If you’re like most committed couples, you spend a lot of time with your spouse or significant other. And your behaviors likely make an impact on them as theirs do on you. Unfortunately, an unsupportive spouse can make or break any program.
If you are embarking on a new health goal and you’re not sure how to approach the topic with your partner, you’re not alone. It’s something I hear from my clients time and time again. I even deal with it in my own life, sometimes.
Here are some strategies I often recommend to get the conversation going in a positive direction.
Give them a good reason.
I’ll never forget my client, Carol. She trained with me three times per week (with a group of other women) and did private nutrition coaching twice per month. During one of our initial sessions, she had mentioned that her husband had no idea she was training with me.
I was caught off guard by this. Because I wanted Carol to have as much support as possible when she wasn’t in the club working out with me or being coached. When I asked her “why not?”, her response wasn’t what I was anticipating. I was expecting her to say he would complain of the expense of her personal training and coaching or maybe wasn’t a health-minded individual. But what she really feared was that he would have shot down her idea of getting in shape, simply because she had tried and failed before. Several times.
Here’s the thing with partners: they know all of our flaws. That being said, if you’ve attempted to lose weight before or have the reputation of attempting and starting stuff and never completing it, you might have to spend some time on your “why” before sharing that goal with your partner. But don’t let that stop you. Share it in a way that explains the real reason behind it. So instead of doubting you or being nonchalant about your goal, they get invested in it enough to support you.
In the fitness industry, we always say to find a why that makes you cry. It helps you take the time to figure out what your true investment (time, money, relationships, etc) is, in going after your goal. Clarifying that investment serves as an amazing reminder throughout your journey of why you are making all the changes that you are. And the very best “whys” often include your partner and loved ones as well. Once you find your why, write it down and put it in a place inside your home that both you and your partner will continue to see as time goes by.
Share the Goal.
My absolute favorite nutrition coaching sessions were the ones where I coached couples together. Not only were they more fun (think couples calling each other’s food flaws out to the food police), but each individual had more success knowing they had the support of one another, while also learning how their behaviors impacted the other’s food choices or lifestyle.
Sometimes couples are on the exact same page (wanting to get healthy at the same time) and other times, only one of them is interested. But you’d be surprised how often that one of the pair is easily able to influence the other into embarking on the same journey.
I see this all of the time with the 60-Day Challenge. One person joins and begs their partner to do it with them. The partner joins “simply” as support with no intention to really see change or lose body fat. By the end of the challenge, both partners have crazy success with transforming their bodies on the inside and out. I absolutely love to read success stories with that story line. And I can tell you, I see that story repeated again and again, because it happens very often. For example, “I really didn’t need the challenge and was doing it because my wife wanted me to support her transformation. Yet, low and behold, I changed too and lost some significant amount of body fat.”
Now, in many of these cases, the partner really was just there for moral support. But I like to imagine that the other of the pair (the one that asked for support) really wanted to influence their partner, knowing they would benefit from change also.
Simply put: try to share the same goal. Whether they really need the help or not, doing it together always has a more positive impact and is more enjoyable.
Educate and Engage.
When you are working toward a goal, you tend to be hyper-interested in research, articles, recommendations or recipes that can positively impact that goal. As you’re learning, try to engage your partner with the same information. While you catch up over dinner, instead of solely talking about your work day, make a plan to bring up new information you’ve found or new behaviors you want to try. That way, they can see you are making a big effort to educate yourself for the long haul, but also trying to incorporate them into the mix. It also opens up the opportunity for them to learn the “why” behind new behaviors you embark on (such as going to bed earlier).
I try to make this effort each night with my family. After asking my daughter what happened at school and hearing about the new things she learned, my spouse and I often bring up new parenting articles or recipes we found in our social or news feeds. It creates great conversation (and sometimes debate) and a great opportunity to get on the same page or teach one another something useful for both of our lives.
If you already work with a coach, invite your partner to your session with you to listen and learn. The more they are educated, the more likely that they can help support you and perhaps follow through with the recommendations themselves.
Plan out Changes Together.
A few months ago, my spouse decided it would be better for him (and his goal) to workout earlier in the morning with a group of his friends. We had been working out together for the past year and a half, later in the morning, after we dropped off our daughter at daycare and before work.
This current scheduled worked well for me. I never missed my workout (because I was accountable with him) and liked that we were working out together. At first this change really threw me off because I was so used to my schedule and routine and really liked it. But I also knew he needed a change with his routine and wanted more support with a group of individuals that had similar goals to him. Because this was going to be a big change, we really had to take the time to plan out our schedules so it would positively impact us both and our daughter.
Fast forward to today, I actually enjoy the new routine. He still gets up early, while I stay home and enjoy breakfast and cartoons with our daughter before school. Instead of a later morning workout, I do mine at night (which I had never done before) and look forward to it every day after work. The point is, there can be a positive outlook in everything. Although I miss working out with him in the morning, I feel like I get extra one-on-one time with my daughter and have learned to enjoy showers at night and letting my hair hang dry (versus blowing it dry in the morning). It’s all about perspective.
Because we spend the majority of our time with our spouses, when we embark on new lifestyle choices and behaviors, it’s best to include them from the get-go. What works best for my spouse and I was that we spent time sitting down and planning out what these changes would look like in our lives — and making sure we were both on the same page before we got started.
Incorporate your spouse in planning out these changes together. That way you feel more support and they feel like they are part of your program — and your life. I’ve had many clients whose spouses feared that they would get healthy (without them) and perhaps leave them. You just want to make sure you are sending the right messages and that you are both on the same page.
I hope that helps. If you are looking for a challenge to embark on with your spouse, consider the 60 day challenge. Registration is now open – learn more about it here.
In health, Anika Christ – Director – Digital Programming & Events – Life Time Weight Loss