Sunday, 01 February 2015 12:18

Win Your Partner Over: Don't Let Your Weight Weigh on Your Relationship

Article as it appeared in Weigh-Less magazine. By Natasha Liviero

 So, you’ve committed to losing weight and following a healthy lifestyle thinking that your efforts will be well received by your significant other. Not so fast! Research suggests weight loss by one partner in a relationship can rock the romantic boat and stress-test the bond between you.

A study in the journal Health Communication by North Carolina State University in the United States investigated the impact of weight loss on relationships in a paper titled, “Weighty Dynamics: Exploring couples’ perceptions of post-weight-loss interaction.” Researchers questioned 21 couples where one partner experienced an average weight loss of around 27kg. The results were both positive and negative, depending upon the willingness of the couples to embrace the developing changes in their lives. Where the outcomes were positive, it was noted that the partner who lost weight encouraged the other one to follow suit. These couples reported positive communication, as well as renewed physical and emotional intimacy. However, other couples reported negative tensions. Some partners reported feeling threatened and insecure by their significant other’s weight loss. In other cases, partners who lost weight were accused of nagging and forcing their partner’s to follow in their footsteps. In these cases, the relationships deteriorated. “This study found that one partner’s lifestyle change influences the dynamic of the couples interaction in a variety of positive or negative ways,” says Dr Lynsey Romo, Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at North Carolina State University. “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.”

“Another study of over 6000 dieters found that 70% of the women studied had difficulty eliciting positive support from their mates, as opposed to only 5% of the men,” says Dietician, Heidi Lobel. “Weight loss isn’t just physical. With the physical change comes mental, social, psychological and emotional change. When you feel different about yourself, you make different choices and act differently. Losing weight and adapting to a healthier lifestyle requires a lot of change. Changes that some partners may embrace and others may not be ready for.”

When one partner loses weight, underlying issues in the relationship may also re-emerge. “If your partner feels fearful and insecure that your relationship is not solid, the underlying fear could be that you may leave them and find someone more ‘suitable’, says Joanna Kleovoulou, Clinical Psychologist from PsychMatters Centre. “Another reason may be a body image problem. They may feel insecure as they compare themselves to the ‘new’ you, leaving them feeling ‘less-than’ and dampening their already low self-esteem”.

How to Win Your Partner Over

At the heart of matters is your partner’s buyin. A study published in the Journal of Obesity concluded that weight loss programmes had the greatest benefit for people whose partners made dietary changes at the same time. So, here’s what you can do to help encourage your partner’s support:

1. Communicate:

Any change you make will affect the relationship your partner is accustomed to having with you. But, if you communicate the things that are important to you and explain how you plan to go about implementing them, chances are you will find a supportive partner standing by your side. Say you begin to take ‘time-out’ to exercise when you would usually spend this time together. Invite him to go along, or encourage him to join you in an activity or sport that you know he enjoys.

2. Involve them:

Share milestones and interesting things you learn along your journey to make this experience about their health, as well as yours. Make them feel involved by seeking their opinion and advice. By including your loved one, you create the opportunity to learn and grow together as a couple.

3. Stop finding faults:

Don’t nag, force new foods or judge everything your loved one eats! Just because you are ready to take control of your weight, doesn’t mean they are. The idea is to nurture and encourage by applauding healthy choices, and to gently offer alternatives when their choices are poor. “Remember to not be critical of your partner by putting them down. Rather focus on their efforts in trying and any little goals reached,” says Joanna.

4. Keep food interesting:

Food is a visual experience. Put the effort into creating healthy, colourful dishes by experimenting with new ingredients and recipes, and your partner will be eating out of your hand in no time! The Weigh-Less magazine always includes a variety of delicious, low fat recipes, as does our website www.Weigh-Less. co.za, which also shares invaluable hints, tips and advice.

5. Don’t be threatening:

Resisting change is geared by fear and loss of control. The unknown can leave a person feeling vulnerable, confused and suspicious. To minimize this threat and discomfort communicate in an honest and transparent manner, clearly explaining why you are making changes. This will prevent uncertainty from creeping in. Consider how the changes may affect your partner and discuss solutions with him, while acknowledging the elements that are already positive. When you do introduce the changes, do so gradually and keep things as familiar as possible. For example, do not change every meal you are accustomed to eating together. Instead, make healthier versions of your favourite meals and ask him what kind of foods he would be interesting in trying. “It is important to communicate to each other what each of you needs during this process, as it may be different for everyone. One partner may need you to be watchful of what they eat, whilst the other may prefer a softer approach,” says Joanna. “Show your partner that you are available and that you are their greatest supporter.”

6. Ask questions:

If don’t have your loved ones support, Psychologist, Claire Newton, says you should ask questions to find out why your partner does not offer support and to listen to what they have to say. “They may have valid reasons for not wanting you to lose weight and if you want to get them on your side, then you need to address the issues they raise,” says Claire. “For example: It may be that they think you are having (or want to have) an affair! Reassure your partner that your weight loss and healthy lifestyle is not about you wanting to be unfaithful; they may tell you that you become bad tempered and nasty when on diet. Agree that you will work on being pleasant and that your partner should point out when you are being unreasonable (rather than say nothing, walk out or fight back). Of course, you need to listen and accept their point of view, and do something to be more mild tempered; or it may be that you expect everyone else to eat what you eat when they don’t want to. Agree that this is your journey and don’t expect others to do exactly the same as you. And finally, be sincere in your responses. Ask your partner to support you, at best, or to at least not stand in your way,” says Claire.

7. Don’t compare:

If you do succeed in winning your partner over and he decides to join you in your weight loss journey, one of the most frustrating issues you will encounter is how much quicker your other half sheds the weight! Men naturally have more muscle mass than women, which means they burn more calories, even when doing nothing!

Does he Want me Skinny or Healthy?

A mans enthusiasm for his partner to lose weight can take a turn for the worse if he likes her super-skinny! It is natural to want to please a loved one, but when it comes at the expense of your health, it is time to re-evaluate your values and the relationship you are in. However, you also need to ask yourself if your weight ideals are his or really your own? Several studies indicate that women overstate men’s preferences for thin women and that the vast majority of men prefer women with curves.

Does he think you’re skinny? Does he call you average? Does he just say you’re overweight? And, like, what number are you on that world famous ratings scale? Would you be higher if you were thinner? You wonder these things constantly, and you’ll probably never know the answer. Even when you ask your boyfriend a million and six times. He’s never going to tell you (the truth). Unless he is actually telling you the truth. But you’ll never know. Because you can’t even decide what rating YOU would give yourself. Like if you were a guy would you call yourself skinny or fat? You don’t even KNOW!

A study by Badoo, the world’s largest social network for meeting new people, polled 2000 men in the UK about their preferences in women. The majority or 38.8% liked average-sized women with a dress size of 12-14. Next, came the curvy size 14-18 with 25.5% of the vote! Only 10% liked their women skinny! The same study revealed similar results in Spain, Italy, the US and Brazil. So there you have it ladies, most men like you curvier than you may think!