Thursday, January 7, 2010

Does This Relationship Make My Butt Look Big?

The New York Times cited an article, published in the January issue of The American Journal of Preventative Medicine, that linked gradual weight gain in women with being in a relationship.  Researchers discovered that over a span of 10 years women with a partner and a baby gained about 20 pounds, whereas women with a partner gained 15 pounds.  Findings also suggest that this shift is due to "social and behavioral issues" rather than physiological issues, though they also admit that having a baby can also affect a woman's metabolic system. 

So, should we blame our partners for having to break out our fat jeans? 

I've gotta admit, there is something about being in a relationship that makes me want to break off pieces of that bar of Italian dark chocolate that's sitting in the fridge and cram it into my mouth. A committed relationship, whether gay or straight, is a warm cocoon of familiarity and safety, whether or not there's a baby.  The feeling is akin to being nurtured by a mother figure, the relationship being the mother.  Ideally, it keeps you all warm and snuggly in that nest o' love you build with your partner.  Ideally, it also accepts you just as you are, even as you're helping yourself to a second round of chicken cacciatore at the table.

Breaking bread--and pasta and dessert--with your partner or your family is a manifestation of that security and comfort one feels.   I mean, think about what women are like on a date.  More than likely, (if you're not me), you don't eat like a line backer on your first couple of dates.  There's a kind of mystique many seem to want to portray to their prospective lovers.  Maybe eating like a lumber jack just isn't attractive when your courting.  Maybe it would be like hanging out with a buddy, and who wants to roll in the hay with a buddy? (OK, don't answer that.) Then again, maybe it's just because we're nervous, and can't eat.

However, once that ice has broken, and the relationship has been established, something else happens.  We don't have to "behave" anymore.  We've got that person hooked.  Sharing curly fries with one's partner is sharing your love with him or her.  And if you have lots of love to give, then maybe that regular order of curly fries becomes a large order with two chili burgers. (Mmm...chili burgers.) Besides, eating is primoridally sexacious, an utterly sensual experience that could make for a very nice prelude to a post-prandial, horizontal workout.

The danger, of course, is complacency.  The truth is that people tend to slack off and begin taking their partners for granted after a while, which is not a good thing for keeping the passion in the relationship.  In the beginning, the prospective partner isn't yet there to take for granted. One is still in the process of wooing--isn't that just the coolest word?--the other, ergo, one tends to be on one's best behavior, to present one's best side, unless you're like me and decide to warn your prospective love muffin from the beginning that you tend to go a little homicidal once a month because of those wonderful female hormones.  The exception, of course, is when you start out as friends, or just don't give a damn, in which case that other person already knows or will know, damn it, that you like to eat Ben and Jerry's Chubby Hubby ice cream straight out of the tub in the middle of the night.

In my case, I've never had qualms about showing my partners how much I eat, or how often I eat.  Filipino blood dooms me to frequent meals, and large quantities of food, both of which are thankfully tempered by years growing up in California; hence, frequent meals become snacking every two hours on fruit or nuts (and don't be anywhere near me if I'm feeling hunger pangs because it will get ugly), and the large quantity of food consists mainly of vegetables and whole grains.  My downfall is pasta, which, if you live with an Italian in Argentina, is hard to avoid. 

But pasta is comfort food, and growing up in a Filipino household, spaghetti with tomato sauce was mysterious and exotic to me.  So, imagine free access to something mysterious and exotic, and you have a pasta whore.  It's like going to a secular, mixed-gender university after spending elementary school and high school in all-girls, Catholic schools.  You tend to go a little crazy.  And when my partner enjoys his pasta, and I enjoy my pasta with him, well, geez louise, it's just so much fun.  He also enjoys watching me have dessert, too, and, though he'll only have 2 forkfuls of a cake I'm eating--he's way more anal when it comes to sweets because of a history of diabetes in his family--, he gets his kicks from seeing me scarf that sucker down.  Eating together is a celebratory experience. 

The strange thing is, contrary to the journal article's conclusions, I have lost weight in this relationship.  One of the reasons is that my partner likes me at the the 52-55 kilo range.  He gets downright horny.  But before you think I do a weigh-in every morning,   After living in hyper-self-conscious-bordering-on-neurotic Buenos Aires, one can't help but feel overt or covert pressure to look a certain way, which is tall and skinny. To combat this, I realized that it would be to guage my weight by how I feel about myself, and how I look in my clothes, rather than what any person, culture, or clothing tag says.  As a result, I've become conscious about what weight feels comfortable to me, and, luckily, it hovers around the same range.  Anything less than 52 (quite low for me), and I look "peaked", a comment I got from someone when I lost poundage because I was going through some emotional drama. Anything more than 55, and I feel like a sausage in my clothes, and my face becomes a giant moon pie.  Besides, when stay within that range, I don't have to buy a whole new freaking wardrobe.

Most importantly, I feel good and healthy physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I feel sexy when I take care of myself for myself, which makes my partner feel sexy, and makes him want to continue to take care of himself.  In the end, whether or not Argentine or North American society thinks I'm fat or average or skinny, or whether or not I have a partner, or whether I fit or don't fit into my "skinny" jeans, what matters is remembering to care for myself, and how I feel doing so.

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