This past week I’ve been battling a gruesome bout of gastroenteritis. During the festive period, when my diet usually goes to pot, not a morsel has passed my lips.
While the rest of the world has gorged on calorific culinary delights, I have been in agony with stomach cramps.
My husband Pascal has been by my side constantly; caring and concerned, he has mopped my brow and even held my hair back as I vomited for the umpteenth time. He has behaved like the perfect spouse — well, almost.
While most husbands might whisper, ‘there, there, you’ll feel better soon darling’, instead I’ve had to listen to: ‘Imagine how much weight you’re losing! This is great for your figure!’
Look who’s talking: Samantha Brick and husband Pascal, who says he doesn’t want a fat wife
You see, in my household being slim isn’t something to aspire to — it’s an obligation. As Pascal likes to remind me: ‘I married you because you’re slim — I don’t want a fat wife.’
When I read in a recent survey that 42 per cent of men would be less attracted to their girlfriend if she gained half a stone, it didn’t surprise me. What did astonish me was only 5 per cent of men said they’d leave the relationship.
For in my marriage, the brutal truth is: if I get fat my husband will most definitely divorce me. Pascal is a Frenchman and we met in 2007. After a whirlwind romance, I moved to France to live with him and we married in spring 2008.
When we started dating, I was, at 5ft 11in, a perfect size ten. I’d like to think he fell in love with me for my mind, sparkling wit and personality. But who am I trying to kid? I live in the country where the Brigitte Bardot film And God Created Woman was made — and is regularly repeated on TV.
I’m under no illusion — he fell in love with me because of his appreciation of the female form.
The first time Pascal met my family he earnestly declared he loved me —because I was slim. My horrified mother, a size 12, choked on her drink, for once speechless. My stepfather laughed. For he was, I discovered, in agreement with Pascal’s views.
As I introduced Pascal to my sisters and friends, he trumpeted his rules for marriage: ‘I’ll divorce her if she’s fat!’
Horrified and fascinated that a man could say such a thing, my friends were hugely entertained; my romance became something of a talking point.
At first, I used to giggle at what I thought was his brand of humour. ‘Don’t gain weight!’ he’d warn with a wag of the finger.
Slim chance: Samantha has always been thinner when single
Finally, I realised he wasn’t joking. I only had to consider the evidence. His first wife was a champion badminton player — skinny, lithe and fit. His last long-term partner before me was so good at women’s football that she goes by the nickname Zidane — one of France’s football icons.
The only competitive ‘sport’ I indulge in is shopping — and, let’s be honest, that doesn’t burn calories like strutting your stuff on a football pitch.
Unfortunately for me, six months into our marriage I began to gain weight. Nothing drastic — a few pounds, certainly not stones — but a sign of me relaxing into the happy relationship I never thought I’d find. Pascal clocked it immediately. My muffin roll was duly noted and it was suggested I needed to lose it.
The problem is, throughout my adult life, I’ve always been slimmer when single. I gain weight in a relationship — romantic meals, nights in front of the TV, leisurely brunches at the weekend are all my downfalls. To make matters worse, my husband is used to sitting down to an elaborate five-course meal twice a day (not to mention those buttery croissants and milky coffees for breakfast) — little wonder the fat piled on.
So last year, my Christmas present was an exercise bike, which has been prominently positioned in our living room — should I have the urge to fat-burn. Pascal will regularly check the kilometres I’ve peddled and how quickly I’ve managed it.
As my svelte 70-year-old mother-in-law cycles 20 kilometres in under 30 minutes daily, the bar has been set rather high. At times my marriage feels akin to a fat camp.
‘Why are you eating that? You’ve just lost some weight!’ Pascal will cry, if he catches me with a Snack bar (Calories? A mere 89).
There is nowhere safe in my husband’s quest to ensure I stay slim. When I return from the supermarket, my shopping bags are inspected.
I bought a family-size chocolate bar once — and once only. It wasn’t worth the hassle. I didn’t like to tell Pascal it was part of a twin set: the other one I’d eaten on the way home.
You might think I’d be cut some slack what with the menstrual cycle and all, but French women, apparently, don’t suffer from bloating so why, my husband says, should I?
Our bathroom scales are a frequent port of call. I know what I weigh most days and my weight fluctuates at certain times of the month. You might think I’d be cut some slack what with the menstrual cycle and all, but French women, apparently, don’t suffer from bloating so why, my husband says, should I?
While my family and friends are used to my husband’s opinion of the female form, the rest of the nation is not. Consequently, we no longer journey to the UK in the summer, for Pascal cannot keep his views to himself. He is horrified when women who are overweight wear clothes that are less than flattering.
To my shame, he refuses to keep quiet. And he has only one voice setting: loud. Calls of ‘Look! She is too fat!’ echo around us, whenever we do venture out.
And yet, after three years of life with my husband, I’ve never been happier. Granted, when we push back the duvet each morning I know Pascal’s gimlet eye isn’t always appreciating my womanly form, but is often instead on the hunt for extra fat.
Some might find his behaviour draconian, but would I prefer a husband who lets me gorge on food and gloss over my true weight?
No, because in two months time I’m turning 40 and I now weigh less than I did at 30.
This New Year, I don’t have to worry about a bonkers crash diet, an impractical detox or shuffling about in front of a DVD to whittle off the pounds, because I pay attention to my weight all year round.
I’m slim, I’m healthy and, while it pains me to admit it, it’s all thanks to my husband.