If your partner is overweight, encouraging them to slim down may seem like the loving, supportive thing to do. But it can backfire, big time.
According to a study in the American Journal of Health Promotion, pushing a loved one to lose weight can trigger unhealthy habits, like fasting and popping diet pills. And all the added stress can even trigger binge eating. In fact, researchers found when romantic partners pushed a weight loss agenda, risky behaviors more than tripled in men and women.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Marla Eisenberg, says the reason why is simple: Commenting on your partner’s weight sends the message that you don’t think they’re attractive or good enough. So they try desperate measures to drop the weight fast, so they don’t get a broken heart, or they get depressed, and eat for comfort.
So how can you help your partner meet their weight loss goals without pushing them over the edge? Psychologist Dr. Edward Abramson specializes in emotional eating. And he says it’s important to emphasize health rather than appearance. Like, “We’d both be a lot healthier if we eliminated chips and cookies from our grocery list.” And if your partner says they need to lose weight, don’t say, “I’m so glad you said that. I agree!” Instead, try something like, “I think we both could stand to eat more vegetables.”
Dr. Abramson also says we should NEVER tell our partner what not to do because real encouragement comes from positive suggestions. For example, if your partner grabs a carton of ice cream and a spoon, telling them they shouldn’t eat it will only make them feel bad and make you seem like a controlling jerk. Instead, preempt their after-dinner trip to the freezer by inviting them on a long, romantic evening walk.