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Body Image Issues and My Husband’s Remarks Affect Our Intimacy

By February 22, 2013

I am a 26 year old wife to a man that I love very much. Before I met him I lost ** lbs with diet and exercise, which quickly turned into an obsession. Never did I not eat or purge, but I ate very little at times and became very obsessed with everything that I put into my mouth. I went from *** lbs to *** over the course of about 2 years. I am 5’7′” and weigh *** lbs and work out lifting weights about 5 days a week. I feel that I am at a fairly healthy weight but struggle daily with fear and obsession. When I met my husband he was not spiritually right and was struggling with pornography and vanity. He shared so much information with me about his past in an attempt to be honest with me before we got married. He also in this attempt has said some extremely hurtful (honest) things about me, how he viewed me and my imperfections. We have been married for a year and a half and have a great relationship aside from this. I have forgiven him, but cannot get past the things that he has said. He has worked through his struggles and I believe and trust that he feels differently about these issues. However my brain runs wild with what he thinks of me at times. It affects our intimacy as I am never comfortable with myself and sometimes refuse to let him see or touch me. I want so badly to have a baby but just don’t know if I can mentally handle how it will affect my body and thus my marriage. I struggled with my body image after I lost weight even before I met my husband, and have loose skin and stretch marks from my weight in my teen years. I can’t imagine it being worse as I go through a pregnancy. I feel so vain and stupid at times for feeling this way, but I am incredibly hurt and still obsessed at times. I desperately want to get over this, but it rules my mind. – Jennifer

Dear Jennifer,

Thank you for your e-mail. I respect the courage it took to write us and reach out. Please know you are not alone in your struggles. You touch on important issues that many individuals wrestle with these days.

First, it sounds like a lot of your energy is spent focusing on food, working out and fear of weight gain. The fears and obsessions you speak of separate you from the important relationships in your life: your husband, friends, God. It is hard to feel safe in your marriage when you do not feel safe in your own body! Taking some time to address the underlying issues and meanings behind these fears and obsessions is an important step to take. This work can be done with a skilled therapist experienced in treating food and body issues and/or a safe and appropriate support group. See “Finding Treatment.”

Continuing to utilize rigid rules around food and exercise to manage your fears and obsessions will not give you the desired relief. In fact, when food and rigid exercise are used to manage negative emotions, it has the opposite effect down the road. The good news is when you are caring for your body with a balanced and flexible lifestyle along with an acceptance of a realistic weight range for your body, you have energy, feel strong and have more peace and freedom in your relationships with yourself and others. It may be a lot of work getting to this place, but it is totally doable.

You mention “healthy” in reference to food and your movement. The definition of “healthy” can be very subjective and I think it would be important to meet with a registered dietitian who is also a specialist in the area of food and body issues. This professional can work with you on setting realistic goals for your food intake, weight management and your movement frequency. When you do not adequately nourish your body, your brain’s ability to help regulate your mood is impaired. Our brains are made of fat and when we do not have a balanced intake of food, our body cannot get on our team. Especially in light of your desire to start a family, it is important to work on these issues sooner than later.

Thanks again for honesty in sharing your story and your struggles. I hope you can take the next steps to find the support and community you need and deserve.

Blessings,

Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT