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Love and (Weight) Loss: How to be a Supportive Partner of Someone Who is Trying to Lose Weight

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

Being in a relationship with someone who is trying to lose weight can be challenging. Day to day life in your relationship might change. You might have unexpected feelings about what your partner is doing--maybe jelousy, guilt, or even fear. Here is an approach to being in a relationship with someone who is trying to lose weight and how to be a supportive partner.

Appearance and Identity

Your appearance is central to your identity and self-concept. It is also central to how others perceive you. There are probably 100 reasons why this is the case. I think one important reason is because people tend to be treated a certain way based on how they look. Societally, we tend to do certain things around people who appear one way. And we also get habituated with how others tend to interact with us. And if a person's visual appearance changes, people often change how they treat them. Being on the receiving end of that change in treatment can be jarring.

gift box with a heart

Appearance and Weight Loss in a Relationship

In a relationship, the effects of a change in appearance can be more impactful. The partner of someone whose visual appearance changes may perceive their changed partner to be a different person, or at least not the same as they always were. They want their old partner back. They want status quo.

Of course, I am specifically talking about being in a relationship with someone who is losing weight. When this happens, there is a lot that changes, and visual appearance is usually just an outward sign. The person losing weight probably has changed how they spend their time. They might be spending more time engaging in physical activity and less time with you. They might talk about what is going on at the gym or a new food they have tried rather than your typical conversation topics. They might decline to do the usual leisure activities you once did together. If they are the partner who primarily goes grocery shopping, they might change how the refrigerator and pantry looks. Often, both partners were overweight before the change, and the one who now remains overweight might feel that they were abandoned in something they used to be in together.

Weight Loss Sabotage

Sabotage of the partner's weight loss attempts is very common. It is usually not malicious, and it often derives from fear of your partner changing. It often is disguised as loving gestures, and is truly intended to be loving. Sabotage can come in many forms. Here are a few examples:

  • Purchasing foods your partner is trying to avoid

  • Serving your partner dessert without being asked

  • Taking your partner out to eat at fast food joints

  • Buying your partner sweets as a gift

  • Bringing your partner a soda from the gas station you stopped at

  • Buying candy to share at a movie

  • Coming home with sweets for a movie night at home

  • Teasing your partner about the foods they choose

  • Encouraging your partner to stay home rather than go to the gym

  • Scheduling other activities when your partner usually goes to the gym

What to do if Your Partner is Trying to Lose Weight

There are a few things to consider if you are in a relationship with someone who is trying to lose weight. Some of these are introspective, and some of them are practical actions. They all come from a place of love and support for your partner. Every relationship is different, so some may be helpful in your relationship, and others might not be. Consider sharing this list with your partner and get their feedback. They might have more ideas to add. If you want to know how to be a supportive partner, continue reading.

Introspection on Your Relationship with a Partner Who is Trying to Lose Weight

  • Take a thoughtful look into the motivations behind your actions. Are you jealous that your partner is losing weight? Are you feeling that your partner is acting "holier than thou?" Are you skeptical of their lasting success?

  • Think about your own health goals. Is your partner making changes that you have also been advised to do? Are you feeling some guilt for not making your own changes? Does that make you want your partner to also not make changes--to assuage your feeling?

  • Are you worried the relationship will change? It is common for partners in a relationship to each have their usual roles. When one partner changes health behaviors, roles also start to shift. The changing partner may become more self-sufficient in areas such as food. The changing partner may try to get their partner to also change.

Practical Ideas for How to be a Supportive Partner of Someone Trying to Lose Weight

  • Keep a shopping list. Ask your partner to add foods they want to the grocery shopping list.

  • Go with to the grocery store. Help your partner look for foods that align with their nutrition goals.

  • Meal Plan. Sit down with your partner and discuss meals for the week together. Look for recipes together.

  • Offer to cook. Once meals are planned, discuss which meals you can prepare.

  • Pack lunch. Does your partner work out of the home? Offer to make their lunch and prepare the foods they prefer to be eating.

  • Plan activities that don't revolve around eating. Is it date night? Look into activities other than eating out. Maybe take an art class together, go bowling, or head to an arcade.

  • Give non-food gifts. For Valentine's Day, anniversaries, and birthdays, think of other gifts your partner will prefer. Maybe tickets to a concert, a gift certificate for some pampering, or a new gadget they want.

  • Go with to the gym. Being there with them can be a great way to boost and support your partner.

  • Ask what supplies they need. Maybe your partner is unsure what to buy when looking for exercise clothes, sneakers, a water bottle, or exercise equipment. Encourage them to purchase what they need to make their exercise more enjoyable.

  • Find active recreational activities to do together. Hiking, kayaking, biking, a trampoline park, dancing, or a simple walk around the neighborhood can be enjoyable to do together.

  • Verbalize your support. Let your partner know that you want to be there for them practically and emotionally.

  • Ask what you can do. Ask your partner what would be helpful for them. Support can be in all sorts of ways.

Invest in Your Relationship: How to be a supportive Partner of Someone Who is Trying to Lose Weight

Relationships change over time. Changes in a relationship can challenge it, but changes and challenges can also bring a couple closer. You can decide if you will step up to the challenge and be supportive and build your relationship. There is a lot you can do to be supportive of someone who is trying to lose weight. You can learn how to be a supportive partner and strengthen your relationship.

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