Friday, 10 October 2008

Something for the Ladies #23

Ladies: If there's ever been anything about men you've wanted to know but were afraid to ask, or wanted a male viewpoint on a certain relationship niggle you're going through, drop an email to us at todger dot talk @ googlemail dot com. Every week, we shall pick one out and answer it to the best of our capabilities.

This week's question..

Anonymous writes: Within the last year my boyfriend has gained a lot of weight and it has made our relationship increasingly difficult. He's gone from being an average sized bloke to obese. I still absolutely adore and love him, but I'm finding I'm less sexually attracted to him in his current state. I've hidden this as much as possible from him, but I'm pretty sure he suspects this and he's understandably hurt, and I feel like a total wench for feeling this way.


More importantly I'm extremely worried for his health. The last time he went to the doctor his cholesterol was really high and he has progressed from being an athletic guy to obese and on the road to an early grave. He was never an obsessively healthy eater, (growing up his family was never overtly into healthy eating) but he has definitely has developed an eating problem. He gets up at night to eat (I pretend to be asleep so as not to hurt his feelings), eats huge portions at meals and snacks on rubbish food throughout the day. I have also found secret stashes of food around the house. He has stopped exercising because I suspect he feels self conscious about his weight in the gym.


I have tried to gently talk to him about all this, but every time I try he becomes angry, defensive and withdrawn, and says things like "well if you are so worried, why don't you cook all my meals for me?" or starts to point out my physical flaws in an effort to hurt me. I know that there must be some psychological reason behind this eating problem, but nothing major (that I'm aware of) has happened within the last year that could trigger turning to food as a psychological comfort. Obviously I feel like the world's most inept girlfriend as he seems to be unable to confide in me and is turning to food for solace.


So, short of padlocking the fridge, monitoring every bite he ingests, and giving up my job to become his personal chef, how can I diplomatically help him towards a healthier lifestyle? And more importantly, how can I discover what the reason for his overeating is, and help him deal with it?


Sam says: I personally reckon that radical intervention is probably the only way forward. Eating this way is like an addiction – and breaking the habit is hard and painful and you need help with it. Trying to sort it out on your own would be a bit like trying to help your boyfriend sort out a drug problem without any help. Junk food is actually a like an addictive drug – the processed sugars give you a rush, making you feel great, then you quickly crash and crave more. It’s a vicious cycle that get’s worse and worse. In 1957 Dr William Coda Martin went as far to define sugar as a slow acting poison. He subsequently got the shit kicked out of him and his career wrecked by sugar-backed lobby groups, but with the current obesity and diabetes epidemic we are facing it looks like he might have been right after all.


It’s a big jump, but I’d suggest taking your boyfriend on a 7-day detox retreat. Sure, there is a lot of namby-pamby new age rot that goes along with it, but essentially what it will do is break his junk food and sugar addiction, lose some weight and give you chance to start again with his eating habits from scratch. It’s a bit pricey, but I reckon it’s cheap compared to the cost a) to his health b) to your relationship.


Unfortunately I don’t think talking is going to do a lot here. Radical action is what’s really needed.

PS this is my opinionated point of view without any particularly expertise in the area of weight or nutrition. Just the bunk I have read for interest.


‘Mr Sex’ says: Hm. From a distance, and looking at this from a strictly relationship angle (as I’m ‘Mr Sex’, not ‘Dr Sex’, after all), it seems to me like your chap is displaying extreme symptoms of Won-The-Battleness. All men go through it at some point; after exerting supreme amounts of will, effort and cash to land their partner (orany partner), it’s natural to think; ‘Cor, thank Christ I don’t have to go through all that shit any more’ and make another crisp and fish-finger sandwich whilst wearing that faded-out Undertaker t-shirt that somehow went missing during the courtship period. It’s a perfectly logical anti-honeymoon period, and it usually goes after a while. But sometimes, it doesn’t. And you discover you’ve shacked up with Stan Ogden. And that’s no fun at all.


There’s a good chance that something is really doing his head in at the moment, so I’m loath to advise you to tell him you can’t stand having it off with someone who is slowly turning into an indoor whale, for obvious reasons. What I do suggest you do is the next time he creeps downstairs for a midnight feast, you give it two minutes, go downstairs, and talk with him. About anything. Because at the moment, you lying in bed pretending to be asleep is part of the problem, I reckon. He knows he’s out of order, and he knows you know it, too; by both pretending that nothing’s wrong, you’re both leading up to a massive fall-out.


Eventually, when you do bring the subject of his weight up, definitely play up the health side and don’t mention the I-don’t-fancy-you-that-much bit at all. This is one of the few problems we’ve been asked about that really doesn’t have that much to do with sex, and loads more to do with self-confidence and other rubbishness, I fear.


People of TT: Comment!


Sheherazade said...

Wading in here as a former obese woman: The first thing I would do is hie myself off to a therapist on my own. He is not likely to go with you so it's better that one of you seek professional help rather than none of you.

Overeating *is* an addiction and there was nothing anyone could do or say that would have made me stop eating everything in sight. The fact that I knew everyone was concerned and the fact that I felt helpless to stop only made me eat more. The guilt alone was worth a couple of Big Mac's and several trips to the chip shop.

You really need to get professional help by either talking to a therapist, an eating disorder professional or your doctor. You really can't do this alone, honestly. You, and I don't mean to offend, are an enabler, just as you would be if he was an alcoholic, so you need to help yourself and understand why you do what you do. And believe me, honey, we like to think we are doing it out of love but there is something else going on there.

That is my best advice, I'm glad my companion took those steps and stopped helping me feed my addiction. He had to leave me before I believed him but he's back now, I'm over 4 stone thinner, and we aren't happier than ever but we are getting there.

Abs said...

No no no no no! Absolutely do not take him to a detox centre! From what I can tell, your boyfriend is a compulsive eater, and while food is the externalisation of his problem, the real problem almost definitely has nothing whatsoever to do with food. Yes, he has an addiction to food or, more likely, the feeling or emotion that food gives him (or even numbs). But breaking that physical addiction with a so-called detox will do nothing for his mental addiction, and that's the real addiction. A week denied his "drug" will simply cause him to fix more obsessively on it, and the second he gets back to where it's available to him, his acting out will be doubled. This is why diets don't work, they are focused on denial, which in turn creates cravings. What's more, a detox will not help him to learn how to cope with his compulsion in the real world, and when he back to normal life where his problems still exist, they're still crying out for attention, and the only way he knows to deal with it? Eating. Another point is that cold turkey may work for smoking and alcohol addictions, but we can do without those things, whereas we need to eat to stay alive. The secret is to learn to deal with your issues in healthy ways, and to eat like a slim person - eat when you're hungry, till you're satisfied, then stop.

Your boyfriend needs gentle encouragement to look at what the root cause of his eating disorder is, and to find ways to heal it without resorting to damaging behaviours. It may well be that he's not ready to do so yet. I've had a recurring compulsive eating disorder of sorts since my early teens, I'm now 33, and I'm just starting even to research ways to heal it - the idea of doing without this crutch is terrifying. I know an awful lot about it now, but I still overeat! Equally, your fella may have suffered on and off with this for years and this is just the first recurrence of it that you've seen since you got together. I agree with Sheherazade - he's unlikely to come with you to an eating-disorder therapist, it's not a "boy"-type thing to do. But you should certainly go on your own and find out what's the best way to approach this and support him. Learn as much as you can about the subject of eating disorders. Part of the problem with issues like this is that the naturally slender just don't understand the thought patterns of the eating-disordered, which is why they focus on the food aspect of it. There's loads of info on the web, and try reading anything by Geneen Roth as a start to get an insight into the mind of a compulsive eater. Again, I'd echo Sheherazade - don't enable him any longer. Facing up to this with him could be the most loving thing you could ever do for him.