Can weight loss wreck your relationship?
There’s no down-side to reaching your goal weight, right? Not so fast.
Researchers say they’ve uncovered a “dark side,” when one of the partners in a romantic relationship drops a significant amount of weight. The new physique can cause a rift between couples.
Results of a new study from North Carolina State University and the University of Texas at Austin, finds that in some instances, weight loss had a negative effect on communication, led to nagging from one partner and caused the non-weight loss partner to feel threatened. The findings were published in journal Health Communication.
“People need to be aware that weight loss can change a relationship for better or worse, and that communication plays an important role in maintaining a healthy relationship,” said study leader Dr. Lynsey Romo, an assistant professor of communication at NC State, in a news release.
A total of 21 couples were surveyed for the study. In each case, one partner in each couple had lost 30 or more pounds in less than two years. The average weight loss was nearly 60 pounds. Whether the loss came from exercise and healthy eating or was the result of a medical procedure, the couple was asked how the change affected their relationship.
The news wasn’t all bad. In some instances, couples reported their relationship changed for the better and led to good conversations about healthy lifestyles and the benefits of keeping their weight under control.
But other couples said the drastic change had a detrimental effect on their relationship. Researchers said some of the partners made “critical comments toward their significant other, were less interested in sex, or tried to sabotage their partner with unhealthy food in order to derail their partner’s efforts and prevent the partner and the relationship from changing.”
Study leaders said when the couples were in agreement from the beginning about the benefits of weight loss, the relationship actually strengthened.
“When both partners bought into the idea of healthy changes and were supportive of one another, weight loss appeared to bring people closer. When significant others resisted healthy changes and were not supportive of their partner’s weight loss, the relationship suffered,” Romo said.
But if the results of this study have you thinking twice about losing weight, Romo says don’t go there.
“This study should not dissuade anyone from losing excess weight, but it should encourage people to be aware of the potential pros and cons of weight loss on their relationship,” he said. “It is really important for the partner of someone trying to lose weight to be supportive of their significant other without feeling threatened by their health changes. This approach will help people lose weight without jeopardizing the quality of their relationship.”
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.