Alex thought John was perfect - until she realised he wanted her to change her body. She told her story to whimn.com.au.
"In 2012, I was 18 and had just completed Year 12."
As I waited to hear whether I'd made it onto a physiotherapy course at university, I was working in a coffee shop. Over a period of six weeks, I had a frequent customer: a tall lanky guy, with a thick crop of dark hair and the most startling bright blue eyes. We'd often have little chats, and then he'd disappear again, leaving me wanting to know more about him.
Finally, one day, he called me over to the other side of the counter and nervously asked me whether I'd go on a date with him. I readily agreed. We went for a coffee, and the conversation flowed. John was 25 and studying for a degree in science at university. He was an outdoors type that loved exercising. Despite the seven-year age gap, we became instantaneously inseparable and fell in love. I'd had some sexual encounters and casual boyfriends in my teens, but I'd never had a proper relationship.
A couple of months later, John started a conversation about what we were both attracted to physically. "You know that I like girls with curves, right?" he said. At the time, I was 65 kilos and 173cm tall. However, I wasn't skinny. I had always had a rounded bottom and decent sized C cup breasts. Then he explained that not only did he like curvy women, but he also loved the act of making them curvier. He said he'd always wanted to be thicker himself, but no matter what he did, he just couldn't put on weight.
I didn't understand what he meant at the time, or what was in store. I never had any body issues, although like most teenage girls I had wanted to be skinnier. I used to do a lot of sit-ups in pursuit of a flat tummy. In some ways, it felt liberating to be with a guy that liked his women a little curvier. I thought, 'Great, I can eat whatever I want, and he's still going to find me attractive.'
Seconds and chocolate
At first, he made little changes. If we went out to dinner, he'd encourage me to eat dessert. If he cooked, he'd invite me to have extras. Or he'd buy a big block of chocolate, specifically for me. Then he told me that he would find it very sexy for us to grow my belly. He seemed so excited by the prospect that I went along with it. If I'd gained a few kilos, I wouldn't mind because he'd find me more attractive. I reasoned it would be easy to lose the weight, and most importantly, it would make him happy. So I agreed.
John did all the cooking. We ate pretty healthily, lots of veggies, meat and not many carbs. However, the big thing was portion size and dessert. He'd eat a reasonably sized portion while mine was massive. It was hard at the beginning, but then eating a lot became a habit.
John kept photos of the growth of my stomach. Every shot was captioned with my increasing weight. He praised me for each kilo gained. If we'd had a big dinner, he'd rub my belly as I ate. Sometimes he'd even weigh me before and after a meal to see if I'd gained anything. When I weighed in at 75 kilos, one of my friend's mothers said that I looked better with a little more weight. She used the expression "womanly" so I didn't think it was a problem.
"You are so hot and sexy"
The bigger my stomach got, the more turned on he was. During sex, he'd jiggle my belly and wobble my thighs. "Look at how big you're getting!" he'd exclaim. "God, you are so hot and sexy." I was trained to equate being full with being horny, and getting fatter, as being more attractive. John loved me to wear super tight clothes. I had a red and white shirt I wore when I was sixteen. He'd like me to wear it during sex. It was so tight my boobs bulged over the top. Then he'd grab my love handles that splayed out and pat my belly. I started to enjoy the pressure of the tight clothes, and became turned on by it too.
After a year, we moved in together. We'd often be naked at home because we were both so comfortable with each other. He'd be full of admiration for my body. He'd cook, and we'd eat in front of the television. Then he'd fill up my plate again, without asking.
As university became more stressful, I started comfort eating. However because John gave me so much positive reinforcement, it wasn't a problem. 'Who cares what I look like,' I thought to myself, 'the person I love, loves my body.'
Despite the fact I was replacing my clothes with bigger sizes, I never realised that I was technically overweight. I was living away from home, and your friends don't say, "Holy crap, you've gotten fat since the last time I saw you."
Reality sets in
Then the depression started. I'm not sure it was directly related, but I began to feel ugly. In three years from 2012, I'd gone from 65 to 95 kilos. John started to feel guilty and encouraged me to exercise. But then I'd have a stressful period at university, and I'd overeat.
Then we went to visit his family in northern New South Wales. The family decided to climb a mountain together. However, I had to stop every few steps, as I was so overweight and unfit. I felt embarrassed. Everyone was overtaking me, including his sixty-year-mother. Then John told me that his dad had said to him, "Oh, I see you like big girls." It annoyed me that they didn't comment on my personality.
In hindsight, John was controlling in other ways, I had to do the dishes in a certain way, or he instructed me how he liked me to shower. It further impacted my mental health. When I was stressed, the facade in my confidence in my body would break and couldn't be fixed by him saying that I looked beautiful. At those points, I didn't want to be attractive to him, I wanted to be attractive to everybody else.
Tinder and a new town
Then I was sent on a uni placement in a small country town. I'd become jealous of my friends' abilities to explore the town, without getting puffed. I realised I needed to change. However I wasn't sure John wouldn't have been capable of changing his fetish.
Before a visit home, I told him that I needed to make some changes; I was going to lose some weight and start a proper exercise regimen. When I returned he was at work but he'd left a note that said. "I've brought you a surprise!" I looked around the apartment but I couldn't see his gift. Then I opened the fridge, and there were two full-size cheesecakes, an apple pie and three boxes of chocolates. That's when I realised that he wasn't supportive of what I truly wanted, as he'd led me onto to believe.
Maybe it was a sign but we mutually agreed upon an open relationship. Living in a small town, I had a lot of matches on Tinder, despite being 85 kilos. The conversations were flirty and I got compliments about my sense of humour and about my body. During our dates, not once did anyone jiggle my thighs or rub my stomach. They wanted to have sex with my body as it was at that moment. Despite being 10 kilos heavier than I desired to be, I was still as sexy as hell. I knew then, I could stay at my current weight or lose weight and I'd still be able to attract men.
In September 2016, despite loving John, it was our difference in personality and what we perceived as beautiful that caused our breakup. I do not regret the relationship though. It helped me realise that it is my body and I will do with it as I wish. But more importantly, society is superficial. Desire changes and naturally, so does your weight. But it shouldn't ever determine your own sense of worth.