As much as I love my guy, I know that his obesity is a threat to our future happiness. It’s scary when your partner is ballooning.
His knees may give out and interfere with the physical activities we enjoy. I live to dance, hike, and cross country ski. I dream of climbing mountains into my 70s, with my mate at my side. Knee replacement is always a possibility, but research suggests that obesity often reduces the benefits from the surgery and is linked to more post-surgical problems.
Speaking of physical activities we enjoy, sexual intercourse could become problematic, too, though not because of his knees. We’ve all heard about atherosclerosis, artery walls clogged up with gunk. That can happen to blood vessels leading to the penis. Erectile dysfunction is an early warning sign of heart disease. Obesity is a prime cause.
Fat also appears to damage the endothelium, the inner lining of the blood vessels, and if they don’t work well, the penis may not get enough blood to produce or sustain an erection. Finally, belly fat in particular lowers testosterone levels.
It gets worse. What if develops a heart condition? What if he has a stroke? Those extra pounds increase his risk dramatically. They also raise his risk of cancer of the breast, colon and rectum, esophagus, kidney, and pancreas. His risk of dementia goes up 42 percent because he’s obese. Heavy people are more likely to become depressed.
When we met a year ago, he told me that his numbers were all good: no signs of diabetes, high blood pressure and so on. He was working hard to lose weight and prevent his knees from deteriorating further. We became fitness and health buddies. I was carrying around an extra 15 pounds myself. Within weeks, we were spending every free evening together and mostly cooking at my home. We make admirable meals with lots of vegetables, limited carbs, fish, and chicken more often than red meat, and fruit and dark chocolate for dessert.
If he wanted to hide, he picked the wrong woman. I’m relentless. I send him relevant articles I write for YourCareEverywhere — pieces on the dangers of artificial sweeteners and how many people regain how much after bariatric surgery. I read that rats lost weight when they could eat only within a 12-hour window, so we tried that. I read that lack of sleep is linked to obesity, and urge him to get more sleep (though many nights I’m the one who is talking at midnight).
When we’re together in the morning, we weigh ourselves and he’ll tell me if there’s news. I give him Greek yogurt and a portion of my own elaborate nut-mix — an ideal breakfast, according to the latest science. He bikes to work and I usually go some of the way. When we’re together in the evening, we often tell each other what we ate that day. We lift weights in my living room. As he was going off to a wedding for the weekend, I said, “No carbs,” and he said, “One piece of wedding cake.”
With all this attention on weight and fitness, I’ve lost about 7 pounds — enough to get my blood-sugar level in the healthy range — and I’m fitter. I would be thrilled if I lost more weight, but health is my main goal. He hasn’t decisively lost any weight in the last year. When I ask him why, he says he eats too much when he’s not with me.
Our lives are complicated. He’s got some dramas to get through — and they're imminent. I’m hoping that as his life changes, he’ll find the will to lose weight. If he doesn’t, my hope will dwindle. If his knees deteriorate and we can’t hike, I’ll be angry. I’ll feel betrayed. If he develops a heart problem, I’ll be crushed. He may need a health crisis to mobilize him. But it’s possible an event that I consider a crisis won’t strike him that way, or he might give up and let the fat accumulate.
Any partner could become sick at any moment and require care. Still, we all want our loved ones to do their best to stay healthy so we don’t have to be caregivers. We want to feel they appreciate our love, respect themselves, and can set goals and carry through.
Some people in circumstances like mine say they’re so in love they don’t see any fat; others that they’re too disappointed to stay together. I keep choosing love. I keep feeling love. You tell me if you think that’s bad judgment.
Write me with your questions about how any health issue or disability is affecting your relationships at email@example.com.