How diet and weight loss affects your relationship

By: Courtney Hope

Author: Canadian Living


How diet and weight loss affects your relationship

By: Courtney Hope
The holidays are one of the most difficult times of the year: We celebrate with an overconsumption of food and drink, then often take a pledge to lose all of the extra pounds gained (and maybe more) when January rolls around. Some of us will succeed and some of us will not. Some of us will carry around some extra weight for the next few months and some of us will shed it all -- and more.

But what happens when one partner keeps on a few extra pounds? What happens when one loses even more than planned? In a society that's so driven by appearances, how does weight really affect our relationships?

For a deeper look into some of the challenges faced by couples when one partner experiences a significant weight change, we turned to couples counsellor Adrienne Bairstow.

1. Realize it will be an adjustment for both of you
There will always be challenges for couples, and issues pertaining to weight are part of those. When one partner gains a noticeable amount of weight, problems are more likely to arise for the person who has gained the weight, rather than their partner, says Bairstow.

"The person who gains the weight might be unhappy, not feel attractive, or might be reluctant to be intimate. Often the other partner is OK with it, although there may be some concerns about the partner's health, which can lead to all sorts of concerns about whether their partner will be around in the future." When it comes to weight loss, on the other hand, things tend to be a little different. "It often depends if the weight loss is healthy or not," says Bairstow. "And it depends on the other partner, if they are overweight or not. They may start to feel more insecure."

Overall, however, Bairstow emphasizes that healthy weight loss, whether for one or both partners, can often have a positive impact on a relationship, as the person starts to feel more attractive and better about themselves, and has more energy to invest in living well, together.

Page 1 of 3 -- Uncover the real issues behind your partner's desire to lose weight on page 2

2. Ensure you know what the real issues are
"When dealing with this sort of situation, I always want to know what is really distressing each person," says Bairstow. "If one partner says, 'I'm no longer attracted to you because of your weight gain,' I think there is something else at the root of this problem."

When one member of a couple experiences an extreme body transformation and the other partner takes it negatively, there is often something deeper going on. The other partner may be concerned for their significant other's health (with regards to extreme gains or losses) or about their own health (particularly if he or she is overweight).

"(Weight) is a loaded issue in our society and people don't know how to deal with it. And it can manifest itself negatively with nasty comments," says Bairstow. Make sure you take the time to discuss, as a couple, what kind of impact the changes are having for you -- both good and bad.

3. Make sure your communication stays strong

"The issue of weight has so much shame in our society," says Bairstow. "The last thing anyone wants for their partner is feelings of shame. Communication is essential in finding ways to address these concerns."

Having a strong communication base is important in any relationship, but broaching touchier subjects, such as weight, requires even more patience and understanding. Approaching the topic as a health concern is a good way to ease the blow of the weight conversation, says Bairstow.

Make sure that there is an emphasis on how much you care for and love your partner, and how you are simply looking out for their best interests. Never put a negative spin on the subject of weight: There is already too much pressure to be a certain size, and your partner doesn't need to feel it from you as well.

Page 2 of 3 -- Discover easy ways to get healthy as a couple on page 3

4. Set out a challenge as a couple
There is no better way to ensure that weight gain or loss does not hurt your relationship than to set out on a "get healthy" goal together. And there is no better time of year to start than now!

"Losing weight together is a great way for couples to bond," says Bairstow. "There is the opportunity to learn something new together, and it is a great way to stay connected." Even resolving to take a short walks together, as little as once a week, will go a long way for your relationship and your waistline," says Bairstow. "It is also great because you can support each other. When one person is having a rough time, the other person can motivate them, and vice versa."

Being healthy and happy are goals we all wish to achieve, and you deserve to be both of those things in your relationship. Remember that your partner fell in love with you, not your pant size. Don't ever forget that.

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How diet and weight loss affects your relationship