Annette Nay, PhD

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A Weighty Problem: Helping a Spouse Loose Weight
Annette Nay, Ph.D.
Copyright 2001

Dear Annette,

Thank you for your very helpful website. I'm especially interested in your weight-loss information. Here's my problem:

I'm in my mid 50s with height and weight and good health. I try to eat a well-balanced diet of a wide variety of grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and a moderate level of animal protein. My exercise consists of regular walks -- but usually nothing aerobic.

My wife is in her mid 40s and 5ft 7in in height. We've been married nearly 30 years. She has a very low level of physical activity, spending several hours each day watching TV. I believe she is presently at least 100 lbs overweight.

I'm concerned about her diet -- she doesn't eat what I'd consider a balanced diet. At mealtime, the portions she serves to herself are often as large or larger than mine. She frequently snacks between meals -- usually fruit.

Sometimes, when I enter the room, I catch a glimpse of her hiding something which I assume is food she doesn't want me to know about. I don't think she has any idea how many calories she consumes each day. She seems to prefer to believe her weight and health are beyond her control. I think she has some chronic depression. I think she believes her life is short and caring for her body is therefore unimportant and not worth the bother.

If I say anything at all about any my concerns, she takes my comments as a personal attack, not as the loving attempt to help I intend. She is very hostile and bitter in her response. If I say nothing, she believes I do not support her in her efforts to control her weight. She has even said she gets better support from strangers! Since the confrontations are less painful for me if I say nothing about her mental and physical health, TV habits, diet, and exercise level, that's what I do -- nothing. I feel very helpless.

Between ten and twelve years ago, she had a very close friendship with a single coworker. She denied a physical relationship and I think she has been honest about that. But I think she was very emotionally bonded to him and it probably came very close to being a sexual relationship. I think my wife was prepared to leave me for him. That almost daily relationship began during a period when she was even more overweight than she is now. While seeing him, she was willing and able to drop her excess weight through a very restricted diet and vigorous daily exercise. I believe she was motivated to drop the weight to make herself more attractive to him. She consumed virtually no fat and animal protein in her diet and lost 2-5 pounds per week. The rate of weight-lose and change in appearance were incredible. As she lost weight (back to the normal level she weighed when we married) her beauty returned, she appeared at least 10 years younger, and her energy seemed to be much better. For this, I was very grateful, but I have always felt deeply hurt that she would make the tremendous sacrifices needed to loose all that weight for another man and not for me -- or even for her own health. He has since married and it has been years since she has seen him, but I still think she'd rather have him than me.

However during her period of rapid weight loss, her hormonal levels were disrupted and she had all the symptoms of menopause (although she was just in her mid 30s). I think she began to have psychological problems because she was very hostile to anything she perceived to be criticism and she had visual and aural hallucinations. Her doctor ran some blood tests which indicated some vitamin deficiencies which he treated by telling her to include animal protein and fat in her diet. That seemed to help the hormone problems and her periods resumed. However, her hallucinations and hostility remain today. Her doctor says these will only respond to medication which she says she doesn't need and refuses to take.

She maintained a healthy weight for over 5 years after that relationship ended, but in the past several months, her weight has soared. The difference is perceptible almost daily. Again, I am deeply hurt that her appearance and health have only been important in a relationship with another man -- not with me or even for herself.

From your experience (remembering that she becomes very hostile when I say anything),

  • Have you had similar experiences in your own struggle with weight? If so, how were they resolved?
  • Have any of your patients had similar experiences? If so, how were they resolved?
  • How harmful is this cyclical weight-gain and weight-loss?
  • Have you seen a relationship between mental health and diet?
  • Have you seen a relationship between hormone problems and diet?
  • What can I do to support and encourage her when she sees my efforts as a personal attack?
  • What can I do to help her overcome her depression and build a positive outlook on life?

A Reader

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Have you had similar experiences in your own struggle with weight? If so, how were they resolved?

At age 37, I was 100 pounds overweight and had given up hope. My rear had become so pronounced that it caused my back to be out of alignment and pinched off the nerves. I lost feeling to everything below my waist. I went to a chiropractor to get my back into alignment, but it would slip back out before the day was done.

I was afraid that the numbness was going to be permanent if I didn't loose the weight. I threw out all sugar and fat out of my diet. This was back in the days that the professional word was fat was bad. We were told to reduce fat as much as possible, and I did! We now know that the body needs at least 2 Tablespoons of unsaturated fats for the body to work well. I was eating less than that.

There was another issue also. The chiropractor that was assigned to me was a body builder. Looking at him made me loathe myself. With the combination of having to see his nearly perfect body, daily and the hope that I would get feeling back in my legs and feet, I dieted and exercised with a vengeance! I did lap swimming for 45 minutes every day except for Sunday.

My husband was well aware of the 27 year old Adonis I had for a chiropractor. He thought I was having an affair with him. The fact was that every day for 20 minutes for almost a year, we talked during my session. This man knew more about me than my husband of 19 years. He helped me work through problems with the children and anything else that came up. He accepted me unconditionally.

There were times that I was upset about something and but I was not going to share it with him. I put on my happy countenance and went to my back-cracking session. He had become so attuned with me that he immediately knew something was wrong and wouldn't let me go until we discussed it.

The guy was single, but had his own lady friends. I wasn't looking for a playmate or a replacement of my husband. I did find a true friend who really cared about me.

Take Quality Time to Grow Your Relationship

You need to take fifteen to twenty minutes a day and talk to your wife about her, as if you were trying to learn who she was for the very first time. Really listen and truly care about what she has to say instead of tuning her out. Then, over time, as you really come to know how she really feels about everything you will have the relationship that she had with the co-worker.

Don't necessarily believe that she lost the weight for him! Maybe she lost the weight at the same time that she was talking to him because he cared about her enough to help her to like herself enough to care for herself appropriately.

I will tell you this. If you do not flush those, "I hurt feelings of, You liked him better than me!" your marriage will continue to deteriorate and fall apart. The past is past. Fix the here and now! If you love your lady, show her you care by spending quality time with each other. I don't mean just sex either!

Sex Alone Wont Fix A Poor Relationship

Guys mistakenly think that a woman who wants to be loved, wants sex. WRONG! They want to be loved for who they are and then they want to open themselves up for sex!

Men also tend to think that if they take a romp in the sack with their lady once or twice a week that their lady should feel loved. WRONG! They need the companionship of a listening friend! Be that friend and you will never have to worry about any other guy cutting into your action.

Also as you listen to her remember...

  • You do not have to agree with what she says, but you do have to allow her to have a place to air her feelings. They are her feelings, whether they are psychologically impaired or not. If they are not based in reality, you can ask questions that will lead her to the true rea%sEh@ DB`k!_i"t .IP

    If their mates/sweethearts are always criticizing them, compounding the hurt and loathing they have inside for themselves, they pull away from them, because it hurts too much to be in that relationship. No one likes to have salt rubbed into an open wound.

    Learn to Love Them Again

    Mates need to assign themselves to find those attributes that endeared them to their mates in the beginning and then go even further to delve into their mates life, thoughts, and feelings and find what other jewels lie there and learn to cherish them as prized possessions. If they do so, and openly share these with their mate, they will be able to watch the mate bloom and grow into an even more beautiful person having an inner strength and love for themselves.

    Be An Active Support

    Don't ask your mate to do things that you are not willing to do yourself. So say, "Maybe you should exercise." Tell her you want to go on a walk with her. Go somewhere special, fun, or beautiful. Somewhere you can talk and enjoy each other. Do not name this activity exercise! Name it your time together.

    During the winter it can be mall west in relationships that were as flabby and uninteresting as their weight was. Grow with your mate! Read my article, "Compatible Mate Test".

    If their mates/sweethearts are always criticizing them, compounding the hurt and loathing they have inside for themselves, they pull away from them, because it hurts too much to be in that relationship. No one likes to have salt rubbed into an open wound.

    Learn to Love Them Again

    Mates need to assign themselves to find those attributes that endeared them to their mates in the beginning and then go even further to delve into their mates life, thoughts, and feelings and find what other jewels lie there and learn to cherish them as prized possessions. If they do so, and openly share these with their mate, they will be able to watch the mate bloom and grow into an even more beautiful person having an inner strength and love for themselves.

    Be An Active Support

    Don't ask your mate to do things that you are not willing to do yourself. So say, "Maybe you should exercise." Tell her you want to go on a walk with her. Go somewhere special, fun, or beautiful. Somewhere you can talk and enjoy each other. Do not name this activity exercise! Name it your time together.

    During the winter it can be mall walking. During the other seasons...the choices are limitless. Make it fun. Help her to know by your actions, that you are totally interested in her and want to be with her!

    Make sure that the walk is not too strenuous. This walk is for her not you! If she cannot carry on a conversation without becoming winded, then slow down the pace.

    When the body does not have the oxygen it needs then the exercise become anaerobic and will not burn fat. You have to have oxygen to burn fat. The brain and other vital organs take most of the oxygen. Any left over goes towards fat burning. Make sure she is going slow enough to burn that fat. If she can't go walking go lap swimming with her.

    How harmful is this cyclical weight-gain and weight-loss?

    Studies have shown that staying the same weight, even if it is heavier than it should be is better than yo-yoing back and forth. I say that excessive weight is a health nightmare waiting to happen. Anything can go wrong and ultimately does because of the ponderous pounds.

    Have you seen a relationship between mental health and diet?

    Absolutely! There are some people that loath themselves so much that they can't stand to go on another day. They are addicted to food and cannot break away by themselves. Some commit suicide! Read my articles, "Processed Sugar Can Cause Addiction", "Are You Addicted to Food?" and most importantly, "Untreated Allergies causes Many Illness, Autoimmune Diseases, Hypothyroidism, Cancer and Ultimately, Death".

    Have you seen a relationship between hormone problems and diet?

    Yes, when one is not eating appropriately and tanking up on processed sugar and lots of carbohydrates it changes the hormones of the body. A result can be hypothyroidism, depression, and/or diabetes.

    What can I do to support and encourage her when she sees my efforts as a personal attack?

    Love what is left of her inner self. Do not attack. Lead her into exercise activities and prepare good meals yourself instead of pushing her into them. Don't say the word diet! Her feelings are so tender about her looks that any hint towards the subject will earn you her emotional backlash, just to protect what, if any, self esteem is left.

    Also, if she is hiding her food intake from you then she is probably addicted! Help her follow the steps to get out of addition! See my article, "Recovering From Food Addiction".

    What can I do to help her overcome her depression and build a positive outlook on life?

    Some forms of depression are the direct result of the intake of foods with excessive processed sugar and/or carbohydrates. Please read my article, "Processed Sugar Can Cause Depression & Addiction".

    Depression is also caused by Hypothyroidism. Read my articles, "Thyroid Malfunction - A Reasons for Weight-Gain" and "Medical Treatments for Thyroid Malfunction".

    If her depression is due to the chemical imbalance and addiction brought on by excessive processed sugar and carbohydrate intake, taking meds to lift mood/depression will only be a substitute for the sugar and starch (carbohydrates), which will not allow the body to start up the serotonin sites which lift mood naturally. She will have to take the depression meds forever. If the meds are for a metal illness then definitely take the meds.

    Either way, she must stop the excessive intake of processed sugar and carbohydrates and eat healthfully. Read my articles, "Recovering From Food Addiction" and most importantly "Ridding Yourself of an Addiction".

    Just being grossly overweight will cause depression, from loss of self esteem. She must loose the weight. That's the bottom line. Help her find a good excuse while helping her think it was her idea. Meanwhile lead her into better health.

    1. The biggest thing you can do is to pray for intervention by God for her.
    2. Ask for help for you to know how you can say things to her that will be accepted with the intent you want it to be.
    3. Ask for help in see the good in her. Then tell her about what you have discovered!
    4. Praise and really love her for who she is.
    5. Spend at least fifteen to twenty minutes each day really listening to her.
    6. Help her to work through thoughts, feelings, and problems! Stifle your manly attribute of wanting to fix it!

    Best wishes, Annette Nay, Ph.D.

     ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The Follow-Up Letters

    Annette: Have you had similar experiences in your own struggle with weight?

    Reader: No, my weight has always been average.

    Annette: Then you cannot understand what your wife is going through. Things like:

    • Self-loathing
    • Having an almost non-existent self-esteem
    • Being called names or belittled by complete strangers even when you are exercising, trying to do something about the problem
    • Having people look at you disgustedly because you are putting something in your mouth no matter how healthy it is.

    To understand more fully read my article "Understanding the Psychological Aspects of Weight-Loss".

    Persecution and Prejudice

    Did you know that the obese are the only group of people in which our country openly sanctions and promotes persecution and prejudice.

    Reoccurring messages that are portrayed in television ads, TV shows, magazines, and etc and are mimicked by the average American public are:

    1. Fat people are disgusting. Shows and ads show them cramming tons of junk in their mouths so fast that that their mouths cannot even contain all they shove in nor chew.
    2. Fat people are stupid. Look at the ads the portray some one doing something really dumb... It is almost always done by a obese person, someone who is 50 pounds overweight. Most people's attitude is, "Fat people are stupid otherwise they wouldn't be fat!"
    3. Fat people are jolly. The fact is fat people have to work twice as hard to be liked and often cope by not letting things get them down, in public, while they cry on the inside and hate themselves. At home they become easily irritated and often mean or militant with those they live with, because they will not take the same garbage the world dishes out, at home! Fat people are anything but jolly!

    ~~~

    Annette: My husband was well aware of the 27 year old Adonis I had for a chiropractor. He thought I was having an affair with him. The fact was that everyday for 20 minutes for almost a year, we talked during my session. This man knew more about me than my husband of 19 years. He helped me work through problems with the children and anything else that came up. He accepted me unconditionally.

    Reader: It seems sad that you were willing to share with your chiropractor more than with your own husband.

    Annette: It is sad that I turned to a PAID listening ear to work out my frustrations. My husband is an airlines pilot of whom I see 8-12 days out of each month. Also, my chiropractor was smart enough to know that anything done to an excess signals an addiction. He also knew that addictions most often occur to COVER UP personal problems of which the person does not know how to cope with.

    To find control and happiness in life, the obese person has turned to food as a substitute for love and acceptance by family, friends, God, community and self. Read my articles, "Coping Skills" and "Coping with Bad Times".

    My chiropractor knew if I were to take off the weight and keep it off I needed to work out my problems instead covering them over with food. That is why he became my sounding board for my problems.

    Note: There are minute, but distinct differences between the food abuser and the food addicted person. These differences take place in steps. First, emotionally, then psychologically, and finally, physiologically. The food abuser binges (eats excessive amounts of food in a short period of time) on food because of the love of food itself. This is not good for two reasons. Overeating causes people to be overweight or obese. It sets the stage for the abuser to slip into emotional addiction.

    Emotionally, the food abuser becomes an emotional food addict when s/he chooses to use food to control mood, stress, and or loss. Psychologically, the emotional food addicted person becomes a psychologically addicted when s/he falls in to the addictive cycle. This is where the addicted person abuses food to control his or her life or emotions. S/He feels shame or guilty because of the abuse, and abuses food again to cover up the shame and guilt.

    Physiologically, the psychologically addicted individual continues in the cycle, downing mega-doses of carbohydrates and sugar which gives the brain a chemical high. The psychologically addicted person does this so often that the body gains a tolerance to the chemicals in those foods. This then causes the addict to eat more and more to feel normal in his or her mood. It is at this point the psychologically addicted person becomes a physiological one.

    The physiologically addicted person cannot stop the addictive cycle. S/He is chemically bound to continue it or go through chemical withdrawal and depression. Depression may continue indefinitely depending on whether the bodies regular chemical sites, which have shut down, will restart after the abuse has stopped.

    ~~~

    Reader: How is your relationship with your husband now? What have you done to make things better with your husband?

    Annette:

    • We have been together for 27 years as of this writing.
    • I learned to look for reasons to love him.
    • There will always be things that bug me about him, but I choose to over look them. When he comes home, I treat him as if we were newly weds.
    • I treat him as if he is the most important person in my world. Because he is treated that way, he treats me the same way.
    • I e-mail him love notes, cards, and flowers all the time. They are free and I can tell him that I love him. See: Cards and Flowers Via the Internet at my website!
    • We have a date night when he gets in. Couples should have a weekly date night and do something together each week. Many Couples set Friday night as date night. See my article, Married Couple's Date Night.
    • The thing that you have to remember is that your sweetheart does not love herself in her condition. If you can't love yourself, there is little room for love for others. This is probably the problem you are running into.

    ~~~

    Reader: What Precipitated the Weight Gain?

    Annette: The weight is a symptom of eating to cover up something or to make something feel better. You say she kept the weight off for five years. What triggered the weight gain?

    Many medications for depression cause weight gain and preclude the person from loosing weight.

    Depression itself can cause people to eat to feel better emotionally and physically. Often people will mistake a physical illness as a need to eat to feel better or illness that is due to hunger.

    Until you pinpoint the problem that is causing the eating and eliminate it, the problem will continue to trigger the eating problem and the weight will continue.

    Feelings of Imminent Demise

    You said that she feels like she will die soon. Is this due to the depression, because of bad health due to the excessive weight or both?

    I get the feeling that the problem is the depression! Taking the meds may eliminate some of the depression but cause weight gain which causes a lack of self esteem and more depression.

    There are some depression drugs that do not cause weight gain for some people. If your wife will take the drugs then her doctor can see which ones will work for her.

    If you feel that your wife is a danger to herself by not taking her meds and has death ideations then you can have her checked into a mental ward and treated until she is stable enough to treat herself.

    There are fat burning chemicals (pills) on the market that are really helping people loose weight and that seem to have little or no side effects for people who have no history of heart disease. These may be a viable thing to try if they are compatible with her depression medications. This would have to be checked out with her doctor.

    It is worth looking into if it will help eliminate the weight and ease the depression from the weight!

    I usually suggest that a person take the weight off with good diet and exercise, but some depression is so deep that the person doesn't have the energy to move.

    Just a note... Exercise causes the natural endorphins in the brain to be secreted raising mood.

    ~~~

    Reader: Can the diet itself affect mental health? For example, if my wife isn't getting enough of some vitamin or mineral, how will that affect her psychologically? Could this be linked to my wifes hallucinations?

    Annette: I would like you to contact a good nutritionist friend of mine with this question. She writes a column and gives advice to people who have problems or questions. See Michelle's weekly column at http://www.mormontown.org/women/health-jstart.html.

    ~~~

    Reader: Could nutrition be at the root of the hostility with which she responds to me? She consistently interprets everything I say as a personal attack on her.

    Annette: People that do not want to face up to problems and have to explain themselves to others often attack people rather than get into the subject that is causing them problems. A good defense is a good offense, another words, "attack!"

    Also, people tend to be short fused and sharp with others when they are ill. Depression makes you feel ill all the time.

    ~~~

    Reader: Now that I think about it, she is very intolerant and harsh with some of our children too. She seems to have little capacity to forgive. Regardless of my efforts, she refuses to acknowledge me as a friend. She even told me that her coworker was the best friend she has ever had! I can't express how deeply this hurts.

    Annette: This statement could have been said for three reasons:

    1. She may believes that the coworker was her best friend, because he helped her to become her best self.
    2. At the same time it could also be a tactic to get you to leave her alone. So she doesn't have to delve into the obesity and nor deal with you when she is not feeling well.
    3. She may be trying to hurt you because in her mind you are not behaving in the same manner as the coworker that helped her loose the weight.

    Everyone wants to have a friend that brings out the best in them. Be that friend! Ask her what he did to support her to bring about this radical change. Please realize with the depression, her thought processes may not be working well enough to analyze the situation. Because she cannot do so she may become frustrated and attack you to cover up the deficit.

    I would suppose the main thing was time together and active listening. Active listening can make all the difference in the world in your relationship. Read "Active Listening".

    ~~~

    Annette: If she is hiding her food intake from you then she is probably addicted! Help her follow the steps to get out of addition!

    Reader: How do I do this when anything I say will certainly be received as if I were attacking her and as if I don't understand her?

    Annette: Help her:

    • Get rid of the problem behind the eating.
    • Get rid of the depression.
    • Use active listening.
    • Have a weekly date night.
    • Treat her as if she is the most precious thing in your world.

    Check with her doctor to see if:

    • Those fat burning, over the counter pills can help and are compatible with her meds.
    • If other depression meds could be used that would not cause weight gain.

    Check her into a mental clinic to get her stabilized on her meds and her depression eliminated or manageable, if she refuses to care for herself. In most cases your health insurance will cover this!

    Have her doctor help her deal with attaining with new coping skills and the food addiction.


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