Dear Captain Awkward,
My husband and I have been together for four years, married for two. We generally have an awesome relationship, but there’s this one thing that’s getting on my nerves.
He doesn’t look after his health.
It’s nothing extreme like alcoholism or drugs, but he doesn’t eat a very good diet, and he hasn’t exercised regularly in many years. I’m concerned about this for a couple of reasons.He gets frequent bouts of insomnia, and I can’t help feeling that some exercise might help with that. Also, and I am trying not to be sizeist about this, he has a lot of fat on his body in general, mainly his belly. It doesn’t bother me appearance-wise; he’s had this body as long as I’ve known him, and I’ve always found him attractive. But I am concerned that it’s not good for his heart (he has a family history of high blood pressure), or that he could get Type 2 diabetes. I know, I know, Health At Every Size, but his lifestyle isn’t particularly healthy so I am not inclined to assume that he is.
He has said many times that he wants to lose weight, and he’s made some improvements to his diet lately. He also agrees that he should exercise. We have a treadmill, which he used to use a lot when he was at college; he finally ran on it a couple of months ago, but was very wheezy for quite a while afterwards (he tends to wheeze after doing anything physical, or in damp weather). That was kind of worrying, so he said that he didn’t want to exercise again until he’d seen the doctor and maybe gotten an asthma inhaler in case the wheezing got worse. I agreed that this was a good idea (that shit is scary).
Two months later, he still has not gone to the doctor. Money isn’t a problem, the doctor is ten minutes away, and the surgery has walk-in hours most evenings after my husband gets home from work. This would not be hard to sort out if he wanted to, but he keeps coming up with excuses: he’s too tired, he’s too stressed, he doesn’t feel like it, it’s too cold out. It’s pretty obvious that he doesn’t want to do this – and I don’t even know if it’s JUST about seeing the doctor, or if he doesn’t want to exercise at all. I am frustrated and irritated, because he won’t explain his reasons for this, and he gets annoyed and shuts down every time I try to talk to him about it. I’m also worried, because I love him, and I don’t want him to get sick, and I want us to grow old together.
I don’t know what I can do about this, or what I should do. I need a resource of good information. I want to get mad and yell at him, but I am not the yelling type, and also that would be mean. (Also also, we live with housemates, which means there isn’t a lot of privacy for difficult conversations or arguments.)
So, any advice?
This is a complicated question with a simple answer: you can’t make your husband healthy. The end. He is an adult human with autonomy over his body, even if his choices pain you, and any conversation you have with him (or with us advice-givers!) has to start from that fact. The only person’s behavior you can control is your own — I think you know that, but you’re also intensely frustrated that your husband is not behaving the way you imagine you’d behave if the tables were turned. Everyone who’s been in a close relationship (romantic or otherwise) has felt that at some point! But you have to remember to let go of the part of your mind that imagines *you* strolling into the doctor’s office and dancing on the treadmill.
So let’s talk about why your dude might not want to go to the doctor.
Possible Reason #1: As I’m sure you know, many many fat people have been emotionally terrorized by doctors and received inadequate health care simply because they are fat. (For a roll call of horror stories, see First, Do No Harm.) Have you asked your husband about his previous experience with doctors? It may be a difficult conversation, but it’s possible he has history that you don’t know about that makes going to the doctor a psychologically fraught prospect. Add in the fact that he may have exercise-induced asthma or other stereotypically “fat guy” problems, and the potential for a shaming experience is high. I’m trusting that you have done some research and/or had experience with the doctor you recommend, and that you think your husband will not be berated or told “just lose weight” when he goes.
Possible Reason #2: He might be scared. Not necessarily of the doctor, but of what the doctor will find. Unfortunately, lots of people put off seeing a doctor precisely because they *know* something is wrong, and getting a diagnosis will make their fears a reality. This is really incredibly awful for everyone involved — the potentially sick person who’s terrified, the family members who are biting their tongues about how worried they are, the friends who want to know what they can do to help but don’t have any information. I’ve been through this with family members, and it was heartbreaking. Your husband may not realize how much you worry about him — our culture puts so much shame on fat bodies in the guise of “concern for your health” that it may be hard for him to truly believe that your fear about his wheezing is really a fear about his wheezing and not about his belly. Maybe he needs to hear that your fear is not “I will have a fat husband forever” but “I will call 911 because your airway has closed and I don’t know what to do.”
Possible Reason #3: I might get into trouble for this one, but I’m diving in anyway: he is a dude. You don’t say how old you are, but if you’re on the younger side of things, your dude hasn’t had to start the round of regular “you are aging now” checkups that older dudes need. He also doesn’t need to get his ladybits scraped regularly, or his birth control prescription renewed, or his vaccines boosted, or any of the other things that force some of us to hit the doctor’s office every year or so. Now, obviously this is not true of every individual, but as a culture at large, women are expected to be caregivers; from a young age, we are inculcated with the idea that we will someday be in charge of someone else (i.e., all those babies Rick Santorum so desperately wants us to have), and that there are some things that adults do that we will need to learn, like how to make a doctor’s appointment and follow up on it. Some men just have not really had to learn how to do that stuff, so when he says “Sure, I should see the doctor,” he does not actually mean “Therefore, I will call one today to make an appointment.” Again: not saying this is true for all dudes — or that it’s only true for dudes — just that there may be a gender dynamic at play here.
Now. All that said, you probably already know that I think you need to sit down and have an honest discussion with your husband (not in earshot of your housemates), in which you ask some questions and listen to the answers without giving any orders or advice. You want him to see the doctor (hell, I want him to see the doctor!), but he does not want to, and so far he hasn’t felt comfortable articulating why. Your goal in this conversation, and in any that follow, should be to make it easier for him to go to the doctor: there should be no yelling, no guilt-tripping, no shame. Remember — for him and for yourself — that the reason you are worried is not because he is fat but because he is wheezing. If a slim, athletic person began wheezing after exercise, they should have a checkup too, right? Your husband’s maybe health problem is not that he is fat: it’s that he’s not sure what’s going on with his lungs. You must remember that, and you must separate it from anything about “healthy diet” or “recommended amount of exercise” or whatever potentially loaded phrases have come up in your conversations before.
If, upon having this conversation, your husband agrees that he really does want to get a checkup, here are some things you can do to make it a less daunting experience for him:
- Offer to make the call and set up the appointment (with him by your side to approve the time slot, of course). I don’t know about you, but I haaaaaaate making phone calls, and that alone would make me put off an appointment for a while.
- Offer to go with him for moral support. This could mean going in the actual exam room with him and being part of the conversation if he wants, or it could mean you hanging out in the waiting room so you can give him a friendly face. This is not something he has to do all by his lonesome.
- Going to the doctor is tiring, physically and emotionally. Especially since he hasn’t been in some time, they are probably going to want to ask him a lot of questions and listen to him breathe and run some tests. My friend and Awkward Army semi-lurker Elysia and I have a policy that any day you have to go to the doctor is a day in which you get to do something fun or indulgent later. Maybe plan to see a movie, or get ice cream, or play a video game together, or whatever is your most relaxing and comforting evening scenario.
In conclusion: your husband’s body is your husband’s body. Fat isn’t the problem; wheezing is the maybe problem. “Healthy” means different things for different bodies. Talk about why he is reluctant to go to the doctor and what might be helpful for him surrounding that. Your unconditional love will be a much more effective use of your energy than yelling, even in your head. Bodies are weird and wonderful but occasionally scary, and the point of seeing a doctor is to take the unknown (“is something wrong”) and turn it into a known, whatever that may be.
Good luck, and much love to you and your husband.
131 thoughts on “#239: How can I make my husband get his health on?”
Also a perfectly healthy option to regaining fitness: walking – and no doctor’s clearance required! (which seems to be a logistical hangup for your husband.) Maybe you guys could start going on some leisurely, romantic after-dinner walks together (also great for some just-us, non-roommate time.)
I do think a big stumbling block for out-of-shape people (including past me) to becoming active is this notion that exercise has to be intense and awful and treadmill-based. It does not… walking (or leisurely biking, or swimming,or ping-pong, or whatever) is just as good for you!
This comment is so full of positivity and cheer that I hate to reply with sarcasm. And yet? Walking: We’ve heard of it.
But have you tried diet and exercise?
It’s not a diet! It’s a LIFESTYLE CHANGE.
Am I the only one who hears that phrase and hears:
“It’s not a diet! It’s a diet you have to be on forever.“
It’s not being on fire! It’s a WARMER PERSONAL ENVIRONMENT.
Holly — nope,not just you!
I don’t think LL’s point was that walking is a new idea, so much as that walking alone can be enough to have health benefits. I know so many people who think you need to exercise hardcore in order to benefit, and that’s just not true–it’s an assumption worth combatting. (See also the NYT article I linked to below, which is not really news to those of us who practice HAES, but is exciting to see in a major media outlet.)
Oddly, I’ve heard this for years and years, usually from people who are earnestly trying to help me not be fat, who are laboring under the sad delusion that I am only fat because I am ignorant of the ways of thin people. I call shenanigans on the idea that this doesn’t show up in the major media outlets.
In addition to knowing about walking, fat people read the New York Times and other major media publications pretty regularly.
I’ve mostly heard it from FA blogs like Dances with Fat, so I guess my perspective is skewed.
(responding to CA’s comment below, since I can’t reply directly) Huh? I don’t get how that follows what I said. I’m fat and read the NYT, which is how I found the article.
I wasn’t saying that fat people don’t read the NYT, or haven’t heard “walk in order to lose weight” before. But that’s not what this particular article said. It said that a.) even walking, even in small amounts, can have major health benefits, regardless of whether weight loss occurs and b.) fat people can be healthy and fit. Those are not messages I see in the TImes, or other mainstream media sources, every day.
Sorry if I misinterpreted your intentions.
To clarify, for everyone: We’re really not interested in obvious “But your husband can do THIS kind of exercise!” suggestions in this thread. “Try walking! It’s fun and healthy!” “Try contra-dancing, I did!” “Eat vegetables, they are good for you!”
For me, the initial “even small amounts of walking can be good” comment, while meant to be helpful, falls under the heading of Totally Obvious (wherever and however it was reported or not reported), and is soooo not the issue of today’s question or the answer. Let’s end this particular conversation, ok?
Yes! There was actually just a piece in the NYT about this.
Seconding the gendered thing, with the added possibility that he feels indestructible, and serious medical problems are things that happen to other people.
I recently had a male friend tell me totally casually that he thought he had an airway-constricting allergy to the fish eggs they put on sushi. As we were eating sushi. It was like, “lol, here’s a fun fact about me, it feels like my airway is closing up right now! How weird! I’m totes not dying at the moment, though, don’t worry.” When I suggested he get that checked out by a doctor, he said it hadn’t even occured to him.
The LW’s husband may not be socialized to be a caretaker, like you say, but he may just not think of himself, a healthy young dude, as someone who might ever need medical attention.
I have a friend like that — not male — who actually knows what her allergens are. Occasionally she’s very lax about exposure to allergens, not alerting wait staff even, and it makes me SO nervous eating with her. I carry an epi pen (for the 2% chance *I* might need it), but I would so hate to have to use it.
I think about how I feel eating with my friend, nervous for her health and a little angry that she can be so cavalier about it, and get a sense of where the LW may be coming from. Insomnia and wheezing are an odd, not immediately threatening, but still scary combination.
This is so true. Not being a dude, I had never really thought about what it’s like for dudes going to the doctor, until I heard a piece on the radio where the host interviewed a doctor at one of those “men’s health” (read: erectile dysfunction) clinics you see advertised all over the place in Toronto. And the doctor said that, while ed is definitely worth treating in its own right, another reason for those clinics is just to get men to go to the damned doctor, and once they’re there the doctor then they can get the regular checkup stuff (that they’ll never do unprompted).
Regardless of gender, even people who know they have serious medical problems that they need to deal with on a daily basis can be in denial.
I regularly notice “I seem to feel rather sick… oh I haven’t been taking my medicine… because if I don’t take my medicine, it means I’m not a person who *needs* to take medicine, right? And I don’t wan’t to be a sick person, so I won’t take my medicine” Wait. That’s not how it works.
I’m going to go take my medicine now.
I also used to hate going to the doctor, and I would procrastinate about picking up the phone. I would feel really anxious at the office, assuming I ever got there, afraid that the doctor would find something terribly wrong with me or tell me I wasn’t taking good care of myself. This pattern went on for a long time. A year ago, I was so anxious at the gynecologist that I nearly fainted during the visit, which brought my exam to a screeching halt. Around the same time, I found out that this problem has a name: medical anxiety. I went to a therapist for a few months who helped me practice relaxing while I visualized going to the doctor. The therapy didn’t cure me, but it helped me feel less scared of doctors. Sometimes I even think of them as people who want to help me. I know the letter writer can’t make her husband go to the doctor, but if he has medical anxiety, maybe a therapist would help?
Oh, LW, hugs to you and your husband! Wheezing when it’s damp is something that trips my internal alarms – and I say this as a person who, in the last seven months, has: used inhalers, was prescribed codeine-infused cough syrup and nasal spray, been on Mucinex and Benadryl on doctor’s orders, been on multiple antibiotics, had a sleep study, had a chest x-ray, and had numerous visits to an allergy-immunologist who did bloodwork and two kinds of skin tests, and then some. (Sweet Machine is not kidding when she mentions our almost pact about being nice to ourselves about doctor days. It was much easier for me to endure them because she would remind me to do it.)
For me, wheezing was actually just an infection I had trouble fighting off and got over after a couple of months. But it was also the beginning of my doctors diagnosing my fibromyalgia. (I was feeling worse than I knew, and had been afraid to push for more explanations, but now I have help and am feeling better.) So I totally can relate to anyone who doesn’t want to go to the doctor because It Could Be Bad. (See also my blog about my sister’s disabilities and distrusting docs!) That said, during this process, I learned that a lot of people just have airways that are shaped a bit less efficiently, or don’t recognize the symptoms of sleep apnea or inhalation allergies, like feathers in pillows, or have odd/surprising responses to stress, and this can change over time. My PhD-biologist-and-patient brain wants to point out that your husband’s new wheezing may be not a big deal at all. I very much hope that he feels better soon, and you, too! It’s super hard to watch a loved one not feel well and know you can’t just make things better. (Again: sister with disabilities.)
Best of luck to you both!! And congrats to your husband for doing all he’s already done to be happier and healthier!
I would also suggest, once you get the wheezing thing figured out, that you think of some kind of physical activity that is fun that you could do together. Perhaps moving things away from “Exercise” and into the realm of “extra curricular that I do that is also physical and therefore good for me.”
I suggest you try new things together, mostly because telling someone they should go do physical activity xyz is not always cool. (Unless there things he’s said he’s wanted to try, and then I encourage you to encourage or go for moral support.) Plus trying new activities together can be a great bonding experience. Either you like it and have fun, or you hate it and have a hilarious story about that thing you did and how it was so awful and lol what were we thinking.
Dance classes are a really fun one for couples, and great exercise, bonding, good stuff. Paintball is also highly physical and super fun. Bike rides in the park? Agility training for the dog you may or may not have?
Taking fitness out of the realm of “another thing I have to do every day blah blah” and into the land of “I’m going to go treadmill so I can kick more ass this weekend at paintball” makes it much more fun and from my perspective, much more likely to be stuck to. (For example I take belly dance for 3 years now, longest I’ve EVER kept up with any kind of workout routine. I recently discovered I can do a zillion sit ups, and that was the first time I’d done a sit up in years and years. )
a couple of thoughts:
1) with my partner, sometimes “let’s both go do XXX” is more effective than “I support you in your doing XXX” – so for me, “Let’s make back-to-back doctor’s appointments and go together” would be a more successful strategy.
2) running is hard on a lot of your body. Maybe there is a less impactful kind of exercise that you could do (again, together)? I successfully have “let’s go on a walk to the park and fly a kite” dates with my partner, but running would be right out.
2) running is hard on a lot of your body
THIS. I hate running with a passion. If it were my main experience with exercise, I would have given up on exercise a long time ago.
There are so many random fun ways to get a workout. Hula hoop dancing, going to a trampoline park, aerial acrobatics lessons, swimming, YogaDance…not all of them are affordable or accessible to everyone, but it’s definitely worth looking beyond “traditional” forms of exercise like running on a treadmill.
A TRAMPOLINE PARK?!?!? WHAT?!?! OMG I want to go!!!!
It’s so much fun! The one I’ve been to is SkyZone in Boston. I hope there’s one near you!
OMG. OMG. OMG. Nearest one is 3 hours away but still. That looks so awesome.
I think I know what I want to do for my birthday….
In re #2, EXACTLY. And maybe that’s what the commenter upthread was going for. When you haven’t exercised at all, and you start running on a treadmill, no wonder there’s wheezing and suckage. Going from zero to sixty is never a good idea.
Look, being healthy is a choice that a grown person is allowed to refuse. People smoke, people drink, exercise induced asthma is not even that big a deal. Seriously. I’m sick of the judgment inherent in HEAS. What if you don’t want to be healthy? What if on balance, you don’t mind. You are fine to make the tradeoff and not be at your physical peak. Why are fat people only allowed to be fat if they are healthy?
Sorry if I sound cross but I feel like your husband was fat and unhealthy when you married him… like, no time ago! Why can’t you just accept him as he is? It’s just the most transparent concern trolling. Yes you love him, but so what? Leave him alone. He doesn’t want to go to the doctors. It would be one thing if one of his testicles had blown up to twice the size of the other and he had an acute situation but nothing has changed. Has he dropped dead or changed significantly in four years? No? So why are you suddenly worried for his health?
I’m fat. And guess what, I’m kind of lazy too. Nothing terrible but yeah, I could eat healthier or be better or whatever. I could be a Good Fat who is amazing at yoga and climbs mountains and Proves That Fat People Can Be Healthy. But if I want to sit on my ass and eat cheerios, I can do that too.
Sorry, got cut off. I’m sorry but no one yet has even determined that he is sick and we are acting like he is dying. Why, because he’s fat? She is not his “carer”, her own distress is self induced, and respectfully, I think it’s kind of offensive to compare him to a “sister with disabilities”. I’m gonna get off this thread because it’s tripping my Very Annoyed Alarms but I just had to say, like, nooooooo. So far we’ve determined that he wheezes somewhat after exercise, THAT’S IT. Maybe he should switch to yoga instead of you shaming him everyday. Geez.
Elle, who is “acting like he is dying”? Not me, not anyone in this thread so far. I agree with your statement that people get to decide whether or not “being healthy” is a goal for them. No one has to be a Good Fatty for someone else. But I’m not sure who you’re angry at.
respectfully, I think it’s kind of offensive to compare him to a “sister with disabilities”
So, this is directed at me, right? I didn’t do that. I gave a context for (1) why I don’t like going to doctors, which might be valuable insight for the LW (or others) and (2) why I have experience with – and strong feelings about – loving someone very much and worrying about that person’s health.
Like Sweet Machine, I agree with you that everyone gets to decide whether or not they want “being healthy” as a goal. According to the letter, the LW’s husband has made that choice for himself already. Commander Logic eloquently stated what Sweet Machine’s advice and the ensuing conversation is about: helping the LW address her concerns.
She is not his “carer” …
I agree with a lot of what you said. Being married doesn’t mean you both merge into one being, and each spouse gets to make their own decisions about stuff that affects only them.
And maybe this does only affect Husband. Maybe. But he won’t know until he sees a doctor. If this turns out to be something debilitating if he doesn’t take care of it, then guess who’s on the hook for taking care of him?
You could argue that if it comes to that, LW can choose to walk out rather than become his caregiver. This is not exactly a choice without constraints, though, and maybe it’s better for her to voice her concerns now than remain silent now, and then either abandon him when he needs her most or be stuck in a life-altering situation of her own.
I agree that adults have the right to be unhealthy however they want – they’re grown adults and that’s their prerogative. However, their loved ones (ESPECIALLY spouses who have made a lifelong commitment and may be considering co-parenting) have the right to be concerned if their partner is making those unhealthy choices, and the right to try and help the person change. Totally aside from any diet/exercise issues, I think it’s also totally valid to be concerned about a partner who smokes, for example, or someone who is an alcoholic or has an untreated mental illness. Now, the person may not change, immediately or ever, but it’s not a crime to try and help them do so!! Just because a person has a legal right to do something doesn’t mean those who love them can’t try to help them make healthier choices (especially loved ones who have a vested interest in the whole ‘growing old together’ idea!).
Now, the person may not change, immediately or ever, but it’s not a crime to try and help them do so!!
True, but if you are “helping” someone who does not want your help, you’re not actually helping. That’s why I emphasized that the only behavior I am giving advice on is the LW’s.
Actually, I think Sweet Machine did a great job of not making this a judgey judgefest about anyone, not judgey about the husband, the Letter Writer, or anyone who might read this.
The husband in question is wheezing after exercise. That’s worrying. He has insomnia. That’s worrying. He has a family history of high blood pressure. That’s worrying. He’s gone up in size, which is a change, which is worrying.
The benchmark for “worrisome weight change” is if I would be worried about the delta over time, not the direction of the change. Did he lose/gain 30lbs over the course of 2 years? Eh. Did he lose/gain 30lbs over 2 months? WHOA CHECK IT.
LW has legit concerns for her husbands health, but the fact that we as a culture have got all this baggage around fat/health/appearance/wevs AND his health habits aren’t great make it a difficult dance for her to address her concerns. The advice is for how the LW can do that dance.
This is really not about who in the Awkwardverse is a Good or Bad Fat or Thin Person, if such things even exist and are not made of straw.
Dude, you also have the right, as an individual, to have as much sex with as many people as you choose. You have the right to work or not work, be profligate or miserly, and live or travel wherever the hell you want whenever you want. Your spouse, on the other hand, has the right to set boundaries around all of those things in your shared marriage. Captain Awkward is right that this woman can’t control her husband’s behavior, but she does have an investment in his health because she has an investment in his life. And there’s nothing wrong with her desire to keep him around as long as possible. That’s not trolling. That’s love.
Hm. Well, wheezing is one possible heath problem. A poor diet and (it sounds like total) lack of exercise are also possible health problems. When you’ve made a lifelong commitment to someone, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want that person to take care of themselves in reasonable ways that will help them stay around as long as possible (especially if there are plans for children down the road). I totally agree that guilting, shaming, and yelling are NOT the solution, but NEITHER is totally ignoring real and serious issues that can affect people’s health.
I say this as someone whose father has Type II diabetes after years of being obese. After his diagnosis, he has been able to bring both his weight and his diabetes under control through diet and exercise (some medication at the beginning, but he’s been able to go off of it). While it’s awesome that my dad responded to this huge wake-up call with positive changes, wouldn’t it have been better for everyone (including him!) if he’d managed to make those changes earlier in life and avoid some of the health problems he still deals with from the diabetes (as well as the higher medical bills)? I know he thinks so!
I guess my point here is that I would have liked to see some more concrete advice for the letter writer with regard to having a real, honest conversation not so much about her husband’s weight, but about his health habits. If he’s eating right and being active, but happens to have a large frame that’s one thing – but it doesn’t sound like the story as communicated here. I don’t see why these issues get a pass while the wheezing is an immediate problem that needs to get dealt with. Yes, the weight/lifestyle related items may be more sensitive and require a different/more careful approach, but they are absolutely valid and important to address – and if the letter writer is able to do so successfully, I bet her husband will eventually thank her for helping give him his health back!
I guess my point here is that I would have liked to see some more concrete advice for the letter writer with regard to having a real, honest conversation not so much about her husband’s weight, but about his health habits.
We don’t know much about his health habits from the letter, just that he doesn’t exercise. The LW doesn’t specify what she means by a “good diet,” and what works for a given body is idiosyncratic. For more concrete advice about food, I highly highly recommend The Fat Nutritionist. But we’re not going to do the “replace ice cream with apples!” food advice thing here.
The evidence for obesity leading to Type II diabetes isn’t as strong as most people think, actually. I really, really, really, don’t want to do FA 101 on here, and there’s a lot more that’s problematic in your post, but I’m going to leave it at that, because I only have so many spoons today.
Sara, what’s your “concrete advice” for having these kinds of conversations? What has worked for you or would work for you? I’m curious to know more specifically how you would address these kinds of topics with a loved ones in a way that gets good results and does not add shame or coercion.
There is a fallacy that operates in a lot of the conversations we have about exercise and nutrition (and politics) that leads to a lot of condescension and hurt feelings. Here it is:
If you knew what I knew (or I could explain it to you well and/or often enough), you would act as I do.
We’re all for using words and asking for things you want around these parts, but you can’t *make* anyone do anything. Also, fat people have kids and live into old age all the time. The wheezing is an identifiable medical issue that needs attention. Here is a case study:
Guess what happened to me when I was wheezing and had bronchitis all the time?
Dr. #1: You should exercise more and lose some weight!
Me: I’d love to exercise, but I’m wheezing all the damn time.
Dr. #1: Well, lose weight. That will solve everything.
A Year of Misery Elapses. I do not lose weight, but I do get bronchitis 4 times that year and wheeze and cough all the time.
Dr. #2: Exercise more! Eat less! Lose weight!
Me: But…I am sick?
Dr. #2: You’ll feel better if you lose some weight!
Another Year of Misery Elapses. My Romantic Partner Says: I HATE YOUR WHEEZING PLS FIX, THANK YOU, which motivates me to stop avoiding things and find a new doctor.
Dr. #3: Wheezing all the time is not ok. Let’s run some tests.
Me: That sounds smart.
Dr. #3: You have asthma! It’s because of allergies. Here is how you treat it.
Me: But I never had allergies as a kid.
Dr. #3: Sometimes you develop them later in life.
Me: (Treats it)
Dr. #3: You are breathing like a healthy person now (if you keep treating your asthma).
Me: Yay! Exercise is fun!
Dr. #3: You may or may not lose some weight as a result. Don’t worry about it too much – the habit of exercise is more important than what you weight, and you are overall very healthy.
Me: YOU ARE THE BEST DOCTOR EVER, THANK YOU.
Case Study #2:
Me: I fell on my knee several times and it is swollen and painful. I injured it a lot as a kid, too – this feels like that.
Orthopedist: That’s because you’re fat.
Me: No, I injured it.
Orthopedist: Stop being so fat.
Me: But I fell on it really hard, and then it swelled up. It’s an injury!
Orthopedist: Get some exercise! Long walks. You’ll be fine!
Me: But…it hurts. And it is twice the size of the other knee, and I am also fat on that side of my body. So….injury?
Orthopedist: Okay, fine, get an MRI.
Me: (gets an MRI)
Orthopedist: You tore your meniscus. That’s a very serious injury. You should do stretches and strengthening exercises, but otherwise stay off it for a while until it heals.
Me: I TOLD YOU.
Orthopedist: And stop being so fat.
Me: Fuck you very much.
I really, really want doctor #2. The one I’ve got has Weight Watchers pamphlets in her office and, on one memorable occasion, she reacted to finding out that I’d lost my job not by giving constructive help to keep me from falling into depression (which I have a lot of history with), but by worrying that I would gain weight and giving me some really condescending advice about exercise. Which, yes, FUCK YOU VERY MUCH covers it.
augh I MEANT DOCTOR #3. Someday I will have that newfangled reading comprehension stuff.
Oh man, doctors 1 and 2.
I went to my last doctor one time becuase I was sick and throwing up all the time and barely eating (since I was just throwing up most of it). She congratulated me on my weight loss.
I need a Doctor #3 in my life. I am being harangued to see a doctor about my Terrible Fatness Problem by about three or four well-meaning and thin relatives, who seem to think I binge on baby donuts and lie to them about it. It’s actually making it harder to buckle down and get a doctor for regular non-fat-shaming checkups. It is really good to know not-jerk doctors are out there.
This really resonates with me. For a long time I had conservations with everyone (well, mostly my doctor and my mother) that went like this:
Me: I am abnormally tired no matter how much I sleep.
Person: You should exercise.
Me: But I am tired?
Person: If you exercise, you will lose weight and be less tired.
Me: But even grocery shopping leaves me so tired I can’t think/have to lay down.
Person: You should take walks. They are gentle!
Me: Grocery shopping is mostly walking?
Eventually, I went to a specialist who determined I had a sleeping disorder. And when I starting treating it? I lost weight. And then gained it back again, but I am loads healthier now.
As someone with a sleeping/fatigue problem, I also wanted to point out that the LW’s husband’s lack of desire to exercise could in fact be directly related to his insomnia, rather than the other way around. (His insomnia could also be related to an underlying health issue – maybe even asthma.) If you have insomnia, you are tired, and if you are tired you do not want to run around or, in fact, do much of anything. This isn’t to say that he shouldn’t go to the doctor, but rather to say that maybe he should go to the doctor for his insomnia, rather than for his weight, since not sleeping is way worse for your health than being pudgy.
Ugh, so sorry you had to go through the Fat Causes All Your Problems vortex to get your diagnosis.
Insomnia indeed sucks, and kind of saps your ability to do normal things and also to think rationally at a certain point. Treating that is probably going to make anyone feel a lot better, as a baseline.
Ugh. I just started a birth control that might make me gain weight, and I really hope my doctor doesn’t stop being cool if that happens.
Jesus crap, what is wrong with some (many? most?) doctors? With the orthopedist, was there at least any acknowledgement of “Wow, my original suggestions were the exact opposite of what you needed, and actually would have made your knee worse. Good thing you pressured me into questioning my bigoted assumptions!”?
I have a digestive disorder that flares — I can be fine, and then the world ends in my gut. I’ve had it since I was 9, and it took almost 20 years to find a doctor who took me seriously. I got so sick that there was one thing I could eat — that specific wheat bread, with that specific brand of turkey cold cut with mustard. I lost a ton of weight, something close to 10 pounds in a month. And it took me three doctors until I convinced one that I was SICK, not “healthy” because I was losing weight.
There are doctors out there that aren’t really worth working with. But there are excellent doctors, and it’s worth finding one for yourself. And then, maybe, for the LW, sharing that doc with your husband.
It is HARD to insist that something is wrong and be taken seriously. It’s also worth it. LW, all the advice for helping your husband make that doctor’s appointment — really listening to him and his concerns first — would be worth it.
Oh, this, so much! There are so many terrible doctors out there. A (fat) friend of mine recently went to a new doctor and found, all at once, that he has (quite severe) *hole in his heart* and a serious case of sleep apnea to boot. His old doctor, who had been seeing him for OVER 10 YEARS, had found that he had heart murmur, and knew he had no energy, but could only repeat: don’t worry about those, lose weight. And my friend was just starting to see a personal trainer to try to do just that, which *really could have quite easily killed him*, given the enormous strain his poor heart is already under, when he luckily moved house and thus doctors. It makes me so angry I have trouble even seeing straight. First do no harm indeed.
This is more or less how my dad died. He was 50 and a smoker with high blood pressure and at very high risk for heart disease, but he was also heavy. So what did his doctor recommend? That he lose weight, of course. So he started going to the gym. He couldn’t ever seem to get his heart rate up, which worried him, but he kept going, because everyone knows that you have to lose weight to be healthy.
Turns out he had advanced atherosclerosis and the blood flow to his heart was about 90% blocked. He died one day on the way home from the gym.
This past Christmas my uncle (his brother) started going on about how fat people need to lose weight “for their health” and I just lost it. (For some weird reason no doubt related to me being an overemotional female, this kind of talk really upsets me.) I mean, here’s someone who lost his own *brother* to exactly that kind of lazy and simplistic thinking, and he still couldn’t let go of it. These attitudes run deep.
BLANKET STATEMENT FOR THIS THREAD: Please do not give condescending dieting or exercise advice in this thread. I am pretty sure the LW and her husband have heard of green veggies and biking to work and all that. It’s really tremendously insulting to fat people when others give “helpful” advice that is exactly what you find on Oprah.
Thank you – and I wish you’d edit the post to put this message at the top, before my head explodes.
I am so goddamn happy to see you here!!! ❤
❤ ❤ ❤ ❤
P.S. Yay for Dr. Horrible! The frequent Whedonverse references are one of the many things I love about this blog.
Hmm, LW. You said:
“I am frustrated and irritated, because he won’t explain his reasons for this, and he gets annoyed and shuts down every time I try to talk to him about it.”
This might mean it’s time to be super-honest with yourself about how you sound when you approach your partner about this. Like CA said, you do need to have this discussion with him in a way that focuses on health issues, and for many fat people, that’s a fine line to walk. After a lifetime of being shamed for being fat under the guise of “I’m CONCERNED about your HEALTH,” it’s not surprising that he might react badly to attempts to discuss this with him. Maybe acknowledging that this may be the pattern he’s used to could help?
Oh yes, I meant to say this in the post! If he’s shutting down, he is not hearing the same thing you think you’re saying.
D’oh, and I totally missed when I posted that that this was a Sweet Machine post, not a Capt Awkward post! Apologies, Sweet Machine!!!
Yes, this. As a fat person, when I hear a family member say “I’m worried about your health,” I start looking for exits, because if I don’t find something to hide behind, I know I’m in for twenty minutes of condescending “now this isn’t about your looks it’s about your health” and “I just hate to see you do this to yourself when you have so much potential” and blahdey blahdey oh my God I don’t even want to type about it. It’s a topic that makes me want to physically escape.
And I think the LW’s husband may be having the same reaction? Especially if she’s phrasing things in terms of “you should go to the doctor so you can get in shape for exercise.”
If this is about his wheezing, then she should encourage him to see a doctor for the wheezing, end of story, absolutely nothing else expected. That’s hard enough.
The last time I got the “this isn’t about your looks, it’s about your health,” I explained that I had no health problems. And then they started in on me about “but wouldn’t you like to look better? Aren’t you CONCERNED about your looks?” It was at once crushing and validating.
I don’t have any (stereotypically fat-related) health problems either, but my family is very concerned that I might theoretically develop some in the future. Won’t you think of the potential future heart attacks and all that.
They also do the “now I think you look fine but you know how most people are and don’t you want to get married and what about job interviews.”
…My point relevant to the letter is, most fat people have heard it all before and are really goddamn sick of it, so if you’re talking to a fat person about a health issue, you need to stay the hell away from those buttons.
“I may indeed develop health problems as I age…just like you! Let’s talk about the problem I’m having with this conversation right here and now.”
Ugh, I am fat and forty-something and have high blood pressure. All the doctors think all I do is lie around and eat twinkies all day. It has helped that they did a round of blood tests and found all those numbers to be fine (my cholesterol is excellent! My blood sugar and sodium levels and triglycerides etc are great!). This means that they almost kinda believe me when I say that I do exercise and eat healthily (or at least that’s what they say when they start with the fat-shaming and I throw my numbers back at them) – but they still say I should eat less. They have no clue how much or how little I eat.
Never mind that the high blood pressure started when I got the stressful career and that high blood pressure runs in my family and that people of all shapes and sizes can get high blood pressure.
Also, growing up on the farm, I am well aware that some creatures are “easy keepers” and grow sleek and fat on the same amount of food that leaves another creature skinny and under-fed. And it’s not because they got differing levels of exercise.
Anyway, I grit my teeth, try not to cry, and make them treat the high blood pressure.
My mother lost a lot of weight at one point and then regularly (like, every time I was around her) gave me those speeches. “I’m worried about your health!” She also informed me that I was hiding inside myself, and that I had to lose weight in order to “let myself out”. Gee, thanks.
I just wrote here to bitch about that, I think Sweet Machine has pretty much got it covered.
God, I swear, Mums are the worst when it comes to the weight thing, I’ve trained mine pretty well when it comes to me, but she still says things to my little sisters that are problematic to say the least.
My Mom had a diet she wanted me to go on and I finally had to be like “Look, the more you bring this up the less likely I am ever even going to be inclined to try it. Drop it.” And then I quit talking to her for a while. It worked wonders.
Okay, there could be many different things going on behind the scenes here that isn’t covered by the simple “stubborn man dragging his feet on going to the doctor for no reason” explanation. Sweet Machine has covered a lot of them, but there’s also:
1) He doesn’t really think it’s that big a deal.
2) He’s feeling pressured, and is responding to pressure by being recalcitrant on the subject. (From personal experience, this doesn’t have to come from actual pressure; having a pressure-program installed by past experiences can mean that innocent discussions can trigger the sense of being pressured.)
3) Exercise is really fucking annoying, especially if your introduction to it was elementary school P.E. class and the “do something you hate, but that you can distract yourself from via music / t.v. / murderous thoughts about the rest of humanity” model is the only one you ever learned. It can be good fun and good times! but only when it fits in with the other things you already enjoy and doesn’t force you to do things you hate. I like to dance, which is a social kind of exercise that involves music and can be done without dealing with nature (I am not good with nature). My husband likes to kayak, which is a solitary kind of exercise that involves nature, and meditative silence. Both these things fit in really well with our personalities. Neither of these things qualify in our brains as “exercise”; they are activities that we do that we enjoy.
Running on a treadmill, and I say this as the veteran of thousands of hours of running on a treadmill, is not an activity that lends itself particularly well to fitting in with someone’s personality. I suppose it’s possible! But honestly, I’ve only ever seen it used as a utilitarian choice: it is exercise done for the sake of exercise. And that sucks so hard I can’t even tell you.
4) It may sound like you want him to be different. When someone is already sensitive about their weight– and it sounds like your husband is, if he talks about trimming down so much– pretty much the last thing that person wants to hear is “Yes! absolutely, you should lose some weight, because you are unsatisfactory as-is.”
The best thing Mr.Firpa ever said to me regarding a change in weight was that he found me sexy as hell “regardless of the form [I] choose to take.” He’s been with me through quite literally thick and thin (and thick, and thin, and then moderate thickness as I got off the goddamn diet train), and never, ever, ever has he encouraged me to exercise for any other reason than to hang out with him during an activity he enjoys. Given our really different concepts of what equals a fun physical activity, that went about as well as you’d expect, but I appreciate it anyway.
5) If your husband has a history with weight loss, that fucks everything up– it fucks up the brain, which no longer trusts that food will be available, it fucks up the body, which no longer knows how to sense hunger and fullness accurately, and it fucks up the self-esteem, which sees this history as failure instead of, well, pretty much the natural human reaction to a food-restrictive environment.
Regardless, this idea that all he has to do is go to the doctor and then exercise and eat better is overly simplistic, and the idea that you can do anything to “make” him do any of it is just wrong. And, YES, it is scary to realize that you could lose him– I went through that early in my marriage, too. It’s kind of a natural reaction to becoming a functioning family unit with another person. My reaction was to try to keep myself totally independent, so I wouldn’t lose anything if he died, but– yeah, that was dumb, because of course I would lose something, I would lose him. You seem to be doing something similar, except by trying to avoid having him die on you at some point in the future by carefully controlling the present in some way that magically eliminates all possible risk factors in his health. And, yeah, I can’t lie to you– that won’t work either. The scary thing about being married is the “til death do us part” clause, because that’s it, that’s how you assume it will end, and that’s not like any other relationship break-up you’ve ever been in, and it’s a big unknown that could happen at any time and arrrrgh how can you have a life together when you can’t control how long it will last?
Take a big step back. Relax. Your husband is not being unhealthy AT YOU, he is not doing this to screw up the possibility of a long life together, he is doing it because of his own reasons. You can’t control his actions– not directly, not indirectly, not by thinking really pointed thoughts in his direction. It will be okay. Have a big long think about what it is you’re scared about, and talk about that with him– not about the doctor’s visit, not about exercise. Deal with the other stuff as a scheduling thing, completely apart from the emotional part, and deal with the scheduling stuff AFTER you guys have hashed out the emotional stuff.
This whole comment is awesome! Especially this bit:
“You seem to be doing something similar, except by trying to avoid having him die on you at some point in the future by carefully controlling the present in some way that magically eliminates all possible risk factors in his health. And, yeah, I can’t lie to you– that won’t work either. The scary thing about being married is the “til death do us part” clause, because that’s it, that’s how you assume it will end, and that’s not like any other relationship break-up you’ve ever been in, and it’s a big unknown that could happen at any time and arrrrgh how can you have a life together when you can’t control how long it will last?”
This is so so true. Exercise and healthy eating aren’t some kind of anti-death spell. There is nothing any couple can do to guarantee that they will get the chance to grow old together. This was really rammed home to me last year when a close friend of my mother, who had always seemed to be the healthiest person we knew – vegetarian, non-smoker, lots of exercise etc – died of lung cancer at the age of 55. She didn’t get to grow old with her husband.
Committing to someone for the rest of your lives is actually terrifying when you think about what it really means. The only thing to do is make your partner feel as loved as possible, every day, because you don’t know how many days you will have.
Sorry to write such a depressing comment. I’m feeling really sad now thinking about my mum’s friend and her husband and family.
Exercise and eating right are NOT some sort of anti death spell, indeed.
It’s magical thinking that if you do all the right things, then nothing bad will happen to you. The people who want you do do all these Healthy and Right things only want what is best for you, but the idea that that will protect you or them is wrong.
My husband passed away a couple years ago of cancer, and people used to ask me if he smoke or drank. He didn’t. I reacted a bit like they thought that the illness could have been his fault, but, I know that they really wanted reassurance that what happened to him would never happen to them, because they did all the right things….
Doing all the “right” things and following all the “correct” behaviors does NOT make you safe.
You are so right about other people’s reactions. If he had lived longer, continuing not to smoke or drink, some of them would have blamed it on his lack of a positive attitude.
I am so sorry for your loss.
I’m so sorry for your loss, Jenna.
I want to emphasize #4 here. Even if you do want him to change how he looks, it won’t help to tell him.
If he mentions losing weight, just tell him that no matter how he looks, you love him, you just want him to be happy. And drop it. No suggestions, he’s already heard your opinions on the matter, and he knows what he’s “supposed” to do. If he persists in the conversation, you can tell him that if he needs you to do something to help him be happy, he can ask for it, and that you love and support him.
This of course, does not mean you have to defer to him in everything, just where his own body is concerned (Personal bodily autonomy). The same applies in reverse, and hopefully he tells you the same. The world already tells us what we should aspire to. The only new thing in this category you can bring as a partner is acceptance of who the other person is right now.
LW, you’re being a good and positive body ally for your husband; thank you for that. It is wonderfully refreshing to see how you have separated your love/sexyfeels for his body from your completely legitimate concerns for his health. You’re not betraying him by admitting that the wheezing is worrying, and Health At Every Size does involve health. Compromised breathing is rarely a good thing. Having said that, your husband may have a negative medical experience when he does see a doctor. As other commenters have stated, physicians – rarely bright beacons of intelligence, progressiveness or critical thinking – may look at his lovely plush and determine that THAT is the problem, and not the medical issues that worry you. Since people rather resent being dismissed, erased and patronized, this may affect your husband’s willingness to engage with the medical community/be honest about his symptoms. it might be helpful to find a community of lovely healthy plushy people to share with and to help decrease the stigmas he may have internalized. Maybe share Sweet Machine’s blog or some of the other fat-positive blogs and tumblrs that are out there – having people on Team Fat may help the two of you reinforce the message that his adipose tissue is not the problem here. Sorry, I’m trying to say this without being condescending.
On the topic of feminine care taking, I was recently reading a study on how female diabetics care for their own conditions and are not usually supported by the diet choices of their male partners, but male diabetics proportionately care less for their own conditions and require more preventable medical care. When partnered with non-diabetic females, however, male diabetics stick to better diets and require less care… Because the women maintain their diets, purchase and prepare diabetic-healthy food, and eat the same food, which contributes hugely to partners sticking to regimes. The presentation tentatively suggested that targeting female partners with diabetic diet information would do a lot to further decrease medical costs. I stood there with a dropped jaw, infuriated by the implication that men are somehow incapable of managing their own diets and it’s somehow women’s burden…. And then I wondered what to make for dinner, because my husband had suggested that we prepare healthier meals. Socialisation: it runs pretty deep. At the end of the day, despite what society says, you cannot bring your husband to a certain health level with your magical X chromosomes.
LW, you’ve gotten great advice from Sweet Machine and other people here. (SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE Sweet Machine! So many warmed cockles to see you!!!!!!)
Besides being anit-sizeism and a full supporter of Healthy As I Wanna Be (h/t to the fabulous Tasha Fierce), a huge focus of my activism is on patient advocacy, so I hope to contribute some stuffs to make you and your DH feel and be more empowered navigating doctors and health care, if/when you are at that stage.
1. If you have the ability within your affordable options, look for an MD who is HAES positive, or who is recommended by others in the FA community. First Do No Harm has listings, as do a few of the HAES websites. You can post a question on an FA blog too.
2. Pre-screen said MD if possible – *ask* them directly about their opinions on Healthy at Every Size, or on weight discrimination as a barrier to health care access. New patients can often interview the MD on the phone prior to the first appt; if not, write questions down and bring them to the first appointment. FDNH also has a great tips section for how to go about this.
3. Sometimes MDs are well meaning but ignorant & a peer reviewed journal article can help them see the error of their ways! If you encounter someone like this OR they’re the only MD available, and maybe a well placed article or two could help, don’t be afraid to give it to them. Good MDs will respond positively, and it’s really not going to make a bad MD worse to try to educate hir.
Rebecca Puhl @ the Rudd Center at Yale has been doing great work in the area:
4. Document ANYTHING untoward.
Oh jeez this is 100% the comment I wish I had written, can we trade? The “empowerment” part of this message is extremely important.
All this stuff is really really important and awesomely stated. If it turns out that he has generalized doctor fear as well, it’s good to find out what kinds of things a doctor could do or what kind of personality a doctor could have that would make things less stressful. One of my guys is absolutely terrified of the dentist, and has a whole childhood full of good reasons for this. So when he decided that seeing a dentist was a thing he really needed to do, we talked about what kinds of things the dentists did in the past that freaked him out and what would have been better for him. Some of the answers surprised me, so I was really glad I asked. Example: he did NOT want to be sedated, because it’s less stressful for him to know exactly what’s happening, except if injections are involved. Then while I was dentist shopping, I was able to find one for him that would make going bearable, and give him all the hugs and low-key fun times afterward. Talking about this stuff also helped him feel more confident in explaining to the dentist how visits needed to go to keep him calm, because he already had words for what he needed.
LW, it sounds like your husband has been fat for all the time you’ve known him, even when he was exercising regularly. This, to me, says that he’s probably not in the 5% of people who can make a lasting change to their weight (and by lasting change, I mean maintain the weight loss for 5+ years). So, given that, maybe you can take weight out of the picture? It’s distressing, with the media declaring “OMG DEATH FAT” all the time, but seriously, he CAN be healthy without losing weight and if you take the conversation away from being concerned about him losing weight, it might take some stress and guilt off of him.
Next, the insomnia. Exercise might help with that, it’s true. But it also might be induced by increased stress somewhere in his life. Maybe you can talk to him and find out if something has been stressing him more than usual?
The wheezing isn’t the greatest, and it is probably best to have him see the doctor about it, but my money is on the possibility that it is exercise asthma. This isn’t the end of the world, but it does need to be managed. In the meantime, it might mean that he needs to start out slower. It has been in a recent study that 30 minutes of walking 5 times a week is enough exercise for non-athlete people. If it has been a long time since your husband has last done exercise or if he’s gained a significant amount of weight since he last exercised regularly, he might have to work up to that amount, AND THAT’S OKAY. Pressing too hard and/or too fast can do more damage than good.
Since it sounds like you’re not fat while your husband is, please try to educate yourself about some of the extra stresses and considerations that your husband might encounter. The world looks different when you’re fat and all the things you can’t do are blamed on you, instead of everyone acknowledging that the world is built with thin people in mind and that very few fat people will ever be able to achieve thinness, through no fault of their own.
Lastly, it’s also okay if he decides that health isn’t something he wants to pursue. Thin people get to make this choice all the time and fat IS NOT automatically a death sentence. You might find, though, that you can’t deal with him choosing to not be healthy. Please be honest about it with both him and yourself.
It’s not stereotyping to say there is a gender dynamic at play here. There is a fair amount of research that says men visit doctors less often than women do and that men with serious illnesses tend to be diagnosed at a later stage in the disease than women with comparable diagnoses. This BBC article (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/8154200.stm) also reports that male cancer helplines are more likely to be called by women concerned about their loved ones than they are about men. Which is annoying and frustrating and totally commensurate with my experiences with the men I care about. Men aren’t supposed to need, want or look for help, and even men who aren’t that interested in other aspects of masculinity really dislike the vulnerability and powerlessness they experience in a doctor’s office. You know your husband’s personality best, but wherever you can I think it would help to emphasize that doing stuff to get healthier is the responsible, brave (read: manly) thing to do. Which sounds silly and maybe not very feminist; I just mean, treat the anxiety as real and legitimate, even though the underlying cause (PATRIARCHY) is, in my opinion, for sucks.
I think you should also talk to him about what he can do about the day to day aspects of being healthy. I don’t know how cooking/food stuff breaks down at home, how often you eat together, etc., but this is something you can talk about and make subtle changes — like, figuring out what vegetables you both like and adding them to whatever thing you are having for dinner that night (either as a side dish or as an addition to the entree — throwing extra vegetables into a pasta sauce, for instance) is pretty easy. I find that even people whol eat a lot of fast food or packaged food and are resistant to trying new things still have some healthy stuff they really like and it’s easier to just eat more of the good stuff than say, “No more Big Macs, ever!’
You can have a similar conversation about exercise. Maybe you can take a short walk with him in the evenings, or do a yoga video, or he can figure out a class where he won’t feel uncomfortable (as someone recovering from a really bad foot injury, I can’t say enough good things about water aerobics, btw, partly because it’s gentler on the body and partly because it attracts a more diverse group of folks, age and size-wise, than a lot of fitness classes) and you can meet him when he’s done and do something fun afterward.
Apologies if you have already talked/thought about this stuff and encountered resistance, BUT addressing daily health habits is important, and peers have more influence there more than doctors or experts do. It’s still your husband’s job to make changes and if he pushes his spinach to the side of the plate or starts skipping whatever class he signed up for, there isn’t a lot you can do about that. But before that happens, ask him questions about what small changes he is willing to make and what his own goals are (or ask about abandoned goals he feels held back from right now — “OK, maybe a marathon is out of the question, but we could probably train for a short charity run/walk”) and then talk about how you can support him in that.
My husband just went to the doctor for the first time since I’ve known him. He went to a walk-in clinic for an infection once, but other than that, nada. He wasn’t even sick, but he finally has decent health insurance and it offers a good chunk of money off the premiums if you go and get blood drawn and the whole diagnostic thing done. It seriously took someone giving him hundreds of dollars to go to the doctor. He’s been talking about going for a physical for a really long time, but he just never did until there was a real incentive.
I’m definitely not recommending that you give your husband a treat for going to the doctor as though he’s a child, but you can give him an incentive – easing your fears. Tell him you’re really worried about him when it comes to the wheezing. Not the weight, or whatever tenuous future ailments he may or may not get, but the actual right now problem of the wheezing. Tell him you’re worried and that he’d be doing you a big freaking favor if he would just go to the doctor and check it out.
I will say that the diagnostic check up thingy was really helpful and I think I might go get one, too. I have no idea what my cholesterol or blood pressure or blood sugar or any of that is and that’s on me and my fear of doctors. It could turn out that your husband is completely healthy, or there might be big issues or there might be small issues that eating a little more fish could help. If you don’t really know this stuff about yourself either, it could be something the two of you could go get done together.
Also, for what its worth, I walk maybe an hour a week (and not like, power walking) on a good week, eat kinda bad (cheap frozen meals for lunch most days) and drink more than is strictly healthy (like, 2 glasses of wine a day). I am a poster child for “we just want you to take better care of yourself” concern trolls. I am also small. Everyone assumes I am really healthy, for some strange reason?
For what it’s worth, both my partner and I (we’re a hetero couple) care about each other’s health. I cook healthy food, he encourages me to exercise (since on our own, we drift to opposite habits). And we’re both about average size. It’s just something you do, especially when you’re with the person you’ve made a long-term commitment to. I don’t want him to develop a heart problem in 20 years, so I use less salt when I cook.
His reluctance to see a doctor could be gendered – men are less likely to see a doctor on their own, for a variety of reasons. But maybe you could frame his doctor’s visit as a personal favor to you? “I love you and I would love you even if you got sick, but my first choice is for us to live long, healthy lives together. Just because it would make me happy, could you please get yourself checked out? Even if it turns out to be nothing, it would make me worry less.”
I think we posted at about the same time! The framing the doctor trip as a favor is exactly what I would do. Because it kind of is, you know? He clearly isn’t that into it, but it is really important to her. She should just call a spade a spade and say “I know this isn’t really my call, but would you please do this because it is important to me?”
That would be way more likely to work and less manipulative than a long talk around the subject with oblique references to “but your health!” and “our future!”
People here might not think doctor-trip-as-favor is the best way to accomplish the goal, but I know some men don’t like going to the doctor because they feel it somehow implies they aren’t ‘man enough’ to stoically handle an illness. If that’s the issue that the LW’s husband has, then framing his visit as a favor to her would help him preserve his pride – he doesn’t *really* need to go to the doctor, he’s just doing her a favor. There’s some sexist stereotyping in there that I’m not particularly fond of, but maybe that can be resolved after he comes home from his appointment?
it somehow implies they aren’t ‘man enough’ to stoically handle an illness
Oh, man, feeling like you have to “stoicly handle an illness” is so much bullshit! (I mean, okay, if it’s something you can’t really do anything about and/or you know it will fix itself if left alone, that’s one thing. But it obviously doesn’t always stop there.)
True story: when I was a kid, I was wearing sandals and stubbed my toe pretty badly. It hurt… a lot, and didn’t really stop hurting for a while, and even after it mostly seemed okay I still got twinges. I didn’t tell anyone, though, because I’d really bought into the whole “just ignore it and it’ll go away” mindset (to be fair to my parents, they would have been very concerned and taken me to the doctor if they’d known!), I just limped around on it until it got better. Years later, I’m pretty sure that a)it was a broken bone, and b)it didn’t heal quite right, because if I curl my toes on that foot, that toe can’t curl down as much, and sticks up noticeably (which doesn’t happen on the other side).
I guess I’m just saying I empathize with that feeling, despite knowing how unproductive it is, and it can definitely be hard to act counter to it.
I actually did break my toe when I was younger, and went to the doctor about it. His response was pretty much, ‘That sucks. Want a painkiller?’ Turns out that the bones in your feet, especially your toes, are very small and numerous. So unless you break one of the major bones in your arch, there’s really not much anyone can do to make the break set (I have the same issue with curling my toes, and if you look at the toe in question, it’s pretty obviously been broken, even though it doesn’t hurt anymore).
“it’s just what you do”? No, that’s your deal as a couple. Me and my husband have a different deal as a couple. And there’s nothing like an unchallenged assumption to derail good relationship communication. It looks to me like the LW might think “that’s just what you do” and her partner doesn’t see it that way.
BTW, as long as you are cooking ENOUGH food? And it’s not made up of arsenic, nuts’n’bolts, botulism and discarded chum? It qualifies as healthy food.
As TFN has already been brought in, lemme just give my favorite quote:
ALL FOOD HAS NUTRIENTS. NUTRIENTS ARE GOOD FOR YOU. No really. I’m serious.
So, no more with the “healthy food” thing either? I’m full, plskaythxbai.
I once got un-invited to a “healthy eating” potluck. A friend invited me and everyone was posting their recipes to the Facebook page in advance. I posted a chocolate cake recipe, “because starving to death is the unhealthiest thing at all!” and I got quietly dropped from the group.
I think I love you.
I think it was also the Fat Nutritionist who said “The First Rule of Nutrition: Eat or Die. (Second rule: There are no other rules.)”
In my relationship, I’m the fat one, the one who gets put on diets by my doctor, and the one who puts off going to said doctor because of lectures and diets. I’m also the one with the thyroid disorder which makes it hard for me to lose weight (and you know this, Dr. ‘You don’t have any excuses,” *AHEM*). Aaaaaand I’m the one who goes to the gym twice a week, hits the pool as soon as it gets warm, and can be heard saying, “Come on, honey, let’s just swim more lap, and I’ll race you!”
My spouse, when we met, had some really bad eating habits and didn’t really exercise very much, and for a while, it was always me saying, “Please, honey, go for a walk with me. It’s nice out.” He’s also quite slender. So of course, he doesn’t get put on a diet when he goes to the doctor.
I feel you, LW, because it sucks when you love someone and you want them to stick around and you’re worried about them, but the Captain is right. He is a grown-ass man, and his body is his body. If you love your husband, the best thing to do is to tell him you love him. A lot. And show him you love him. And have lots of sexy naked time.
And try to be healthy yourself- are you crossing your arms and watching HIM exercise? Go on long leisurely walks in the park on weekends together and have a picnic lunch. Try a pilates or yoga video on youtube (there are tons) and tell him you feel silly doing it alone, so can he do it with you? Go to a pool- I don’t know where you are, but if there’s no neighborhood pool you may be able to go swimming at your local university- Berkeley, for instance, charges $5 to swim in our neck of the woods. Buy cheap 5 pound weights at Ross and make a game over who can do more reps. Invite over some friends and have a dance party. Go to your local goth club and pretend you’re a tree. Go find a place to play pool together. Go bowling.
Oh, and healthy eating doesn’t hurt anyone. As I mentioned, I’m a fatty boomalatty, but we make salad dressing and don’t buy bread with sugar in it and make “fauxsagna” with sliced eggplant instead of noodles and cut down on dairy because no one is completely lactose tolerant, and I may still be fat, but I feel great.
Oh man. The whole situation with your doctor sounds like it sucks. At least, it would suck for me. It sounds like you are doing a lot of great things for your health, and he’s not acknowledging them, just because you haven’t lost any weight. Thhhhbbbbb on that doctor, I say.
IF you would like a script to say to your doctor to get him to think about why he’s prescribing weight loss to you, you could try this. (If you don’t, please ignore this unasked-for advice.)
Doctor: I’d like you to try this diet.
You: Is this for weight loss?
You: What is the clinical success rate over five years?
If he can’t give you that information, tell him that you’ll be happy to review it with him when he gets it, but otherwise refuse to do it.
If he says it’s anything greater than 5%, ask for the whitepaper on the clinical trial where it says that.
If he says it’s less than something that is reasonable, ask him why you should even bother, when you’re already doing tons of healthy things and (it sounds like) you’re pretty healthy. Although, for me, that would be a rhetorical question.
Anyways, sounds like you’re rocking your health. I hope your doctor doesn’t get you down.
Oh my goodness! I love you! I am totally using this. <3<3<3
If I ever have to have this conversation with a doctor, I will go with this strategy. So much win.
OK, first, please do not make your husband do anything. You can’t, anyway. I was going to list all of these things you could do to help your husband Make The Right Choices and Enjoy Exercise and Healthy Cooking More, but I’m sure other people have covered it. (Haven’t read the comments yet.) The thing is, this isn’t your job.
Don’t get me wrong–yes, you should support him in his efforts to be healthy, and if he’s doing something that is self-destructive, you should tell him it worries you because it will end up with him getting sick/hurt/whatever.
But at the end of the day, he’s a grown up. You’re not his mother, you’re his partner. When he says he wants to lose weight, ask him how you can help him do that. Ask him what he’d like to do in order to reach that goal and then ask him to tell you what you can do to support him in this. Don’t make him do anything. Don’t convince him, manipulate him, or get him to do things. Support him in his efforts and do so in ways that he tells you will be helpful to him.
Argh, and I didn’t want that comment to come off the way it did. I know you are actually concerned about his wheezing, LW, and you are attracted to him, and that this is about his health (ex. wheezing) and not about his size. It’s just that you can’t make him get his health on–you can only support him in his efforts to do so. The Captain had good advice–and I think if he thinks about what he needs and tells you and you make efforts to give him that, things will be good.
OK, and third comment: No “you should”. Ever. I know you think if he works out he’ll be much happier and healthier, and he might be, but chirpy advice is really irritating. Remember: partner, not parent.
Yes, completely, about no “you should”s. I think it ties into the “If only you knew what I know, you’d make the right decisions” line of thinking. You are not the expert or the boss in this situation. (Not trying to imply that you think you are, LW, but sometimes people act like they are In Charge of a situation, or like they have All The Information on a particular topic when they feel really strongly about it, and it can be quite irritating for the people they’re behaving that way towards.)
Mm, yeah, going to the doctor, when you’re fat, and saying “I start wheezing when I exercise”? Not an easy conversation. You can just imagine the doctor going “Yeah no kidding you are FAT,” and then where are you? The more I read this thread, the more I realise why the LW’s husband might not be keen on that idea.
This doesn’t mean he shouldn’t go to the doctor about it, if he thinks it might be a real health issue, but I can definitely see why that could be hard.
It takes another whole level of self-confidence, determination, prep and the right scripts, sometimes, when you don’t have a fat-friendly doctor. If you know something is wrong, you have to be confident enough to keep pushing.
“I have trouble breathing the past few days when I get to the top of the stairs and almost black out.”
“You know, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about the importance of diet and exercise. Have you heard of the mediterranean diet?”
“Thanks. As it happens, though, the last time this happened to me I had bronchitis, and I would like to see if I have bronchitis. Can you check for that please?”
Another line that I know people have used with some success is “What would you test for if a thin person came in with the same complaint?” and going from there.
A bit of a tangent about “healthy diet.”
I go away to places (dance camps, retreats, etc.) where they’re into “healthy food,” which typically includes stuff like “home baked” bread, nuts, yoghurt, tofu, brown rice and other unusual grains, and little or no meat. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered the hard way that my digestive system doesn’t like this sort of thing. When I can cook for myself, I tend to go with what I think of as “standard American” fare: white rice (or maybe potatoes), some meat, your standard cooked veggies, and maybe some salad, and my digestion is happy. (It would be even happier if I could lay off the cookies and chocolate, …. )
So whenever I hear “healthy diet,” I hear it as “inedible diet.”
Yep, yet another reason all those “tips” about how to eat healthier are just so much diet industry bullshit. Bodies are different!
And I hear you on what works for you. I enjoy unusual grains and tofu and stuff, but my body just doesn’t work properly without regular meat in my diet, and I appear to be allergic to quinoa. I’ve found it’s surprisingly difficult sometimes, especially eating in a group where people are trying to decide on the “healthiest” choice.
My husband requires a lot of starches to keep his stomach from completely destroying him. Potatoes all the way.
A friend of mine has celiac(a gluten allergy) and people keep trying to get her to eat whole wheat. Um. No. For her system, whole wheat is even worse and makes her feel worse than regular wheat.
People have different systems. What works well, food wise, for one person may completely mess up someone else.
Wow, that is extra special. Wheat is in the name! It’s not even a “think for five seconds about what this other word means,” kind of scenario, it’s like a basic inability to grasp what celiac disease is…..
My mom the dieter got kidney damage from cancer side-effects, and the “don’t hurt your kidneys!” diet is basically “nothing you ever thought was good for you” – no whole grains, no legumes, none of the low-fat hard cheeses, few leafy greens. It just about blew her mind to have the doctor tell her to eat white bread.
I love irishup’s advice about screening doctors for weight prejudice. It’s better than what I was going to say. But I’ll say it anyway, just in case you don’t find anybody wonderful in your screening:
Go with your husband.
I haven’t done this for anyone who’s encountered the kind of vile treatment described above about weight, but I have done it for somebody who has one of those chronic illnesses that a lot of doctors like to scoff at. You know, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you, so I’m going to say it’s all in your head.”
There’s a better chance doctors will try to actually do their jobs, or at the very least not be rude, if another person accompanies the patient.
Adult-onset asthma is kind of unnerving. (I’ve recently been diagnosed with it myself.) It can also make it very hard to get to sleep at night. And asthma is dangerous.
I think, if it were me, I’d feel most comfortable if my partner said something like “How are you going with the breathing? I have/haven’t heard you wheezing lately. Is it making it hard to sleep?”
Then if he says anything other than “I think it’s all better,” I’d say “Would you like me to organise a doctor’s appointment so you can check it out?” If he says no, then asking if he’d like a different doctor, maybe?
Loads of ppl have commented, but I thought I’d throw my 2 cents in.
So, LW, your husband sounds a lot like me. A bit overweight, wheezing when exercising & having difficultly sleeping. I also have a partner who competes in triathlons. He often suggests we exercise together or tries to encourage me to do exercise. I HATE it!!! I too retreat from this conversation. Of course I do! & of course your husband does. There’s no nice, non-judgey way to do it, because quite frankly the judgy-ness comes from inside us too & often that’s often worse that judgement from our loved ones.
I recently decided to make some changes to my lifestyle & you know what? I made them without ANY encouragement from anyone. I needed that space to make my own mind up & do it for myself. My very diplomatic GP did point out that many of my complaints (not the wheezing) would be fixed by exercise & gave me two inhalers for my wheezing, which is just ASTHMA. It also helps that my partner wakes up at 5am everyday to exercise – this motivates me, he doesn’t push me now, but he does tell me how proud of me he is & I LOVE that. 😀
So my advice? When/if you talk to your man, he’s gonna retreat from you, you know that. So do something different, give him space & focus on your health – cook healthy meals for yourself & feed them to him occasionally (I’m not saying take responsibility for his diet), but focus on what you feed yourself (WITHOUT any judgy comments on his diet or without talking about it too much), get your own exercise happening & talk to him about your doctor visits. This may just change the tone in your relationship & create an environment where he can make up his own mind. This also “models” the behaviour you want to see.
My partner & I are now more active together – I still struggle with exercise (FUCK running when you can’t breathe is HARD) & it doesn’t seem like a big deal, it’s just normal for us. Everything I do that is good for me I feel good about & when I do things that aren’t good for me, I don’t feel bad because I chose to do them & after all I am a grown woman – I do get to watch Batman Forever, eat a whole block of chocolate & drink wine when I want to!
Good luck with it! 😀
Asthma is serious, and needs to be checked out. I like Jen P’s suggestion that you offer to support the process of setting up an appointment, and offer to go with him for support. Also, make sure you are seeing a fat friendly physician, otherwise your husband could be in for an unpleasant and unproductive time.
Doctors who tell patients to lose weight are not doing their jobs. There is no safe, effective, long term method for weight loss, yet patients are told to lose weight all the time. My doctor knows better, thank heavens. She has never once mentioned my weight to me, and I am in the 250 lb range.
By the way, I exercise at least an hour every day.
I have to say, the way I dealt with the exponentially more worrying problem of people not eating was to glare at them until they promised to eat the next day and then giving them a flapjack. Sometimes without the flapjack. It worked and neither of them hate me (one of them is my boyfriend!), but you definitely do not have the worst way of going about this.
Wheezing is a problem whatever your size. Heavy breathing after exercise is fine, wheezing is worrying. I don’t know where you are LW, but in the UK if you say you think you have asthma they send you to a nurse instead of a doctor, and my experiences with nurses have always been much better than with doctors. They’re also much less scary because they’re less of an authority figure.
But you might have to just let this one go. You can get by for years having asthma without medicating it, especially if the attacks aren’t severe.
You can still do things like cook together, though, because that’s just fun. And there are now studies showing you can get most of the benefits of exercise from cycling (which is easier on the joints than running) as hard as you can for just three minutes a week. (I know, no exercise advice but that should be one few people have heard before)
The way I deal with people telling me to eat (and buying food for me and plopping it in front of me OH MY GOD PEOPLE STOP IT) is by begrudgingly eating the flapjack and then not eating anything for the next 24 hours or so. It’s a very childish “you’re not the boss of me!” reaction, and sometimes I can fight it, but sometimes it just pisses me off so much I don’t even care what harm I’m doing to myself. Maybe your way works for these two people in your life, but… if any more show up, please try not to make it worse.
The more I think about it, the less I think I helped. It’s quite hard to watch someone engage in self-destructive behaviours and not want to bully them into stopping, I guess. But yeah, now I’ve seen this I can see how I’m making it worse, thank you.
Uhhh, I totally identify with the LW’s husband, because I’ve had serious knee problems for several years now (like, it refusing to support my weight, periodically becoming really swollen and squooshy, having trouble bending or straightening it completely, etc).
I’ve Internet-diagnosed myself with possible patella tendonitis, but have I gone to the doctor?! Nope. I also have horrible back pain and am STILL working up to getting around to calling the chiropractor.
I definitely put off going to the doctor because I’m afraid of what they’ll find, like I’ll need a new knee or something, and because I’m covered in tattoos and it’s kind of hard to hide them at the doctor, and I get really sick of the judgeyness.
At the same time, my long-suffering boyfriend has to listen to me bitch about how much my back hurts and demand back rubs, so, yeah, it’s affecting him too, and I should probably do a little less Thinking About It and more Doing It. It may just be that the LW’s husband thinks it’ll be a Worst Case Scenario and he’ll end up getting really bad news.
My dude has also gained weight in the five years we’ve been together and has been wheezing like mad. He got an inhaler, but he still gets out of breath very easily, and I can walk a lot farther than he can without getting as tired as he does. So yeah, he could probably stand to lose some weight and get some cardio, but I’m not going to nag him, because I’d rather spend the time we have together having fun than trying to prod him into doing something I know he’s not going to do.
That sounds like your dude may seriously need more than just ‘an inhaler’. Properly controlled asthma can take more than one medication, but it is generally possible, and inadequately controlled asthma can kill you. Well worth talking with your doctor about, together with lots of peak flow measurements and so on.
Chiming in with everybody else — leave his weight out of the discussion entirely. The important thing here is that you’re worried. Not worried generically about his health, but specifically worried about his wheezing and his insomnia. You’ll know best what tone to take with that. One possible approach is to lay out very specific concerns: it’s possible to develop asthma as an adult, and if that’s the case, you’d be a lot less worried if you knew he had a rescue inhaler. Inadequate sleep sucks the fun out of life and you love him and want him to be able to enjoy things. It’s not about his weight or what he eats or whether he exercises. It’s that you would really like him to be able to breathe.
Hi, I am the LW. I’m just commenting, first to say thanks to all of you for your advice, and second to give some follow-up on what happened.
I talked to my husband and asked him WHY he had been putting off seeing the doctor. Turned out he wasn’t afraid of seeing him, but he felt that, since we don’t have a huge amount of time together in the evenings, he’d rather stay home with me than go out to the doctor. So I said I’d go with him, so that at least we’d be together even if it wasn’t much fun. So yeah, that part of the problem turned out to be much less complicated than it could have been.
The doctor checked his blood pressure, which was fine, and checked him for asthma, which he doesn’t have (yay!). He did say that his symptoms look like obesity hypoventilation syndrome. (My husband says that the wheezing has gotten worse as he’s gained weight, which would seem to support this theory.) So the good news is that this should go away if he loses some weight/fat over the next couple of years. (Doctor was adamant about not trying to crash diet, exercise too much too fast, or lose weight too quickly.)
I’m not sure if this diagnosis will be controversial here, but my husband trusts our doctor and is comfortable with what he said. He has started exercising and I’m working on supporting him in that (going for walks together, etc) since I’m not as fit as I’d like to be, either. (I agree that the treadmill is not fun, but he insists he likes it more than he would like swimming or dancing or a sport.) Since I do most of the cooking, I’m working on broadening the range of healthy stuff I make, so as to keep things interesting. Anyway, I feel that we’re much more on the same page now, and I am very relieved that the checkup didn’t reveal anything too scary.
Thanks again to everyone who responded with advice and support.
Thank you so much for the update! And kudos to you and your husband for using your words.
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