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Building Your Support System

Building Your Support System

Written by Carolyn Borland

Weight loss and the partners who support us, and how to encourage those who don’t.

I love you, but what if…

You become a different person?

Your new habits make me confront mine?

People don’t accept us?

This new, healthy food tastes gross?

You judge me or stop loving me?

I can’t keep up with you?

Life gets uncomfortable?

I lose you?”

Fear – this is often the unspoken feeling of loved ones when they watch you embark on a new, healthy lifestyle. It’s a tricky situation because changing your own eating and exercise habits are hard enough on your own, but how are you supposed to get your loved ones to support you – and perhaps even start their own healthy journey?

I have an incredibly supportive partner, having met while both being on a weight loss journey, he has been willing to change plans with me, meal prep with me, go with me to gym on the days where I really don’t want to go – but I do know (and am extremely grateful to know) that I am one of the lucky ones. Not all partners are as supportive as mine.

When it comes to losing weight, how much your partner supports you can make or break your success. Not many couples are having in-depth conversations before tackling a weight-loss goal, although – they should. As the one on the weight loss journey, be prepared to have several conversations to get them to fully realize the role in your success. Communicate – as with any important topic – being able to communicate in your relationship is essential.

In this article, I will address the importance of a supportive partner – and how to get them to come to the sugar free party.

Step 1: Explain your WHY.

As obvious as your goal may be to you, your partner may not understand why you’re embarking on a new health journey, you are perfect to them and they love you as you are. Explain – explain why it’s important to you and talk about all the good things it can mean for your life together. Go deeper than feeling comfy in your cozzie in the summer time. You’re making an investment for your future, to able yourself to run and play with your future grandkids.

Step 2: Get on the same page.

It’s great if your partner wants to lose weight too, because then you two can tackle this together. However, this isn’t always the case. It is important to get your partner on the same page as you as to how you are going to accomplish your health goal – or at least be able to understand your point of view. Sometimes, with people trying to lose weight, some partners had the same goal but failed to communicate and coordinate their efforts. Some were all about moderation (a block of chocolate in the evenings), while others needed a more rigid approach (no chocolate allowed in the house at all). It’s not fair for one person to make the rules or expect the other to change – and conflict is likely, so you need to compromise. Find where your goals overlap and where they don’t. Maybe insist on taking daily walks together but cooking separate meals, or modifying your meals to suit your partner (give him/her a bit of sweet potato or brown rice if you’re going carb free) or if one person doesn’t want chocolate in the house but the other does – buy a flavour that they like and you don’t. My boyfriend knows that orange or fruity flavoured chocolate will always be safe from me. I would rather go without.

Step 3: Plan a new date night

Another common difficulty, is the struggle to incorporate weight loss goals into the existing relationship. It’s the question of “Do I go out with my partner on Friday night or do I prioritize my weight loss goals and skip going out?” This is one I’ve battled with more than once; we generally plan our date nights over days where cheat meals are legal – but our anniversary fell on a week night this year. While it isn’t easy, keep in mind that with celebrations like anniversary’s, you are celebrating each other – not food. You don’t have to eat what they eat; this is where your own desire to reach your goals come into play. Decide where you land but remember that it is possible to prioritize both your relationship and your weight loss – a date night out to a restaurant followed by a movie, could be converted into a special home cooked meal at a beautifully set table, or on the couch with Netflix and healthy snacks.

Step 4: Incorporate the whole family

If you and your partner have kids, it can be hard to carve out time for yourself to go to gym. Luckily, Lifeline exercises can be done in the comfort of your own home. Involve the kids for a family workout, or get them to cheer you on, counting down your reps, bringing you a cloth to wipe your sweaty brow (cue “Eye of the Tiger”) – let them be your very own personal cheerleaders. Weekends may be tougher, identify opportunities for the whole family to be active together – a family walk along the beach, pack a healthy picnic and go for a hike, visit an ice skating rink or a nearby beach for kayaking or beach tennis in summer. Healthy can be fun!

Step 5: Be open about your needs

If you want to lose weight, that may mean rethinking some of your habits – like eating more veggies and less processed foods. But, say one day you’re stressed and mindlessly eating an entire packet of chips. Do you want your partner to tell you to stop? Many people want to be called out on their unhealthy behaviours, but then get angry when they are. It’s confusing and unfair to the other person. Think about how you feel most supported and what approach you value most. I once asked my boyfriend if he would still love me if I got fat again, his answer – “I will love you at any weight, but will you love you?” – his answer was perfect, for me and my personality, but we are all different. Ask yourself a few questions: Do you need your partner to listen to you complain? Do you need them to build you up and cheer you on? Do you need them to be kind, but firm? Be very clear and specific to your partner about what would work best for YOU.

Step 6: Speak up against being undermined

You’ve been clear that you want to cook more at home and avoid grabbing takeout every night. Your partner comes home with (shock*gasp*horror) Chinese takeout. This is called undermining behaviour. Generally, if partners are undermining, it’s because they liked things the way they were. It can be uncomfortable when the lifestyle you have had together is now changing. Rather than getting upset with your partner (You don’t support me!!), use this time to voice how you are feeling, reassess things and talk about what is and isn’t working. If takeout is that important to your partner, maybe you can find a way to compromise by finding healthy options on the menu for either yourself, or something that you can enjoy together,

Step 7: Talk about your relationship

Another reason a partner may not be on board and may subtly sabotage your efforts is fear that if you lose weight, you won’t be attracted to them or you’ll have more potential partners available to you. Even though this may make no sense to you, it is important to validate your partner’s feelings anyway. This is a good time to address these worries and reassure your commitment to the relationship. You aren’t doing this to be better for another partner. You are doing this to be better for you, and in turn, be better for him/her. Talk about how you’re making these changes (be it going for a run, cooking more, discovering a love for zoodles) for the health benefits, like a better cholesterol profile or lowering your blood pressure. Talk about how becoming more fit with allow you to do new activities like harder hikes together, playing more with your kids and the increased sex drive level which comes with a better body image and increased energy (but we’ll leave that for another article). This view point may lower their wall of insecurity and fear.

Step 8: Seek help from the outside world

It is not your partners job alone to support you and give you everything you need. Finding support through a health and life coach, or a weight loss community (like our Lifeline Facebook group and the Whatsapp support chat groups) helps bright the gap so that you aren’t relying on him and her alone. Remember – this is YOUR journey, but at Lifeline – we are all in it together.

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