Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Dieting with Hubby Part 2: Competition, Spite and Rebellion

I've noticed some recurring thoughts and behaviors I've been exhibiting the last week in regards to my Hubby's diet, and I'd like to know if this is normal, or if I'm just odd.

First off, why, when I want my husband to start eating healthier, exercise more, and maybe lose a few pounds, why do I suddenly get defensive when he does? Part of me feels like we're now in competition, which is ridiculous. First of all, there's no contest, there's no grand prize or bet we've made with each other. And I'm the one always saying that I'm not on a traditional "diet" as most people view them. I'm on a long-term lifestyle change that includes food and exercise. In this stage I'm trying to lose more weight, but the final goal will be to hit a manageable maintenance stage.

Still, it's hard not to feel a little competitive when he announces he's lost four pounds the first week. Sure, when I first started this journey I lost a lot of weight, too; in the very beginning it wasn't unusual to lose five pounds in one week at least one week a month. But I had a lot more weight to lose back then, and as we all know, the closer you get to goal, the slower the weight seems to go. And sometimes I still do lose a big chunk like that, but those big losses are getting fewer and fewer.

The truth is, we're in two very different places: he's in the fast and furious phase (that you really need to build up your motivation), while I'm heading into the home stretch. I'm about 125 pounds ahead of him, so no matter how much he loses, chances are I'll wind up winning the overall lost category. Yet those weekly weigh-in contests are hard to overlook.

You would think this competitiveness would be a good thing and would spur me on to be even more vigilant and motivated. But for some strange reason it does the exact opposite: I've discovered that when he's dieting, it makes me more prone to overeating and not exercising.

It comes down to the fact that I am NOT a competitive person. I've always hated board games, playing cards, most video games and competitive sports. From the time I was little these things made me anxious and upset. The first reaction would be "she doesn't like to lose." True, but it goes deeper than that. It goes right to my core insecurities, my perfectionism and my need to please. If I can't keep up, if someone beats me, I feel like a failure, a disappointment, stupid and inadequate. If I'm on a team I'm sure everyone will be mad at me if I screw up and contribute to us losing the game.

My instinct in these situations is to avoid it all together, make excuses or bail out as quickly as possible. When there's no escape, I know the feelings of dread, anger and sadness will hit me like a rock in my gut. I don't understand fully why I let stupid things like poker or M0n0p0ly undermine my self worth and happiness. I know I'm an intelligent person, yet if I lose a game I feel like I've exposed every weakness I possess.

It makes no sense to me that I associate this competition phobia with dieting, but it's there. If I think someone is dieting better than I am, I want to throw in the towel.

But that isn't the only weird phenomenon going on. I also have detected what I'll call the "Spite Factor." If someone "orders" me to do something, I get really hesitant to do it and find all kinds of passive aggressive ways not to. Part of it is also a touch of rebellion: If everyone around me is buying black vehicles (which my Hubby and his family have all done), under no circumstances will I even think about buying a black vehicle.

So, here's the situation: if Hubby's eating "normally," or if our friends go out for dinner and make it a cheesy, deep-fried Fatapalooza (ooh, I like that one! file that for future reference!), the Spite Sprite in me (I'm on fire today!) is even more determined to stick to my food plan, and the Rebel in me orders the grilled chicken salad with low calorie dressing and a glass of water.

But then the tables get turned: Hubby goes on a diet, and I want to do the exact opposite. The Spite Sprite wants to eat chocolate pound cake in front of him or bring home a bag of Ore0s and torture him like he's done to me countless times. If we go out with friends or family for a meal and some or all want to eat "healthy," all the Rebel wants to do is order the big ole' fried fish sandwich with a large order of onion rings to go with it... and don't you dare forget about dessert!

I know I'm exposing some really nasty character traits here. The Spite Sprite and the Rebel are a couple of vindictive little b*tches with a major superiority complex and an "I'll show you" attitude. Now both of these traits could be good in certain situations -- they've helped me many times to turn away from temptation and sabotage -- but clearly, either one of them could turn ugly and self-destructive in the blink of an eye.

So now that I've identified these problems, what do I do with them? I guess recognizing them is the first step, but how do I keep myself from blowing all my hard work just because I've got someone else in the house dieting? Again, it's going to come down to being mindful. I've got to keep aware of what I'm feeling, dissect it and work through it here on the blog or with my therapist instead of acting on it with a tray of cookies. Instead of looking back over my shoulder to see if Hubby's catching up on me, I need to mind my own business and keep the focus on my own journey, or I will certainly trip and fall.

At the same time, I need to be supportive of both my and his efforts. Whether I've been sabotaged in the past or not, it's in my best interest to take the high road and not make things more difficult for either one of us. Sabotaging him will only backfire and hurt me, too, if not more.


Lori said...

You know, I heard a lot of what you have heard (or will hear) when I did South Beach and lost thirty-something pounds. The Soon to Be Ex said to everyone, "I lost weight by playing softball!" He was in the outfield, stood in the sun and that's it.

Basically, I cooked and he ate. So I was highly annoyed and mocked him when he said this to people.

I wonder if some of the issues we women have with other women and our own competitiveness have to do with being in close contact with other dieters who seemingly just have pounds melt off or do weird things that we can't do and we resent the hell out of it?

So more thoughts....

He's also charging into an area that you have worked hard at and have developed your own theories that work for you.

Is he acting like there's a competition between the two of you? He might be. And he probably is a bit needier and you don't have time for that either.

When you talk about the Spite Sprite and ordering cake while he's dieting, maybe you are giving him a taste of how it felt for all the times he and your friends indulged and indulged on the weekends when you were trying to be "good."

Why don't you go and get some low-fat stuff that you normally don't eat instead of the stuff you really don't eat?

I don't have many good ideas at the moment but I hope you feel better about it.

(My mother would say wait it out, he'll crack and give up....but that's not very constructive.)

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