Diary of a Marriage: This Is How I Need You to Motive Me

Will run for shoes.

Diary of a Marriage: Figuring Out How to Motivate—Without Meddling


My husband is the embodiment of motivation. He’s pretty much a walking cheerleader, healthy and fit and smiling (smiling!) as he drives to the gym. When he says the word ‘cardio,’ it rolls breezily from his lips, sounding like it’s something fun: “Why don’t we get up this morning and do some caaardio?!” When I say ‘cardio,’ it sounds dirty and angry, like a curse word, and I spit it out: “I’d rather pry my eyeballs out of my sockets with a fork than do cardio.” You know, for example.

My husband springs out of bed on Saturday mornings (well, I imagine he does; I’m never actually awake to see him get up) and goes to play tennis. Like, at 9 am. Who does that? Who wakes up—on purpose—to work out? On a weekend? It’s insanity. It’s something my dad used to do when I was growing up, every single Saturday morning, and I thought he was crazy, too. I cannot believe there are two people in this world who will wake up, not at gunpoint, to slog back and forth, back and forth, on a tennis court when there is still dew on the grass. And I cannot believe I am related to both of them.

Me, I am in a dieting period. Picasso had his Blue Period, his Rose Period, his African Period. I have my dieting period, and my non-dieting period. I’m now firmly ensconced in the former, and I’ve yet again drawn J. into the fold. You see, unlike him, I need a little help in the motivation department.

I’ve been more or less on some sort of a diet since I was fourteen. One therapist blamed my food issues on the fact that my mother used to draw pictures of skull-and-crossbones on Tupperware containers she crammed with her baking and stuffed in the freezer for when we had company. Her tissue-thin sugar cookies, each one painstakingly shaped into seasonally appropriate shapes, took whole afternoons to make, and my mom didn’t want us plowing through them all in a sitting. Of course, therapists love to over-analyze stuff like this, and so I hated my mother for the skull-and-crossbones for about 10 years. My mother said my therapist was an idiot.

But though the skulls-and-crossbones stopped eventually, my quest to lose weight never did, and now I’m 30 years old and have officially been on some sort of diet for more than half of my life. I am such a cliché.

J. swore off becoming involved in my diets after the time we nearly came to blows over a carton of Breyers. I’d do my thing, he said, and he’d watch from the sidelines. He wouldn’t comment if I polished off a box of Triscuits in a sitting, or raise his eyebrows when I missed a workout. He’d be impartial. But the thing is, I realized that it helps to have someone watching your back and holding you accountable. So this time, I devised a plan, something akin to those stupid motivational posters with monkeys and things on them. I’d set a goal weight each month. At the end of each month, I’d weigh in. Like Weight Watchers, without all the meetings where I imagine people weep on each other’s shoulders and chant things.

“If I make my goal weight,” I explained to J. “I reward myself with something, like, maybe workout gear—a couple of pretty new sports bras or a new pair of running shorts or something.”

Unbelievably, J. went for it—he agreed to lift my (albeit very necessary) shopping ban—if only for a few days—if I make my weight. Now, my weigh-ins are fraught with the same sort of stress I imagine wrestlers feel when they weigh in before a match to determine their weight class, peeing beforehand to help them lose another ounce or two. I mean, we’ve got shoes hanging in the balance here. I find myself wondering if I should start wearing a plastic garbage bag on my runs so I sweat more.

When I hit my goal weight in January, and then again in February (don’t ask me how, I really don’t know), I rewarded myself just like we’d discussed—with a pair of YSL wedges and an impractical, electric lime-green silk maxi skirt. So, yeah, not exactly a Champion sports bra, but the first two months of any diet are the hardest, and so I might have gotten a little bit overexcited. (Next month, I promised him, I’d keep my weight-loss reward limited to what’s available in the clearance section of Dick’s Sporting Goods.) The point is, it worked.

“You’re manifesting,” says my friend Bridget. She explains that I’m creating a vision of what I want (I don’t know if she means shoes or a smaller pants size, but I don’t ask her) and I’m making it happen. J. tells me I look great. He does the lift-up test, wherein he actually picks me up, gives me a little shake, and then sets me back down. The result is always the same:

“Oh, yeah, babe. Definitely lighter. I can feel it.” Even though I know he can’t really tell, it makes me smile.

I guess sometimes it’s about finding the little motivations that work for you. Having J. super-involved in my diet plans made me angry, defensive, embarrassed. But knowing that if I shed four more pounds by the end of the month, I can get a little something (whether that be a new sports bra or an impractical pair of shoes) works for me. Our plan won’t work forever (it’s not entirely smart to have our bank account mimic my weight loss), but it works for now, and that’s enough for us. And after we put this shopping-as-motivation to bed, we’ll think of something else, I’m sure. Who knows? Maybe some day, I’ll even wake up early to play tennis with him.*

*No. This will never happen.

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