Succeeding at a diet, especially a weight loss diet, takes motivation and determination. A partner or spouse can make succeeding easier or difficult, knowingly or unknowingly, by their actions and attitudes.
Here are a few tips on how to support your partner with their weight management efforts.
• Be interested. Ask, and then listen, to why your partner is making these changes. There may be deeper needs that are leading them to make these changes. A bad report from the doctor, for instance or a bad joke about their weight that hurt their feelings. Communicate your support to them clearly from the beginning.
• Ask for clarification if you are confused on how and where you could be helpful. Understand her definition of “support” and ensure you are giving it at the right time. He or she may need you to buy specific groceries like whole grain bread instead of white bread, or participate in their fitness programme.
• Mobilise the rest of the family, from the cook, to the driver, relatives and children, to understand their health goals. The changes in the grocery shopping list and menu need to be explained and understood by everyone in the house.
• Compliment their efforts. Celebrate their progress with something they really enjoy. It could be a favourite CD, a book she has wanted to buy for a while or a trip to a dream destination. Encourage him or her when they want to give up. Avoid making fun of their failures, especially before other family members or friends.
• Keep track of his or her appointments and offer to accompany him. Offer to go with him or her to a dietician’s or doctor’s appointment. Tracking and reviewing progress is an essential part of weight management.
• Avoid eating foods that are “forbidden” in their new diet when you are together. For example, do not come home with pizza when she is having potato salad for dinner. This could lead to an argument or other negative energy, which is greatly discouraging.
• Offer to cook for the family a healthy meal from his or her diet plan. You could also get a healthy recipe from the Internet and surprise them.
• Defend him or her during social gatherings when there is pressure to eat or drink more than usual. It is easy to get sucked into the excitement of parties and eat more than one should, only to feel bad and guilty the next day. Keeping an understanding eye on your partner helps them avoid the bad feelings and extra calories.
• Be informed. Get yourself educated about their problem, whether it is obesity, diabetes, or osteoarthritis. The more you know, the easier it will be for you to help.
No matter where the journey ends, remember their health is important and so is your relationship.
Look at the bigger picture and appreciate that these changes may also be good for you, and the children who look up to you. Besides, tomorrow, you may need their help!
The writer is a dietician