How to Get Your Partner to Support Your Healthy Weight Loss Goals

Article posted in: Lifestyle

You know that losing weight is a major life change. You’ll be wearing smaller clothes, getting more attention, and maybe even throwing out your diabetes or blood pressure drugs as healthy weight loss makes them unnecessary.

But you may not realize that your weight loss can be a major life change for the people around you, too. Some of them, including your romantic partner, may surprise you with their reactions.

When you’re making fundamental changes in how you eat, act and look, it’s not unusual for partners to get irritable or angry, try to tempt you with your favorite foods, or become more demanding, particularly about the time you spend exercising. While you’re looking forward to the new you, they may be afraid of losing the old you. Some may even be afraid that the new you is going to get rid of them along with all the plus sizes in the closet.

That’s just one reason that a partner might not support—and even try to sabotage—your weight loss efforts.

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A study of couples in which one had lost 30 or more pounds found that although most couples survived one’s weight loss odyssey, other couples hit some significant snags that put their relationships in jeopardy.

Some partners who weren’t losing weight felt threatened and insecure when their other half was paring off pounds, found the research from the University of North Carolina and the University of Texas. Others became angry when the weight loss partner started nagging them to lose weight, too. The partners who reacted negatively made critical comments, avoided sex or tried to tempt their partners with unhealthy food to derail their weight loss efforts and prevent them from changing.

“This study found that one partner’s lifestyle change influenced the dynamic of couples’ interaction in a variety of positive or negative ways, tipping the scale of romantic relationships in a potentially upward or downward direction,” said Dr, Lynsey Romo of UNC, the lead author. “When both partners bought into the idea of healthy changes and were supportive of one another, weight loss appeared to bring people closer. When significant others resisted healthy changes and were not supportive of their partner’s weight loss, the relationship suffered.”

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It’s hard to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle without the support of those around you. The authors of the book, Thinfluence, all Harvard medical experts, point out that the people in your life can make or break your efforts, so you need to enlist them in a positive way to be your cheering, not jeering section.

Here are a few ways the experts recommend to bring your partner to your side or, at the very least, stay motivated towards healthy weight losswithout them:

1. Be understanding.

Your partner may be acting out of fear of losing you and the life you’ve built together (which may revolve around food). Reassure him or her that your feelings and relationship are solid. Don’t just do it with words, but with deeds, such as asking if your partner would like to take an after-dinner stroll with you (you won’t be burning many calories—this is about your relationship), going for a meal at a restaurant where you know you can get healthy options, or doing something that reminds you of good times, like turning on the music you listened to when you were courting and dancing a little together in your living room.

2. Find support elsewhere.

Having a strong social network—that’s science speak for family and friends—is critical to success not only for weight loss but just about everything else we want to accomplish in life. Including living a long life! A landmark study done in 1979 found that people who had the least social support from people in their lives tend to die younger than those with a rich social circle. If your romantic partner isn’t on board with your efforts, find other family and friends who are.

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3. Focus on your health.

Being overweight isn’t just a cosmetic issue. It increases your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, as well as colon, breast, endometrial and gallbladder cancers, says the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Make sure your partner understands this. He or she may fear that your weight loss is going to take you from them. Reassure your partner that in reality, obesity-related diseases are more likely to do that.

4. Play the kid card.

You may be able to sway your partner to your side by reminding him or her that studies show that if a parent is overweight or obese, their children’s risk of following in their footsteps increases significantly. American Heart Association researchers found that parents who undertook changes to lead a healthier lifestyle could have a major influence on their kids’ health habits. Your weight loss efforts could make their lives better… and longer.

It just leads to bad feelings. Instead of trying to nudge your partner go on the weight loss journey with you, be content to be a “thinfluencer”—the term coined by Harvard’s Dr. Walter Willett and his colleagues to describe the subtle effect you can have on those around you when you lose weight and adopt a healthy lifestyle. One study found that spending lots of time with a slender person can inspire someone who is overweight to slim down, no nagging required.