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How can i help her?

(16 Posts)
DiscontinuedModelHusband Wed 15-May-13 10:28:02

Apologies in advance for the length of this!

DW has crippling body- and self-confidence issues, and i desperately want to help her.

However, I just don't know how to go about it.

DW and i have been married for 12 years (been together since we were 17), have 3 DC (9, 7 and 3).

She's always had low self-esteem, largely because of her mother, but as she's got older, and her body's changed, it's got to a point where it's impacting on our whole family.

She hates to go out, will never come to any of my work events (so i don't go either), and only goes out to her work things because she has to.

She hates buying clothes, so buys cheap things in a rush, which then just add to the problem.

She's too self-conscious to go to the gym, or go swimming, and as a result does virtually no exercise (she has a very tiring job too, which makes finding the time/energy to do exercise difficult anyway).

Obviously there's been an impact on our sex-life too, but this was never a massive part of our relationship. I just miss being physically close to her.

Our DD (9, very active, and thin as a rake) has now started to mimic some of DW's behaviours (saying "look at this belly" etc), which then makes DW feel even worse.

My approach has always been to try and be supportive and reassuring - but it's clear this has had absolutely no effect.

I love her enormously, and fancy the arse off her, but she just says "oh, but you're supposed to say that" whenever i compliment her (which is pretty often).

I've never been critical of her (am always 100% careful not to make the situation worse), but realistically i must be to blame somehow as well.

I just don't know what to do.

She says i need to let her deal with it herself, but she does nothing to address it.

She did weightwatchers for a while, but gave up because she didn't have the discipline to maintain it (she starts again occasionally). She very occasionally goes to the gym, or Zumba, but won't go on her own.

Should i be more critical? I don't want to , but would this help?

Not sure whether this is the right place for this thread/question, so if there's somewhere better to ask it, please let me know!

Again, sorry for the length!

ArtVandelay Wed 15-May-13 10:42:58

This sounds like a negative cycle, not surprised you are frustrated. There could be many different things going on here. 1) she is severely depressed and the thought of changing anything about her life, despite being unhappy, is just too overwhelming - this is me right now except for me its not about looks and weight, I have other issues. It sucks - she should see a Dr soon and get help if this is the case. 2) she is actually not bothered about looks and weight much but she feels like she should be bothered so she moans about being fat so it seems like she's bothered and gets some compliments from you as well. 3) she could be using this to get attention, compliments and reassurance which she doesn't feel she can obtain any other way (whether that's true or not). There's loads more things that could be happening. Have you tried getting her to talk and just encouraging her to be truthful about how she's really feeling and asking the open question - how can I best support you? So no suggestions, no assumptions, just really learning about why she's behaving like this. I'm sure she's very draining right now but she is probably feeling pretty bad herself and needs some help.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 15-May-13 10:43:07

Is your DW actually overweight or is she a normal size and just sees herself as fat? I'm going to assume the former.

You have to start from a place of love. She doesn't love herself at the moment so anything you do or say has to start there. Criticism really doesn't help.... support does. Saying 'you look great' to someone who doesn't like themselves is not a wasted statement, even if they dismiss it.

Speaking as someone that has struggled with their weight past, present and probably future she does have to deal with it herself but there are things you can do to provide a little motivation. Personally, I find my health far more of an incentive than my appearance, so someone saying to me 'I love you and I want us to be healthy and happy well into our old age .... so how about we shape up together?' will be more effective than other approaches.

If she struggles with the discipline of healthy eating or exercise, support is important there too. Not the type of support where people go on a bout point counting or frown at someone for eating a biscuit... but little things like agreeing not to drink alcohol together for a while or not putting packets of crisps into the shopping trolley at the supermarket.

Exercise ditto.... no point suggesting to a partner that you should train for the London Marathon because that's setting them up for failure. But you could suggest going for a walk together (or as a family) every evening after supper.... do-able, pleasant, you get to chat to each other and it becomes a healthy habit.

ArtVandelay Wed 15-May-13 10:47:21

Or a counsellor - not everyone has the skills to do open questioning and non-judgemental responses (especially with a close relationship) would she be willing to talk to someone?

writergal Wed 15-May-13 10:53:22

I used to be similar and lost weight with a famous low calorie ketogenic diet ( I don't want to say which one - not sure if i am allowed...) but they offer CBT counselling and this really helped me. if you look it up you should find it. only for people who are obese though. think of the initials LL

This changed my life.

Leverette Wed 15-May-13 10:53:25

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

DiscontinuedModelHusband Wed 15-May-13 11:49:44

Art - It's not 2), definitely. Possibly a combination of 1) & 3). She wouldn't go and see a Dr or counsellor - she'd see it as wasting their time, as it's "not serious" (though it clearly is).

Cogito - she's a UK 14-16, but well-proportioned. She still has a bit of a pregnancy belly, which is the main cause of her unhappiness. (She was a 10-12 when we met, and up until DC1).

Family activities might be an interesting approach - we already spend most of our weekends outdoors, but the activities are mostly geared towards the kids enjoyment, rather than our own health. It's slightly difficult in that we have a 3 year old who's too small to walk longer distances, or to ride a proper bike, but is too big (and stubborn) to be carried/go in a buggy/bike trailer! But there's definitely more we could do.

My concern has always been that making suggestions like that would be too transparent, and that DW would immediately interpret them as a comment on her.

We did ballroom and latin dancing together a year or so ago, which i loved (she was a dancer when she was young). But she was too self-conscious to continue going, so we stopped. sad

catsmother Wed 15-May-13 12:04:07

Just a quick note to say you sound like a fantastic husband - I hope you can find a way forward with this soon.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 15-May-13 12:06:41

She sort of needs the Gok Wan treatment, doesn't she? I know exactly how she feels. If you're used to being a 12 all your life and dressing a particular way, you have no idea what to put on a bigger-size body with a belly to make it look decent. You look in the mirror and you don't know where to start. That's when sweat pants and baggy tops seem the best solution... when of course they're not helping your self-esteem in the slightest.

Do you have any friends that like dancing? Sometimes it's easier to get out of the house because your mates are all doing something than if your partner suggests it out of the blue.

DiscontinuedModelHusband Wed 15-May-13 12:36:37

Cogito - yeah, she often watches Gok Wan with a wistful look in her eyes!

She never wears baggy shapeless stuff out of the house - her mum would definitely make some comment about it (she looks after DCs in the day, so is at our house every morning), which means she's always got to wear things that she's not comfortable in ("can't you wear something more feminine dear?".

Unfortunately, neither of us has a wide circle of friends. We moved to our village after DC1 had started school there, so we missed out on the start of a lot of those parental friendships, and it's always hard to break into an established group.

It's not helped by the fact that DW does so much in the evenings (own interests as well as work-related stuff), meaning we often can't commit to things, even when we're invited.

Need to get our youngest riding a proper bike! Think that might be the only thing for it!

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Wed 15-May-13 12:44:06

I'm sure you've told DD to cut out the comments that might hurt her mum. What a shame you can't tell MIL too. Seeing a critical parent 5 days out of 7 is a killer for fragile self-esteem.

Your wife has tried Weight Watchers and dancing, perhaps she was disheartened by the apparent slow progress, though to keep weight off long term the advice is to take it slowly. When you feel miserably self-conscious it's hard not to feel others are noticing you and being critical.

Have you got something like Wii so you could get everyone enjoying dance or exercise at home?

Might be an idea to get her into a shop where she can try on decent footwear for walking and exercise not fashion stuff.

I know this sounds superficial but have absorbed this from personal experience and from friends: she could do with properly fitting underwear, get her to choose and buy morale boosting pretty bras. Good support will help her clothes fit better.

Like lots of women I have to be in the right mood for trying on clothes but there are so many sites online. Better to wear something one size up that looks quality than something ill-fitting.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 15-May-13 12:49:53

Agree. It's not helping her wearing uncomfortable things just to keep granny happy... hmm No-one feels good about their body when they are squeezed into something or trussed up like a chicken.

DiscontinuedModelHusband Wed 15-May-13 14:01:00

WW worked really well the first time we tried it - we did it together, and both lost a stone in a couple of months. Then for whatever reason (stress at work, probably), she just gave up so i gave up eventually too. The subsequent times it's just been her doing it.

We have a Wii, sat gathering dust under the TV. smile

DD doesn't make comments about her mum, but about herself (even though there's nothing of her) - she's just copying what she sees her mum doing - so DW gets upset about starting DD off on the same path.

We've both talked to MIL, but she's not going to stop, and we're too dependent on her to force the issue.

Maybe we need to do WW together again.

DiscontinuedModelHusband Wed 15-May-13 14:02:39

Oh, and though she knows about the right size clothes being important, it's a big psychological step to acknowledge that you need to go up a size!

(that goes for men as well!!!)

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 15-May-13 15:03:59

You know... rather than WW or some other patented diet scheme, you could just try going on a healthy-eating kick together. In our house we do daft stuff to stay in shape like 'no alcohol month' or 'vegetarian week'. We can whip up a far nicer (and less oily) curry than we can get from the takeaway and our pizza made with half fat mozzarella should win an award if there was any justice in the world. When the biscuit tin empties or we run out of crisps, we don't bother restocking for a while... that kind of thing. It's a lot more fun than calorie-counting, point-counting or going the dreaded 'low-carb' and ... as with the curry... we haven't bothered going back to old habits.

DiscontinuedModelHusband Wed 15-May-13 15:24:24

neither of us drink, so that's not really a sacrifice!

also, DW is a super-fussy eater - basically meat and potatoes only.
it's more portion size that's the issue. eg, she'll do a whole 2.5kg bag of potatoes for our sunday lunch, despite the kids eating hardly any between them.

that's something we can address though!

Thank you for all your advice!

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