What happens when YOU decide to get healthier…but your partner is dragging their feet? How to make changes that stick and keep the peace.
If we’re lucky, our friends and family make weight loss easy for us by supporting us and encouraging us, whatever form we need that to take. They know how important it is for us to like the person we see in the mirror each morning, for us to feel good and be healthy. At worst, they participate even though they don’t share our goals: they pursue their own in a way that doesn’t hinder our progress.
Unfortunately for many of us, our family and friends can be our biggest barriers to weight loss. There it is: there’s no two ways about it. You may have been there before. You found a program you liked, that made sense to you. You were even seeing some success. And then someone close to you starts undercutting your efforts.
What’s going on here?
The first possibility is that you’re pursuing a restrictive diet that doesn’t allow you to eat enough and deprives you of your favorite treats. And to be honest, it hasn’t done wonders for your mood. Maybe your partner serves you a nice, juicy steak cooked just the way you like it because you haven’t been eating meat, some good fruit that you don’t permit yourself to eat because it has sugar, or a reasonable amount of your favorite indulgence that you consider to be even worse than fruit.
This isn’t actual sabotage although it is undercutting your plans: it’s self-preservation and actually—kinda-sorta—beneficial to you. That’s because restrictive dieting crushes your metabolism like an egg shell: short-term loss is followed by rebound weight gain. And steak, fruit and reasonable indulgences are far from the worst things with which to “break a diet”. They’re actually part of normal, healthy eating—even if you’re trying to lose weight.
However, most people who undercut someone else’s weight loss program, especially when it’s been successful, aren’t engaged in a back-handed attempt to get someone to eat healthy. They’re engaged in outright sabotage and there are several reasons why.
So read on to learn how to defend yourself from this kind of behavior.
Nobody Likes Change
Chances are, if you have a weight problem, you and your spouse have been eating that way for a while. Long-term, sustainable weight loss means making long-term changes to the way you’re eating. You don’t have to make those changes all at once and you shouldn’t, but they do add up. However, that dislike of change has some significantly different underlying reasons.
Food is Love
Food is a genuine pleasure and in many cultures, sharing food is an expression of real love. How many times have you made something special for someone you loved, just because you knew they enjoyed it? Would you have been hurt if they refused it? Or sad because you wanted them to enjoy themselves and if they refuse something they love, something bad must be going on? Now think about it from the other angle: if you love strawberry cheesecake ice cream, sometimes your spouse just wants to give you something nice, so refusing it is a rejection, or worse, a sign that something is really wrong with you.
The solution to this is to substitute good foods you enjoy for bad foods you enjoy, and non-food pleasures for food pleasures. Ask your sweetie if he or she would, instead of giving you strawberry cheesecake ice cream, those dill pickles that make you drool at the very thought of them, some pretty yarn for your knitting, the new book you’re dying to read, or a gift certificate to a hobby shop. Or a set portion of that ice cream, rather than the whole tub. What works for you is right.
Whatever you do, don’t complain about what you’re eating and what you’re not eating. If you do, the people who love you will redouble their efforts to get you to eat something you enjoy.
Changing your Diet Implies Criticism
Sustainable weight loss means permanently shifting from a diet high in added salt, sugar, fat, and processed foods to a diet based on fruits, vegetables, clean proteins, good fats, and perhaps whole grains and legumes, with salt and sugar used judiciously to enhance flavors, rather than replace them. Rapidly shifting a family diet from the unhealthy to the healthy implies criticism of the way things were, and no one likes to be criticized. Especially adults. A much better approach is to make the shift a step at a time, and involve our family all the way through.
One of the most important things you can do is never criticize other people’s eating habits. Before you made the commitment to yourself to eat healthy, you probably didn’t want people to tell you, “I can’t believe you’re eating that!” or “All that sugar affects your brain just like cocaine: you’re addicted!”. So don’t say it to other people. No one likes to be made to feel defensive.
If you do want to talk about how changing your diet and weight loss has affected you, say only positive things: “I feel better and have more energy since I stopped eating all that sugar,” is fine. You’re not criticizing anyone. And do it only when asked: that way, you don’t sound like you’re bragging. And if someone offers you some homemade pie, eat it or not as you want to. “No, thank you” is a complete sentence.
The best way to get people to eat healthier? Serve them great food that nourishes their bodies as well as their tastes, making them healthy, strong, and sated, rather than overweight and sick or hungry and deprived. If your eating plan isn’t loaded with recipes anyone would enjoy, you need a better one, because life is too short to eat bad food—and bad food never helped anyone lose weight. Eventually, your body will drive you to eat food you enjoy.
Hoo boy. This is a painful one. There are people who will try to sabotage you so they can feel better about their own decisions. They don’t want you to succeed, because no matter how tactful and discreet you are, you have proven that it is possible to lose weight. That means that to a significant extent, they are responsible for their own weight. They don’t want to change, even for the better, and your success will remind them that change is possible, even realistic.
For example, you might send someone to the store for carrots. And they come home with the carrot cake they know is your overwhelming weakness, and say, “The store was out of carrots, so I thought this would be OK.” Or you’re seasoning fish with lemon, herbs and spices and as soon as you turn your back, your significant other is drowning it in oil or butter. You know, that kind of stuff.
Jealousy from a significant other can be hard to deal with because the excess weight serves as a source of equilibrium in a relationship. It can be very, very hard to watch someone you love decide to lose weight when you have chosen not to. The obvious question is: is there someone else? If there is no one else, then the partner trying to lose weight must ask the other, Why are they more attached to their weight than being healthy and attractive? Why don’t they want to be attractive to me?
In some relationships, these issues can be resolved by loving, sincere reassurances. In other relationships, both parties may have to have a serious conversation about priorities. Do you want me to have a long and healthy life or do you prefer me fat—and to die earlier than I will if I lose this weight? Do you really want me to develop diabetes?
If at all possible, an excellent strategy to defuse jealousy between you and your spouse may be to lose weight together: share the work involved in shifting from a diet of processed food-like products to real food. This means your eating plan needs to be designed for your lifestyle and time pressures: the recipes need step-by-step instructions and affordable ingredients. And there should be an extensive collection of simple foods for those nights you just don’t feel like cooking.
Power and Gender Dynamics
This is the really tough one because many women are still raised to be caretakers while some men are raised to get what they want, when they want it, with little concern about how this affects the women around them. Sometimes the opposite is the arrangement at home.
So when a partner decides to lose weight, the nurturer in the couple will usually do everything possible to support weight loss―healthier cooking and shopping, keeping trigger foods out of the home, and making restaurant plans with health in mind. The exception will be if he or she just can’t take on any more household tasks.
When the nurturer decides to lose weight, the dominant spouse may take the attitude of, “I can have what I want, and you just have to deal with it”…even though many people also want their partners to be conventionally attractive. If you’re in that situation, you may have to be pretty blunt: Do you want me to keep eating like this? OK. But it will only make me fatter and unhealthier. Is that what you really want for me?
If you’re the partner who does most of the shopping and cooking, you can to a significant extent control what’s in your kitchen and on your plate. But your meal plan has to have recipes that aren’t the standard “diet food.” To be honest, diet food is chemical-laden processed food that a long time ago was real food. It’s highly overrated as a way to lose weight. Real food, prepared in simple, healthy ways, does a much better job—and it tastes better.
Because It Starts and Ends with the Body…
Reaching a solution that both you and your partner can live with about eating, food, weight, and health goals is profoundly important. These are issues that have the potential to completely fracture a relationship—and in a very real way, ruin people’s lives and bodies.
But reaching this balance doesn’t mean you have to be on the same sheet of music: it’s great if exercise becomes a way to spend quality time together. But it’s OK if one of you loves to lift weights and the other has decided to take up cycling. It’s OK if one of you prefers more red meat than the other does, as long as you reach a healthy compromise that both of you enjoy. And it can also be OK if she decides that after 3 babies, she’s OK with weighing 20 pounds more than before pregnancy #1, especially if she’s at a healthy weight and as long as she’s supportive of your attempts to shed those 50 sympathy pounds you gained. We all have hierarchies of values: we decide that some things are more important than others, so we pick and choose and prioritize.
To reaching this equilibrium is easing into an eating plan based on your real-world, real-life needs, with real foods that you and your partner enjoy. The Trim down Club allows you to do this with our unique Personal Menu Planner, easy-to-use, state-of-the-art software that is so powerful and flexible, it’s like having your very own private nutritionist.
This is exactly the opposite of most diets, which have you change everything about your eating at once. Diets usually lead to you preparing two separate meals: one for you, one for your spouse, which in terms of time and money is usually the very definition of “unsustainable.” The central idea of a diet is that you eat in a radically different way for a short period of time, then go back to your old eating habits. And is it any wonder that the weight comes back, usually with interest?
But healthy long-term weight loss requires a totally different approach: it requires you to permanently change your eating habits. This is best done one step at a time, by replacing a few unhealthy foods at a time with healthy foods that you enjoy, and with input from your significant other to involve him or her as well. The Personal Menu Planner allows you and your spouse or partner to ease into your new lifestyle without shock. At the same time, it also makes room for your favorite treats, so you don’t feel deprived. So you can strengthen and sustain your healthy eating habits until they become a normal part of your life―and dine and live in harmony with your significant other―while the pounds melt away so you look better and feel great.