Retrofit Blog

Losing Weight as a Couple

How Love Can Lead to Successful Results

February 13, 2014

Steve and SherylA common challenge many couples face is weight gain. While popular theories abound on how this can cripple a relationship, I actually think it can showcase how real love triumphs throughout the years. By losing weight as a couple, spouses and partners can support each other in making smarter, healthier life decisions, in turn, reflecting the commitment that they'll always be there for one another.

I'm a strong advocate of teaming up with someone you love to excel in most activities. This is an especially great way to ensure long-lasting success in shedding those unwanted pounds. I've found that couples who try to lose weight together have a much easier time reaching their weight loss goals. That's simply because they create a healthier environment for each other.

However, in 2013, the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships reported that mixed-weight couples-wherein one is overweight and the other is not-experience more conflict in their relationship. So does this mean to call it quits if your partner gains weight? I sure hope not. I actually think this is a great stepping-stone to demonstrating the power of your love.

Introducing weight loss into these relationships is a critical step to their success. Retrofit Advisory Board Member Dr. Brad Saks, Psy.D., states, "Weight management can be a real challenge in our food-rich environment. Having honest and caring communication with your significant other, and having support, is vital for losing weight."

Dr. Saks explains that mixed-weight couples actually tend to be very supportive in their efforts to exercise and eat healthier. "Ask for help removing foods that get you into trouble and make sure good foods are available around the house or office, so you and your weight loss partner both stay on track."

Dr. Saks also cites the social contagion theory published in the Framingham Heart Study in the New England Journal of Medicine. This theory suggests that diseases like obesity are behaviorally based, meaning they can spread through social networks. A 2009 article on the Framingham Heart Study published in the New York Times Magazine entitled "Are Your Friends Making You Fat?" states, "Staying healthy isn't just a matter of your genes and your diet, it seems. Good health is also a product, in part, of your sheer proximity to other healthy people."

Dr. Saks adds, "The take-home is that the better you do on a weight loss program, the better your significant other, spouse, friend, or co-worker does as well. Working in tandem is actually doing the other person a favor because success can come easier when you work towards a unified goal."

Working with Retrofit clients, I've certainly found this to be true as well. For any couple out there looking to lose weight and adopt long-term sustainable behavior changes, I developed these three rules:

1. Support, but don't police. Remember that motivation waxes and wanes. If your loved one is also trying to lose weight and you find yourself losing focus, your partner is a great person to help you stay committed to your goals with positive support and encouragement. Take walks together and support each other with meal planning.

2. Make time to get healthy by scheduling appointments. Block out time on your calendar for exercise and grocery shopping, and hold each other accountable to the plan.

3. Challenge each other to eat slowly and mindfully. See who can be the last person to finish their meal rather than the first one. It takes 20 minutes for your head to catch up with your stomach, so slow down and give your body a chance to recognize that it is full.

Meet the Roses
Many Retrofit clients actually sign up for programs as couples, and it's great to see how spouses can push each other to succeed. They have their team of experts. They have their Fitbit devices. And best of all, they have each other. One couple that highlights the success that can be achieved together is Steve and Sheryl Rose.

As of this month, Steve and Sheryl will have been married 40 years. That in itself is quite a wonderful achievement. Over those 40 years, they each tried dieting on their own. While they found themselves losing weight at first, they soon learned those results weren't here to stay. Because they were steady snackers-frequently nibbling on unhealthy foods throughout the day-they soon regained the weight. It wasn't until a year ago, as Steve found himself out of breath walking up the stairs, that a final decision was made to do something once and for all.

Sixty-seven year-old Steve joined Retrofit first. Sixty-one year-old Sheryl was a bit reluctant, admitting she was worried she wouldn't be successful on the program. However, six months later, upon seeing Steve's gradual improvements, Sheryl took the plunge.

Since they've been doing the Retrofit program together, they've been working as a team to help each other keep the weight off. Sometimes the support even turns to a friendly fight over who gets to use the treadmill first.

"My wife has already lost about 10% of her weight," says Steve. "We talk about it all the time. We regularly discuss what's working and what isn't." In addition, Steve notes they even talk about their daily step count, their food choices, and their overall progress.

Steve and Sheryl also enjoy cooking together. They regularly help each other take responsibility for their food choices. They take pride in grilling quite a bit of delicious and healthy options such as salmon, turkey burgers, and Brussels sprouts. And they keep each other accountable for having vegetables around.

Today, both Steve and Sheryl are finding real, long-lasting results. Steve has lost 18 pounds (10% of his starting body weight) in 49 weeks. Sheryl has lost a clinically significant 14 pounds in 22 weeks.

"I had no doubt they'd be successful. It brings me a lot of joy that they're so much healthier and they'll be in my life for longer," says their daughter Jen Rose, a Behavior Coach with Retrofit.

Losing weight is clearly a benefit for the individual and his or her loved ones. Couples like the Roses prove that losing weight as a couple creates a bond that makes their love grow stronger. It also inspires them to get healthier to live longer for their children or grandchildren.

So, to all the loving couples out there, my message is not to wait for health problems to happen. Be proactive. After all, love is a great motivator. With trust and support on your side, you and your partner are more likely to attain a healthier life together.

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Jennifer Plotnek Lead Behavior Coach

Jennifer is a lifelong athlete who has spent the last 15 years helping other people minimize the impact of their life stressors through exercise, nutrition, and self-care. She has a degree in Sociology from the University of Colorado and a Master's degree from the Smith College School For Social Work. Jennifer has worked in hospitals, schools, mental health clinics, and private practice. She co-owns a health club in DC and always strives to set a good example for her three daughters.

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