"You have a huge pot belly," my husband blurted out.
It was one of our worst fights ever. I don't even remember what it was about, because during that time in our marriage — I'm not going to lie — we fought a lot and we fought hard, and we fought about a lot of stupid things because we were each in our own, separate dark places.
I'd been suffering from a long bout of anxiety and depression. I was on meds that weren't working as well as I'd hoped, and I was self-medicating with carbs and laziness to the point where I'd gained 20 more pounds on top of the ten I'd already needed to lose in the first place.
I'm tall, but I have a small frame, so I wasn't carrying the extra weight well, and being overweight and out of shape added to my misery and self-loathing. I knew I looked terrible, but I felt worse.
"You have a huge pot belly," my husband blurted out. I think he said some other things, too, about how I ate poorly, how I lacked the will to get off the couch and exercise, and how unattractive that was. I don't even remember because all I could focus on was that one comment, and it completely gutted me. I collapsed on the floor and wept, not just because he said it, but because it was true.
I wasn't the woman, mentally or physically, that my husband had married. I had, as they say, "let myself go" without even meaning to, even though I'd always sworn I'd never let that happen. I understand absolutely why my husband was disappointed in me, and in a way it was a little bit like I'd broken my wedding vows. I was even more disappointed in myself.
Of course, that didn't excuse my husband for being a total jerk and saying something like that. I was furious that he would speak to me like that. His words were unacceptable, but they weren't unforgivable.
I got mad that day. Really, really mad. But I didn't call him out for being mean. I cried, and then I got up off the floor and used all of the rage, hurt and sadness that I felt about what he'd said as motivation.
"You have a huge pot belly" became the mantra of my challenge as I vowed to get revenge by showing my husband up. It wasn't just revenge, though fury is a potent motivator, so whatever works, you know? At least at first.
I also decided that I needed to lose weight because I wanted our daughter to have parents who were role models for self-care and compassion toward ourselves and one another. I thought it would be good to show her that marriage is work and that I was willing to do that work even when it meant giving up my beloved nachos and midnight bowls of cereal.
Success really is the best revenge. Except, when you're truly successful, you actually stop thinking about getting back at someone. You start to excel purely for your own satisfaction. That's what happened to me.
Anger was what I needed in the beginning to get moving. Being ticked off made me just say no to cake, but pretty soon my ire wore off. My husband's abundant apologies and "I'm sorry" cards helped, but as the pounds melted off, I realized I actually preferred healthy meals and that I liked the feeling of getting fit.
I had an accomplishment of which I could be proud and soon that became my main motivation. It's more fun to be positive than pissed, anyway.
Almost a year after that terrible day, I had lost the twenty pounds and I had gained a ton of confidence. I looked so much better. In fact, I looked better than I did on my wedding day. Ten years later, I even tried my wedding dress on and delighted in the fact that it was loose.
The main reason that I looked better, though, was because I felt better, and I felt better because I was taking care of myself, moving and eating the right foods to heal my body, which I hadn't been doing before. When I neglected myself, I also, inadvertently, neglected my family and my marriage.
Feeling good helped me be an active and engaged member of my family again. It made me a more suitable, and definitely more pleasant, partner. The weight loss was just a side effect of embracing a healthier lifestyle. That, ultimately, wasn't what it ended up being about.
This journey, I learned quickly, wasn't superficial. It wasn't about turning myself into some cookie-cutter version of an arbitrary beauty standard to appease the male gaze so I could be a trophy wife. I can promise you, I don't play that. Ever.
It's been a year and half now and I'm in great shape. So is my marriage. But although I lost weight in a sense for my husband, things didn't improve just because I had dropped a few dress sizes.
Being skinny in and of itself wasn't the solution. It was learning to prioritize my own health and well-being with the realization that doing that, regardless of my measurements, was what would make me a more ideal partner, because I would be happier, active, optimistic, fun, and confident.
Dedicating myself to a healthy lifestyle is one of the biggest ways I do my part and share responsibility for my marriage, and it works.