(as seen in Women’s Health & Fitness Magazine)

You’ve made up your mind to get fit and get your weight back on track. There’s only one thing that stands in your way… Your partner! This is the person who is meant to love and cherish you more than anything or anyone in the world but, when it comes to your health, they may be holding you back from who you want to be. Do any of these stories sound familiar?

Carla had been overweight since just before her marriage five years ago. Her husband said he loved her no matter what, and made it very easy for her to skip her daily walk or have a bowl of dessert. “He made me feel very wanted,” she said. “Whenever I complained about my weight, he would tell me he loved me just the way I am, and he would kind of encourage me to stay at that weight. In one way, it felt great because I was with someone who loved me unconditionally, or so I thought. On the other hand, I felt progressively worse about myself.”

Sometimes spouses can keep their mates overweight for their own reasons. Perhaps they don’t want them to go off with other men, or get up the confidence to take on a new high-flying job. Or there could be a whole myriad of other reasons. For Carla, it actually ended up being a bit more sinister. “After all that time, thinking he was keeping me fat because he loved me, I discovered he’d been having an affair. He thought that I would never have the confidence in my self or my body to leave him. Little did he know!”

Sandra’s husband took a slightly different approach. “Every time we sat down to order a meal at a restaurant, and I asked for gravy on the side, or no cheese sauce, or grilled instead of fried, he would poke fun at my weight loss efforts. We’d end up arguing because I didn’t feel valued, and he would blame our arguments on some kind of ‘imbalance’ caused by too much weight loss! I’d only been on my diet three weeks and had lost three kilos. I’d hardly call that a dramatic weight loss!”

The ‘imbalance’ mentioned by Sandra’s husband can actually happen when people lose too much weight, such as when they are Anorexic and get below a certain healthy weight. This ‘imbalance’ can contribute to an Anorexic’s certainty that they are ‘fat’ when they are obviously not. But a good steady weight loss of a kilo a week (unless you’re underweight) will not do this to a person. Sandra’s husband had quite possibly heard someone mention this ‘imbalance’ and had the kind of personality that uses these things against other people. In fact, as Sandra said, “It was the same when I had a baby. Our arguments were all because of my supposed ‘post natal hormones’. I think he just had a thing about making me feel bad about myself and getting me to take all the blame.”

Katherine found herself in an entirely different situation. Her partner would continually sabotage her efforts because he didn’t want to have to change his own unhealthy eating habits. “He would bring pizza home for tea, or offer to cook, and load the meal up with butter or oil or some other fattening condiment. It would drive me nuts because, by the time he was finished cooking, it was generally too late for me to cook something else for myself. After dinner, he would bring out the chips or the chocolate, and put it right under my nose. And then, when I’d ask him to mind the kids while I went to do some exercise, he’d find excuse after excuse why I couldn’t go out. I couldn’t believe how selfish he was being! And then I realized that he couldn’t handle the fact that I was strong enough to make some healthy changes to my life, while he was just sitting there doing nothing. It made me realize that this wasn’t about me – it was about him.”

The good news about all three of these women is that they discovered ways that they could lose weight and get fit, even with partners who were trying to control them the other way. As hard as it can seem to get motivated into getting healthy when things are stacked against you, there are certainly some things you can do to be pro-active…

Make a decision that’s right for you

How do you feel when you’re not at your ideal weight? Do you feel frustrated enough that you want to make the changes just for you? Weight loss is something personal. There’s no point trying to do it to please someone else – that just leads to disappointment when the other person doesn’t appreciate all your hard work anyway! The best mindset to have is one of personal power. Decide that this is what you want to do, and work out how you’re going to do it. As Sandra said, “Once I knew that I wanted to lose weight for myself, and only myself, it was easy to just ignore my partner’s jibes. For once in my life, I put myself up the top of the so-called food chain. And it was fabulous!”

Make this the most important job you have

Once you’ve decided to make healthy changes just for yourself, be a woman on a mission! If you’re given an important job at work, you make sure it’s done properly, don’t you? Well, your body and your health are arguably the most important assets you have, so treat them like a really important job. If other people try to steer you off-track, just keep ‘doing your job’ and plowing away until it’s finished and you’ve reached your goal. According to Katherine, “I turned myself completely off junk food. All it represented to me was extra kilos that I wasn’t willing to have on my body, so it actually became easy to resist it.”

Refuse to settle for second best

If someone offers you something that doesn’t fit into your healthy diet, refuse it confidently. Three minutes of pleasure, eating a big piece of chocolate mud cake, is not worth the dissatisfaction of stepping on the scales and not seeing a result. If someone suggests dinner out at a notoriously oily Chinese restaurant, suggest steak and salad at the local bistro. If a night out at the local pub is on the cards, stay in charge of your own drinks so you can monitor what you’re taking in. Remember, this is your body, and you’re in charge of it, not anyone else. Carla puts it this way: “You need to love yourself more than anyone else can ever love you. In society, loving oneself is sometimes frowned upon, but if we don’t put ourselves first, no-one else will.”

Celebrate your little wins

Losing weight on its own is challenging enough, but having a partner who doesn’t support your efforts means you really do deserve a medal! So keep a running tally of your weight loss and centimetre loss. If you have a really great week, treat yourself to a massage or pedicure. Be your own cheerleader and congratulate yourself on your amazing willpower. Join an online forum to meet other women who are strong-minded, just like you! And, above all, remember that you are doing something that is going to make you live longer, give you extra energy, and quite possibly have a much better life. And isn’t that worth it?

Samantha McDonald

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