Weight loss in romantic relationships isn't always beneficial

Rare is the study that claims weight loss can have detrimental effects.

But new research from North Carolina State University and the University of Texas reveals that, in romantic relationships, weight loss can have a "dark side." If one partner is not on board with enacting healthy changes, the relationship can suffer, the study found.

Communication and intimacy

Researchers surveyed 21 couples from around the country for the study. One partner from each couple had lost 30 or more pounds in less than two years. The average weight loss was about 60 pounds. The couples were given questionnaires about how the weight loss had impacted their relationships.

For couples in which both partners were receptive to healthy lifestyle changes, communication seemed to change for the better after weight loss. The partner who had lost the weight was more likely to inspire his or her partner to be healthy.

But for individuals who were resistant to change, the surveys showed that weight loss could lead to tension and insecurity – the partners who hadn't lost weight often ended up feeling resentful of the other person or threatened by their partner's lifestyle changes.

"They would make critical comments toward their significant other, be less interested in sex, or try to sabotage their partner with unhealthy food in order to derail their partner's efforts and prevent the partner – and the relationship – from changing," a press release on the study stated.

Support is key

The biggest predictor of positive outcomes was support – couples who were on the same page about making healthy changes were the most likely to become closer.

"This study should not dissuade anyone from losing excess weight, but it should encourage people to be aware of the potential pros and cons of weight loss on their relationship," said Dr. Lynsey Romo, lead author of the study. "It is really important for the partner of someone trying to lose weight to be supportive of their significant other without feeling threatened by their health changes. This approach will help people lose weight without jeopardizing the quality of their relationship."

The study is published in the journal Health Communication.

Source: North Carolina State University

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