Publix GreenWise Market Magazine- October 2008
Pairing with a partner— whether a spouse or friend—can put you on a losing streak and help you work toward a healthy weight.
Kathy and Bill Evans of Deland, Florida, wanted to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary in Alaska, but the thought of having to buy a third airplane seat to accommodate them comfortably was just too depressing. Plus, “we didn’t want to hear a stewardess request two seatbelt extenders for seats 3A and 3B,” says Kathy, who at 5'8" weighed 286 pounds. Bill, who is 6'1", weighed 388 pounds.
They were tired of not being able to do all the things they wanted to do. Their children were grown and out of the house, Kathy’s disabled mother had recently died and the two were finally ready to focus on themselves. So in March 2005 Kathy joined Weight Watchers, and Bill followed several months later. Slowly, over the next two years, they lost weight. Lots of it. Kathy dropped 90 pounds, and Bill shed 150.
Both say they never would have gotten so far without each other. “We are each other’s cheerleader,” says Bill. “When you diet together, you are accountable to each other. It makes a big difference.”
Motivation Times Two
Research has consistently shown that when couples work toward achieving a healthy weight as a team, they’re more likely to lose pounds and keep them off longer, says Karen Miller-Kovach, R.D., chief scientific officer for Weight Watchers International, Inc., and author of She Loses, He Loses (John Wiley & Sons, 2007). Their secret? A built-in support system. Having someone help you work through daily challenges, encourage your efforts and recognize your progress is priceless, says Miller-Kovach.
Indeed, good social support is one of 12 research-based factors that predicts successful weight loss, according to an Institute of Medicine report (Weighing the Options: Criteria for Evaluating Weight-Management Programs, 1995). And no worries if you don’t have a live-in partner who also wants to drop some pounds. Dieting with a close friend, child or coworker can have the same effect. Just keep in mind that “the people you have the closest relationships with … have the greatest influence on you,” Miller-Kovach says.
One advantage to teaming up with a partner is that you’ll each bring different ideas to the dining table. When your weight-loss partner is of the opposite sex, the differences may be especially pronounced. For example, both men and women are often emotional eaters, but Miller-Kovach says they tend to overeat in reaction to different emotions.
“Women tend to overeat mostly when in a negative mood state—they’re stressed at work or upset about something. You get two stressed-out women together, and they’re going to pull out the Häagen-Dazs,” says Miller-Kovach. In stark contrast, “men are much more likely to overeat when they are happy.” As opposites, men and women may find it easier to help each other stay on track.
Kathy and Bill recently made that trip to Alaska, where they took a cruise. Worried about gaining weight at the 24-hour all-you-can-eat buffet, the couple focused on choosing healthy foods. When they got home, Bill had lost 4 pounds, while Kathy had gained 2. “Who loses weight on a cruise?” she says with a laugh.
But as Kathy has discovered, it’s a lot easier to shrug off the little frustrations and stay on course when you’ve got someone by your side.
For more information on diets and low-fat recipes, visit publix.com and search for “weight management health center.”
If you’re contemplating a weight-loss journey with your mate or someone else close to you, consider these tips from experts and couples who’ve been there:
- Plan meals together. Charydi and Will Gambill of Warner Robins, Georgia, faithfully plan each day’s menu the night before. In 29 weeks, Charydi has lost 62 pounds and Will, 63. “We plan together, cook together and keep track of what we eat,” Charydi says.
- Exercise as a team.
The Gambills walk two miles in the early morning and two more after dinner. When you share a joint workout session, you can help keep each other motivated. Plus, it’s a great time to talk about any food challenges or issues, Miller-Kovach says.
- Shop in tandem.
Grocery-shop with your partner. “We love to go to the store together and find new, healthy products,” says Kathy Evans. Or shop for new clothes together after you’ve both gone down
one or two sizes.
- Don’t make it a competition. “Men are physiologically able to lose weight faster than women,” says Miller-Kovach. That’s because they have more lean body mass, which enables them to burn more calories, even while sleeping. Kathy Evans says there were weeks when she and Bill would eat exactly the same things, and he would lose 2 pounds while she lost half a pound.