The Trouble with Comparisons, Losing Baby Weight, and Spousal Communication
Life in my home has started to settle into a routine after the recent addition of our newest baby Grove to the family. Schedules are starting to be consistent (no he isn’t sleeping through the night), hormone levels are stabilizing, siblings are adjusting. My wife has even started her post-partum exercise plan which has been very successful for births past.
I was living in this context when I started to get complacent – which a husband should never do. You must always remain alert and diligent lest you say something stupid. I did not know I was walking into a minefield but I should have when she was discussing her plans to get back to her pre baby weight. Here’s how it played out:
She says: “Compared to most other women out there I’m not that fat”.
What I should have said: “You’re not fat at all. You’re the most beautiful and fair creature ever to walk the Lord’s green Earth. Never could you be anything other than perfect in my eyes. I will love thee evermore.”
What she would have heard: “I love you.”
What I actually said: “You can’t really compare to others since the obesity rates are so high.”
What she actually heard: “You’re fat.”
Having been married for 11 years and been through the birth of five children, I should have known better but, alas, I have always been and will always be a male (no plans or desire for Jenner-fication) which means I miss these things on occasion.
While I cannot defend the timing or the target of the point I was trying to make, for those of you out there who are not married to me, I think the point is an important one to make. Part of the reason why people feel that they are not “that overweight” or “actually obese” is that when they look around and compare themselves to others they think that they look normal. The truth is that they do look normal, or svelt even. The problem is that, compared to the rest of the population around us, overweight and obese is normal. Nearly 2/3 of the population is overweight or obese. The new normal is overweight so if you compare yourselves to others, you will be overweight and feel it’s normal.
This has actually been studied. There have been comparisons of newsreels from the 50s to those of the 2000s. The researchers tried to see how many people they could find when that looked overweight. In the 50s, you had to struggle to find someone who was overweight. Nowadays you have to struggle to find someone who is not.
The problem with comparing to others is that your body doesn’t really care what other people weigh. The damage caused by obesity is not impacted by what your weight is compared to the weight of others, its impacted by what your weight is compared to what the weight your body is designed to be. And after years of research, your body is designed to be at a weigth that corresponds to a body mass index between 18 and about 27.5.
The moral of the story:
- When determining what a healthy weight is do not compare yourselves to others, compare yourself to the numbers determined by years of research on millions of subjects.
- When determining what a healthy weight is for your wife, stop, back up, and run away as fast as you can.
- It apparently takes more than 11 years of practice to know how not to say stupid things to your wife.