My husband fat shames me in front of everyone

What you need to know:

  • He keeps calling me fat and casually calls me names such as pig and elephant. He makes fun of my body even in the presence of our friends and extended family. If I confront him, he says he is trying to encourage me to immediately shed the excess fat. 

My husband and I have been married for three years and last year, we became parents to a beautiful baby boy. Since then, I have gained a bit of weight and because of this, my husband has turned into a bully. He keeps calling me fat and casually calls me names such as pig and elephant. He makes fun of my body even in the presence of our friends and extended family. If I confront him, he says he is trying to encourage me to immediately shed the excess fat. This is taking a toll on my confidence and self-image and I have started to hate myself. Do I deserve this kind of treatment?  Anonymous                                             

Dear Anonymous,

Fat shaming can be humiliating, especially if it comes from your husband or someone you love and trust. Unfortunately, it is common in long term relationships such as marriage, especially if the baseline attraction finds its root in a person’s physical appearance. It is true that partners do play a key role in supporting their partners to eat right, help them to become consistent in exercise, and stay away from unhealthy foods. It is also important to know that weight loss is a process and needs one to be focused on the right mind and attitude in order to get the results.

Obesity cannot be cured by shaming but instead with support that involves working as a team to keep fit and healthy. In this case, I would like to encourage you not to just ignore your husband’s name-calling. Instead, find a time when both of you are in your light moments with no arguments and let him know how you feel about his comments. It is good to keep up with that which your partner appreciated about your looks.

Remember childbearing affects people differently. For some, it makes them thinner, and others gain weight due to breast feeding and, of course, general body change. The good news is that this is not permanent. The body is capable of returning to shape after healing well from the effects of childbirth with the right advice from a medical person and a good support system.

Again, self-esteem should come from within. You need to come to a place where you learn your strength and weaknesses and then capitalise on your strength so that you develop self-esteem.

Sometimes, the comments may carry some truth but context and delivery destroy it .  For now, find a calm moment within you and plan on how to lose this weight without being under pressure but to become healthier, find a support group of people who may be like you and would like to lose their weight too. Remember, as love grows older, partners may choose to pick on each other’s weakest points as a way of winning an argument.

It is, therefore, important to keep communication between you and your partner open and iron out issues that cause resentment in your relationship in an amicable way. Sometimes, body shaming is due to deep-seated resentment that erodes marriages as years go by and grudges accumulate.

Evelyn Khorono Lufafa is a counselling psychologist with Sermotherapy Counselling Foundation

Reader advice

You deserve respect

Jane Musoke. Marriage is an institution that is based on love, kindness, respect and communication. It is a strong relationship but also a delicate one. Once there is a crack in this relationship, it is difficult to make amends. No doubt, you may have put on weight after pregnancy. Your husband should understand that pregnancy is a delicate time in a woman’s life. You have undergone a lot of physical and emotional changes to bring a child safely into this world. He must care and respect you for the same. It is absolutely normal for women to gain weight on this journey and he should not use this as a way to ridicule you.

Talk to your husband

David Murithi. We can maybe give your husband the benefit of the doubt; maybe his behaviour is motivated by concern for your health, or fear of being left alone after you die prematurely from weight-related causes. Maybe he does not have the verbal and relationship skills to communicate those concerns in a more positive way. Talk to him and tell him what you may want him to do instead.

Weigh your options

Joan Mukisa. Body shaming does not come from concern. It comes from someone who thinks badly of you. It is a form of emotional abuse. Been there, done that, and let me tell you it only gets worse. You will never be able to have a body that will make him happy. I lost weight and it still was not good enough. When the emotional abuse is not enough, he will most likely turn to physical abuse. You will be so beaten down, you will believe you deserve it. Weigh your options and think about whether this is the person you want to live with forever.

Lose the weight

Judith Nakku. It might be his way of trying to get you to lose weight. I know it is not right, but losing the weight could also give you more in the relationship. If you lose weight, you will feel better and if he continues to be emotionally abusive, then leave him.

He should offer support

Justus Mwaura. If he really wants to help you, he will exercise with you. He will help and encourage you to eat healthier. He is supposed to be a teammate and help and encourage not fat shaming. He needs to say I care about you and love you.

At least he is truthful

Maureen Molly. Thank God your husband has spoken his truth. Do you want him to look for a slim lady then you start crying that he has cheated on you? Instead of getting angry and hurt, instead work on yourself and lose the weight. Watch what you eat and also exercise.

Take it as good criticism

Shalot Shaz Kirungi. I gave birth four months ago and yes, l gained some weight which is okay but my belly did not remain the same. My husband started complaining and this forced me to start working out and eating healthy. Sometimes criticism makes us do the right thing.