My Partner Has Gained Weight, Has Become Body Positive, And I’m No Longer Attracted To Them. Now What?
Is your relationship or marriage over? Will you ever feel attracted to your partner again?
The person you love, your girlfriend/boyfriend, wife/husband, or partner has become body positive or fat positive. Maybe your partner has gained weight since you first met, and you are no longer physically attracted to your spouse. But they have started accepting their body, and no longer want to try to change it through dieting. Your partner is talking about anti-diet or non-diet approaches, such as Health at Every Size® (HAES), Body Trust®, and Intuitive Eating (IE).
They may have even kept it from you for a while as they were trying to figure out what they thought and how to bring it up with you. Or maybe they aren’t new to body and fat positivity, but have been working on accepting their body for years.
Where does that leave you? They were always focused on getting thinner by dieting and losing weight. They thought this would lead to them becoming healthier and probably happier, too. Of course, you wanted them to be healthier, too. Of course, you want your partner-in-crime to be happy, confident, and feel comfortable in their body.
But you may not have realized that you were invested in your partner being thinner. Someday. You are a kind, loving partner, and yet you may find yourself not physically attracted to them anymore. You’ve been together for a year, 5 years, 10 years, 30 years, maybe longer?
What happens now? Is your relationship or marriage over? Will you ever feel attracted to your partner again? These are all really important questions to be asking. I am glad you are interested in finding out what your answers to these questions might be. Stick with me. There are ways to explore these questions, so that you can make the most informed decision possible!
Gina Senarighi, a transformative couples coach, says there is “a commonly held idea that bodies don't or shouldn't change.” She goes on to say, “They do and are- and that's actually normal and healthy for all growing organisms- including humans. But we're taught in our culture we shouldn't age and our bodies 'should' remain one shape from about age 18 [until] death as adults and that shape 'should' be one specific very small size." She further explains,"the truth we know is... well, that's a bunch of crap.”
Your amazing, brave, fat positive person has likely been reading and listening to all that they can get their hands on about HAES®, Body Trust®, IE, body and fat positivity. All of this information is rather radical compared to what is commonly available in regards to weight loss and health, right?
Seriously. It is different. It flips everything we have known about dieting, weight loss, illness, and health on its head. It is like finding out the earth isn’t flat. Learning that size isn’t what drives illness and health is like finding out the earth is actually a sphere when you truly believed it was flat. The majority of people in our society still believe that diets work long-term, if they aren’t successful they just need to try harder, and that fatness is going to be a death sentence.
Except your partner has discovered a different paradigm that has changed their life. I’d say it is even similar to when surgeons started washing their hands during surgery. It seemed radical then, but now it’s protocol.
It is not easy when the person you thought you knew the most shifts a belief that they had for a really long time. If it was easy, you probably wouldn’t be reading this. You love your person though. A lot. Which is why you are even reading this blog.
10 Ways to Support Your Body Positive or Fat Positive Partner
Here are ten ways you can support your partner in this new paradigm that is practiced worldwide and increase your knowledge about HAES®, Body Trust®, IE, body positivity, and fat positivity.
1. Keep an open mind
It is so easy to dig our heels in on something that we know to be true. For example: thinner equals healthier. It is easy to get lost defending this idea that most likely ends in a major fight or days of silence. Stay focused on being open to hearing the body of research that supports non-diet approaches. Stay open to hearing about the work that people have been doing to create a different narrative for decades. Be open to listening to your partner’s experience and feelings.
In addition to keeping an open mind, Gina Senarighi says, “we need to stay connected and engaged with each other and we need [to] strike a balance where we also explore and learn on our own.” She recommends "couples create an adventure and learning list they can start exploring together and individual bucket lists for them to dream on their own." Senarighi thinks this doesn’t just apply to body size, but also to pleasure and sexual connection. “But (because all bodies change sexually over the lifespan) couples who fail to find ways to continue exploring and learning about each other’s newly emerging kinks, desires, fantasies, and pleasure spots often find themselves a little lost sexually.”
2. Read about the very harmful effects of weight stigma, weight cycling, and dieting on health
There is a growing body of evidence that shows gaining and losing weight repeatedly puts people at risk for heart problems, diabetes, muscle loss, fatty liver, gallbladder problems, and decreased metabolic function. It increases dieters’ weight set point, and this leads to gaining more weight after each weight loss attempt, because of the disruption in metabolic processes. Health improves by increasing healthy behaviors that are independent of weight.
3. Read about how dieting puts you at risk for an eating disorder
Dieting, aside from genetic predisposition, is one of the biggest risk factors for developing an eating disorder. We can prevent people from having an eating disorder through diet prevention! Many people start their first diet by the age of 9 or 10-years old. Your partner might actually have struggled with an eating disorder, or is currently experiencing disordered eating. Did you know that eating disorders are the most fatal mental health disorder? Did you know dieting, weight loss, and focusing on weight are contraindicated for all eating disorders?
If your person has been a chronic dieter, has disordered eating, or food has a great impact on their day-to-day life, the best ways to support them in their recovery are to stop focusing on their body size and to stop judging the food they eat.
Encourage them to seek help from a non-diet doctor, therapist, dietitian, and/or coach to work on healing their relationship with food and body.
4. Read about capitalism, the diet industry, and "Obesity"
The diet and “obesity management” industries do not want people to accept their bodies the way they are. They stand to lose billions if this continues to be a significant trend. It is why Weight Watchers rebranded to focus on being a lifestyle change company to disguise that they are still promoting weight loss. Capitalism and the diet and “obesity management” industries feed off of people’s insecurities, so that they can exploit them to purchase their products, and continue making their money.
5. Read about health at Every Size®
People in any size body can be healthy. While health is not a moral imperative, fat people can be healthy. This is where keeping an open mind might be helpful. You may be thinking---there is absolutely no way. There is! We actually have evidence that shows being in a bigger body is protective to health as someone ages.
Our healthcare system has really driven this idea home that we have to be thinner to be healthier. It just isn’t true. People in larger bodies do not have any health problems that people in smaller bodies do not also experience. Our focus on weight as a marker for health is actually one of the ways that our health is damaged. It reinforces weight stigma and poor medical treatment for people in bigger bodies.
6. Feel your feelings
“Bodies grow, change, and age and the more we can move into an accepting and compassionate place with our own bodies the more we can accept and love other bodies,” said Gina Senarighi. “To get desire back (with or without acknowledging change) couples need to stop assuming and start getting curious about each other. Think about when a couple first meets: curiosity and fascination are abundant. Everything your crush says is intriguing. You can't stop learning about them- and likely they, you. As we stop engaging in curiosity and fueling our independent selves, desire wanes.”
Grieve about what you thought was going to happen. Just like your partner may experience grief for the thin ideal, you too might have to deal with grief for the thin ideal. It can be worthwhile to discuss this grief together. But do not burden your partner with how much you will miss the possibility of them being thin.
Feeling the feelings you might have about letting go of thinness and weight loss, might just give you the opportunity to find out what is on the other side of those feelings. And it might surprise you.
It is not your partner’s job to help you work on this emotionally. It is important to remember that your relationship is just that – relational. It is not a transaction. Please don’t treat your relationship as if your partner owes you anything. They don’t owe you physically intimacy or sex if you have actually told them that you’re not attracted to them. This is something that needs to be repaired within your relationship. Seek your own therapist if you need to work on your feelings about all of this more.
7. Listen to podcasts about Health At Every Size® and Intuitive Eating
There are amazing podcasts out there that break a lot of these topics down and provide really helpful information for free and at your own pace.
8. Curate your social media. Follow body positive people!
One of the best things you can do for yourself is start following social media accounts of people in larger bodies. We are so inundated with images of thin people from the time we are born that what we find attractive is shaped through this lens. We rarely see fat people in roles where they are desired in TV and movies. We rarely see fat people in a positive light in ads, magazines, TV, etc.
Thankfully there are plenty of people that you can follow on social media these days, and eventually what you see as attractive will shift. This is one of things that a lot of people do when we get into body and fat positivity, and it actually does help shift our ideas of beauty. It certainly can’t hurt you to try it and see what happens!
Body Positive Artist List
Much Longer List by Jes Baker
9. Critique all media you consume
Start paying attention to how fat people are portrayed in the news, in stock photos, in TV, in movies, cartoons, magazines, ads, etc. Really be conscious of what you see. Is the fat person happy? Is the person’s head cut off to dehumanize them? Is the fat person a villain? Is the fat person ever the lead role? Does the fat person get to have a real storyline that doesn’t include them trying to lose weight or obsessing about their size or food? Are fat people even represented? How many jokes are made at the expense of someone’s size? Is the fat person cast as the frumpy, silly best friend side kick? Does a fat person ever get to be a hero?
Try to attend a screening of the movie, Fattitude.
10. Make a list of all the reasons you love your person
It is important to remind yourself what you love about the person you are with. Here is a letter Anna Jones wrote to her husband on her blog. It can be so easy to get into a groove and take for granted all that they are and/or do for us. So, pull out a piece of paper or your notes app on your phone, and make a list of as many things you can that you appreciate and love about your partner. And include reasons you are grateful for their body beyond looks, and beyond sex. Remind yourself of the amazing things that your partner can do and how resilient they have been. Maybe even do a list of all the reasons you appreciate your body beyond looks and sex. (If you can’t think of any, it might be helpful for you to find someone to talk about this.)
That was a long list. I didn’t want to skimp on any of the parts. By incorporating the items on this list into your life, you will be making an effort to understand, connect, and support your person in wonderful ways. This is incredibly important if you want to begin to answer the questions mentioned earlier in the blog. You cannot expect your ideas to change overnight, so taking the time to work through the items on the list is key to shifting your beliefs. Senarighi says, “getting curious and fostering connected autonomy helps couples move from places of stagnancy to a resilient deep connection.” With shifts in your beliefs, open-mindedness, curiosity, and building your connection, it is possible for you to love, appreciate, and be attracted to your partner’s body just the way it is.