When Your Partner Doesn’t Support Your Health Goals

In my counseling sessions with clients, I talk a lot about how important it is to have good support to be successful with weight loss (or really, to be successful with any health goals).

For most people, your significant other is the person that you spend the most amount of time with and the person that is most influential in your decision making. This makes choosing your partner as your support person an easy choice… that is unless they are more likely to sabotage your efforts than to aid your efforts.

If your partner is more likely to bring you an ice cream sundae and encourage you to sit on the couch and binge on Netflix than to cut up some veggies and get you to the gym, here are a few things you can do:

1. Set up and define expectations.

Be specific with what you are going to do and what you hope to achieve. How will these actions affect your partner? The fear of the unknown can lead to uncooperative behavior. Let them know that just because you are making changes, doesn’t mean that they need to make the same changes. Fortunately, over time, as they see you feeling better and having more energy they may be encouraged to join you.

2. Take control over what you need to consume.

Only you are putting food into your mouth. If you know your weaknesses and those foods are still finding a way into your house, aim for a compromise. Try setting aside one shelf or one cabinet that can hold the “off limit” food and don’t open it! Set the agreement that if the food is left out, you have the right to throw it away to keep from eating it yourself.

Having said this, it doesn’t mean your whole pantry needs to be changed upside down. Dinners, or other shared meals, can be made healthy and balanced just by adjusting portions (limiting calorie dense foods) and adding a large serving of non-starchy vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower and salad.

3. Communicate when you feel unsupported.

If you feel that your partner isn’t supporting you, it’s possible that they don’t realize what they are doing. Ask why they are being unsupportive and point out what actions you feel are not supportive.

It’s also possible that they are fearful of you losing weight. Some spouses fear weight loss as it can increase feelings of jealousy and insecurity. Reassure your spouse of the reasons that you want to lose weight. They may also fear missing out on time with you as you are busy prepping healthy foods and exercising. Show them how they can share in this with you.

Also, ASK for help. Often we think our significant others can read our minds. They can’t! Ask specifically for what you need to be successful.

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4. Seek support elsewhere.

It is still critical to have support as you are making lifestyle changes even if that support is not coming from your significant other. The good news is that there are many avenues for this. There are some great online support programs (MyFitnessPal, LoseIt, Sparkpeople and Weight Watchers to name a few. Here are more options for healthy eating apps.)

You could also reach out to other family members; a parent, sibling, cousin, aunt or uncle who are trying to make changes as well. Coworkers can also be a great place to look for support as we end up spending a great deal of time with those we work with. Another great option is seeking help from a professional. A lot of people that I see know that they need regular “check-ups” to stay on target and even just monthly visits with a dietitian can be very beneficial.

Finally, don’t use non-support as a crutch! It can be immobilizing to have someone hindering your health efforts, but keep reminding yourself why you want to make changes in the first place and take action.

McNamee, Kinsey 8196Kinsy McNamee, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian at ProMedica Wellness. Read more of her stories from her monthly Eating Right In Real Life series.