We see so many patients who are supported by their spouses, but I’ve also encountered situations where spouses sabotage our patients’ efforts to lose weight. This is done by either continuing to bring “bad” food into the house or through negative reinforcement about their efforts instead of positive reinforcement. A spouse can feel threatened by their partner’s efforts to lose weight because it means that there’s going to be a change in the relationship and a change in the household. Without the support of your spouse or your family, your efforts at weight loss could be compromised.
In some cases, both spouses are overweight and one is committed to losing weight while the other is not. When the partner who wants to lose weight is buying different kinds of foods and cooking very differently, the other spouse might complain about it. This person might ask their spouse to continue frying food, for example, or cooking what they shouldn’t be eating, which is challenging because it is simply too labor intensive to be making multiple meals. Making the changes necessary for effective weight loss requires both emotional and physical commitment; it is crucial that one has family and social support so that they are able to focus on what they need to do to succeed.
In situations such as those above, I recommend that patients set some boundaries with their family members. For example, for a patient whose spouse brings cookies and doughnuts into the house might say, I really need your help and support while I am trying to lose weight. At the very least, I ask that you not bring these unhealthy foods into the house. People need to be comfortable asking for what they need by saying I really need your help and if you’re not willing to support me 100%, at least please try not to sabotage my efforts.
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