Dieting with your partner seems like a no-brainer. You have a constant exercise buddy, an accountability partner, and someone who really gets what you’re going through. Plus, research shows that couples who practice healthy lifestyles together are more likely to lose weight and keep it off.
But … is it the hunger talking, or is your significant other more annoying than usual these days? If you both have the same goal, why are you bickering so much? And why is it so hard to stick to the very simple plan that you’ve both agreed on?
The short answer is this: Relationships are hard to begin with, and when you mix in volatile topics like weight, body image, and self-esteem, they can get even harder. All of that potentially lovey-dovey teamwork can turn your recipe for success into a Molotov cocktail that you want to throw at your partner’s head.
But it’s still worth doing — as long as you do it right. If you’re both aware of the pitfalls of getting in shape together, you can make it through to the other side — healthier, thinner, and happier. Here are 10 practical strategies to get fit with your partner … and still like each other in the process.
1. Set realistic goals — individually and together
As with everything else in your relationship, communication is essential when it comes to practicing a healthy lifestyle together. The first step in this process: Discuss what you want — whether it’s to lose a certain amount of weight, to tone up, or just to have more energy. Then talk about how you’d like to go about it together. You don’t have to have the exact same goals, but you do need to be clear about your expectations for yourself and one another, so you can be encouraging without being a nag.
2. Don’t be your partner’s drill sergeant
It might be amusing to both of you at first — even motivating — but a bossy attitude gets old fast. Instead of cracking the proverbial whip, you both need to be personally accountable. Make an exercise chart and put it on your fridge, or schedule times into your shared smartphone calendar. You can invite your partner to exercise with you or ask if they’ll be keeping your gym date that night, but don’t push more than that. It’s not your job to keep everyone in check, and doing so could also throw off the power balance of your relationship.
3. If you have kids, make sure to split parenting duties evenly
Kids are wonderful, adorable, exhausting little time-suckers. We all know that. What we don’t always acknowledge is that one parent tends to do the brunt of the daily activities and often ends up canceling “nonessential” personal activities like going to the gym. (I’ll let you take a wild guess as to which parent that usually is in my relationship.) But if you want to survive this diet with your significant other and actually reach your fitness goals, that has to stop. Channel your college dorm days, and create a chore wheel if you must. Just make sure both people are parenting equally, so you can both stay on track — and not hate each other.
4. Realize that one of you might lose weight slower than the other
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you’re a woman it’s likely going to be you that loses weight more slowly. Women have biology to thank for that. Men have higher testosterone levels and more muscle mass, so their metabolism is 5 to 10 percent faster than women’s. The silver lining is that if you keep rocking your diet and exercise routine, those numbers should even out by month six, according to a study in the British Journal of Nutrition. Remember: Slow and steady wins the race … or at least ties it.
5. Be competitive … but not too competitive
A little competition can be healthy, motivating, and even feel a little like foreplay, as long as it stays light-hearted and fun. Too much teasing can be taken the wrong way pretty quickly when body issues and self-esteem come into play. Make sure you’re being as supportive as possible, and keep most of the “funny” comments to yourself.
6. Be considerate of your significant other’s weaknesses
You might be incredibly restrained when it comes to chocolate but can’t resist Cheetos. Similarly, your significant other might lose all common sense when he’s around Oreos. So, come up with a list of approved, mutually agreed-upon splurges that you can keep in the house without derailing either of your diets. Which brings me to my next point …
7. Set a menu for the week, and go grocery shopping together
You’re more likely to eat well when you have your meals planned and all your ingredients purchased and ready to go. Take equal responsibility for your food choices, and divvy up the cooking so that no one ends up feeling like an unappreciated short-order cook.
8. Make date nights a priority
Dieting doesn’t have to dampen your couple time. You just have to change your idea of what a night out looks like. Instead of having a decadent meal at a restaurant, cook a healthy dinner together, set the table with the good china, and light a few candles. See? Romance isn’t dead. Also, find non-food-related activities to bond over, like going to the movies, bowling, or taking a painting class. This process can be stressful on your relationship. So try to remember why you like hanging out together and you’ll be in better moods for the rest of the week. This will only set you up to be more successful in your health and fitness plan.
9. Don’t get snappy
Let’s be honest: In those first few weeks of getting in shape, you might not be the most pleasant person to be around. Your body might be angry about smaller portion sizes or sugar withdrawal. While you’ll eventually adjust, you might be a little grumpy in the meantime. That’s OK. What’s not OK is taking it out on your partner. Be aware of this potential pitfall and you’ll be able to ward off the behavior — or at least stop it sooner rather than later.
10. Compliment each other
Dieting can feel disheartening when you’re not seeing as much progress as you'd like. But a few positive words, a little encouragement, and a reminder that you still find each other sexy can work wonders. Not only can it keep you both motivated — it can also actually improve your relationship.
Getting healthy with your significant other isn’t easy, but then again, neither is doing it by yourself. The key is to remember one important mantra: You’re in this together, and you want the best for each other. Because you are and you do, that is what’s ultimately going to get you to succeed in your diet and in your relationship. What tips do you have for getting fit with your partner? Share them in the comments!
Dawn Yanek lives in New York City with her husband and their two very sweet, slightly crazy kids. Before becoming a mom, she was a magazine editor who regularly appeared on TV to discuss celebrity news, fashion, relationships, and pop culture. These days, she writes about the very real, relatable, and practical sides of parenting at momsanity.com. Her newest baby is the book “107 Things I Wish I Had Known with My First Baby: Essential Tips for the First 3 Months.” You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.