It takes two to tango, especially if you’re doing the weight-loss pas de deux, say researchers at the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.
They did 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 sweetie that 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. That can be tough to get if your partner also needs to lose weight (very common in couples) but isn’t 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 also can make your partner’s suggestions on how to upgrade diet, get more physical activity and improve overall behavior sting like criticism, and can both be hurtful and derail your weight-loss efforts.
Texas researchers concluded that couples need to talk with one another. Tell your significant other 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 the journal 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 they followed, fully 32 percent of nonparticipating 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 not equal number of reps or equal amount of resistance.
>> 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 3-ounce servings of lean protein (salmon or skinless poultry) while your partner needs three 6-ounce servings. You are still cooking 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.
For example, you get 5 points for working out for 30 minutes; 1 point for every 8 ounces of water you drink; 20 points for after-dinner physical activity. You lose 5 points for every sweetened beverage you drink and 20 points for eating red or processed meats.
A recent study in the journal Circulation found that 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; and never smoking.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.