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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Spousal Support


I read a study today in the journal Health Services Research about how being a good role model can help a spouse adopt a healthy lifestyle. They found that if one spouse engages in a healthy behavior, the other spouse is more likely to also improve their behavior.

For example, if one person gets their cholesterol checked, quits smoking, gets a flu shot, or starts exercising, the other person will also do these things, or at least improve their behavior. Previous studies have also shown that married people live longer and that once people do get married, they simply reduce their unhealthy behaviors (like excessive drinking) and settle into a healthier routine.

On the flip side, I have also heard many of my clients tell me that they gained weight when they got married. Maybe when you were single you ate light dinners and now you sit down every night to a big dinner. Maybe you eat out more often now that you are married. Maybe your spouse snacks at night and when he brings out the tub of ice cream you also want to indulge. Maybe you are so in love you want to spend every minute together and you quit going to the gym. Maybe you aren't motivated to maintain a healthy weight now that you are married.

If any of these things sound familiar, try to make positive changes together instead of influencing each other in a negative way.

Here are some ideas:

1. Join the gym together and meet each other there after work or go together first thing in the morning
2. Go for a walk around the neighborhood after dinner instead of having dessert
3. Post a “Kitchen Closed” sign after dinner so you are less likely to snack
4. Make a pact with each other to encourage and support healthy behaviors
5. Encourage each other to visit the doctor, dermatologist, and dentist at least yearly for preventive health checkups
6. Keep tempting foods out of the house so you don’t tempt your spouse. If chocolate is your thing, but your spouse can’t say no to it, have that candy bar at work when he/she is not around
7. Take turns searching the internet for healthy dinner options and cook meals together
8. Decide how much and how often you going to drink alcohol and support each other in sticking to it
9. If you smoke, use one of the many "Smoking Cessation” techniques available and support each other by cleaning and disinfecting the cars and house from the smoke smells
10. If you need to lose weight, don’t have a competition (men have an unfair advantage because they lose more quickly), but rather sit down and ask each other how you can help the other person establish new healthier behaviors to exercise more and eat fewer calories

When my husband and I met, I was training for my first marathon and he had run 6 of them already. We are lucky that we both understand the other's need to exercise and run. We support each other in finding the time to do it and making sacrifices so that the other person can get their run or other exercise in. We just decided to get a treadmill and free weight set for the house so that I am able to get my exercise in while Basil is sleeping and I can maintain my fitness routine post baby.

Not only will you each be healthier individually, but hopefully it will also strengthen your relationship!

Photo of me and Stephen on our wedding day, January 23, 2005.
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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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