“Is your husband supportive of the way you are able to accept your body at any size?”
I got a question in the comment section that asked, “This may be too personal of a question, but is your husband supportive of the way you are able to accept your body at any size?”
A large part of what I want this blog to be is a documentation of a person’s life after they recover from their eating disorder. The journey of a person who continues to choose health and recovery, and reject a diet mentality, for the rest of her life. One doesn’t recover from disordered eating to a life of ease, so I thought this would be a good question to address. Also, I liked the realness and rawness of the question and I like writing a blog that is honest.
Andrew and I met in Calculus class in high school senior year. We went to separate colleges, me in Texas and him in Colorado, before moving back to where we grew up and getting married. We have now been married nearly 7 years and have two children. In that time there’s been many life changes and life stages we’ve gone through together.
When I first considered this question, ultimately I felt that I have to feel good about how I’m taking care of myself and who I am regardless of what anyone else thinks, but since we don’t recover from disordered eating alone in a vacuum I thought this would make for an interesting conversation and helpful blog post. For the past few years, since recovering, I’ve reasoned and found comfort in that fact that if Andrew has an issue with my body size that is more of his issue than mine. My job is to take care of myself, not to choose a body size for myself. It’s an unreasonable ask to want someone to stop caring for themselves in an attempt to change their body.
Another thing that came up for me when I read the question and it said, “the way you are able to accept your body at any size” was that it’s not easy to accept myself at any size. It takes work and commitment to prioritizing health over aesthetics and a promise to listen to what my body is asking for and needing and giving it those things. I hypothesized that sometimes Andrew accepting fat on my body might be similar to me accepting fat on my body, in that it doesn’t come naturally, takes effort to do, and takes thought on priorities in our life.
So last Saturday afternoon I sat Andrew down and had a conversation with him about it. Well, I prepared questions so it was more of an interview I blindsided him with. I had mentioned the question to him when I got the comment and he’d said he’d be up for talking about it, but wasn’t expecting like a planned out interview. Here’s the transcript of our talk. The convo ended up being a bit too personal to share the audio, plus it involved 10 mins of a screaming child who was supposed to be taking a nap and a whining dog.
Kylie: Are you supportive of the way I work to accept my body at any size?
Andrew: (*laughs) Yes. I’m supportive of that. If you’re not accepting your body size you’re rejecting yourself. Why would you support someone in rejecting themselves? I accept your body.
Kylie: Do you wish it looked different?
Andrew: You’re already my wife.
Kylie: Yes, but if there was a body size you’re most attracted to it might not be mine.
Andrew: Sex and body appeal isn’t as important as stability and how you raise our kids and how we’re able to do that together and the unit we form.
Kylie: Do you feel like you or I need a particular body size to do all those things?
Andrew: It’s helpful to have functionality. Like doing bath time and being down on the ground for that, but that’s not a big thing because you can just do a shower or find another way or we could together shift what we’re doing as a family, so functionality isn’t everything either, but I think it’s a better focus than aesthetics.
Kylie: Okay, second question.
Andrew: Geez you prepared for this?
Kylie: Oh, yeah. You mentioned at one point thinking that since I was a runner I’d always be thin, but after being married to me for 7 years, what do you think now?
Andrew: As far as recalling that thought, I remember it being a passive thought, not an “oh, thank God” moment. I was also more interested in body size back then. When you get older and more mature and realize life has so many different facets and it’s much more important to be in a relationship with someone you like not on a physical basis, but because they are your partner to go through all the shit with and it doesn’t help if you like how they look and want to have sex with them because that doesn’t help you get through things.
Kylie: I feel like I’ve seen that in you too, like how you cared for your body in college to now stepping away from lifting weights as much since us having kids.
Andrew: Yeah, but even in college I never got bent out of shape about exercise or food. It was something to do. It never was who I was. I was a skinny kid and then I got some positive feedback with weight lifting and then continued it. As you know, I rotate through all my hobbies on a bi-annual basis and working out is just one of those hobbies that sometimes I enjoy more than other times.
Kylie: Like you always knew you’d be okay without a certain level of musculature.
Kylie: Next question. After I gave birth to Jojo I remember you seeming in awe of me and saying something along the lines of “that is what it means to be a woman?” You were pretty overwhelmed and I was half out of it. We had been up all night and I didn’t get an epidural with her and it was just a lot of an experience. I always really appreciated that statement because it was nothing to do with body size or getting an epidural or not, it was just about bringing forth life.
Andrew: Yeah that was a formative experience.
Kylie: In what ways?
Andrew: In the ways that it is. Childbirth is a formative experience. In what ways!!? In the way that you pushed a human out of your vagina!
Kylie: (*laughing.) Okay, okay. Do you feel like that shifted things for you? Like how my body looks and this body is built for more than just aesthetics.
Andrew: Yeah. Yes. This body is built for making milk and carrying babies around and growing babies, in addition to many other things of course, but talking specifically about babies and family life here, and those are things I value because I want the babies too, but you’re the one who’s body has to go through so much.
Kylie: There was a time after having Ella I was having a hard time feeling like this body was mine and you said something like…
Kylie: …do you know what I’m about to say?
Andrew: No. I have no idea! How have you documented all these things? (*laughs.)
Kylie: Okay well welcome to my thoughts. You said “sometimes you’ve gotta get down with the thickness?” Do you remember saying that?
Andrew: Oh yeah, okay, I remember saying that.
Kylie: Why’d you say that?
Andrew: Because I feel like you look good. I was gonna say still good, but I don’t know if I need to say still…I’m still attracted to you. In some ways you look better to me. You know, it’s like Kanye says, “we like girls that ain’t on tv, because they have mo’ ass than the models.”
Kylie: (*laughs.) Thanks for that. Oh nothing quite like the wisdom of Kanye. It’d be the worst to work in fashion and not be able to find your natural body size and have to live in a full blown or, at least, a subclinical eating disorder for your entire life…but I digress.
Kylie: We also were talking recently about days I have bad body image days and how you support me in that. Do you remember what you were saying?
Andrew: Yeah. That you look the same. You don’t look different when you have good or bad body image days, you look the same. If I’m having a bad body image day and feeling bloated, soft and blobby…that gets me down, but what did I say? That gets me down, but like…
Kylie: …like how what my body looks like doesn’t make you feel bad and vice versa.
Andrew: Yeah. How we’re all just influencing ourselves. Our perception of our body only influences our day, not another person’s day.
Kylie: And we were also saying how we each think more about our body than the other person’s body. Which I think is true as I think about my body and have opinions on it way more than I think about and have opinions on your body.
Andrew: Yeah, I agree. I feel like that’s what you wanted me to say.
Kylie: Hmm, no that’s just the conclusion I’ve come to before we had this conversation. For the past several years that’s what I thought because this isn’t something we discuss on a regular basis, but I’d still be thinking about it. You’ve influenced and supported and been part of my recovery process for sure, but we’ve never really talked about what you think about the actual body changes.
Andrew: Is that the question? What do I think about the body changes?
Andrew: I don’t know. It’s weird how I don’t really remember, like you were smaller generally, but I don’t remember a whole lot about your body from before.
(This progressed into a personal conversation about sex. I’d love to write a post on how body image can adversely affect sex within a marriage, but that’s for another post. If you are a Christian sex therapist and would be interested in collaborating on this post with me, please email me!)
Kylie: Do you feel like you have any expectations of where you want my body to end up?
Andrew: (*silence. makes grimace face)
Kylie: Do you feel like that’s a lose-lose question. Maybe not expectations, but hopes?
Andrew: Do you?
Kylie: I guess I’m curious to see if my body changes as I continue to take care of myself. Body changes like physically or functionally. I don’t know if I have hopes. I have curiosities if my belly does change, will it still be saggy. I feel like there’s still quite a bit of scar tissue from the stretch marks, I guess, so I wonder if that will ever change and the skin will be smooth again or if this is what it is. But I don’t feel like I need it to change to be loved by you or take care of the girls well. And I know I don’t need it to change to be healthy or more functional…I mean I would like my upper ab to rib connection to not hurt anymore. Anyways, I don’t need my belly to change to be more functional. And from what we talked about here it sounds like you’re okay with a prioritization of function over aesthetics.
Andrew: I guess the word expectation means there is going to be disappointment and there was a failure if it isn’t achieved, which I don’t agree with. I think it’s so good what you do and what other people do where body size is not the focus, where the focus is taking care of yourself and moving and doing the things you want to do to live a happy life.
Now this is just a conversation between me and my husband. Take it for what it is. The main goal in sharing this is that it may open up a conversation for you and your partner. We have a marriage…with love, acceptance, resentment, frustration, seasons of ease, seasons of stress, annoyance, and needing space. I love being married to Andrew and he is the greatest source of joy and safeness in my life. The only thing that I’ve found that makes the take-my-breath-away thought that our girls are going to grow up and move out and have their own lives separate from me less sting-like feeling is that they will get to find their Andrew. I want that joy for them. We don’t have everything figured out. There are times Andrew says the most perfect, supportive helpful thing…and other times where I’m like wtf that is not what I need at all right now…why would you say that to me?! Each person’s marriage is unique and we’re all imperfect people married to imperfect people. I hope you enjoyed this new post format as this isn’t something I’d done before!
Alright, and now an untimely photo of my new haircut, since some of you asked to see it! I got a lob and really like it. It helped out my curls a lot!