Relationship changes with weight loss

If you are trying to lose weight you may want to consider surrounding yourself with people who support your weight loss and who are positive. A survey of people who lost weight showed that there were relationship changes with weight loss.

A study from North Carolina State University demonstrated that people who you surround yourself with can help or hurt your efforts.

“Many times, when someone loses weight, that person’s efforts are undermined by friends, family or coworkers,” says Lynsey Romo, an assistant professor of communication at NC State and lead author of a paper describing the recent study. “This study found that people experience a ‘lean stigma’ after losing weight, such as receiving snide remarks about healthy eating habits or having people tell them that they’re going to gain all of the weight back.”

How was this study on relationship changes with weight loss conducted?

40 in-depth interviews were conducted with people who had been overweight.

“All 40 of the study participants reported having people in their lives try to belittle or undermine their weight loss efforts,” Romo says. “This negative behavior is caused by what I call lean stigma. However, the study found participants used specific communication strategies to cope with lean stigma and maintain both their weight loss and their personal relationships.”

Some tactics to help avoid relationship changes with weight loss

    • Consider not sharing your weight loss with others. This may be difficult as we want to share our success. Often we know how the people in our life will respond. If you think they will not be as supportive, no need to mention it.
    • If someone offers you food that you do not want and you feel they are pushing it on you, simply take it and say you will eat it later. Sometimes these scenes can cause embarrassment when someone makes a harsh remark.
    • Save your cheat night for your night out with your friends so all the focus is not on your diet. That s is not to say you should go ay overboard but lighten up on the diet for the night.  You may find you may not be as hungry the next day so you will consume fewer calories.

Losing weight and romantic relationships 

  • Another study looked at relationships were one one person lost a significant amount of weight but the other person did not.

Were there any changes in these couples relationship with weight loss?

Losing weight is generally beneficial,  a partner may encourage the other partner to eat healthier.

If both partners are on board with getting healthy then this usually does not pose a problem and there are fewer or no relationship changes with weight loss.

Couples in which both partners were receptive to these healthy changes reported more positive interactions and increased physical and emotional intimacy.

What about the couples who were not both on board with becoming healthier? Were there any relationship changes with weight loss among this group.

Yes, relationships can become tense if one person loses a significant amount of weight but the other partner continues on with poor eating habits.

According to research from North Carolina State University and the University of Texas at Austin, there can be a “dark side” to weight loss, if both partners are not on board with enacting healthy changes.

21 couples in which one person lost a significant amount of weight were interviewed.

Some couples displayed negative communication.

Some spouses viewed suggestions to eat healthier as nagging which often to lead frustration in some couples because they were not both on board with the idea of getting healthy.

Some partners who hadn’t lost weight reported feeling threatened and insecure by their partner’s weight loss.

These participants were resistant to change in their relationships which lead to further problems.

“They would make critical comments toward their significant other, be less interested in sex, or try to sabotage their partner with unhealthy food in order to derail their partner’s efforts and prevent the partner  and the relationship from changing.”

The author of this study summarized the findings

“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,” Romo adds.

“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.”

References for relationship changes with weight loss

An Examination of How People Who Have Lost Weight Communicatively Negotiate Interpersonal Challenges to Weight Management Lynsey K. Romo Pages 1-9 | Published online: 02 Feb 2017

Romo Romantic relationships Univerity of North Carolina 2013

Other studies looked at body shaming

Relationship changes with weight loss

Negative comments do not help, they make things worse.

“The present findings contribute to the growing body of literature demonstrating the relationship between weight stigma and adverse physical health outcomes, once again contradicting a persistent argument that stigma motivates behavior change and improves health.”

Pearl, R. L., Wadden, T. A., Hopkins, C. M., Shaw, J. A., Hayes, M. R., Bakizada, Z. M., Alfaris, N., Chao, A. M., Pinkasavage, E., Berkowitz, R. I. and Alamuddin, N. (2017), Association between weight bias internalization and metabolic syndrome among treatment-seeking individuals with obesity. Obesity, 25: 317–322. doi:10.1002/oby.21716

Another study supported the above findings

“Stigmatization of obese individuals threatens health, generates health disparities, and interferes with effective obesity intervention efforts. These findings highlight weight stigma as both a social justice issue and a priority for public health.”

Reference Am J Public Health. 2010 June; 100(6): 1019–1028. doi:  10.2105/AJPH.2009.159491 PMCID: PMC2866597 Obesity Stigma: Important Considerations for Public Health Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD and Chelsea A. Heuer, MPH Relationship changes with weight loss summary

Summary of relationship changes with weight loss

Understand that there will be changes in relationships, hopefully for the better.

If you are not on board with your spouse try not to make suggestions, hopefully, they will take your lead and want to change with time. You can change yourself but it is difficult to change others.

Communication is key

You need time for exercise. Either do it yourself or perhaps go for long walks or find an activity that you can both enjoy.

Try to compromise especially with those you live with. If there are snacks in the house, it may be difficult for you to stay on a diet. I watch my calories more so than my husband but I can’t expect him not to have junk food in the house. I try to look for foods that he likes but I am not a fan of. Sometimes I will buy single servings rather than large bags.

Consider counseling if the relationship is not improving and the relationship is worth saving, there may be other problems in the relationship that are not apparent.

Have you experienced any relationship changes with weight loss?

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