his snack drawers and eating more of his unhealthy food than my own.
And then, we would fight. “I can’t have this food in our house!”…”Then don’t eat it!”… “But it is so tempting!”… “Not my problem.”… “I have gained 10 pounds, which is your problem!!”… “I’m starving and losing weight. I need this food!”… etc. You get the picture.
Once I reached 160-pounds, thirty pounds over my ideal, I realized something had to change. I had always lived with a health-conscious crowd, so making healthy decisions were easy and easily accessible. Now that I moved in with my sugar-toothed boy toy, healthy food options became harder to find. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t control my own life and find them!
Dieting and exercise is all about personal control, and one’s ability to stay on track in face of the toughest temptations. Diets require dieters to inhibit or ignore their internal cues to hunger, satiation, and cravings, which causes them to rely more on external cues like packaging and presence.This creates an even greater dilemma. The more we think about not eating a tempting item, the more likely we are to eat it. Gina Kolata, the author of Rethinking Thin (2007), highlights that the more one internally says “do not think of the ice cream in the refrigerator,” the more likely he or she is going to think about it, until finally his or her biological drive overpowers and inhibits the self-control needed to obtain a long-term goal. And not only do we think about tempting food more, we are more reactive to the presence of food. One study by Teff and Engelman (1996) found that restrained dieters also salivated more to the smell of pizza.
Another study, tried to reduce the effects of tempting food by reminding dieters of their long term goals. They hypothesized that when participants who are concerned with their weight are confronted by tempting foods, they will refrain from indulging if they are reminded of their goal (2009). They found that participants with high weight-related concerns consumed more after attending to food cues, when compared to participants exposed to control cues. They also found that participants with high weight-related concerns also consumed more than individuals with low weight-related concerns who were exposed to the attended food cues (2009). Thus, dieters with high weight-related concerns are more likely to be triggered to overeat by attending food cues.
So, dieters who are concerned about their weight are more likely to think about tempting foods, react to tempting foods, and eat tempting foods more than their skinny or low weight-concerned counterparts.
This leaves us with the question of: What to do dieters do when dieting in an unsupportive environment? How can we counteract all we have against us?
You first and foremost must learn that you, and only you, are responsible for your eating behavior. We have learned that an over-reliance on external cues can lead to weight gain when we rely on our environment to guide our behavior; therefore, the key to energy balance may be relying on oneself rather than the cues around us. You cannot control other peoples actions, and you definitely cannot control what they eat. What you can control is the food you chose to eat and the responsibility you take for your weight.
If you live in a household where family and friends consume junk good, then it becomes a division of responsibility when it comes to eating. You are responsible for the food choices you make, and they are responsible for supporting your success. I like to go by the motto “out of sight, out of mind,” and ask my boyfriend to store his junk food in hiding spots I cannot easily find. This doesn’t mean putting cookies in the back of the bottom kitchen drawer. It means storing junk food in the basement, attic, a secret box I don’t know about, or even keeping it in his car.
Division of responsibility also means your loved ones are responsible for providing support and positive reinforcement when you make healthy decisions while they make unhealthy ones. It takes time and a considerable amount of effort to eat carrot sticks in front of someone who is devouring Oreo cookies. But, the self-empowerment paired with positive social support can be one of the most rewarding experiences during a dieter’s first steps, and will motivate you to make smarter decisions in the future.
For the past three months, I have taken total control over my food choices and developed a system of responsibility with my boyfriend. I have lost a total 10-pounds while my boyfriend has gained 7-pounds. Now that we have compromised our efforts, I no longer hate my stupid, skinny boyfriend. I should change the title of this blog post to “Why I hated my stupid, not-so-skinny-anymore boyfriend.” As a result, we are happier and more involved in each others’ lives and goals. We no longer fight about weight loss or weight gain and we shop together at the grocery store. Eliminating the dieting dilemma has brought us closer together and we have realized how important our love and support is for each other. I challenge you to make the same adjustments in your life to see what benefits you derive.
Please comment or email me with experiences you have had dieting in a non-dieters household! I would love to hear perspectives from all! firstname.lastname@example.org