As the New Year approaches, you may be starting to think about the weight you want to lose. But maybe dropping pounds isn't on your list of resolutions—instead, it's on your spouse's. Maybe this is the first time your husband or wife has decided to lose weight, or perhaps it's a road all too familiar. In any event, as a caring spouse, you need to find a way to be supportive, so the weight battle doesn't become a family battle.
Believe me, I know this can be difficult. My husband is overweight and has been told more than once by a doctor that he needs to slim down. You might think living with a registered dietitian would be a slam-dunk for weight loss. But no one can make someone lose weight if he or she isn't ready.
Once your spouse reaches that point, here's what I propose you do to help:
1. Stock up on healthy foods. If you're responsible for food shopping in your home, make sure to include lots of healthy choices, like fruits and veggies. Now is not the time to load up on ice cream, especially if your spouse has a weakness for it. If your husband or wife does the shopping, try and refrain from asking for your favorite cookies. Healthy eating needs to be a family affair if it's going to work. No one is saying that you can't indulge, but at least for a while, try to do it away from home.
2. Pick restaurants with healthy choices. Maybe as a couple there are certain places where you like to enjoy your favorite high-calorie entrees. Make sure these restaurants also offer healthier fare. Don't be an enabler by suggesting sharing the cheese fries; rather, suggest a vegetable side. If your spouse is trying to avoid the breadbasket, simply take one piece for yourself and allow the waiter to remove the basket. If your spouse asks for help deciding on a healthy option, by all means chime in—but if he doesn't, try to stay quiet. If possible, prepare more home-cooked meals, where choices and portions are easier to control.
3. Encourage fitness. If your spouse decides to start an exercise routine, become his cheerleader. If he only has free time on the weekends, encourage him to take advantage of it. Better yet, if you share the same interests, go together—perhaps a bike ride, hike, or even a long walk. Consider ways to incorporate more fitness opportunities, like walking home from dinner instead of taking a cab, walking the dog together, or parking the car further away in the parking lot during weekend errands.
4. Learn to listen. This is probably one of the hardest suggestions. So many of us like to give advice and find a way to fix things for the people we love. It's hard to sit back and listen. If your spouse unloads about the weight loss obstacles he's facing, maybe he simply needs to vent. If he has a "bad" day and feels like he made all the wrong choices, maybe it's best for you to just listen, as opposed to ticking off what he could have done better. The last thing you want is to become a nag. Constructive advice, on the other hand, could be worth a lot if it's given at the right time.
The one thing I've learned over the years is that a person will lose weight when he or she is finally ready. Perhaps my husband is now, and I will try my best to adhere to my own advice, especially learning to listen. The important thing is that we're in it together.
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Keri Gans, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian, media personality, spokesperson, and author of The Small Change Diet. Gans's expert nutrition advice has been featured in Glamour, Fitness, Health, Self and Shape, and on national television and radio, including The Dr. Oz Show, Good Morning America, ABC News, Primetime, and Sirius/XM Dr. Radio.