"Honey, you've gained a few pounds!"
Painful words that hit below the belt when your belt's a bit tighter. The battle of the bulge rages on many home fronts and weighing in on your partner's growing girth can often hinder their efforts to shape up.
"Often one partner is more fit than the other and the fact is that the svelte partner can be extremely disappointed at his or her partner's plumper appearance and often becomes critical on a daily basis," says sex and relationship expert Dr. Pepper Schwartz, author of The Normal Bar.
If a partner's opinion is perceived as a continuous attack and overwhelming disapproval, the heavier spouse may start to react against this perceived rejection, says Schwartz, and stonewall any change, impeding constructive action.
Actually, being "encouraged" by a significant other to drop pounds can lead to unhealthy weight loss behaviours, including popping diet pills and self-induced vomiting, reports a new study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion. A partner's input is often viewed as critical rather than supportive.
According to Schwartz, a helpful, not hurtful, partner boosts the chances of successful weight loss. "You can't blame being heavy on a partner's insensitivity or lack of support, but if the heavier spouse is feeling unloved, unsupported and even undermined - for example, by cooking fattening foods or eating delectable sweets in front of the dieter - it can create a mood that is defiant rather than collaborative."
Schwartz, of aarp.org, weighs in personally on the matter. Her uber-fit fiancé is her biggest supporter and inspiration. "We were turning into the odd couple and I hated being the round one. So I finally got my act together, and with his supportive behaviour and affection, joined Weight Watchers and so far have lost the 18 pounds I truly needed to lose."
It's been no easy task, but it can be done, and having the right partner is, if not critical, at least extremely helpful, adds Schwartz.