Weight loss is already an uphill battle. You may be struggling against a sluggish metabolism, persistent food cravings, physical limitations and time restraints. But when you also face resistance from your loved ones—especially your spouse—your goal can seem like an insurmountable mountain.
You already know how important it is to have a strong support system when making a lifestyle change. And even if most of your friends, family members and co-workers are cheering you on, lack of support from your spouse or significant other can have a detrimental effect on your weight loss plan.
Reasons for an Unsupportive Spouse
There’s a lot of gray area in the “unsupportive zone.” Making the occasional batch of brownies may seem innocent enough, but then there could be other signs that your spouse is doing things to sabotage your efforts on a daily basis, such as ridiculing your food logs, questioning your motives or insisting on bringing a barrage of forbidden foods into the house.
Any time one member of a couple undergoes a major lifestyle shift without the other, there is the potential for strain. Since food and meals play such a big daily role in any relationship, a major dietary change can cause tension. Your spouse may feel indirectly pressured to give up his or her own favorite foods, may take offense when you rebuff an offer of food or may feel threatened by your desire to improve your physical fitness.
Then there are the day-to-day logistics to consider: Will you have to cook separate meals every night? Which meal(s) will the kids eat? How will you fit the extra grocery expenses into the budget?
Staying on Track in Spite of Adversity
Below are some quick tips for pursuing your goals even when your spouse seems opposed to them.
- Have a healthy heart-to-heart. Is there even the slightest chance that your partner isn’t fully aware of your commitment to a healthier lifestyle? If so, take the time to sit down and talk about what you’re trying to do and your reasons for doing it, whether it’s to prevent disease, to feel more confident or to have more energy to take care of the kids. Stress how much you’d appreciate your spouse’s help and support, but make it clear that you plan to pursue this even if he or she isn’t on board. SparkPeople member Michellerecommends the following word choice: “I encourage you to respect my ability to take care of my body. I appreciate your interest and invite you to join along if you’d like.”
- Get your partner involved. As you immerse yourself in your weight loss plan, your spouse may feel abandoned or unneeded. Ask your partner for help as specifically as possible, clearly defining ways in which he or she can show support. Share your food log, SparkPeople page, inspiration photos, favorite quotes or anything else that helps keep you motivated. Even if these efforts don’t convince your spouse to join in your weight loss journey, he or she could help to spark some empathy and encouragement.
- Praise the positive. Sometimes a spouse’s resistance stems from a simple need for reassurance. Instead of harping on the wrongs, SparkPeople member PKNPAN21 recommends focusing on what your partner is doing right: “Let him know that you love all the things he does for you, how amazing his support has been and that he’s so thoughtful. Maybe giving him a list of ‘I love it when you _________’ and fill in the most meaningful and helpful actions he has done for you that you want him to continue. Acknowledge that you have changed and now as a stronger, healthier person would love for him to _________ (fill in your wishes), but make it clear it is up to him to choose to do these wish-list items and that you love him either way.”
- Write it down. If you haven’t had luck making your case in face-to-face conversations, try writing a letter expressing your feelings. SparkPeople member PSCHIAVONE2 has had success with this strategy: “As a man, I sometimes do the wrong thing with the best of intentions,” he says. “When my partner and I are not on the same page, I will write a note letting her know my feelings about the issue. Now we write each other a few times a week. Sometimes talking it out does not sink in.”
- Get cooking. If your spouse loves to cook for you or pamper you with treats, it could seem like an insult when you announce that you can no longer eat the same meals or sweets you’ve always enjoyed. Without being critical, let your partner know how much you’ve appreciated the foods he or she has prepared, but that you can no longer fit them into your diet plan. To spark ideas for healthier versions, SparkPeople member MIUMIU69 recommends sharing some favorite recipes or a cookbook that adheres to your diet plan.
- Keep “bad” foods out of sight, and out of your mouth. If your spouse continues to bring junk food or tempting treats into the house, designate a separate cabinet or pantry shelf in which to store them—ideally as high or out of sight as possible—and then steer clear of that area.
- Keep snacks in the kitchen. It can be tough to stick to your guns when your sweetie carries in a giant bowl of popcorn for movie night. Suggest activating a new rule where the entire family eats only in the kitchen. If snacks aren’t floating around the family room between meals, you’ll be less likely to succumb to the temptation.
- Introduce non-food activities. For many couples, food and sweets are used as a means of celebration and bonding. If you’re no longer able to share that, it can cause a rift in the relationship. To bridge the gap, suggest another activity you can pursue together, such as playing a game, going for a walk or tackling a home improvement project.
- Seek support elsewhere. If your spouse is still unsupportive in spite of your efforts, look outside the home for solidarity. The SparkPeople community is a rich source of camaraderie and encouragement, and you can also find in-person support groups and healthy cooking workshops in your area. If your partner is adamant about controlling or sabotaging your weight loss efforts, you might consider talking to an objective third party who can help you identify the true cause of the conflict.