So you decided you had enough of being overweight, tired all the time, and self-conscious of your appearance. You read several popular books and blogs on how to lose weight, have a good understanding of what you need to do, and are ready to move forward. You psyche yourself up, purge your pantry and refrigerator of all those sinful, sugary treats and replace them with fresh organic vegetables, lean protein and healthy snacks. For exercise, you diligently walk around your block three times every evening before dinner. To your surprise and pleasure, after five days you weigh yourself and find that you have lost four pounds– “Awesome!” you shriek to yourself– “Yeah!!” And you’re on your way to a new life, until…
…your spouse or significant other comes into the kitchen as you are chopping red leaf lettuce. “Hi Hon, how about a nice pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia after dinner tonight? You deserve it, come on!” Or your co-worker drops by your cubicle at 11:30 AM and says, “Feel like going to the All You Can Eat Buffet for lunch?”
Suddenly thoughts of you eating that rich, creamy ice cream emerge, and you actually start salivating. The image of the colorful tub of ice cream right before you reinforces those memories and you forget about the lettuce for a moment. Or, you imagine rows of comfort food at the buffet line and start craving the assortment of all those sweet, salty, and fatty foods; a welcome taste after five days of salad and lean protein.
What is happening here is that your significant other/ co-worker is unwittingly acting as an enabler– a negative term used to describe someone who, through their actions, enables or encourages another person’s negative behavior. It is the opposite of a good role model. Instead of providing positive leadership and good example, the enabler is reinforcing your unwanted behavior by encouraging it in some way. It can be a difficult situation on many levels since it involves a relationship. What is one to do?
Here’s what you do: Before you start your weight loss journey, inform all the people in your immediate circle (especially the person you are living with) of your intention to reach a healthy weight and achieve optimal health, and ask them for their support. Be serious about it; no joking. Make sure you say it in a way that leaves no other possible interpretation. Don’t even be afraid to get emotional about it, because it is your life and your future well-being you are talking about. Tell your partner/roommate specifically what you’ll be doing; how your daily routine will change and how he/she will be affected. If it’s your spouse and he/she objects for any reason or attempts to downplay the need to lose weight (“I love you just the way you are”), tell him if he truly loved you, he would respect your wishes and offer encouragement. Put the ball in his court so he feels an obligation. Hopefully, your spouse will come around and choose to support your efforts.
What to say to your partner:
1. I’ll use a male spouse as an example. If you are following a particular diet plan, explain to him how it works. If there is a book you are going by, ask him to read it so he can be on “the same page” as you, be knowledgeable of the procedure and offer assistance throughout your journey. In an ideal situation, your spouse will go on the plan with you and both of you can motivate one another and serve as an accountability partner to the other.
2. If your spouse does not want to change, or doesn’t need to, and has a rather neutral or nonchalant attitude towards your decision, ask him/her to at least not tempt you with the foods you are trying to avoid; i.e. desserts, soda, refined carbs, fat laden foods, etc. Tell him to not eat it in front of you, as it will create a feeling of deprivation. You may have to eat separately while you are starting out and still vulnerable to getting sidetracked.
3. Unfortunately, some people will have spouses who will purposefully attempt to derail their weight loss efforts. These are people who have an issue in their life (low self-esteem, lazy, no self-discipline, controlling, or other negative trait) and cannot stand seeing their partner experience success or happiness. It is a “misery loves company” attitude. Such a toxic relationship can be a huge obstacle to someone trying to lead a healthy life. For situations like this, there are deeper issues that should be addressed. You will need to draw on your inner strength and determination to make yourself immune to his actions. Find people who will support your efforts; perhaps at work, in a local support group, and even on online health and weight loss forums. Most national weight loss systems have a built-in support structure that goes along with the regimen. Medifast™ has one of the best in the industry, offering a free personal health coach, online support forums, and even live weekly doctor and nurse calls to answer questions for customers.