Dear Alison: 'I'm overweight and cranky and my husband is not helping by buying me rubbish'
Our resident therapist answers your queries about sex and relationships
Q I have become very overweight recently and my husband is not helping matters. I have a young baby and a toddler and work full-time. I get very little sleep and I eat in the evenings to reward myself. I know this time will pass and I will get back to normal when I am getting more sleep etc. However, I would like to cut down in the meantime. The problem is that my husband buys me rubbish every day on his way home from work. I have asked him not to, but I think he wants me to be happy so he just keeps doing it. I know I should resist, but I am so tired and frustrated that I don't. Can you help?
Alison replies: There are always reasons why we do things we wish we didn't, if this wasn't the case everyone would be healthy and fit. Also, the dieting industry loves to see everyone coming back for more. MarketWatch forecast the weight loss and the obesity management market to be worth €253 billion by 2024.
Of course you are tired, probably frustrated and feel always behind; welcome to motherhood!
However, wishful thinking won't work, so I can help you by encouraging you, by saying, 'I hear what you are saying'. Sleepless nights are heinous, trust me, I understand. Having a baby and a toddler and a full-time job is like you are triple jobbing, except the mother shift only knows overtime and you never clock out.
Here's the practical truth: you will feel better mentally, emotionally and physically by exercising, or more specifically, after you have done the exercise. You will feel so glad when you are in the shower, hopefully on your own, that you went, because you know how hard it was to go. It's self-care for mothers 101.
Nothing will seem less appealing than peeling yourself off the couch after a long day to try and muster some energy to exercise. There is never going to be a good time, you are never going to want to go and do the exercise, so you have to push through your brain's natural desire to stay warm and comfortable.
Your husband is doing most probably what you are telling him. You may be telling him how tired you are and how the only nice thing you have in your day is when you get to sit down in the evening.
Don't blame him, he is not forcing you to eat it. This is not about him, it is about you. You need to take responsibility to mind you, to create some space for you to be a human being not just a human doing. Say it to him one more time, sit down and say you are not happy with how you feel at the minute.
Explain how your life feels like Groundhog day, and that you need and want it to change. Ask him not to bring home any more rubbish.
You could 'save' up the rewards and use them in one, suggesting he bring home a nice bunch of flowers, or gives you a lie-in pass at the weekend. Let's change the rubbish to real rewards that actually make you feel good.
Write down what a non-food treat is for you. This list is the beginning of minding yourself. I get frustrated when self-care is given as the 'be all and end all' and often in an unrealistic vacuum where time and normal life aren't factored in. Mothers need to override putting everyone else first. This will be a struggle. I hear your story every day. I also hear that when the time is given to mothers they feel guilty for taking it.
I hope this sentence is a game-changer: your house will never be clean enough, there will always be more washing, sorting, organising, picking up, re-organising, and there will never be a good time to do what you need to do. The 'to-do' list is killing and sucking the joy out of life. Time to put it back in.
Put 'you' on the list. Put 'you' on the calendar. Pick exercise that works for you. For some, they can meet their internal expectations by heading off on a run by themselves and that works for them. For others, this won't work, your personal motivation will be clarified by noting if you meet others' needs first. Gretchen Rubin describes this person as being an 'obliger'. 'Obligers' will meet 'external expectations' which means you have paid and booked into the class.
So exercise picked, chose the time of day that works for you now and going forward. This is not about losing weight now, it is about making this part of how you live your life.
Choose a healthy eating plan. For all the convoluted plans out there, here's my food philosophy. Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full. Eat three proper meals and three snacks.
Finishing on rewards, this is as important as the healthy eating and exercise plan. Go on a date with your husband, sex counts as exercise!
Go to bed earlier, even when you are craving that time on your own, to cancel some sleep debt. Go out and meet friends, find your mom tribe - they 'get' where you are at. Support you, as you do your family.
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Health & Living