Will weight loss work out better if it is tackled alone or together as a couple? And how can a couple embark on a healthy habits lifestyle together?
Becoming a couple often comes at the price of weight gain. According to a CBS News Report from 2009, "Researchers tracked … the weight and relationship status of 6,949 individuals, and their findings don't bode well for commitment: not only are married people more likely to become obese than those who are just dating, but young women who move in with their partner tend to pack on the pounds, too." And, if one partner wants to lose weight and the other wants to stay the same, the couple can feel out of sync, leading to loneliness and frustration for both.
So, how do couples help one another to succeed in embarking on a sustainable healthy habits lifestyle?
To get started, find a time to talk about the deeper values of going on a diet. Mistrust is easily created if thoughts like these come up: He wants to attract a new mate, or She will make me change my hamburgers and beer drinking and I will hate it, or She will have a new image that makes me feel left out, or Every mealtime is going to be such an argument at the table.
A conversation about losing weight should, at first, be about inner values. What are the main reasons for losing weight? To live long to be great grandparents one day? To eat in a way that is sustainable for the planet? To set a good example for the kids? To create a sense of natural celebration around mindful eating? To try a vegetable garden and homegrown aromatic herbs? To get a clean bill of health at the next checkup? Agree on the bigger goals first before discussing the way to get there.
2. Start small.
It is a good idea to make initial change where it is easy. One partner might feel naturally inclined to try out a new juicer and breakfast smoothies while another might prefer going to the local tennis club to pick up some class schedules.
Small changes are the best way to start, leaving room for small corrections along the way. You can maintain momentum by keeping changes not too from the comfort zone of each individual.
3. Find balance. There are as many motivators to losing weight as there are diets in the world. As much as a couple agrees on overreaching reasons to diet together, connect with your own inner desire to be well.
Who are your role models? Is a trip to the gym with a close, same-sex friend something that is important to you? What obstacles do you face that your partner does not face, such as cookies at the office or cravings for chocolate?
Your healthy habits needs and obstacles as a couple will overlap, but probably not completely. Draw two circles on a piece of paper so they overlap somewhat. What topics do you share and what topics are exclusive to you? Success with your partner and with your health will come from creating this balance.
4. Remember: attitude is everything. A positive attitude goes along with positive mental, emotional and physical health. Setbacks come up, time is short, old habits show up, old friends invite you to the BBQ and willpower has a habit of not being around when you need it most.
You may find that a new recipe might not turn out, or one partner loses weight easily while the other struggles, or the fresh produce you bought goes rotten in the fridge, or the evening herbal tea just isn't the same as the trusty glass of red wine. But how you react and how you react as a couple sets the tone for things to come.
Each small effort is a victory and each setback is a learning experience. The key to success will be an attitude of joyful discovery—the healthiest habit of all.
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