*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a friend, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.
I met a woman at work, and we quickly became fast friends. She was smart and beautiful, with a perfect, curvaceous figure. If I'm being honest, I was envious of her. If I had to describe the perfect woman, I would have described her.
She was not fat, and even if she was—so what? A woman is allowed to be fat.
Unfortunately, she started dating the boss, who was a decade younger than her. The boss did not believe that women come in many different shapes and sizes. Even though she wasn't overweight by any definition of the word, he told her to lose weight.
He was very insistent on that point. If she wanted to continue dating him, she needed to be thinner. Much thinner.
My friend got thinner. She got thinner so quickly that my coworkers and I were forced to wonder whether she'd fallen ill and kept it a secret.
It seemed like she had lost a dress size every time I saw her. I didn't feel comfortable asking about it. If she wasn't confiding in me about it, then there must have been a reason for not confiding in me. I would not pry.
To my surprise, my friend confided in a mutual coworker, who immediately came and told me what was going on. Here's what I learned. Not only was my friend married, but she was also dating the boss and trying desperately to lose weight to please him. It was like the plot of an early afternoon television soap opera.
When she could not lose enough weight through diet and exercise, she began to purge herself every time she consumed anything that contained calories. Whether it was coffee, orange juice, salad, an apple, cupcakes, or a bagel, she immediately raced to the bathroom to make sure those calories wouldn't count against her.
My friend lost a lot of weight. She became skinny. Some might even call her bony. Rumors swirled that she was anorexic, but a few of us knew the truth. She was bulimic.
I don't know how long her love affair with the boss continued. Eventually, the regional manager promoted her to a different location within the same company, and we fell out of touch. Did she continue seeing my manager after she moved to another work site? I have no way of knowing. For the sake of her health, I hope she did not.
A woman's relationship with her own body is a complex and personal thing. For many women, the pressure to conform to societal standards of beauty can be overwhelming.
While there is nothing wrong with wanting to look your best, the pressure to lose weight for the sake of pleasing a partner is misguided. Foremost, a woman should be happy and comfortable in her own skin.
Shedding pounds for the sake of someone else's preferences is likely to result in an unhealthy body image. Trying to please someone else is likely to lead to disappointment; after all, nobody is perfect. So instead of dieting and exercising, or worse, to meet someone else's standards, a woman should focus on taking care of her mind, body, and soul.