May 4, 2016

We offer tips to work together and avoid sabotage.


We love our significant others, but sometimes we aren’t on the same page regarding our health goals. Maybe one person in the relationship is trying to lose weight while the other keeps buying sugary snacks. Or, for another example, maybe one spouse has developed a condition that requires a dietary change — like cutting down on saturated fats — and the other spouse likes his or her bacon.

With the help of Colin Armstrong, Ph.D., HSP, health psychologist and professional health and wellness coach at the Vanderbilt Dayani Center for Health & Wellness, we’ve uncovered some common ways that our significant others can influence our health goals and how to overcome obstacles.


Toss out old gender roles

A 2014 survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that, on the average day, women spend more than twice as much time as men preparing food and drink and cleaning the house. An equitable division of labor is best, Armstrong says, for making joint decisions in the kitchen and for allotting time for each person to engage in fun wellness activities.


Get on the same page

If someone in the family is trying to lose weight or needs to make a dietary change for a medical reason, Armstrong recommends that the entire family commit to eating healthier. “It typically doesn’t make great sense to prepare two entirely separate meals — one healthy and one not so healthy — for one family,” Armstrong says. That’s time-consuming and likely more expensive. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tips on eating healthy for a healthy weight.


Address insecurities head-on

Sometimes one spouse can sabotage the other spouse’s efforts. Armstrong says he’s seen clients who’ve experienced this. “I tend to view this as a symptom of a more significant underlying issue in the relationship — such as a lack of trust or a lack of mutual respect,” he says. “I would encourage a couple going through this to openly discuss the issue, and if they can’t work through it on their own, to very seriously consider participating in couples counseling.”


Get creative with activities and time management

“When it comes to losing weight, all movement counts,” Armstrong says. Housework and gardening or taking a family walk after dinner are all productive. “Many couples find success and strengthened bonds by being active together,” he adds. “But on the other hand, a couple doesn’t have to be joined at the hip. If one member of the couple wants to do yoga and the other wants to golf, get the family calendar out, sit down and figure it out.”