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How Can I Help My Spouse Stay Healthy?

How Can I Help My Spouse Stay Healthy?

The media is all abuzz post New Years with interesting segments on diet and exercise. Apparently many of us contemplate shedding pounds and getting healthy each time January rolls around. Whether it’s "New Year, New You," or losing weight that was gained over the holidays—the start of a brand new year certainly does promote caring for oneself.

With this theme in mind, I wasn’t surprised when several of my clients mentioned to me their desire to get and stay fit. I was also asked for advice regarding how they could get their partners on the fitness bandwagon as well.

READ: Weathering Change In Your Marriage

Judy commented to me that her already overweight husband gained even more weight as of late. “I’m constantly nagging him to lose weight— yet it’s as if I’m talking to a wall,” she lamented. “It’s so frustrating.”

Matt, a devoted husband and father, confessed to me that his wife’s continued inattention to her appearance is having an effect on his sex drive. “I know she’s busy and all, but she never takes care of herself,” said Matt. “I find myself looking at other women these days – and I know that’s not a good sign.”

If you’re in a relationship, it can be very upsetting if you care about your health and appearance, and your significant other doesn’t.  This predicament is bound to cause conflict, and continued conflict can chip away at a love bond.

How can you address this quandary in an effective way? Here are five tips to get you started:

  • Practice what you preach. If you want your partner to get healthy and stay healthy, be a food and fitness role model. Eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, and take the time to care for your appearance. Often times leading by example can produce desired results.
     
  • Try a team approach. If you’d like your partner to shed some pounds, suggest a “Biggest Loser” contest. Challenge him or her to a game of tennis, a day of biking, or a trip to a spa. Being active with your spouse is a great way to bring fun and excitement into your relationship.

READ: Why Women Gain Weight as They Age and What to Do About It

  • If these two suggestions don’t initiate change, perhaps it’s time to schedule a sit-down meeting. Every couple needs to learn how to discuss difficult topics.  When speaking to your spouse about health and weight, be sure to speak in “I” statements. Never shame or blame. Most people who are overweight are aware that they are. They often feel stuck, unable to change, and are very sensitive to criticism.  Here’s an example: “I need to bring something to your attention because I care about you. I’m worried about your recent weight gain and its impact on your health. I love you and want you in my life for a long time. Can we discuss this and come up with a solution that makes sense for both of us?” Be patient, gentle, and be sure to listen and validate your partner’s feelings.
     
  • Don’t Nag. After you’ve had a discussion about the topic, try to let it go. Research shows that nagging produces the opposite result that you are looking for, and, it’s damaging to a relationship.
     
  • Be optimistic and encouraging. Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day. Even small changes deserve praise.
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