Fit as Fiddles, available at: ForYourMarriage.org


Happily Even After

Fit as Fiddles


July 6, 2010

We both have become acutely aware in the past few years that we do not have the bodies we had when we were first married.

My metabolism is slowing down and we have a lifestyle that goes with having a family—I can’t just up and go out for a kayaking trip or a day-long hike up Mt. Hood.  Additionally we have an office job that includes a lot of sitting.  It has all added up to 20-30 extra pounds.

It is not like we’ve been bumps on a log, though. I play more than an hour of basketball in a regular pickup game at the parish and I box with friends when I can. Stacey jogs regularly and enjoys yoga in addition to basketball.

All in all, though, we’ve just not been losing the weight we know we should.

We’ve been watching The Biggest Loser on TV and so for Christmas, I gave Stacey the Wii fitness game that is based on the show.

I know that in general, it is pretty dangerous territory for a husband to directly or inadvertently refer to anything sounding like a comment about his wife’s weight, but we’ve always been open about what we’re noticing about our bodies.

One of the things I love most about marriage is its physicality. When all is said and done, the marital experience is fundamentally physical. Not just with sex, but also with sleeping and eating habits, sharing bathroom space while I shave and she dries her hair, washing kids before bedtime… Our bodies are essential ways we experience relationship with each other in marriage and family life.

We’ve been at this new fitness kick for about four months now. I’m down 20 lbs and Stacey is losing weight at about the same pace, so that is gratifying. We’re both losing a pound or two a week, which is good.

We’re starting to have fun with our younger bodies. It feels good to fit into clothes with room to spare, and we have more energy. I think I have literally added six inches to my basketball game. Not that I could ever jump, but it has been fun to make it up and down the floor without losing wind and to have an extra spring in my step for rebounds and defense.

The biggest help from the Wii game has been a calorie diary. Once a day, I enter the amount of calories I consumed. I’ve never counted calories before, but it has certainly helped me think twice about what I put in my mouth throughout the day. It has trained me to have good eating habits.

Another help has come in the form of exercise routines that I can do in our living room in the evening. So when Stacey is on campus for a student meeting, and the kids are in bed, I can get a good 30-60 minute workout in before settling in for the night.

We’ve even been able to do those workouts together, which is also fun, at least when we’re not cursing the cyber trainers.

It has been a big help that we are on the same page together—we are both committed to seeing progress towards our goals. When we sketch out our days together, we both figure in when we each will be able to fit in a workout. Sometimes it means just one of us getting kids out the door in the morning, or going through the bath and bedtime routine solo, but this is not a long-term state of affairs.

We’ve been encouraging one another and helping one another make good choices. It is a long haul, but we’re being consistent and it seems to be paying off so far.

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Anger and Sadness Turned Inside Out

Anger and Sadness Turned Inside Out

One of our favorite summer family activities—or anytime activities, really—is going to the movies. Because they have such consistently good storytelling, we rarely miss a new Pixar movie—they never fail to give both parents and kids something to think and smile about.

So, we went to see Inside Out as a family during its opening weekend, and were not disappointed. It is an interesting story (if a bit far-fetched) and led to some interesting conversation in the car ride home. It won’t spoil things to share some of the fruit of our discussion.

The idea behind the film is to personify the emotions inside our brains. Everyone has five core emotions: joy, anger, sadness, fear, and disgust. In the movie, these emotions look like fuzzy muppets pushing buttons on a control panel inside our brains, which drives our behavior.

It is never explicitly pointed out in the film, but our family noticed that for every human character, one emotion is in charge. All emotions have their say, and their own moments to shine, but it is clear that in every brain there is one emotion that calls the shots and has authority.

The main human protagonist is an 11-year-old girl named Riley, and Joy is her defining emotion. Riley plays hockey and loves to be goofy and has a loving family. The story revolves around the family moving from Minnesota to San Francisco, which threatens Riley’s joie-de-vivre.

I was surprised to see the emotions the writers placed in charge of the mother and the father in the film. The mother was driven by Sadness, and the father by Anger. Their interplay is captured in a brilliant scene that is used in the film’s trailer—very insightful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRUAzGQ3nSY

The more I thought about it, the more I realized how nuanced the writers had been—these emotions do make sense in my experience of parenting. For a mother to be driven by Sadness does not mean that she is depressed or always mopey. It means that her first, instinctive response to situations comes from compassion. That word, compassion, literally means “suffering with,” and Sadness is the emotion that capacitates us for suffering with others. I’ve seen Stacey shine in responding to our kids by first stepping into their shoes to feel with them whatever pain they might be experiencing. I’m not incapable of compassion—it is just that I’ve seen it more consistently and instinctively from Stacey.

Likewise, for a father to be driven by Anger does not mean that he is abusive or violent. It means that his first, instinctive response to situations comes from action. Whenever Anger is involved in the film, things happen—Anger catalyzes action. Again, I’m not saying that Stacey is not a capable person—there is not much that could be farther from the truth. It is just that I’ve noticed that my first, gut-level response to a situation often comes from a motivation to do something about it.

Healthy adult living requires a balance in emotions—as in all things. I don’t think it is a disadvantage or denigration to see myself in the Anger-driven father. That same emotion helps me respond quickly to threats to the safety and well-being of the family—from attacking the poison ivy springing up in the back corner of the yard to advocating for our children at school.

I am grateful, however, to have a partner who has a different emotion in charge. While our differences sometimes produce friction, they also enrich our family. One of the graces of the Sacrament of Marriage is the harmony produced by complementary gifts—it is one of the ways we have found God providing for our family.


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