Is Weight Loss Hurting Your Relationship?The Real Issues and How to Address Them
-- By Jennipher Walters, Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor
Weight loss is tricky business, especially when you're in a relationship. After all, many people fall in love because they share common interests, such as watching the same sitcoms every Thursday night, going out for rich Italian food or playing video games together. However, what happens when one person in the relationship swaps his or her Thursday night TV-watching for group cycling? Or decides that ordering roasted chicken and steamed veggies is a better option than creamy fettuccine alfredo? Or that the Wii Fit is actually more fun than Super Mario Brothers? I smell relationship trouble a-brewin'.
Losing weight and adapting to a healthy lifestyle requires a lot of change—change that your partner may not be ready for. In fact, according to some recent SparkPeople polls, 34 percent of respondents said that their spouse, partner or significant other sabotages their weight-loss efforts more than anyone else in their lives, and 43 percent said they their significant other negatively influences their eating habits. On the flip side, 24 percent say that they would be bothered if their partner gained weight, and 55 percent said they might be bothered, depending on how much weight he or she gained. Overall, it's easy to see that weight can play a heavy role in your relationship
If you feel like your relationship may be under strain because of your weight-loss efforts, there are some general warning signs to look for. Typically, these types of actions are rooted in something larger than the direct issues, so it's important to understand them fully to know where your partner's or your feelings are coming from. In general, the "why" of a behavior comes from deep-seated emotion of which you or your partner may not even be aware. For just that reason, we've added an "emotional why" section to each warning sign exploring the emotion that might be behind these behaviors. Because we know how important support is to reaching your goals, we've included some action tips on how to improve whatever situation you may be facing. This way, you can find a way to maintain your healthy lifestyle without sacrificing the health of your relationship.
5 Signs Weight Loss is Hurting Your Relationship (and What to Do about It)
1. Your partner makes negative statements about you changing.
SparkPeople member SULYLE admits that weight loss has affected her marriage. At 5 feet 6 inches, she's 13 pounds from her goal weight of 140 pounds (that's a BMI of 22.6, considered a "healthy" range for her height). Still, she says that she gets comments from her husband and his family that she's "skinny" and needs to stop losing weight. She's from the Dominican Republic, where curvier women are considered beautiful, but she doesn't feel attractive at her current size. SULYLE's story isn't that unusual. Your significant other may make other negative comments about your own weight loss or changing body because it signals change. And change is scary for your other half.
The emotional why: Fear is behind this type of behavior. SULYLE's partner is afraid of losing her and life as he knows it. While she may be ready to change, he may be afraid and reluctant to take the first step, and he may be insecure that she will leave him, so he comments negatively about her changing body in hopes that things will go back to the way they once were.2. Your partner makes you feel guilty.
What to do: Create new rituals together so that your loved one is involved with your new lifestyle. You don't have to give up Friday date night. Try dinner at a restaurant with healthier options, or when you go to the movies, order a smaller size of popcorn (no butter) and a diet soda. See if he or she will walk around the block with you (take the kids if you have them) to catch up after dinner. Be sure to include your partner in as many ways as you can, and reassure them that you love them for who they are. If the behavior becomes overwhelmingly negative, do not be afraid to talk to your partner about how those comments make you feel. After all, a relationship is a two-way street and open communication helps prevent a head-on collision.
Does your partner make you feel guilty about the success you've had with weight loss? Does he or she complain that you're not around as much or give you the guilt trip when you skip cuddle time or dessert to hit the gym? Whether your partner makes you feel guilty on purpose, or you just feel guilty for taking time for yourself, it's not a good feeling to have, and it can be detrimental to a relationship if it goes on too long. SparkPeople member THREADIE-LISA had a similar issue with her fiancé when it came to her gym membership. She says that he would grumble to his friends about how much time she spent at the gym or "jokingly" say that she spent more time with the elliptical than with him.
The emotional why: Nostalgia. Your partner loves you and wants to spend time with you. He or she may miss what used to be rituals in your household and relationship. These comments may also reflect some of the fear of change mentioned above.3. Your partner tries to sabotage you.
What to do: Compromise. THREADIE-LISA ended up quitting the gym for financial reasons but has kept up with her exercise by using workout videos at home. "We are both happier, and I am more fit and less stressed for time. So, in the end his complaining helped!" she says. Don't be afraid to compromise when you can! However, remember that you deserve to be healthy and happy. If your loved one is putting a guilt trip on you, encourage him or her to join you. Couples workouts allow you to spend time together and exercise at the same time. And if it's just you feeling bad, then remind yourself that being fit is what you worked for and you deserve to feel good about your accomplishments.
Sabotaging behavior can run the gamut, from your partner picking up your "favorite" fast-food burger on the way home (even though she knows you're trying to cut back) to begging you to sleep in when you have a date with that Spinning bike at 6 a.m. One very common example is having a partner who brings junk food into the house and then eats it in front of you, especially if the junk food is your favorite and one you have trouble avoiding.
The emotional why: Jealousy and fear. Although it may not seem like it, your partner may actually be very jealous of your progress and is sabotaging your efforts to keep you exactly as you are. He or she may be afraid that if you lose weight, you'll get more attention from the opposite sex and possibly leave the relationship for someone else.4. Your partner starts gaining weight as you're losing weight.
What to do: Reaffirm your partner that you're still the same loving person you were before. Then read this entire SparkPeople article on how you can defend yourself from saboteurs, and follow the fantastic tips!
If you've noticed that your partner has gained a few pounds during the time you've lost weight, this could be cause for concern. Your partner may be upset with your weight-loss success and may be rebelling against you—consciously or not-- by eating more, higher-calorie food. If this is the case, tread lightly. This will probably be a very touchy subject for your partner. He or she may also be eating emotionally for comfort as a way to deal with the deep-rooted emotions (fear, anger, jealousy) about your positive changes.
The emotional why: Resistance and guilt. Your partner is probably feeling resistant to change and guilty about his or her own body and unhealthful habits. They may even be worried that as you get healthier, you won't love him or her as much anymore. SparkPeople member Amy says that her husband has been "self destructing" and views all of her positive changes as threatening to him. In fact, she says that she's been sleeping in an extra bedroom for the last few weeks because of his constant resistance to the positive changes she's trying to make in her life.5. You look down at your partner.
What to do: If you're in a situation as Amy is, talk to your partner openly and regularly. Your partner may be very, very sensitive about this issue, so you may not want to bring the weight gain up directly, but rather ask how he or she is feeling during this time of change. Reassure your partner that you're still the same person and still love them. And invite them to join in some of your small changes or start something as simple as a SparkStreak! And if it's more serious than that or your attempts are ignored, consider getting a relationship counselor involved.
If you're a few pounds into your weight-loss journey and overhauled your lifelong habits, yet can't understand why your partner hasn't done the same, then honestly ask yourself: Do you look down on your partner? Do you feel like the changes you've made are going to create lasting friction between the two of you? Whether you indicate these feelings to your partner (directly or indirectly) or keep them to yourself, he or she can probably sense how you're feeling. Everyone wants their partner to be proud to be with them. When you stop being proud of your other half, it can really hurt your relationship.
The emotional why: Pride and fear. Right now, you may be very proud of yourself for your changes—and you should be! But it's important to respect everyone's journey and realize that you can't force someone else to change. You may also find yourself being harsher on your loved one because he or she may remind you of where you started (a place where you don't want to return).If you're faced with many of the issues above, don't despair. A relationship may get rocky from your new dedication to a healthy lifestyle, especially in the beginning of your weight-loss journey, but many say that getting in shape and eating right actually helps their relationship in the end.
What to do: You may not agree with all of the choices your partner makes, but try to be as understanding as possible. Remember how hard it was for you to change in the beginning? Remember how you had to decide to do it for yourself, not for someone else? Revisit that time in your past and treat your partner how you would have liked to be treated then. Recognize the reasons for your emotions. You don't have to encourage unhealthy habits, but try to be as understanding and encouraging as possible.
Take SparkPeople member XCSARAH, who said that her weight loss has both hurt her relationship and improved it. Even though she says that she sometimes gets annoyed when her husband wants to do something that cuts into her workout time or gets frustrated when he eats an entire bag of chips in front of her, getting healthier has improved their relationship. "Any annoyances that have come from this journey have certainly been outdone by the benefits," she says. Now that's an inspiring and encouraging statement to anyone who is struggling with weight-related relationship issues.
At the end of the day, your significant other should be one of the biggest and most supportive allies you have in getting healthy. However, you can't expect others to change over night. Getting healthy and losing weight is an incredibly personal journey, and it can't be started by telling someone what to do; it has to start with the person wanting to change. So be as nice and supportive to your partner as you'd like them to be to you. Follow the tips above and recognize what's really behind you and your partner's actions to continue on your weight-loss journey and keep your relationship strong. After all, leading by example is one of the most powerful ways to influence others in a positive way!