Does Losing Weight Mean Losing Your Relationship?

Twice in the past month, I have been asked by various media outlets to comment on the idea that when one person in a relationship loses weight, that the relationship may be in jeopardy. It’s an interesting conjecture. Too many of us have seen the story: One person in a relationship loses weight, transforms, and then walks.

Posted on | Ramani Durvasula, PhD | Comments ()

Twice in the past month, I have been asked by various media outlets to comment on the idea that when one person in a relationship loses weight, that the relationship may be in jeopardy. It’s an interesting conjecture. Too many of us have seen the story: One person in a relationship loses weight, transforms, and then walks. 

But, it isn’t that simple. I often speculate on how relationships contribute to weight gain. As someone who was once married, and is now single, I see that it is a lot easier to maintain a healthy weight while I am not in a relationship. Fact is, unless I go out to dinner with friends, I have to go out alone. That’s not always interesting, so I don’t fall prey to restaurant meals – one of the biggest culprits in weight gain. In addition, eating is a social activity, and people with partners sit down and eat entire meals with them. As a single woman, I can have two slices of turkey and some tomatoes eaten over the sink and call that dinner without feeling guilty.

So, when one person in a relationship makes the decision to lose weight, what can happen? Well, obviously this can be a good thing; it can bring health to both members of the relationship – healthier meals, healthier food in the house, more activity. If this is done together, everyone is a winner. But as with most health behavior changes, no one wants to be told what to do. Smokers don’t like being told to quit; drinkers don’t like being told to stop; and people who like their burgers and fries resent being told otherwise. 

At the end of the day, weight loss by one member of a relationship is not going to destroy a strong relationship. If the relationship is good, it will not only withstand such a transition, but both partners can benefit. If the relationship was already fractured, any transition will put the relationship at risk.

What should you do if you are in a relationship and want to lose weight?

  • Communicate honestly. Tell your partner what you are trying to do, but don’t expect an immediate buy-in. Just because you are calling steamed veggies your dinner, he or she may not feel the same – don’t push your agenda.
  • Continue eating together. If you are eating little pre-packaged meals and your partner is not, that doesn’t mean you can’t eat together. Create something like a salad that you can eat together, and then you eat yours and your partner eats what they want.
  • Try to be active together. If you are taking a walk on a weekend, ask him or her to come along, but don’t guilt your partner into being active. (Additionally, vigorous sex is actually a good source of aerobic exercise – so consider suggesting that.)
  • Don’t do a cupboard purge without asking. Your better half is going to be mad as hell if he or she comes home from work and finds that the goodies are missing. This goes back to communication; this is your decision to lose weight, ideally you are on the same page – but give your partner time to adjust.

Change is always good, but never easy – don’t let your partner’s fear of change (or love of carbs) keep you from becoming a better and healthier you. Try to keep it collaborative; don’t get preachy. By taking care of you, you are, in theory, taking care of the relationship. And if it does end after the pounds are shed – it probably wasn’t working in the first place.

Then you can join me for turkey and tomatoes over the sink. Good luck!

Blog written by Ramani Durvasula, PhD
Dr. Ramani Durvasula has over 15 years of teaching, clinical and research experience. After receiving her doctorate in clinical...