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Lose Weight, Or Else...

QUESTION: My husband and I are having problems. I am 35 and have three kids. I am on estrogen, taking blood pressure medication and am 35 pounds overweight. I work out five days a week, 30 to 40 minutes at a time. I now do two workouts each day. I watch what I eat, but nothing seems to be working. My husband said he will leave me if I don't lose the extra weight. Any ideas?

ANSWER: You are right that your husband and you are having problems; however, I do not believe that losing weight is the answer to your marital woes! Love and marital commitment must be based on more than appearances. You are overlooking your own feelings in this situation. Perhaps the anger you should be experiencing about your husband's threat is submerged in feelings of low self-esteem and worthlessness. If so, you would be better off seeking individual counseling than exercising more! Losing weight for your own reasons, such as health or personal attractiveness, may be justifiable. But working out twice per day to keep your husband from divorcing you will likely lead to greater resentment than you already are experiencing. Is it possible that you are using food to avoid facing your feelings? The prospect of losing weight under this kind of pressure must be depressing by itself. After all, if he stays with you because you lose weight this year, what stops him from leaving you the next year when a few more wrinkles appear? Pleasing others is not the answer to your present problem. Develop your own realistic goals about your physical appearance, taking stock of your unique health issues. But do not stop there: Consider how you want to love and be loved in your marriage. Your husband's extreme focus on your appearance devalues the meaning of a shared life experience. It is damaging to your relationship and, most likely, the affection you feel toward him. You are 35 years old. You have borne and mothered three children. Though you may lose weight, you will not regain your youth. Perhaps your spouse is looking for a "quick fix" for his own mid-life crisis. Take a deeper look at why losing weight is so important for your husband. Is it possible that certain marital dynamics have eroded your intimacy? Your husband may not be expressing what is truly bothering him in your relationship. Consider a consult with a marital therapist to discover what is really going on here. It may not be too late to get your marriage back on track, as long as you can identify and correct the right problem!

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Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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