My husband is modeling man tights.
"Do they look good?" he asks, sauntering out of the fitting room, a mere shadow of his 357-pound self.
Although I see Eric every day, he's barely recognizable in the skintight leggings that wouldn't have fit over one of his thighs just six months ago. But now that he's down 72 pounds and counting, he needs new gym clothes, and who can deny him? As he checks himself out in the three-way mirror, I cross my arms over my stomach and wonder what possessed me to eat that entire bag of dark chocolate-drenched almonds last night.
Eric and I have never been on the same page when it comes to losing weight. In all the years we've been married (25 this September), we've both had our share of highs, lows and plateaus. But somehow we've failed to synchronize our slimdowns.
It took eight years after my daughter was born for me to lose the baby weight. After dropping four sizes on a weight-loss program in my early 40s, I became such a believer that I sought out a job at the company and edited its in-house magazine for five years! And while Eric was proud to point out my progress to others, he wasn't drinking the weight-loss Kool-Aid. Instead of appreciating my home-cooked, low-fat meals or agreeing to join me for my weekly meetings, he responded like a rebellious teenager, bringing home jumbo-sized bags of tortilla chips. He'd mix himself a gin martini and eat most of the bag before dozing off in his leather armchair while watching the news.
Mind you, Eric, who's an attorney, wasn't always inactive. In fact, he's the one who introduced me to road biking a decade ago, and loved nothing more than to get tricked out in Spandex and ride for 25 miles or more at a clip. But over the years as his "spare tire" increased, his desire to ride decreased proportionately until his clothes, and even his clip-in shoes, were unbearably tight.
My loss had driven a Wisconsin-sized wedge of cheese between us. Up to that point, Eric and I had made a sport of eating. We both came from food-centric families and living in the city had made it too easy for us to try a different ethnic cuisine every night, whether we dined out on old-school veal parmesan or had moo shoo delivered to our door. (He says he knew I was the one for him when, on our first date, I didn't balk when he took me to a seedy hole-in-the-wall Indian place on Sixth Street.) I realize now that, by making the decision to lose—with or without his support—I had become a judge in the Court of Food, banging my gavel down on his plate of steak frites. It's no wonder that for every pound I lost, he gained three.
While I'd like to take full credit for Eric's weight loss, I can't. It was his sister who suggested that he accompany me to the weeklong hiking boot camp in British Columbia that I was visiting on assignment for a magazine. I hadn't even thought to invite him because I really wasn't sure that, at an all-time high of 357, he could hack it. I mean, he got winded every morning when he leaned over to tie his shoes. How was he supposed to climb mountains? But after the retreat's spokesperson assured me that no hiker would be left behind, I decided to run the idea past him.
He said he'd consider it. I knew that was as close to a "yes" as I was going to get, so I booked his flights that night before he could change his mind. While waiting for the van to pick us up at the Spokane airport to make the four-plus hour drive to the retreat, Eric ordered a burger and fries, which he drowned in ketchup as I looked on in disgust.
The weeklong retreat was tough for me, a regular exerciser, so I could only imagine how it felt for him. We hiked a different mountain every day, me at the front of the pack and him bringing up the rear. As we passed fields of wildflowers and glaciers so still they looked fabricated, he sweated through his shirt and struggled up the inclines. As it turned out, the hikes were the easy part for Eric. Far more difficult were the early morning stretch sessions in the hardwood yoga studio with floor-to-ceiling views of the nearby lake and surrounding pines.
"This is supposed to be relaxing," I whispered.
For him, holding various positions on a foam roller was anything but relaxing. A few times when I wasn't looking, I heard thud as the roller slipped from beneath him. Still, just seeing my husband persist made me remember what made me say yes to a second date with him all those years ago.
Since returning home, we've made an effort to eat dinner and get to bed an hour earlier. Some days are better than others. The same can be said of my newly acquired nut habit. But it's nice to have someone watching my back, and I don't mind looking at his either—particularly in those new leggings!