How to lose weight and stay friends with your partner

You’re losing weight and exercising regularly, but is your partner coming along for the ride?

Lose weight without losing your partner

Losing weight brings about more changes than just the number on the scales. Your body reflects your renewed health and vitality, and you feel proud of yourself and your achievements. But what if your partner feels threatened and insecure as a result? Here’s how to spot the warning signs that your partner resents your weight loss, and how to restore romance and harmony to your relationship.

Tensions caused by weight loss

It is not unusual for tension to arise in the relationship of an overweight couple if only one of them manages to successfully lose weight.

Jacqui Louder , a sport and exercise psychologist at Melbourne’s Olympic Park Sports Medicine Centre (OPSMC) says in such cases the non-active partner may begin to doubt their self-worth and feel inadequate.

They can also feel pressured to lose weight primarily to retain their partner’s interest, perhaps because they perceive them to be the ‘better’ half.

If you find yourself in situations like this, it helps to reassure your partner. “Continuing to acknowledge things that initially attracted you to your partner and making time for them is vital,” Jacqui says.

Jacqui also warns against allowing your newfound lifestyle to dominate your relationship.

“It’s important to maintain interests you shared prior to changes in exercise and eating habits. If all activities are based on one or both partners’ new health regimens, the relationship becomes about individual pursuits and less about communication and teamwork,” she says.

Supporting each other’s exercise plans

Establishing a regular exercise habit is much easier when you are both prepared to be flexible with your schedules.

Health change expert, Dr Angus Pyke, says people overrate willpower and underestimate social support when it comes to changing behaviour, particularly exercise habits.

“Unsupportive partners present huge problems, which may involve deeper issues beyond exercise itself,” he says.

How much time is reasonable for each partner to allow for exercise? Dr Pyke believes requesting 30 to 45 minutes daily is generally acceptable. Naturally, this may vary depending on your family specifics, particularly the ages of your children if you have any.

“You may need to have a conversation with your partner that says, ‘I need your support on this, because it’s beneficial for all of us’. Allowing time for both partners to exercise isn’t a luxury like nipping out for a coffee. We’re all easier to get along with when we’ve exercised. I know my wife is much nicer to be around when she’s had her morning run!” says Dr Pyke.

Working out together

Exercise doesn’t have to be a solo venture. In fact, working out à deux can enhance the success of your relationship, as well as your weight loss efforts. Some experts claim that couples who work out together tend to be more sexually intimate, which may just entice less eager partners to slap on their sneakers!

Jacqui suggests building closeness by sharing fun, active habits, like:

  • Evening walks to debrief on the day
  • Cooking healthy foods together
  • Wii or Xbox games that involve movement
  • 10-pin bowling
  • Cycling
  • Tennis
  • Golf
  • Dancing
  • Partner or general yoga

“Swap and take turns choosing the activity so both individuals have a say and can stay within their physical and mental comfort zones,” she says.

Generally speaking, women are more likely to suggest cardio exercise, while men often opt for strength training. Being willing to compromise and undertaking a variety of activities sets you in good stead for well-rounded physical balance.

Healthy versus hurtful competition

It’s pretty clear when the line has been crossed between healthy and heated competition. A silent journey home is a good indication! Jacqui believes competition remains healthy as long as it is grounded in enjoyment and participation.

“If competition becomes about how much they’re eating or intensity and sustainability of exercise, it can lead to unhealthy and undesirable behaviours,” she says.

Dr Pyke acknowledges that healthy competition can be incredibly motivating as long as you can take friendly jibes in your stride.

“Any kind of competition in a physical setting can increase intensity. If you race your partner, you’ll probably run with greater vigour. Competition is part of life. We’re not going to win everything, but that doesn’t mean we’re not worthy of a whole lot of love.”

Partner power improves the chances of weight loss

Partner power is an effective way of realising your health goals, as recognised by an innovative health promotion program at the Royal Perth Hospital that was established for couples who had just started living together. The aim was to establish healthy dietary habits as a couple before marriage, when many people become happily settled and less willing to change their ways.

If you and your partner are not pulling together, you are missing out on possibly your best resource. Staying friends with your partner during your weight loss journey is as good for your health as it is for your heart.

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