Pair Up to Pare Down

Runners

Of course, you love your partner…but not necessarily all of him. Lately, you’ve noticed the pounds creeping on, and so has he — even though he’s blaming the dry cleaners for shrinking his pants. Your man may be on the fast track to becoming overweight.

There’s a thin line between wanting to help and coming off as nagging or critical — and you don’t want to cross it. Support and encouragement are key. Rovenia Brock, PhD, an expert on nutrition and fitness and best-selling author of Dr. Ro’s Ten Secrets to Livin’ Healthy, is married to a “big guy" of her own. She knows from personal experience that “nagging and criticizing don’t work.” Here are 10 things that do:

1. Be a role model

You might remember the 2007 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine that found that obesity is socially contagious. What these findings didn’t highlight is that it’s just as possible for thinness to be contagious. Researchers from Harvard Medical School and University of California, San Diego, found that people are influenced by the behaviors of those around them, so if you watch your weight, your partner might, too. Other researchers from Duke and Yale universities found that a woman’s own healthy changes were often enough to influence her spouse to make his own.

2. Make simple lifestyle changes

“Nothing brings on success like the feeling of success,” says Michelle Weiner-Davis, author of Getting Through to the Man You Love. Start small, by walking 10 minutes a day, or cut out ice cream after dinner. This will “breed hope and help maintain desire to keep it going,” she adds.

3. Don’t cave in to old habits

If your guy is complaining about trimming down his nighttime snacks, don’t bring back his unhealthy standbys in an effort to make him happy. Instead, tell him how great he looks, or, if he’s hungry, suggest 94-percent fat-free popcorn or fruit to snack on. Paul Lessack, PhD, a Connecticut-based specialist in the psychology of weight loss and overeating, says that 80 percent of spouses of dieters sabotage with kindness.

4. Try different preparations

Don’t forbid certain foods; instead, offer healthier substitutes. If your guy loves his baked potato topped with sour cream, suggest non-fat or low-fat plain yogurt, which has a similar taste. (Greek-style yogurt is especially thick and creamy.) Rather than sneaking it in, say something like, “We discussed good food substitutes in my (Weight Watchers) meeting, and this one gets everyone’s vote!”

5. Ask action questions

“Often, a simple question like, 'What can I do to help you be healthier?' will help," says University of Alabama clinical psychologist Joshua Klapow, PhD. Asking questions helps you understand what he needs, not what you think he needs, says Kaplow. If you offer information about losing weight and exercising, often it's enough to get the ball rolling.

6. Catch him in the act

If you notice behavior changes that indicate he’s moving in the right direction, mention them. Maybe you observed him cutting down his beer consumption, or you saw him searching the Internet for health and weight-loss information. Weiner-Davis, says that praise goes a long way to help boost a person’s self- esteem and incentive to change.

7. Make it a team effort

It’s effective to show your partner that you love and support him, notes Brock. One of the ways Jill V. of Long Beach, NY, is helping her new husband, Neil, shed pounds is by offering to do things together. This not only includes time spent walking their dog and taking regular bike rides along the boardwalk, but also food shopping and preparing lunches for work. “It’s fun to be together — and Neil’s gotten to be a lot healthier,” she reports.

8. Dish out defined portions

For many people (if not all), just seeing a huge plateful of food makes them hungrier. Putting a pre-measured portion on his plate will help increase the chances that he’ll be satisfied when there’s nothing left to tempt him.

9. Eat home-cooked meals

You’ll not only save money, you’ll save calories, too. It’s easier to control portions and ingredients when you prepare the food yourself. Plus cooking together can be a fun bonding experience.

10. Hail the health benefits of weight loss

Jill and her husband Neil regularly discuss the health benefits associated with eating right. Rather than tell your guy not to eat something because he won’t lose weight, “Remind him that you want him to be healthy so he can be active with the [family],” Lessack suggests.

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