Have you ever been in a conversation that turned toward you and one of your “less than great” habits. Or maybe someone commented on how you were reacting to something? Chances are, it was pretty annoying. Irritating enough, maybe, to continue producing the same habit or reaction. People, in general, feel inadequate already about the way they look when they are overweight. Becoming a food cop won’t help your partner (or your children or you) lose weight, and it could actually trigger them to eat more.
Back in the day, my husband and I ate out a lot. We drank soda like it was water. Because I was just starting my private practice and was studying habit change, (and from personal experience) I knew that the best way to help us and others wasn’t to bribe, trick, beg or bully anyone into change. But not everyone is in my line of work, so I’ll help you out.
Here are some key phrases that should never come out of your mouth to others, not toward yourself. I’ll explain what to say (and do) instead to help yourself and your loved – without wrecking your relationship.
1. You’ve put weight on.
Guess what, your partner most likely knows they’ve gained weight. I’ve had many clients tell me about their dreaded shopping experiences of having to purchases clothes of a larger size. They did this without mentioning it to their spouse because they didn’t want to hear what their spouse thought of that. They knew a comment would be forthcoming.
Also, no all weight gain is about food. Their could be an underlying health condition, such as a thyroid problem. When I work with weight loss, 8 out of 10 of my clients are emotionally eating. So if your partner has put on weight, they may be using food to cope with something else that’s going on. Rather than bringing up their weight, you could as them how they are doing. Are they having challenges at work or with another person? Many of my clients have stopped using food to sooth an emotion when they get the actual support they need and can discuss their problems without being ridiculed (no matter how much YOU think that you’re just trying to be helpful.) Others started to drop several sizes once they began to get in touch with a braver side of themselves and stick up for themselves in some way.
2. Should you really be eating that?
Even if you husband or wife didn’t know that the bag of potato chips wasn’t the healthiest snack, pointing it out points judgment, which feel completely awful coming from a romantic partner. I’ve coached clients who no longer have sex with their spouse, didn’t talk to their spouse – all because one began patrolling the other’s diet, which led to hurt feelings and resentment.
A better way is to offer healthy options. There were lots of foods that my husband and I had never tried when we met each other – like hummus and squash. By introducing new foods that were healthy, we learned to broaden our tastes and now eat a wider variety of healthy foods. Just making healthy food accessible can help a lot – like placing a fruit bowl on the counter top or making a home version of a salad bar by precutting veggies into separate clear containers and keeping them at eye level in the fridge.
3. Haven’t you had enough of that?
I’ve had clients tell me of different strategies that they have used in the past to help themselves push away food. Sometimes they ask their spouse to say something when they’re about to overeat. Other spouses volunteer for that position without being asked. Neither way usually works. Monitoring the portions of someone else tends to lead to the same resentment that telling them that their eating the “wrong” thing. This can actually lead to secret binges or overeating when the bullying partner isn’t around.
A better way could be to make ways to curb portions, like breaking up leftovers into single, smaller servings. You can also reduce the amount of starchy foods being served, like breads and pastas. These strategies can lead to eating less naturally.
4. It’s easy, all you have to do is….
Not everyone has an easy time losing or keeping weigh off. Weight management is so much more than calories in/calories out. Neither is it merely eat less/move more. Everyone’s body is different. What works for one person might not work for another. For example, I have many clients who like to follow Weight Watchers so that they can count points and follow a system. Other people don’t want to do that and it becomes irritating for them to even attempt.
Rather than trying to school your partner in what works for you, examine what works for them. When you begin to see things through your partner’s eyes, your nutrition styles could be very different.
5. I’m must trying to be helpful.
Truly, food cops are not trying to bully. But regardless of their well intentioned efforts, it’s important to notice how your partner feels about what you say. It’s best to make peace with the fact that your spouse is responsible for their own behaviors and health. There’s nothing you can do to make them change. Instead, become a healthy role model. Likely they’ll respond in some way and you’ll unburden yourself and your relationship.