What IS support?

What is support? This is my homework for therapy – to answer this question. It’s “due” Wednesday and I still don’t have an answer – I’ve been thinking about it now for almost a week.

Story 1:

In September, Carlos and I had plans to go to dinner with my aunt & uncle. I had run 4 miles right before we left and was starving.  As in, I was about ready to punch anyone who said hello. When we sat down to order, I ordered a chicken sandwich {hold the mayo & cheese} and the sweet potato fries. We also ordered some guacamole & chips. I ate a little of the guacamole & chips. I ate 3/4 of the chicken sandwich but the fries weren’t as good as I thought they would be. I noticed Carlos had finished eating but didn’t eat all his french fries so I started picking at Carlos’ fries – they were delicious!

After 5 or 6 times of grabbing his french fries, Carlos casually started fumbling with his basket and then, ended up dumping the fries onto the plate and putting the basket on top of the fries. I don’t know if he knew what he was doing – he appeared to just be playing with his plate and in doing so, had covered up his fries. Or, maybe he noticed I was eating the fries and wanted to help me – after all, he has seen me PLENTY of times cover up my own food to avoid eating any more.

Story 2:

About 2 weeks ago, Carlos warmed up some leftovers for dinner. I am not a huge leftover fan but did have a box of cereal from when my nieces and nephews had stayed over. Cereal. For dinner. I just wanted to eat cereal even though I knew there was nothing balanced about it. I poured a bowl of cereal and sat down at the table with Carlos. We chatted for a few minutes, each of us eating our “dinner.” I finished my first bowl and grabbed the box, pouring myself a second bowl. These were not “serving” size bowls I was pouring – I was filling the bowl up each time. We chatted some more and then, noticing my bowl was empty again, I poured a third bowl. Surely I was okay on calories, and I was an adult – I could have cereal for dinner if I wanted to. No big deal – plenty of people do it.

Carlos noticed I was pouring a third bowl of cereal and commented:

Are you going to eat that box of cereal for dinner?

Who cares if I wanted to eat cereal for dinner – I AM AN ADULT! I CAN EAT WHATEVER I WANT FOR CEREAL!

Now the reality was, Carlos was asking because he knew cereal is not a satisfying dinner and he knows ME enough to know I would be hungry in an hour. Carlos knows me and cereal, he knows I get gaga over eating as much as I can – it’s why I don’t buy cereal, because I have no limits. Carlos was looking out for me. He didn’t mean anything mean by it, but was just asking if I was going to eat anything else.

Story 3.

Monday night, I got home from work and started making dinner. I wasn’t following a recipe, just grabbing ingredients from the fridge & cupboard and tossing them into a pan. I had been pretty conscious of my eating throughout the day, tracking everything I ate. I had got in a 45 minute cardio session that morning so was feeling pretty good. As I opened the cupboard to grab some canned artichoke, I noticed the cheese puffs I bought for Carlos last week. The bag was opened but he hadn’t eaten more than half the bag. I pulled the bag out and grabbed a few, leaving the bag on the counter as my attention went back to what I was cooking. I grabbed a few more as I walked over to the fridge, then my attention went back to what I was cooking. This happened one more time. Carlos came into the kitchen and we started catching up on the day. As I was cooking, I noticed he had grabbed a different bag of chips out of the cupboard, grabbed a handful and then, closed it up and put it away. Then, he grabbed the cheese puffs & put them away too.

Who was he to put MY cheese puffs away?

Me: Um, why did you put the cheese puffs away. I was eating those.
Carlos: Oh, I don’t know – I just put them away.
Me: yes but you weren’t eating them so why would you put them away?

I’m pretty sure he meant nothing by it but lordy, when did I become so territorial over my food? {hello crazy lady! proof, therapy is needed!}

Back to the homework.

Last week, my therapist and I were talking about my relationship with Carlos and how it interacts with my struggles with eating. For a long time, longer than I’ve known Carlos, I’ve struggled with being judged for what I eat. Nobody wants to be the fat girl eating a cheeseburger. Nobody wants to be the fat girl at the vending machine. Nobody wants to be the fat girl being seen eating the foods that made her fat. Nobody wants to be told “um, are you sure you should eat that?” I have this complex about what I eat in front of people – I’ve briefly mentioned it before because it leads to me sneak eating {eating food just because no one is around.}

But what does support in a fight for healthy habits look like? Wouldn’t I want someone to help me when they see me doing something I’ve previously said I don’t want to do? If I saw Carlos getting to close to to something I know he struggles with, wouldn’t I point it out to him? Wouldn’t I help him with his self-awareness?

Here’s where the conversation went with my therapist and I. It is unfair for me to share my frustrations & struggles with Carlos and then, when he tries to help me with my self-awareness, get mad at him. It is unfair for me to get frustrated with him when he is just trying to help. He doesn’t want to see me “harm” myself anymore than I get frustrated at myself when I do the same action. He is not me – I should be the one who is accountable for my decisions. He’s never done it in a malicious, mean way; he’s never been a jerk about it or tried to make me feel horrible.

So what does support look like? In hindsight, yes – I do appreciate him putting the cheese puffs away because who knows how many more times I”d have walked past just grabbing 2 or 3. In retrospect, YES I’d want Carlos to point out when I’m clearly in the middle of inhaling a box of cereal.

This post isn’t about what Carlos is or is not doing right in our relationship. This is what support for me is. If I’m doing something I don’t want to do, but am in a moment of pulling the wool over my own eyes, wouldn’t it be better for someone to point it out? Would I really want my support to just sit there and watch?

So what does support look like?

 

Comments

  1. I get the same way with my husband sometimes. Mostly about dessert… He knows I have goals and he wants to help me achieve them but I get so defensive when he tries.

  2. Great post. I have struggled with very similar things….but the Carlos in my life didn’t “provide support” for the right reasons (that’s a story for another time). I think two things are important….the other person’s intentions (to help someone they love reach their goal) AND for the person being held accountable to accept the support even when they don’t like the message.

  3. This is such a great post. Something I think about on a daily basis. I think my husband and I have worked out an acceptable solution for both of us. I absolutely HATE it when he does something like what you describe in Story 1 and particularly Story 3. I have told my husband that I would prefer to have a conversation about it. I would rather have him speak out rather than treat me like a child and just put away something I was eating or hide his snacks etc. That has been working work better for us – most of the time when he says something I agree with him and stop my unhealthy habit. But sometimes I tell him that I understand but I need to do this today and that’s life – not perfect.

  4. I think it is great that Carlos is able to help you in ways that aren’t deconstructive or hurtful. It must be a tricky situation to be in – wanting to help but not wanting to be hurtful while doing it. It sounds like you have a supportive relationship. That is great 🙂

  5. I have this same issue with my husband and have talked with him about how I want to be supported. It sounds like that is your homework assignment too.

    I like getting praised for my effort and progress. I like help with planning, cooking meals, and cleaning the kitchen.

    In the cereal situation, I would prefer to hear, “I’m going into the kitchen. Can I bring you anything?” You were obviously tired or stressed and didn’t feel like thinking about finding something else to eat.

    The cheese puffs thing was slick. Is he afraid of talking openly with you about this stuff?

    • Jen, a priorfatgirl says:

      Good thoughts regarding the positive reinforcement.

      We talk a lot about it, he is not afraid to talk about it – I think he was just putting the chips away because he was done with his so he was clearing the counter.

  6. I think it’s different for everyone. When I first think of support I think of the encouragement that is there, but not demanding of me. After much practicing, my husband and I have fallen into a pattern of good encouragement over both food and exercise. But it’s something that we talked about, a lot. There are times when I will say that I am having issues and need his help/support and how I’d like that to look. Same for him. Over time, these conversations have added up to a good realationship of support for both of us. I think talking about it is a good way to figure out what you want and how to get it.

  7. I wish I had the support system I needed. I need to talk to my husband a little more about what I need from him and see if he can help me when I’m grabbing for that last piece of pizza after having 3-4 or having ice cream after dinner. He hasn’t been there through my weight loss journey, only coming in after I’ve lost a majority of my weight so he has no idea of my struggles with food and I tend to not tell him just out of embarrassment I guess. I sometimes think I need a therapist as well but not sure I would have the time for that with my life being so busy with my schedule and my kids schedule. I barely can get time to workout and I have to sacrifice time with my family to do so.

  8. My guess is that Carlos doesn’t even realize what he’s doing when he “protects” you from those extra calories. It always amazes me, being around folks who don’t have the same sort of issues with food that I seem to. I watched in awe as a coworker in a meeting ate half a bag of chips (one of those tiny vending machine bags, mind you), and then roll it up and put it away. That kind of behavior just doesn’t seem “normal” to me, just like leaving french fries on a plate or not polishing off the rest of that dessert. I find this stuff to be a day-to-day struggle, but I’ll be the first to admit that having a little support at home can work wonders.

    • I saw a mostly eaten chocolate chip cookie in the trash the other day and was all? What? My husband is just back from lengthy trip and the house is once again stocked full of his “treats”. The better you get at living with food the more you won’t have to rely on other’s support.

      That being said, be grateful Carlos is paying attention.

  9. I can relate to this so much. When someone makes comments about what I’m eating or insinuates I can’t have it, I used to be sent into a secret binge session in the privacy of my room. I struggled for years with eating in public because I didn’t want to be judged.

    I’m much better now and I don’t binge eat. I do feel guilty sometimes if I oversnack but I try to be smart about it and balance it out with exercise or lighter meals afterwards.

  10. Great topic Jen-My husband has been with me through my journey (all 150 pounds lost). He knows when I get in my moods, just want to eat-leave me alone. But I use to get so mean to myself-like crazy self-hate. He really helped me see those patterns and help me work through them. That is what support is to me. People who get you, and will do anything to help this life-long process 🙂

  11. What a GREAT post!! Thank you for sharing!!!

  12. My husband and I have tended to “support” each other in the past by allowing each other to overeat. We may say we want to be healthy and lose weight, but then one of us will bring home ice cream, or the other one of us will bring home a pie or cake. I’m now in my 5th week of doing Weight Watchers, and he has been very helpful and supportive. He promises he won’t sabotage my efforts, and he hasn’t. he knows I’ll be happier if I lose the weight this time. I don’t need anyone to reprimand me. I just need them to help me by keeping ice cream, cookies, candy, etc. out of the house. If he wants to eat that, then he can do it elsewhere and not in front of me.

    • Debbie I am right there with you! My husband is the first one to get me out to the gym in the morning and the first time help me pack a healthy lunch or.snacks… but he is also the first one to order a pizza after a hard day! We mean well for each other but sometimes just end up in the way lol

  13. Jen, all I could think of when reading this was to put it in the context of cigarettes, if you were a smoker trying to quit; or in the context of alcohol if you were trying to stop addictive drinking. In those cases, a supportive partner would not bring cigarettes or alcohol into the home in the first place. However, food, as we can beat the topic to death forever, is a necessity and we can’t avoid it forever and we have to learn to deal with it and blahblahblah. That said…you should have sent the box of cereal home with the kids. And Carlos maybe should keep unhelpful snack foods that he knows you like out of the house; keep them at work or something — at least, for now, while you’re actively working on your eating via therapy. Support is encouraging someone’s effort and also NOT SABOTAGING them, even unintentionally. I know that some day there will come a day that Carlos can keep cheese puffs in the cabinet and they will be meaningless to you. Or a day that you can eat three cheese puffs and realize they actually taste like powdered air and put the bag away and go brush your teeth. But now is not that day yet. And I think the best way he can support you is by not bringing tempting foods into the house, by not bringing you into tempting situations (ordering a food he knows you love that you have decided not to eat), and picking up on the cues when you are mindlessly eating, overeating, eating foods that contribute to the binge feeling, etc. and politely stopping you, as he has, without yelling at you or even directly questioning you.

  14. AWESOME post, Jen!

    I struggle with getting defensive, too! It happens less and less, but when my husband pulls a move similar to the behavior you’re describing, I always have an internal battle with feeling hurt/insulted/judged and feeling grateful. Some days my irrational feelings win out, other days they don’t. It’s something I’m constantly working on.

    Personally, I think that the way Carlos (and my husband) approach these situations is spot-on. I’d much rather my husband silently and subtly remove the temptation for me than confronting me about every moment of weakness. I’ve been at this for a while–I don’t need an intervention or a big production. I need exactly what he’s doing (whether I immediately realize it or not).

  15. YES! I know this struggle well. My super sweet husband offers his support in many ways and these stories sound just like us. They are trying to do it in the most non-judgmental, relaxed way possible and, like you, occasionally get really defensive and crabby about it. And he gently and kindly explains what he thought he was doing was helping and forgives me for being a dope. We are lucky to have such kind and caring partners. The real struggle is internal and sometimes it gets taken out on those standing nearby. Like someone else said, I can’t imagine NOT eating an entire bag of chips or just having a bite of something. Right now, in my life, I am struggling with what it feels like every other creature on the planet does with ease: eating. It’s really comforting to see others also struggle, but I wish we were all at ease with food.

  16. What an excellent post! Man I struggle with being judged for what I eat or at least feeling like I’m being judged. Support is such a hard thing for me because sometimes I take it the wrong way and just want to stomp my feet and yell “leave me alone”. I’m still working on that part so your post has really helped! Thanks for sharing.

  17. Jen –

    I think you & Carlos should talk about “rules” & “guidelines” – he is trying to be supportive and knowing that the real world exists (junk food all over the place) we need support! I have talked to my DH & asked him to take action if he sees that I am going out of bounds &/or if a situation presents itself that I made need help with. It really helps to know what the rules are and to have your best friend help you.

  18. Another great post Jen! I can relate to so much of what you say. Like you said, I think one of the most important things we can do is become cognizant of the fact that our loved ones have our best interests at heart (most of the time!)

  19. Like just about every other woman who has commented here (Jack, you can be an honorary woman for the day, you don’t mind do you?) I have the same dilemma. This is a great question. My husband and I have gone back and forth on this issue, but because I generally get very defensive and cranky we’ve just decided that he is not responsible for what I eat. He thinks it’s all about the exercise anyway, so we are happy for him to encourage me in that area and just let me deal with food by myself.

  20. Hi Jen! Snaps to your therapist for this topic! When seeing my nutritionist in college finally facing my eating disorder, it was this topic that she helped discuss between my mother and I. There is a fine line between support and judgement when going through issues. I don’t have a significant other in my life right now, but what worked for me with family was that the topic of discussing what I was eating was not allowed. It was my process that I had to face and work through on my own. Part of that is recognizing when I am eating for hunger versus eating to fill a void. I still struggle with the thoughts that you have when Carlos supported you during those situations. I don’t think people who haven’t suffered from disordered eating can fully understand how many thoughts can go through one’s mind about food. You make me want to start thinking about this again, as if I am going to have a healthy relationship in my future, I am going to have to face the topic of support, and what qualifies as support vs. judgement. Good luck to you, Jen, as you work through your definition!

  21. Awesome therapy topic. Good for you to examine what you need and communicate about boundaries and expectations early in you relationship. I agree with both Jack and Norma. Good luck with whatever you decide. A very worth while assignment.

  22. As hard as it is to live with an unhealthy relationship with food, it has got to be just as hard to live with someone who suffers from it. I’ve often thought that puts the person in a no win situation. For me personally, I appreciate that Kevin keeps his Fritos in his own “pantry” so I don’t have to see them. I’m amazed there are people who can eat Fritos in moderation. When we go out to eat and I order a healthy side I will ask before we order if I can have about 6 of his fries and of course I can. I get the satisfaction of the treat food without an overwhelming portion. He never questions anything I’m eating because that would just be a huge no/no with me. Everyone is different though so it might work with some. This is a really interesting question.

  23. catherine says:

    When you figure this out, please share with all of us. I don’t know the answer!

  24. Oh wow, how you have posted right on a tough topic for sooo many including myself. I’ve struggled with wanting my husband to be the “support” or even “food police” for years to help me in weight loss/maintaining only to end up frustrated and he too frustrated at seeing me self destruct. In the end I have learned it is important to define support specifically for your struggle(for me it is no tempting food in the house) and my husband tries to support me in those ways and more.

    I think it is normal if I break my own rules, and my husband comments on it, then I get angry at him or I frustrated. However, I think it is the practice of being able to recognize in the moment of ‘support’ who your real opponent is. He can support me, but there is no right/wrong way to do that as he is doing it in LOVE every time. It is only how I respond to the support that tells me where I am in my journey. It is a demon that I will battle with continually and will do so for the rest of my life on and off. The big thing for us is when I have a angered reaction to my husbands gentle support, then it is important for me to recognize who the opponent is… it’s food and my addition. So in the beginning I would end up recognizing this out loud (usually as an apology to him) and after all it really is always the internal battle that I am fighting and he is receiving the “punches”. It’s taken years and after humbling myself and recognizing that food has this crazy “power” over me the more I recognized that the less power it has in my relationship which in the end is what I desire most of all. I am better but still not perfect (married 15 years) Hope this all makes sense… but it is indeed a process and an important one to continually evaluate.

  25. Gosh, do I know this feeling. I’ve lost 67lbs and I still have these moments. I have even asked my husband to keep me accountable at times–but I think he knows how I respond (EEK!)…so that is hard for him to do!

    The biggest thing behind this? When we choose to eat things that aren’t good for us–especially if we are in the “Screw it! I’m going to have this now!” mindset, it’s embarrassing to be called out on it. I know that I am mad simply because I had already made the decision to eat poorly, to binge, to not care, etc. Because my mind had already given in, it would make me mad to “come back” from that mindset. Does that make sense? So when my husband says something like, “We are not buying that” or “I thought you weren’t going to be eating before bed this week”…it’s frustrating–because I am wanting to do something that I know I shouldn’t be doing….

    I don’t even know if this makes sense–but I do understand!

  26. To be honest, I don’t discuss my eating/weight loss goals with my husband in anything other than very vague terms. I am very hard on myself (working on that), and something of a perfectionist, so setting my husband up to call me out would be humiliating to me, and would confuse him because he just wants to help.

    I think Carlos and my husband work on the same wavelength–food is just food and nothing to obsess over. You eat, you stop, you put it away. Period. If I put away a bag of chips, he would forget in 30 seconds. And for what it’s worth, I try to see unconcious activity like that as a blessing. For example, if we eat out and I am getting a little antsy thinking I might want to order dessert, and my husband says, “Whew, I’m full-couldn’t eat another bite,”–that feels like the decision has been made for me, and I can relax and let go of the dessert craving. If he leaves fries or something on his plate, and lets the wait staff take it away, I can relax about asking to eat off his plate. Does that sound weird?

    And I agree with Norma about asking him to refrain from bringing snacks home that you have trouble resisting for now. I do most of the shopping, and if my husband asks for something snacky I will buy something I don’t like, like Butter Pecan ice cream, coconut candy, or BBQ potato chips (blech!).

  27. Wow Jen, how insightful. I would have never thought of this way. Of course, I would become defensive and assume that my significant other was just being a jerk. Thanks for this post and showing me that I am not the only one…keep up the good work girl!

  28. I feel ya. I threw the remote ( not like lobbed, liked chucked at his head) at my husband last night because he said we shouldn’t order pizza. I wanted pizza, why should he tell me no?
    I am a big jerk when it comes to not feeding me what I want.
    THis post really hit home for me, and I know my husband is trying to help, but it makes me angry that I need help in the first place. I am an adult and should have control over myself, but it is just not that easy.
    I am excited to hear more about wha tyour therapist says about “food support.”

  29. Awe, I think those were sweet instances of support from him, and it nice he is willing to try so hard to look out for you without being overt food police. I also get your food and territorial issues and struggle with that, myself. I always just try to not project intent upon my husband when he does something that I bristle about in this area. Usually he either isn’t aware of it or only has the best intentions, and if I take him at face value and don’t let my issues get in the way we’re all a lot happier 🙂

  30. Wow! This totally hit home with me. “My Carlos”, lets call him Josh, does the same thing. At first I thought he was doing it because I am fat. But now, months later I know he is helping. Nothing means as much as him saying he is proud of me for trying.

    Putting the napkin over the food at restaurants is a huge deal and one of the best habits I feel he has gotten me into. He is also super patient at restraurants while I google nutrition menus.

  31. Judging from the number of comments you’ve gotten, it appears that this is quite a common thing! I know it is for me. I have the exact same thoughts regarding first, not wanting to be the fat girl eating the stuff that made her fat; and also not wanting anyone to comment on what I am eating because I’m an adult dammit.

    I think that you are onto something in that the right answer is what feels right to YOU. And it will be different for everyone.

    For me, I would not want my husband to say/do any of these things. It would actually really bother me. A lot. Because it isn’t his place. He isn’t my babysitter, and he isn’t my dad. LIke you said, I am an adult and I need to be accountable for me. Maybe it is just my own insecurity (probably), but if he did something like that it would make me feel like HE THOUGHT I need to lose weight and was fat. And that would make me feel badly about myself and unattractive. And that is not good for my psyche at all. I need to feel entirely unjudged by my husband. And if I declare a cheat day to myself, or decide that I can have X because of all the other stuff I ate all day, or even if I just am off my game and need the damn ice cream… I need my husband to just trust me to do my thing and leave it alone.

  32. This is a great topic! I think each person is unique in how they can best be supported. The most important thing is to be able to communicate with those close to you about how they can help you. My husband is very kind and supportive. When we were first married, he knew how hard I was trying to lose weight and how much I wanted to succeed, but he had never had weight struggles or been around those who did. He didn’t really know how to help. He made a couple comments about what I was eating in a genuine effort to help. The thing is, it didn’t help! It made me feel like a child. So I had a talk with him and explained that, so he now knows what I need. He can help by saying positive, encouraging things about the good things I do, not encouraging or inviting to eat unhealthy things, and not bringing my trigger foods into the house.

  33. MeredithSeattle says:

    Great topic! WOW did it hit so close to home! I think my reactions to any discussion about food with my husband have taught him not only to not bring it up with me, but to stay out of my way and do nothing when I’m starting to get into food! It’s almost like I’ve made him my enabler, even though it is true that I need to be responsible to myself. Sounds like your relationship with Carlos is already so much more healthy than that.

    I think I need to work myself up to talking to my husband about helping me stay away from bad treats. If he knows he shouldn’t bring certain food into the house, he won’t. He is wonderful like that. *I* just have to get serious that I don’t want ice cream, cookies, or “adult” crackers (vs. goldfish for my kid only) in the house, all of which are my weaknesses.

  34. It’s funny. My husband is the complete opposite. He knows I have issues with food and yet he brings it home all the time. The bad stuff. He won’t stop me when I’m eating it. He’s never done that. I’ve asked him to before, but he doesn’t listen. Interesting.

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