Couples who work together can ensure weight loss
Couples can greatly influence their partner’s decisions and this is relevant when it comes to weight loss too.
Partners can support weight management strategies of the other person or they may undermine their weight loss efforts depending on the strategies employed and their effectiveness.
But research shows that all strategies are not uniformly effective and that individuals may have a different interpretations and reaction to a particular strategy.
The study also found that unless partners align the weight loss strategies with their specific relational environment, couples risk alienation and unnecessary tension in their relationship.
Recently, interpersonal communication expert, Dr René Dailey investigated how individuals interpret their partner’s strategies for weight loss, with the aim of providing recommendations to couples looking to support each other’s weight loss goals.
The participants in this study included 389 individuals (212 were women), aged 19 to 74 years and were classified as overweight (BMI ranging from 25.01 to 74.21).
Nearly half the participants were married, and the rest were engaged or in a long-term relationship.
All the participants were trying to lose weight.
They filled out an online survey and the responses were analysed to reveal four different relational environments in which couples lose weight.
These ranged from ‘synchronised’ where both partners acted as a team and shared a positive attitude on weight loss, to ‘lone battlers’ who were less likely to discuss weight loss as a couple. They were characterised by low team effort and higher relationship strain.
The other two relational environments identified were ‘contentious cooperatives’, when approaching weight loss can sometimes cause conflict, and ‘autonomous’, where individuals receive only intermittent encouragement from their partner, without any interference.
The three most common weight loss strategies couples used were encouragement such as giving praise and reassurance, influence such as pushing their partners to do better and make healthier choices, and coercion such as making them feel guilty by withdrawing affection.
The study also found that unless partners align their weight loss strategies with their specific relational environment, couples risk alienation and unnecessary tension in their relationship.
The study found that synchronised partners who shared the same goal for weight loss were receptive to all three strategies including coercion. The negative emotions relating to this strategy was interpreted in a positive manner and seen as a concern for the partner rather than being manipulative or controlling. This could lead to positive effects for both weight loss and the couple’s relationship.
Couples in a relationship co-create an environment that can either support weight loss or not. The relationship environment makes a big difference as behaviours that support weight loss can be viewed differently. For example a person who focusses on diet for weight loss might view their partner’s suggestion to go for a walk as intrusive or unhelpful.
When partners are on the same page about desired support strategies, they welcome such strategies positively which will benefit their weight loss goals and also their relationship.
Source: Health Communication
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