E is going on a diet. We keep trying to refer to it as “healthy living,” but really it’s a diet, because he thinks that he needs to lose weight. He went to the doctor, got a full physical work up, discussed his health and his options and his goals, and was prescribed the South Beach diet. We went through the cookbook, picked out some meals and went shopping, on Sunday, for many different kinds of meats and all the additional spices required, a whole sack of garlic and a whole bag of onions. We agreed that this whole healthy living thing is very expensive, when the cashier hit us in the face with the grand total.
This is a lifestyle change, and we have been cooking every night since, for a grand total of two nights. I am happy to not be eating fast food every night, even though fast food is fast, and easy, and doesn’t require me to run out of the room sobbing because the big pile of onions is trying to kill me. I am happy that he is trying to take care of his heart and live as long as possible, because I want to keep him for as long as possible. But he is grimly determined not just to improve his cholesterol and make healthy choices–he is on a diet. He is trying to lose weight, a lot of it. He thinks he needs to, and only weight loss will make him happy. I think he is perfect and gorgeous right now, and he does not agree.
Shouldn’t he agree with me? Isn’t my opinion important? Isn’t my opinion, in fact, the important opinion around which all other opinions wither away and die ashamed deaths because they are so much less important? He doesn’t believe me. Or rather, he believes that I believe that he is gorgeous and perfect; he believes that I believe that I love his body, that I find him completely sexy and want to jump him all the time. He believes that I believe he is hot and I like to touch him, but he thinks that probably I am mildly retarded, that I am totally blinded by love and excellent oral sex, that I am completely crazy, that it is adorable, the way I lie to myself.
He doesn’t want to diet. The idea of being on a food plan for the rest of his life, never eating what he wants to eat but what he’s supposed to eat makes him miserable. He is convinced that being on a diet means that he will never be happy, ever again. Then don’t diet, I tell him. You don’t need to diet, I say, continuing to beat my tiny little drum. I have to diet, he says. Well it won’t be miserable forever, right? Because you’ll get into an exercise habit, and then you’ll be able to indulge sometimes, and you don’t have to do it forever. And he says–yes. If I want to stay skinny, I will have to watch what I eat forever, and I hate the idea. I try to argue with him, I tell him to stop, that it isn’t so bad, to cheer up, jeez. And he says, “Honey, why did you get weight-loss surgery?”
“What do you mean?”
“Didn’t you get weight-loss surgery so you wouldn’t have to diet ever again?”
“Well, I have to watch my diet.”
“But you don’t have to be on a diet.”
“But that’s not why I got weight-loss surgery.”
“But that’s one of the reasons. You know it was. You don’t have to diet ever again. I am not going to get weight-loss surgery, so I have to be on a diet. And it sucks.
I’m quiet for a moment.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “It does suck. It sucks a lot. You’re right.”
Because I do remember that. It is easy to forget that feeling that everything I put into my mouth was my enemy, that anything I ate could be the possible undoing of all my work to try and lose weight, that feeling of panic that a diet wouldn’t work but had to be strictly, maniacally adhered to or else, that it was an endless cycle of rotten choices, any of which might be my eventual undoing. It was no wonder that diets never worked for me, because I spent the entire time I was on a diet miserable, anxious that I was doing or about to do or had done something wrong and I didn’t even know it. It is one of the great freedoms of this surgery, one of the great beneifts, the happinesses that I couldn’t have predicted but which has changed my life–food doesn’t fill me with fear any more.
As with most of the great benefits, I wish it could have come without the surgery. I wish I could have made peace with my body, my eating habits, with food, all on my own without any outside intervention, but it wasn’t working that way and it might never have.
Maybe E will eventually figure it out, and it will become less dieting and more that healthy lifestyle we keep talking about. Maybe he will find happiness in his body and in food and eating and maybe he will believe that he is gorgeous and perfect and sexy and that I have not hit my head on something or am a compulsive liar. I wish it hard for him, with crossed fingers and a lot of hope, because he is not allowed to get weight-loss surgery.