Al Roker

Al Roker on his mixed-weight marriage: 'You feel judged'

Jan. 24, 2013 at 10:27 AM ET

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Al Roker has long struggled with his weight, hitting close to 350 pounds. He says that caused conflict in his marriage. Here, he and his wife Deborah Roberts attend a Jay-Z on Sept. 28, 2012 in New York City.

A recent Wall Street Journal report found that “mixed-weight couples,” relationships in which just one person is overweight, deal with a lot of additional conflict. According to a poll, 55 percent of readers say that weight difference has caused problems in their relationships. TODAY’s Al Roker, who lost 160 pounds a decade ago and struggled to keep it off, tells about how weight difference affected his own marriage, and shares his advice for couples who are dealing with this issue. 

I think if people are honest about it, weight plays a big part of anybody’s relationship. Yes, what’s on the inside counts, there’s no question about that, but we’re a visual society; we are attracted to attractive people. It’s one thing if you’re both overweight, but when we’re talking about couples who are mixed-weight (I love the term mixed-weight couples; I’ve heard mixed-race couples, but mixed-weight?!), it plays a big deal, especially if one person is active and healthy and the other person is a bit of a couch potato.

I wrote about it in my book, “Never Goin' Back.” My wife is a size 4; she runs, she works out and it became a problem in our marriage. On a Saturday she’d get up, get dressed to run and I’d be sitting on the couch or making breakfast for the kids and was quite happy about our choices. She, on the other hand, was not. Unless you communicate that, it’s going be a problem.

She was upset about it, she was frustrated, she was angry. She thought, “Why don’t you care enough about yourself and why don’t you care about me and our relationship enough to change?” And I said, “Look, it’s not about you. It’s about me.” For the overweight person, the person who’s struggling, there are obviously issues that we’re dealing with. It’s not like we’re being fat to spite the person who’s in good shape. That’s what the person who isn’t struggling needs to realize.

It’s a vicious cycle because now you feel judged and you’re upset, and if that’s the case, what do you do? You eat. And then your spouse is upset. Or you even lie about your food — you’re closet eating.

Here’s the thing I say to the person in the couple who’s not struggling with their weight: Shut up. We know we’re fat. We know we need to lose weight. Your nagging us and pleading with us doesn’t help. In fact, in ways it makes it worse. We’re not going to change until something clicks within us. Until we say, "I’m tired of living like this; I want a different life for myself and for my family." It’s not that we don’t love you; it’s not that we don’t care. It’s just that right now, we’re not prepared to deal with it for whatever reason, whether it’s emotionally or physically.

Once it clicked for me, my wife and I were able to run together, do activities together. In fact, it did cause one problem. My wife’s been a runner for 30 years, and I started running two years ago, and within a year I ran the New York City Marathon. It kind of ticked her off a little bit; she said, “Wait a minute, I’m the runner in the family!” But that’s a good problem to have.

When you’re ready, do it. Until you’re ready, just try to keep it under control. The problem with people who are suffering, struggling with their weight is that you make a mistake, you go off your plan, and it’s either all or nothing. I just think you can’t look at this as dieting; it’s a lifestyle. You have to change your life. 

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