Lack of intimacy and feelings of resentment in relationships may be some unexpected drawbacks to weight loss, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at UT and North Carolina State University.
The study’s results indicated substantial weight loss may cause tension in relationships when one partner resists the other’s healthy lifestyle changes.
“I think when people lose weight, they usually expect their relationships to get better,” said Lynsey Romo, a recent UT graduate who co-authored the study. “The fact that in some cases there are these negative repercussions was surprising.”
Researchers surveyed 21 couples from across the country. One partner in each couple had experienced at least a 30-pound weight loss in the time span of less than two years. Reasons for weight loss varied from diet and exercise to medical procedures. Each member of the couple described the effects of weight loss on their relationship.
When both partners embraced healthy changes, couples reported improved communication and increased intimacy, but when only one partner focused on lifestyle improvements, the results tended to indicate a strain on the relationship.
“Where problems occurred, it appeared as if one individual began to focus their self-identity around their healthy diet and activity, and the other did not,” said John Bartholomew, kinesiology and health education department chair. “This seemed to lead to a question of ‘Why won’t you change with me?’”
According to the study, pressure to change their appearance prompted individuals who had not lost weight to feel insecure and less interested in sex, threatened by their partner’s surging confidence.
“We want to date people and be with people who are like us,” said Julie Drake, operations director for the Fitness Institute of Texas. “So when they start going a different direction, you fight it because you want them to hang out and eat Cheetos, too.”
Biochemistry sophomore Shirin Sajjadi said she found it odd that an individual who made an effort to lose weight would face opposition from someone close to him or her.
“If you’re trying to make such a substantial change in your life, it’s really important for your partner to support you,” Sajjadi said. “I think it’s weird that someone would try to sabotage their partner like that.”
Music performance junior Christy Scanlan said significant others are a crucial source of encouragement in a relationship, especially when it comes to positive dieting and exercise habits.
“You need that extra kick in the butt to make you do it anyway,” Scanlan said. “It’s about personal motivation in a way.”