No offense guys, but I was just noticing some photos on Facebook recently of people in my life who are my age – in their 40s, married, kids in school, etc. In the case of many of my friends with families, the wife seems to be focused on staying fit (or at least it’s at the top of her mind even if she’s struggling with results). While the husband just looks more and more plump and thick every time I see him.
Where have all of the lean men gone?
We women always joke about how hot firefighters are – heck, we even make lunch with firefighters an auction item at elementary school fundraisers! You can’t blame us though. Let’s face it. Firefighters tend to be more lean. More active. More physical….. more HOT!
So, the photos on Facebook got me thinking about my life. Years ago, that heavy guy I see in so many photos, was my husband. TK was 70+ pounds overweight. He seemed very happy on the surface – a successful career, weekend BBQs, vacations, margaritas, golf. A couple pounds here, a couple pounds there and pretty soon it added up.
Now, the truth is, I didn’t even notice it. I think it came on so gradually it just wasn’t even a thought in my mind. I never loved him any less. I never lost my attraction to him. He has always been such an amazing man and friend, I completely blinded myself to the weight gain. While I was in it, I just didn’t see it.
Meanwhile, I was busy trying to keep myself looking good for him. Making sure I kept those extra ‘post-baby’ pounds off my butt and measuring my calories to ensure I didn’t start to plump up on him. But while I was busy focusing on myself – I missed out on what was happening to him.
Today, when I look back at photos of TK during that time, I feel terrible. He looked so uncomfortable – so bloated. Seeing him today and then seeing those pictures, I just kick myself for being so blind to it. I should have helped him. What was I doing? Why did I allow that to happen to him? Where was I when he needed me?
What I didn’t realize until recently was how unhappy he was during that time. Not with life, but with himself. Life was good. He had everything he thought he wanted – job, wife, kids, house, etc. But, he didn’t feel great. He didn’t like what he saw in the mirror. And, as much as I might have loved him, he really didn’t feel good about himself.
Men, of course, aren’t that great about expressing these feelings, so not only did I not see the extra weight he was carrying, I did not see the extra burden he was carrying in not being completely happy with himself.
So, instead of helping him out during that time, pouring extra love on him and helping him find his healthy self with my full support, I made things worse. Yes, I probably didn’t recognize his weight gain because I saw him every day and it just wasn’t that important to me. But, truthfully, it was also partly because I was just too damn busy. Between kids, volunteering at school, working full time, household duties, etc. the last thing on my mind was worrying about my husband’s extra pounds or noticing the pain he carried underneath that extra weight. Instead, we’d just pour another glass of wine or grill up some carne asada to reward ourselves for our busy lives. Not worrying about where our life was headed.
As I look back through our journey, I really wish I had been more awake during that time. If someone had stopped me and forced me to notice that TK was 70 pounds overweight. If someone would have slowed me down enough to notice how TK was feeling and what that weight was doing to his health, his energy, and his self esteem, I think I would have changed some things at our house. In fact, I know I would have.
I would have slowed down a bit. I would have put more attention on him. I would have made more of an effort to support him at home with the right foods, with quality time together discussing our health. I would have joined him in his efforts to get fit. I wouldn’t have let health or weight loss be about him, but about both of us as a couple. I would have found a way to make dinner enjoyable, fun, delicious and consistent. I would have found more playful ways to reward ourselves for a hard day’s work.
Eventually I did do all of this. But, I just wish I had done it a lot sooner because it made all of the difference. When I slowed it down and shifted my own priorities, that’s when the magic started happening for our entire family.
We as women really tend to squander our power and influence. We take such pride in our self-deprivation. I mean, really. When we are together, we are quick to proudly declare how we haven’t eaten anything all day because we’ve just been too busy. Or, how we will double up on our workout routine tomorrow to punish ourselves for the extra calories we are about to eat or drink.
So much of what we talk about together as women is wrapped around the sacrifices we make and how we deprive ourselves in the name of our family’s well being. We don’t have time to eat. We don’t have time to exercise. We don’t have time to breathe. And then, we beat up on ourselves because in our misery and exhaustion from self-deprivation, we caved and did something we have to then feel guilty about the next day. And so, the perpetual self-deprivation and punishment continues.
But, while we spin ourselves silly in this crazy cycle, the very people we love are suffering. One day, we wake up and the husband that we fell in love with so many years ago is put on high blood pressure medication. Or he’s diagnosed with diabetes. Or he has an affair because he’s unhappy with himself and is looking for ways to get that feeling of being wanted – that reinforcement that he’s still ‘got it going on’.
I know if I had spent more of my ‘personal sacrifices’ helping my husband and my family get healthy, instead of proving my self worth by how busy I was, it would have been time much better spent.
TK used to say that had he gone a different career path, he wanted to be a firefighter. It seemed kind of funny to me because I couldn’t really picture that being something he would want to do. But today, I have to say – I think we’ve uncovered the firefighter qualities in him….the guy who loves to work up a sweat doing something physical, the guy who enjoys cooking in the big kitchen for himself & his friends, the guy who can face an emergency or tough situation armed with the right gear & total self confidence, the guy who would proudly pose for a calendar photo, and the guy who would give his life to save someone else’s.
I only wish I had uncovered this person earlier.
Every year, TK and I feel better and better and so I guess that’s why I wanted to share this with you. If someone had sat me down and made me think about this – it would have changed a lot of things at our house and we would have started the clock sooner to this period of time in our lives. Today, we both feel so amazing. It has done so much for our relationship and for our entire family. We have so much energy. Our bodies feel so good. We feel good about ourselves. And we don’t have to cover up some part of our body that we don’t like to see.
And, feeling like this only makes life at home more fantasy-like. When everyone is healthy, happy and feeling his or her absolute best, it just makes every day more enjoyable and more fun. There is less irritability, less exhaustion, less bickering and a lot more laughing, closeness and joy.
So, go find your firefighter and bring him home. Because you don’t really ever make up for lost time. That’s not how it works. You only have right now. You can wait until the day you need to call the firefighters or you can start leading your family down another path. It all starts with you slowing down and taking time to let go of the busyness and the excuses we tell ourselves and start getting serious about checking in with each member of your family to see what kind of extra weight (literally or figuratively) they are carrying.
By putting your attention on what lies beneath the surface of that firefighter fantasy, you will discover the qualities you are really after and you just might uncover the hero in you.
What do you think? How do we slow ourselves down enough to recognize the true needs of our family? Leave a comment below. Would love your thoughts.