A weight loss and relationships study has surfaced out of North Carolina State University and the University of Texas at Austin, which many news outlets would have viewers believe indicated only a negative correlation between weight loss and a healthy relationship. However, the study that was released on Wednesday also showed a positive interaction occurred between couples who adapted a healthy lifestyle into the relationship.
The research found that while weight loss is extremely beneficial for health, it might also be detrimental to a romantic relationship. Why? Researchers fault communication and discovered that after dramatic weight loss of one partner, the couple’s skills suffered, which resulted in tension, according to Dr. Lynsey Romo, an assistant professor of communication at NC State and lead author of the paper on the research.
People need to be aware that weight loss can change a relationship for better or worse, and that communication plays an important role in maintaining a healthy relationship.
Researchers surveyed 21 couples nationwide, where one couple in each relationship had lost 30 or pounds in less than two years. Questionnaires were administered to each couple that asked how the weight loss impacted the relationship. The original paper, entitled Weighty Dynamics: Exploring Couples' Perceptions of Post-Weight-Loss Interaction, co-written by Dr. René Dailey of the University of Texas, revealed that yes, there were some negative consequences within the relationship, however most of those interviewed declared weight loss resulted in a positive interaction, such as sharing a healthy lifestyle.
The data acquired showed a positive change in communication where one partner was able to include a healthy lifestyle into the relationship through inspirational discussion and/or behavior. Couples who were receptive experienced an increase in emotional and physical intimacy.
There were documented cases, however, that did show a negative correlation, where one partner of the couple would nag the other to lose weight and eat healthy, which caused tension. Not unusual, as a nagger will nag no matter what the cause. Some partners who hadn’t lost weight felt threatened and insecure over their significant other’s weight loss and criticized their partner. The study discovered these people were “resistant to change, less interested in sex and would attempt to sabotage their partner with unhealthy food” to keep the relationship as it was.
Dr. Romo does not want the results of the study to discourage weight loss, but instead to encourage positive communication and a healthy lifestyle.
This study found that one partner’s lifestyle change influenced the dynamic of couples’ interaction in a variety of positive or negative ways, tipping the scale of romantic relationships in a potentially upward or downward direction. When both partners bought into the idea of healthy changes and were supportive of one another, weight loss appeared to bring people closer. When significant others resisted healthy changes and were not supportive of their partner’s weight loss, the relationship suffered.
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.
Media coverage of the weight loss study focused only on the negative aspects. In a healthy relationship where both couples live a healthy lifestyle, exercise and eating right become second nature and an enjoyable part of the relationship. The weight loss study revealed communication, how one verbalizes change and introduces a healthy lifestyle into the relationship, is an important component to maintaining a happy life together.
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