I love both my fat sister and my fat-shaming husband, but my obstinate husband makes loving them both very difficult.
My sister is proud of being fat, she sees it as a sign that she is fully recovered from an eating disorder. I love her and am so proud of her. As teenagers we weren’t close, but since I’ve had a baby we’ve become really close (she is an amazing auntie!). When Covid allows I like to take my daughter to visit her and we have great girls’ days.
The trouble is that my very active, very “healthy” husband is fatphobic. He firmly believes that weight management is as simple as calories in, calories out, and will not listen to me when I explain the complexities. He also refuses to see how she has changed and mellowed over the years (she and I occasionally argued when we were younger). They are polite to each other, but there is no hope of anything more.
My husband and I don’t have a will and that is purely because we can’t agree on who should look after our daughter if we both die. I want my amazing, creative, sister to look after her, but he does not. There is no other family in our country who could look after her (and we wouldn’t want to disrupt her life by moving her across the world to live with family). I think he is worried that our daughter would become fat, but I think being loved is worth the “risk”.
How can I make him realize that being fat doesn’t mean you’re unhealthy and inactive anymore than being slim means you’re healthy and active? I really want them to have a wonderful relationship, or at the very least not to let his dislike of her color our daughter’s feelings for her aunt.
I’m not sure you grasp the real problem here. Yes, your husband is wrong about why people are fat and what being fat means about a person, but he is going beyond “obstinance” in this devotion to being wrong. He is so attached to being wrong about this that he is willing to be cruel to someone you love in order to defend his wrongness. However he came to believe that he’s a good, strong person for staying thin and your sister is a bad, weak one for being fat, this is all operating at a much deeper level than a difference of opinion. It’s entirely possible that seeing your sister become happier and calmer and more sure of herself as she’s abandoned the very “virtues” he clings to is only causing him to dig deeper and become more strident. The idea that she could be less healthy now than when she had an eating disorder is so noxious and absurd on its face that I’m not going to be able to provide One Weird Trick for making him realize anything.
Your husband sounds like a dick, and I think the best thing you can do for your sister is to keep him away from her. She surely knows what he thinks of her, and even if this were to somehow change nobody really likes knowing that someone had to be educated into being nice to them. Cordial is enough.
The bigger issue, Positive, is that you don’t just have a sister, you have a daughter. Your husband isn’t simply in danger of tainting your daughter’s relationship with her aunt but of tainting her relationship with her own body.
There are so many ways to fuck up a kid, and I’m certainly no expert on parenting, but I think one of the most pernicious ones is to instill in them a fear that there is a wrong kind of body to have. To grow up knowing that there will be expectations about the shape hers takes, and failure to meet that expectation will mean she’s failed her father. There’s nothing more unhealthy than knowing that your parent’s love for you is frail and anemic. Already he is denying her something good and necessary—the potential of care in your absence—because he is incapable of trusting someone whose body he dislikes.
If you are going to raise a child with this man you need to understand the full scope of what’s at stake here. Your husband is mean and miserly with his ability to love people and you need to make him face that and figure out why before your daughter goes on her first diet.
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