I’m a middle-aged man, not hugely unfit but with a classic ‘dadbod’, and a small health scare at Easter has prompted me to try to get into better shape.
I can’t seem to make the time to visit the gym often enough to justify a membership but I have downloaded a running app and I’m doing some yoga stretches in the morning; I’m also trying to eat more healthily and drink less.
My problem is that my family (a wife and two teenage daughters) won’t take it seriously. They make ‘hilarious’ remarks about every little thing – my clothes, my smaller potato portions, my dishevelled state when coming back from runs.
Even my weight, which was never mentioned before, has become the subject of constant humorous asides. It’s really undermining me (especially at this point where I’m definitely feeling some benefits but there’s not been much visible progress).
I suppose I was always trying to be one of those easygoing guys who didn’t seem that bothered by things.
But this has brought me to a place where I’m not really happy, and I’d really appreciate some support in trying to change that, rather than receiving what I am finding it hard not to describe as cruelty.
I want to talk to them about this – but what should I say? And how can I head off this feeling that they’re not the people I thought they were, the people I’ve always nurtured and loved?
— Anon, Bristol
Of course they’re still the people you’ve always nurtured and loved. What we have here is nothing more or less than a good old-fashioned temporary breakdown in communication.
I think we’re looking at a simple mismatch of messages; a crossing of wires. Your wife and daughters misread you when they think you’re up for a bit of teasing about diet and exercise.
It actually shows how relaxed they are in their relationship with you – and that’s based, as you say, on your long-standing projection of yourself as an easygoing kind of guy.
You’ve probably done rather too good a job of concealing your anxieties about your weight, fitness, and that health scare at Easter. So confide in them.
Tell them that, in this case, you’re actually not as relaxed and confident as you may appear, and that you actively need their support and encouragement, not this unintentionally undermining mockery.
I’d be astonished if they don’t respond apologetically and sympathetically. In fact I think they’ll be touched by your candour and the lowering of your usual defences. Sometimes, Anon, all we have to do when we need help is to ask for it.
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