FRIDAY, Nov. 1 (HealthDay News) A romantic relationship can
change when one partner slims down, and not always in a good way,
new research suggests.
"Losing weight can affect your relationship negatively," said Lynsey Romo, an assistant professor of communication at North Carolina State University, in Raleigh.
In her study of 21 couples in which one partner had lost an
average of 60 pounds in two years or less, she found the
relationships usually changed for the better. That may have been
due to the partner who lost weight inspiring the other to do the
same, or to the partner supporting the one who lost the weight.
However, Romo also found what she calls ''the dark side of
weight loss." Some partners watched their partner getting slimmer
and felt threatened or jealous, she explained.
Others, including some who didn't need to lose weight, weren't
happy that they felt they were somehow losing their ''role'' of the
healthy partner. Other partners felt nagged by their suddenly
healthy partner who was losing and wanted them to follow suit.
The study was published online recently in the journal
The couples, with an average age of 38 but ranging in age from
20 to 61, answered questions separately online after the partner
had lost the weight. Participants lost in a number of ways,
including diet and exercise or bariatric surgery.
Both partners told how they felt the weight loss affected their
interactions. The best scenario Romo found was one in which both
partners bought into the idea of making healthy lifestyle changes
and supported the other partner trying to lose weight. Those
couples appeared to get closer, she found.
They reported their interactions were more positive and they
felt closer, both physically and emotionally.
However, when a partner who didn't lose weight was not
supportive or resisted the household changes in diet or exercise
routines, the effect was negative.
While the partners who were losing weight were often cited by
the other as a role model, sometimes they became naggers. One woman
who lose 30 pounds and became very fit said she would sometimes nag
her husband, who had gained weight over the years, to do the same.
She felt he wasn't trying as hard as she was to stay attractive for
The new findings tie in to some research done by Charlotte
Markey, an associate professor and chair of psychology at Rutgers
University, who reviewed the findings.
In a relationship, she has found, ''partners compare their own
bodies to their partner's." So it makes sense that Romo found when
one partner lost weight, the other partner often took stock, so to
Suppose a man loses weight, and his wife may need to but isn't,
Markey said. "That may make the woman feel inadequate," she
"We fall into these patterns with people we have relationships with," she said. "When these patterns shift, it can be unsettling."
Advice for couples in which one partner is about to lose weight?
"It's important to talk to your partner ahead of time," Romo said.
The goal is to get the other person on board -- if not to lose
weight, to support the partner who is trying to do so, she
Markey agreed that communication is key. "Talk about it before
and keep talking about it," she said. For example, if a husband is
losing weight while the wife also needs to but isn't, and the woman
feels inadequate, she should simply tell him so, Markey said.
"Hopefully the partner will say 'Well, you shouldn't.'''
"Make it a team effort," Markey said. "Almost everyone can afford to eat healthier and exercise more."
To learn more about healthy weight loss, see the
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
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