Friday, February 14, 2014

If You Love Them, Be Supportive of Their Goals

Today is Valentine's Day, marked by red, pink, chocolates and roses. Most people in the nutrition field choose to write about the health benefits of dark chocolate or heart health on this day. I am choosing to write about the importance of supporting your spouse/significant other/partner/what have you because I find this person is one of the most influential people with regards to your health.

They say when you fall in love you gain weight. This tends to be the case because the early stages of dating revolve around going out to dinner, drinking, boxes of chocolates, etc. I know some of my clients have also mentioned they give up their normal workout routine at the chance to hang out with their guy. If you move in together, that can definitely mix things up in terms of your normal eating routine, the foods you buy, and your exercise regime. However, some people fall in love and get in great shape. Perhaps your new interest runs marathons and eats really healthy. Most people don't want to feel like lazy unhealthy blob compared to their partner, so you decide to pick up going to the gym with them or eating their homemade quinoa salad. It works both ways- you can gain weight or lose, or maintain. But it is up to you to be your own person!

Upon a first counseling session with me, I ask who you live with or if there are any people you spend a large period of time eating with or sharing food. This is because the people you surround yourself with are so influential on your eating habits. If you grow up and your family drinks whole chocolate milk, eats white bread, and the vegetable is corn every night, chances are your diet will be pretty poor too. On the contrary, if you grew up with a vegetarian mother who cooked a ton of fresh vegetables and made farro with salmon, you most likely have retained many of those positive food preferences.

Friends, are often a huge influence on each other's diets. Men often get together to watch sports and eat pizza, wings and beer (yes, I am generalizing, and for the purposes of this article I am okay with that). Women oftentimes will choose sugary "fun" cocktails, order appetizers, a meal, and dessert when they go out to dinner. If someone orders a salad there might be one or two people in the group who are the "sabotagers." They will cause a big scene and try to force you to order something more decadent. A sabotager is a person who doesn't want you to eat healthy, mainly because they don't want to feel bad about their own food choices, or maybe because they don't want you to be successful in your goal of losing weight (jealousy?). Be aware that these people exist. They can be your best friend or your favorite aunt. They may say things like "oh come on, live a little!", "you need some more meat on your bones", or "it's my birthday, indulge!", among others. This is where your willpower comes in.

My biggest tip of advice is that only you control your decisions and your health. Yes, other people can influence your decisions, but it is ultimately left up to you. For people who have a boy/girl friend or spouse that eats like crap, or a friend that is a "sabotager", you need to be up front and honest with them. Tell them you need to eat healthy and exercise for your HEALTH and you want them to be supportive. After all, it would be pretty selfish of them to want to sabotage your health and leave you with diabetes and obesity later on....

Most of the time, people respond positively by you explaining just why you are trying to make healthy decisions. When it comes to health, most people understand that. If you are just trying to shed weight to look good for bikini season, they may not be as supportive (most women don't want you looking better in a bikini in them...). However, if you are choosing to eat salads at a restaurant because you have a family history of heart disease or your blood sugar is high, or you just want to be there for your kids in 30 years, they should be more willing to let you make your healthy decisions. Also, if you are a newly engaged couple, you can always use the point that people who eat healthier,exercise, and maintain healthy body weights have a much easier time reproducing (if you're looking to have some babies in the future ;-) Obesity (for men & women!) definitely decreases the chance of a successful pregnancy.

The best combination is when a couple decides to become healthy together. You are both on board, and you keep each other accountable. When I counsel both parts of a couple, they are usually VERY successful in whatever their goals are. So try to encourage your friend/boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/parner/whatever to join you in your journey towards optimal health.


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