Many of us try to influence our partners and other loved ones to be fit and healthy. But our words can backfire. Research reveals that to support your loved ones who are overweight, it may be best to love them as they are. People wanting to lose weight are more inclined to do so when the people around them are kind to them and not directing them to do so.
To be clear, there is a difference between the social support a partner or spouse can offer to someone who is trying to lose weight and the social control a partner or spouse can try to exercise over a person trying to lose weight. Researchers have found social support beneficial in that it provides a person with support in the face of challenges. In contrast, social control, which suggests an attempt to influence a person’s health behavior may only be beneficial if it is positive and seen as supportive so that it makes the person feel good.
The research does not indicate which types of social control are more likely to be seen as supportive. Nor does the research reveal differences between a spouse and a good friend acting to control a behavior. But, the person, the context and kindness all appear to be key.
Another recent study, “A Little Acceptance is Good for Your Health,” reveals that women in particular do not respond well to weight loss pressure. They want their friends and partners to tell them they look fine, to be accepting of their weight. If they are told they should lose weight, the women often feel shame and lack of self-esteem. They are more likely to ignore the advice or do the opposite and gain weight.
In sharp contrast, when partners and friends support women, the study found the women were more likely to feel better about themselves. They were more likely to be self-motivated to lose weight or maintain their weight. Other research shows that when one spouse models healthy behavior, it can help the other spouse.
FYI, Most people do not know it, but Medicare covers weight-loss counseling. Medicare covers other preventive care services as well, including nutrition counseling, cardiovascular screening and smoking cessation counseling.
A Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study shows that diet soda is no solution for weight loss.