When people dream of life after weight loss, they usually include smaller size clothes, improved health and better bodies. But what they might not consider or even realize: Weight loss can impact your relationship, say researchers in a new study reported in Medical Xpress on October 30.
If both partners don't agree with improving their health by shedding pounds, a "dark side" can ruin their relationship, according to new research from North Carolina State University and the University of Texas at Austin. The partner who did not lose weight may feel threatened or even resort to sabotage.
"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," explained Dr. Lynsey Romo, an assistant professor of communication at NC State and lead author of a paper on the research.
The researchers analyzed couples and their communications, focusing on duos where one person had lost 30 or more pounds. The average weight loss among the couples studied: 60 pounds.
The good news: After losing weight, most couples improved their communications. The partner who succeeded in slimming down motivated the other to get healthy as well. They both improved in terms of physical and emotional well-being.
The bad news: For some couples, weight loss facilitated negative behaviors. The partner who lost the weight became a nag and a nuisance, resulting in tension. The other partner in such relationships felt insecure and threatened. In other cases, partners who had not lost weight felt so stressed about the change that they would criticize or even sabotage the successful partner.
"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," Romo says.
The key to maintaining a healthy relationship after weight loss: Healthy communications at the beginning.
"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," added Romo.
But the professor emphasizes that the study shouldn't be used as an excuse to avoid losing weight.
"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."