You've finally committed to eating healthier and getting regular exercise. You're ready to make a change, and it feels great! The only problem — your spouse or partner is proud of you but not ready to make changes of their own. You can keep moving forward, but that can be a real problem when dinnertime rolls around, and the question arises of what to eat.
If one person in a relationship is ready to change, it can be difficult for the other partner and may bring up their own insecurities about their health or eating habits.
Research published in the International Journal of Obesity reports that married couples' weight changes similarly over time. If you've gained a few pounds over the years, chances are your spouse has too. Fortunately, the study found that when one person starts a weight loss plan, their partner also loses weight even if they aren't actively trying.
Start with a discussion
Take time to have an uninterrupted conversation about why you want to make changes and the benefits you're hoping for. Ask for help and support. Do your best not to accuse and refrain from judgment.
It can be surprising for couples to learn about their partner's concerns. If you are the primary cook, your partner may be worried their favorite foods are going away. If you are not the primary cook, your partner may be concerned about their ability to prepare healthy foods for you. Talk about how you can address these issues in ways that make sense for both of you.
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Using the word "diet" can trigger images of tiny plates of lettuce and constant hunger. Instead of focusing on negative words like dieting, try talking with your partner about your desire to cook more enjoyable and healthier meals. Suggest making meals from scratch, eating at home instead of at a restaurant, trying new cuisines or taking a cooking class together.
It is important to have a discussion with your partner that gets them on board with your new healthy eating plan.
Implement change thoughtfully
If you are the primary cook at home, start by adding a vegetable side to each meal or swapping vegetable oil for olive oil. Start with small changes that won't drastically change the meal.
If you are not in charge of cooking, look at it as an exciting time to learn or help in the process. Try taking a healthy cooking class or using a food subscription program to help you start learning how to shop and prepare wholesome foods. Once your partner sees your commitment, they may be inspired to join you.
Show them how to love you
Your partner may want to support you but is unaware they are actually undermining your healthy choices.
I often see clients struggling because their partner brings home fast food as a way of showing love.
Instead of getting upset, let them know that you appreciate it when they help with dinner, and then problem-solve together which take-out restaurants offer healthy choices. If your partner likes to give gifts, offer ways they can show love instead of chocolates or specialty desserts, such as flowers, a new book or a new fishing lure.
It may take time and multiple conversations with your family or partner, but consistent and open communication will benefit your health and your relationship in the long run.
Bonnie Buckingham is a registered dietitian at the Samaritan Weight Management Institute. Learn more about weight management options, samhealth.org/WeightLoss.