In terms of personal health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines being overweight as “an adult who has a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 29.9” and they define being obese as “an adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher.” I’ve always considered weight gain to be a progression from normal to overweight to obese; however, according to the U.S. Library of Medicine, being obese is not the same as being overweight because some people can be considered overweight due to larger muscles, bigger bones, and excess water. But according to them, obesity simply means “having too much body fat” – plain and simple. Is that a nice way of telling us that once we reach a BMI of 30 or more we can no longer blame our excess weight on muscles, bones, or water? ~smile~
What causes obesity? The easy answer is to blame obesity on simply taking in more calories than are necessary, but that is too simplistic. A large portion of obese people do overeat, but some overeat only as much as their thin counterparts who never seem to gain weight. Then, there is drinking too much soda or alcohol, health issues that encourage weight gain or medications that cause weight gain.
In much the same way, relationships seem cut and dry from the outside looking in. When I was single and “knew everything,” I thought relationships would thrive and be healthy automatically if husbands and wives would simply talk kindly to each other and appreciate what each other brought to the table. This is a sweet idea, but it’s far too simplistic. Just as obesity isn’t always caused by overeating, relational difficulties are not always caused by raised voices and impatience.
Obesity is a sign that the body is not working at its full potential. Dr. Phil said in his book, The Ultimate Weight Solution, that people with too much body fat are undernourished. That was surprising to me because I didn’t know obesity and good nutrition were mutually exclusive. It seemed probable to me that we could get all the nutrition we needed and then add junk on top of it accounting for those extra pounds, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Adding liquid candy (soda) by the liter, unhealthy trans-saturated fats, and heaping servings of simple carbohydrates is not a healthy way to live, but many of us do it every day. We say we’ll start a new diet… on Monday. We blame our stressful lifestyles and think that one day we’ll get in shape… when we have more time. Some of us get to a point where we decide: this is just the way it’s going to be. The same is true in relationships.
After the honeymoon comes to a close and daily life resumes, we have a choice. We can invite junk into our marriage because it’s easier than burning the energy it would take to keep it out (e.g., entertainment that denigrates Christianity and marriage, pornography, poor eating habits, family and friend interference, unresolved conflicts, lack of prayer and Bible study), or we can take the necessary measures to keep our relationship nourished, fit, and healthy.
I know a lot of thin people, but all of them aren’t necessarily healthy. At the same time, I see a lot of “thin couples” (i.e., they seem to have it all together), but that doesn’t automatically mean their relationship is healthy. Place a thin couple beside an “overweight couple” (i.e., a couple who has some obvious drawbacks, such as occasional public arguments) and it’s easy to conclude that the thin couple is more likely than the overweight couple to be on their way to a long and happy marriage.
If their marriage is nourished and fit, then they probably are headed for a long, happy life together. But, if their marriage is secretly full of junk that never gets detoxified and resolved, then there is a good chance they will eventually feel sick and want to get off the ride. On the flip side, if the overweight couple is taking measures to improve their marriage, keeping a weekly date night, reading marriage books, and spending time together praying and studying Scripture, they are probably going to get healthier and be okay. Sure, their relationship may be overweight according to society, but what matters is the internal nutrition of their marriage.
So how do relationships become obese? Obese relationships come as a result of allowing junk to fill their marriage, enduring trying or tragic circumstances (e.g., sickness, loss of a child, financial struggles, etc.), or battling addictions, just to name a few. Obese marriages are those that are completely undernourished and others can see it. We can only hide our relational stress and pain for so long before the toxins we are ingesting spill out into our countenance, our body language, and our words.
There are disputes among the experts in the US as to how serious the obesity epidemic really is. Some would have us believe that fat people are dropping like flies all over the nation and others would have us believe that being overweight is not an extreme problem. Then there are some wise folks out there who stress good nutrition, regular exercise, and routine physical exams. One of my favorite food documentaries, Fat Head (a counter-documentary to Super Size Me), noted that several studies show overweight people who exercise regularly and are in shape tend to be more healthy than thin people who don’t exercise.
So, in regards to your future marriage, don’t freak out or beat yourself up if your relationship is a little “overweight” (i.e., not completely and altogether perfect as is defined by know-it-all onlookers), but take necessary measures to get in shape, stay in shape, and ward off the dangers of relational obesity. Obese relationships can put in the hard work to become healthy – I fully believe that; but those marriages who have been obese and worked to become healthy would tell you that it’s much easier to stay in shape all along than to get fat and have to backtrack.
Next time you hear about the obesity epidemic on the news, don’t only think about your physical health, but your relational health as well. With that being said, I’m about to head out to walk the dog as our physical health also contributes to our relational health (and an exercised dog doesn’t whine all night!). ~smile~
How would you rate the health of your relationship?