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Her yo-yo dieting tore me apart

Updated on July 2, 2016
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Mood swings, yoyo diet, marriage

Mark Golding, 45, an IT consultant from New York, says: "Since I've been married, I've been to bed with lots of different women. Fat, thin and everything in between. At least, that's what it feels like.

My wife, Sarah, has been a yo-yo dieter for nearly 20 years. She's gone from a trim size 10 to a morbidly obese size 26, fitting all the dress sizes in-between along the way.

One day I'd be having dinner with a slim, gorgeous lady. A few months later, I'd be at the cinema with a woman whose rippling curves could barely squeeze into the next seat.

And it's not just Sarah's appearance that changes as she yo-yos. Her personality does, too. When she's slim, she's confident and happy; when she's fat, she's depressed and angry. And it feels like there's nothing I can do to help.

Sarah's always the woman I fell in love with, no matter what shape she is. But her dieting has dominated our relationship.

We met in a nightclub in 1986. Sarah was a size 10 back then. We began dating and lost hours in restaurants - I loved that she enjoyed her food.

We married in August 1988 and settled into a comfortable routine, treating ourselves to takeaways and romantic meals out. I was lucky - at 5ft 10in with a 32in waist, I could eat what I wanted and not put on weight. But Sarah started adding a few pounds. 'I'll have to be careful what I eat,' she said.

Then, two years after we got married, Sarah discovered she was pregnant. As her body bloomed, I loved her even more. Eating for two, she piled up her plate at dinner time and snacked. I just thought that's what pregnant women did.

But by the time our son Jake arrived, she'd ballooned to A size 20, tipping the scales at around 15st - far too heavy for her 5ft 4in frame. Determined to slim, she began counting calories. Filling up on salad and fruit, she soon started losing weight. Over the next year or so she lost 2st and two dress sizes, taking her down to a size 16 and the happy Sarah I recognised. Then she found out she was pregnant again.

When our daughter Milly was born in 1993, Sarah was back in her size-20 leggings. She vowed to diet again, but this time things were different. Instead of steadily slimming, she'd lose a bit of weight, then gain twice as much.

If she tucked into a bag of crisps, I'd remind her she'd regret it. But instead of thanking me, she got angry. She'd scoff another packet in defiance. I learned to keep my mouth shut. I could see she wasn't happy with her shape, but I didn't dare encourage her to diet. She'd accuse me of saying she was fat.

'How can you love me?' she'd ask. It was crushing to hear. She hated her body, but I loved her.

Slimming World, Weight Watchers, Atkins - she tried them all. She lost 6st one year, but piled it back on and more soon after. To me, it was simple. Sarah just needed to eat three meals a day and stop snacking. Instead, she'd binge on junk food in secret. It made me so sad that she hid it from me. 'You don't understand,' she'd weep. It was true - I didn't. Sarah just needed to eat healthily, but she thought that way it would take forever to lose the weight.

She could be a size 10 one week and within months she'd be almost a size 18. When she got bigger than a size 16, she'd be down. Really down. She'd spend hours examining herself, asking if she looked fatter. If I said yes, I was wrong. If I said no, I was lying. I just couldn't win.

Clothes shopping was a nightmare. At her heaviest - a size 26 and nearly 20st - she'd try on frumpy tent-like tops and I'd think: 'Please don't buy that, it's hideous.' But she was so limited for choice, I couldn't say anything.

I remember her standing in the bedroom crying before a friend's party because nothing fitted her. In the end, she refused to go out, pulling on baggy black jogging bottoms and a huge T-shirt. Seeing her so upset hurt me too.

I've never stopped finding Sarah attractive - I love her for more than the way she looks. But past a size 18, our sex life definitely dwindled. Most nights it would just be a quick kiss. Because she felt so unattractive, Sarah would turn away as she couldn't understand how I could possibly want her sexually.

I still got turned on because I love her, but I'd lie beside her thinking: 'If only you'd lose a few pounds' Not because she's unattractive, she's just more confident when she's thin.

Sarah's now 40 and, at the moment, she's slim. And for the first time in years, I can dare to believe she's going to stay that way. She's been following the LighterLife plan, a strict diet programme that's helped her lose weight and addressed her issue with food through counselling. I was concerned at first because it meant she'd be swapping meals for food replacement shakes and soups. But Sarah's tried stranger things in the past, like only eating grapefruits.

This time I just want to support her. She's lost about 9st in the past 10 months and now weighs around 10st. I'm really, really proud of her. Sarah's dieting has dominated our lives for so long, I just want us to be happy."

Sarah, a beauty therapist, says: "Mark's put up with so much. It's like he's been with totally different women depending on my size.

I feel guilty for letting myself get the way I have on occasions. I crash diet, lose weight, then think I can eat what I like and pile it back on. Now I know stress and boredom trigger my overeating, I hope to control it. But there are no guarantees. Luckily the kids haven't been affected by my attitude towards food.

While I may gain weight in the future, I hope to keep it in check. Now I'm ready to be the real Sarah."


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