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The Do’s and Don’ts of Starting a Weight Loss Plan With Your Partner

The Do’s and Don’ts of Starting a Weight Loss Plan With Your Partner

Get fit and tone up, but make sure you’re supporting one another.

It takes two to tango—especially if you’re doing the weight-loss pas de deux, say researchers at the Department of Communication Studies, University of Texas at Austin. They conducted a survey of almost 400 individuals and uncovered the reasons couples find weight loss challenging—and what partners can do to support each other’s efforts.

First, the researchers identified some obstacles that you may face when you tell your partner you are going to try to change your lifestyle:

  • When just one person is battling to lose weight he or she needs to have the support of the partner—and that can be tough to get if your partner also needs to lose weight. This is very common since your partner may not be ready to confront the reality of his or her health crisis. All kinds of unintentional but sabotaging actions can arise, from bringing home a bucket of fried chicken to refusing to take an after-dinner walk with you.
  • Lack of demonstrated support for your solo efforts can also make your partner’s suggestions on how to upgrade diet, get more physical activity and improve overall behavior sting like criticism and can be both hurtful and derail your weight-loss efforts.

The Texas researchers went further: They concluded that couples need to talk with one another to clear the air. Tell your partner that you need support and that you are not asking him or her to join you (although you’d welcome it!).

One secret benefit: A study in Obesity found that when one spouse joins a weight loss program the other spouse often loses weight too. Among the 130 people and their spouses that they followed, 32 percent of “non-participating” partners lost at least 3 percent of their body weight within six months.

There are also unique challenges that couples targeting weight loss together face:

  • If you want to exercise together but have different fitness levels or abilities, you will need to set individual goals and/or establish equal durations (10 minutes using the stretchy bands). But remember, you won’t always have use an equal number of reps or equal amounts of resistance. You can also find some activities, like interval walking, you can do together at the same pace.
  • You may need to consume different amounts of calories if one of you has a physically demanding occupation and the other is a desk-jockey, for example. But you don’t need different kinds of foods. One person may aim for seven servings of fresh fruits and veggies a day, another may aim for nine. Or you may take in two three-ounce servings of lean protein (salmon or skinless poultry) while your partner needs three six-ounce servings.

    You should still cook the same foods for both of you—lean proteins, no highly processed foods, and no foods with added sugars or trans fats and minimal sat fats.

One incentive that helps some couples stay on track: Competition that bestows points earned and points lost. On the plus side: You get 5 points for working out for 30 minutes; 1 point for every 8 ounces of water your drink; 10 points every time you consciously skip something with added sugar; 20 points for after-dinner physical activity. On the minus side: You lose 5 points for every sweetened beverage you drink; 10 points for energy drinks and bars; and 20 points for eating red or processed meats. Add it up and make a weekly reckoning.

A recent study in Circulation found if you can work together as a couple to support your weight-loss efforts you will be rewarded mightily. You can add 14 years to your lifespan if you’re a woman and 12 if you’re a man by having these five lifestyle habits: At least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily; moderate alcohol intake; a high-quality diet; having a body mass index of 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2; and never smoking.

That’ll get the two of you into a romantic tango for sure!

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