Losing weight can be a challenging experience in and of itself. But if the person who is trying to lose weight also has to deal with the stress and pressure of a non-supportive spouse, both the weight loss effort and the relationship are likely to be in danger.
The following are simple yet essential tips that can help you support your spouse’s weight loss efforts — and if you’re not careful, you may find that you (and your relationship) get healthier in the process:
DO help your partner eat healthier. Remove temptations to help create a more encouraging environment for your spouse. Also, find healthier versions of favorite recipes this will help you both enjoy your meals while exercising greater control over ingredients and portion size.
DON’T be a food cop. Cynthia Sass addresses this issue in her book Your Diet Is Driving Me Crazy: When Food Conflicts Get in the Way of Your Love Life. “In the quest to help a partner stay healthy, a food cop can become obsessive, overbearing, and in short, a tyrant,” Sass writes. “And as anyone who’s ever been policed by a spouse will tell you, it almost never works!”
DO acknowledge the challenge your spouse is facing. Fear can dampen an overweight person’s effort to shed unwanted pounds — and not having your hopes and plans taken seriously by those you trust can be overwhelming. Tell your spouse that you understand the challenges he or she is facing – and affirm that you are willing to face those challenges together .
DON’T dwell on the hardships. Telling your spouse “This is going to be a lot harder than you realize” or asking “What makes you think this time will be different than all the other times you tried (and failed)?” sows seeds of doubt and demonstrates your lack of faith in your partner.
DO make it a team effort. Taking walks together, discussing goals, and eating healthier foods yourself are three great ways to show your support – and may have the added benefit of improving your health and strengthening your relationship.
DON’T stay on the sidelines. Providing emotional support and a steady stream of positive reinforcement is a great start, but don’t just be a fan in the stands. Participating as much as possible in your spouse’s weight loss efforts can do wonders for you both.
DO celebrate successes. Weight loss and maintenance is a long-term effort that involves meeting a number of short-term goals. A card, a gift to acknowledge your partner’s success, or even simply saying “I’m so proud of you” can mean more to your spouse than you might ever know.
DON’T let setbacks set either of you too far back. Your spouse knows when he or she has veered off the healthy path – and doesn’t need to hear you nag or say “I told you so.” Instead, setback situations are great opportunities for you to remind your spouse how far he or she has already come, and to reinforce the fact that your partner has your complete faith and support.
DO recognize that your spouse is changing both inside and out. Successful weight loss can affect a person’s confidence, self-esteem, and self-image. Recognize that your spouse is working to improve him/herself both inside and out — and be sure to acknowledge all of these challenges and celebrate all of the accomplishments he or she makes.
DON’T be threatened by improvements your spouse is making. For the spouse of someone who has gone through an experience as significant as a dramatic weight loss, it’s important to remember that change, growth, and development are essential components of healthy, dynamic relationships.