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Dieting & Exercise as a Couple - Relationship Advice

Updated on August 18, 2011

Dear Veronica

My husband and I have been together for 15 years. In that time we've crossed into our 40's and I think we've let ourselves go a little bit. Recently he asked me if I would help him get back into shape. I was really thrilled that he asked me for help, and I said maybe this is something we can do together. He has about 25 pounds to lose, I have about 20. It started off a little rocky. I wanted to join Curves which isn't really for couples. I looked into Jenny Craig and he didn't like that either. He loves sports and used to be very athletic. I don't want to lose this opportunity to do something together as a couple. We want to be healthier, but I don't want this to turn into fighting or something we just do separately. Do you have any suggestions or ideas that would help us do this as a couple?



Dear Margie,

What a great question! Thanks for sending it.

Congratulations to you and your husband for wanting to be healthier. It is very cool that he came to you and asked you to help him. That's quite reflective of a solid relationship. He sees you as a partner and a friend. And it's equally as great that you jumped at the chance and said let's do this together.

Your smart to step back and look for some tips to keep this endeavor in the spirit it was engaged. As good as your relationship sounds, this is still a very difficult thing to absorb. There's alot of subconscious chatter within that occurs when you begin to honestly look at your health. You feel defensive, you feel insecure, you don't feel your most attractive. Looking at your eating choices and your physical activity can be hard, especially for someone that was once quite athletic as he was. It's just a sensitive issue. So there are natural defense mechanisms that go up.

Some of the head-butting you may have encountered are probably just due to that. Going forward, go gently, and keep some simple tips in mind.

If your honey had an adverse reaction to prepackaged diet foods, that's ok. There's plenty of very healthy things you can do together with a little effort.

I highly recommend David Zinczenko's books and articles to help with your new food plans. If I were you I'd keep clear of the word "diet." Men tend not to like that word as it feels restricting and comes from poor past decisions. Men would rather have a plan of action than a critique. If you choose words like "health plan" and "nutrition choices" he'll be more apt to get psyched about it. Your husband probably doesn't want to just open a pre-made meal and not learn anything, or be active in the information behind it. He wants to understand why he needs to eat this and not that. He wants to know, and he wants to make choices. This is why David's work is so terrific. It doesn't just list off good foods and bad foods. It explains the science behind the choices. He talks about things like vitamins, combining protein with carbs, the dangers of trans fats, and the reasons why you need to eat peanut butter, egg yolks and yogurt when possible. David writes the Eat This, Not That articles and books, and he's the Editor in Chief of Men's Health.

If you check out some of his articles online, you and your husband can sit down over breakfast and make some decisions together regarding meal choices. Talk about simple things like making the salad bigger, eliminating the sour cream, and adding more salmon and less steak. Baked potatoes are energy dense 100 calories, and usually quite satisfying. Put some salsa on it and it's a great staple snack or side dish. Snacking on nuts instead of chips is nutritious. Switching to skim milk saves you calories. You'll find lots of recipes, alternatives, and information about overall health.

If your husband is an active part in the decisions over food, and the reasons behind these decisions, he will be much more likely to embrace the nutrition changes. You can cook together, food shop together, you can dig up recipes, meal plans and ideas together. You can even take turns surprising each other by switching off some meal making duties.

Sharing tips and nutrition info might become a fun communication too. Extra emails and phone calls will surely bring you closer, especially when you're talking about something you're both interested in.

I can understand your husband not wanting to go to certain places to work out. Just like you would probably not want to go to an all male bench pressing kinda place. You know, you really don't have to join a gym to do this. You could do this together in your home. One of you can use a simple set of free weights while the other is on a piece of cardo equipment. Then you can switch. You can stretch out together, do Wii exercises together, follow along with kick boxing or a home work out routine you agree on, on DVD together. You don't have to start out over-the-top. You can start out by walking every night after dinner, and doing some simple stretches and sit ups and push ups together in the morning. 

If your husband was athletic at one point in his life he may be interested to get involved in a sport. If you both talk about it, there's probably something you could both do together. Tennis, swimming, raquetball... there are probably lots of opportunities in your neighborhood if you look into. I highly recommend something like Tae Kwon Do. You are learning self defense, a mind and body union, and you get a terrific work out. If it's something neither of you have ever done before, all the better. 

The important thing here is finding something you both agree on. Mixing it up will always keep it fun and interesting. Maybe you could pick a day a week where you do something active. For example every Saturday for months you could do something fun and physical together without repeating the same thing twice. Dancing, skiing, bike riding, boxing, a spin class, volleyball, a one on one basketball game, a one day self defense class, a walking tour of your town, a hike, a swim at the lake, a raquetball lesson, horseback riding, a powerwalk across the mall and back. Golfing, especially if you don't rent a cart. Yoga. A day at the local animal shelter walking the dogs. They don't all have to be over the top heavy exercises. As long as you are keeping active, it counts and it's more than you're doing now. 

If you look into some of the karate or yoga or dance schools near you, I bet you could ask about sitting in on one class for free to see if it's for you. You may be surprised at how interesting something is once you try it. Take advantage of those free first visits and check out lots of options. 

Keep it fun and spontanteous. When you're walking out to the car, say "Race ya!" and bolt. Even if you know he's going to win, it's still a good little sprint. When you're sitting there watching tv, when a commercial comes on, say, "Once around the house! Let's go!" and get up and move. Go out the front door, and just run around the house once and come back. Or say, "5 sit ups!" and hit the floor. Just a couple of those a day keeps the blood flowing, and you can start being creative.

Getting started on a better meal plan and a more active schedule is always the hard part. So don't over do it. Make some small changes and take things a step at a time. Be as encouraging as you can be. This is not the time to be short on praise. Make sure he knows you're attracted to him, and how hot he still looks. And make sure to also praise his efforts, his ideas, and how much fun you're having doing this as a team. 

You are very inspiring! I hope other couples will follow your lead and do little things to create healthier lives. 

Look at what you're actually eating!


Submit a Comment

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from NY

    Yay Margie! Thanks so much for your enthusiasm. Best to you and your husband on the road to better health!

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Hey this is me! This is so exciting to see my email to you out on the web!! Thanks for taking the time to answer. Your advice is so sound, Veronica. This is why I read you. I am inspired by how just the few things we've tried since reading this have made such a difference! Tomorrow we are checking out a country line dancing class together. I can totally see what you are saying about why my husband didn't want the prepacked diet food. He is very smart and wants to be part of the information and decisions. Thank you for the links. OMG seeing the donut equivalent of some coffee drink stacked up next to it is very frightening! That's effective lol. I'm sure we are going to be able to succeed at this thanks to your help. Rock on Veronica! Thank you!!


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