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8 Ways Our Partners Influence Our Weight Loss

“How much support do you have from your partner?” is a question I consistently ask during nutrition consultations with my clients. Let’s face it, when the one we love is on board with our weight loss plan, all of the new behaviors and changes we set out to make are easier to commit—and stick—to each day.  On the opposite side of the spectrum, their lack of cooperation can tank our success before we even begin!  Whether my clients’ response is positive or “less positive” to that initial question, it opens up the important discussion of how they can communicate with their partners about their goals and navigate the partnership dynamic in their weight loss journey—whether or not their partners are on board with the changes or not. Are you concerned about your partner’s influence on your progress?  Below are 8 ways your partner can either help or hinder your weight loss, along with an action plan for encouraging them to join in the journey!

Their Buy-In.

When your partner has bought in to what you’re trying to achieve, he or she will be a better support to you for the journey.  On the opposite end, not having that buy-in can cut that same journey short. Maybe your partner doesn’t believe in your goal or—worse—believe you can do it. And if you are like most people, maybe you’ve attempted weight loss several times before (with crazy products or gimmick programs), and your partner has come to believe you aren’t really in it to win it.

Action Plan:  Win your partner’s buy-in by sharing your actual goal and your plan to complete that goal. You might even have to do this several times. Posting your goal and plan on the refrigerator might be a good move for both your motivation and their memory! I often ask my clients to bring their partners with them during a consultation or session to give them a chance to understand and hear the overall plan.  Sometimes your partner just needs to know you’re fully committed and prepared to go the distance this time. They should, of course, have the same desire for you to be healthy.

Their Lifestyle.

The goal should be for both you and your partner to live a healthier lifestyle together, including how you manage stress and your workload during the week as well as how much you move your bodies during the daytime. If your partner prefers to drink alcohol or eat poorly while under stress, or if he/she would rather sit on the couch versus go for a walk after work, the choice can dampen your enthusiasm if you let it. You may even get the guilt trip for spending more hours away from home at the gym, making you feel bad and making it harder to commit to your goals.

Action Plan:  Include your partner in the changes you’re making. He/she may not hit the gym every morning with you, but you can at least extend the invitation. If your partner is making you feel guilty for your changes, it’s most likely because he/she is scared of losing time with you or losing you altogether. Tell your partner how much you’d like for him/her to join you with these habits. Reassure your partner not everything is going to change. Your typical date night at the movie theater can still happen, but you might choose to hit a healthy restaurant beforehand in place of going for the popcorn and candy counter.

Their Listening Skills.

There are going to be tough days on your journey when you either fall off the wagon or feel like giving up. You might even find yourself frustrated by something your partner is doing that you feel is getting in the way of your success. The goal for the two of you needs to be open dialogue and discussion around your plan, both knowing that honesty is welcomed but being able to listen to each other’s needs (and limitations) is even more important.

Action Plan: At times, you might need to explain to your partner that you’re solely venting and don’t want any feedback whatsoever. One of the worst feelings you can after a bad day of eating and then venting to your partner is the blunt confirmation from them that “yes,” you did fall off the wagon or made bad choices. Ask your partner to offer encouragement or just supportive silence even if that’s truly what you’re looking for. If your partner is willing and able, he/she can offer you simple perspective on those days by reminding you to ask yourself questions like “what can you learn from today?” or “what can you do different tomorrow?”. If you can, tell your partner there might be days when you could use his/her help getting back on track.

Their Willingness to Learn.

On any weight loss journey, you are bound to learn a few things and/or tricks along the way to better help you succeed and sharpen some long term skills! For example, you might learn that you feel better without gluten in your diet or that you have better energy when you work out in the morning versus the end of the day.  As your try to bring some of these tactics into your home, your partner’s willingness to learn can be critical in keeping you motivated with your new changes. If your partner is stuck in his/her ways, however, and not willing to listen and learn from your new knowledge, you might have to rethink some logistics as you stay committed to your plan.

Action Plan:  Change can be tough for anyone, and as you are sharing new information and trying to apply it at home, make sure you communicate it the right way.  Many of my clients have made the mistake of bringing home what we’d talk about during a session and using it as ammo to play the blame game against their partners in negative conversation (e.g. “Did you know those bars you make me buy you are loaded with artificial ingredients making me fat!”).  Instead, talk to your partner about your new knowledge and share tidbits a little at a time if he/she is receptive. Open up conversations using words such as “What would you think about trying…” or “I know we both enjoy our TV time at night, but maybe we could go for a quick walk after dinner to get more steps in…” to give a more positive spin. 

Their Bedtime.

Enough quality sleep is essential for any weight loss goal and/or health routine. A solid 7-8 hours of good shut eye helps with hormone regulation, controlling cravings, maintaining energy, etc. Your partner’s nighttime routine, however, may get in the way of you getting that full night’s rest. Whether it’s a penchant for late night television, different work schedules or just a night owl habit, their evening choices might conflict with yours. For most of my clients, the night hours are the only hours they get alone time with their partners and the opportunity to connect due to long working hours, kids, etc.

Action Plan:  Create a nighttime routine that includes your partner. If your partner decides he/she want to stay up and watch television, make sure it’s not in your bedroom. If he/she has a different job shift than you, try to still come up with a plan that gets you as aligned as possible on a sleep routine. Also, make sure you assess your sleeping environment (e.g. temperature, bed, artificial light) to make sure those elements aren’t compromising your sleep quality. 

Their Workout Routine.

Very often I have clients with partners already engaged in specific workout routines that work for them. If your partner has already bought in to working out, having that shared sense of priority can help keep you stick to your own routine. On the opposite end, partners may also believe that their routine should be your routine because it works for them! This is most often never the case. 

Action Plan:  Do celebrate that both of you are working out, but also understand that you both have different bodies and maybe even different goals. It might be hard for you to reject your partner’s influence or “want-to-help” attitude on this topic. On the backend, they may just want to spend the extra time with you at the gym and just want to help you progress towards your goals. It’s most important to work from a plan that fits you—your current fitness and personal goals. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t include your partner at all. You can still go to the gym together, do part of your routine together, or do your lighter cardio work together some days.

Their Diet.

A partner’s diet tends to be the most complicated barrier to overcome on a weight loss journey.  I constantly have clients complain that they buy the processed/fast food for their partners because they enjoy the food and don’t seem to gain a pound from it.  Yet, once the food is in the house, my clients say they will end up eating it, too.

Action Plan: Explain to your partner that it’s hard for you to avoid unhealthy food if it’s in the house and that you would find it would be helpful if he/she didn’t keep that food in the regular cupboards or add it to the household grocery list. I’ve had many clients take control of the grocery shopping and explain to their partner/families that if they want unhealthy foods, they’ll have to go out and get it themselves but aren’t allowed to keep it in the kitchen. (Some even go so far as to request it not be in the house.) Whatever the case, figure out what works for you, and be honest with your partner that you need his/her support with it.

Their Support.

Support might be the most important piece of any weight loss journey, and your partner’s support can be the most critical. I’ve unfortunately had many clients who’ve ended relationships because their partners interfered with their goals and no compromise could be reached. Feeling your partner has your back—or not—is a powerful key to a relationship. That said, it’s important to remember the journey is your own.

Action Plan:  Ask for support, but bring the fair expectation that your partner can’t stand in for an entire community of support. Definitely talk with your partner about the best ways they can support you. Everyone is different in this, for some of us want/need tough love, while others want more empathy and encouragement along the way. That said, don’t place the obligation of sole support on your partner. Look to others who can offer the same. Build a network of support by telling friends, coworkers, and other family members about your goals. Join a weight loss group at your Life Time gym. Join an online forum to discuss your weight loss journey. When you take responsibility for your journey in that way, you can enjoy your partner’s support without depending on it--or maximize your chance for success without their initial buy-in). With the passing of time and progress, you’ll be able to share your journey with a supportive community and with your partner.

Thanks for reading today. How have you navigated the partner dynamics of your weight loss journey? Has your partner been supportive? Has it taken time to get him or her on board? Share your comments and suggestions for sticking to your goals!

Written by Anika DeCoster – Program Manager of Life Time Weight Loss

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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