How to support your spouse through their weight loss

We talk to a men’s weight-loss specialist about how you can support your partner when they decide it’s time for a change.

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Couple walking in the woods
Photo, Getty Images.

Harvey Brooker has been referred to as a diet guru. The hook being that he specializes in diets for men.

In 2008 he wrote It’s Different for Men and he runs a Toronto-based weight loss clinic. His argument for why a different approach needs to be taken with men is that they aren’t always as familiar with nutrition and health as women are. He’s found that many of his clients aren’t preparing their own food (lucky) and are often fed according their size. “If he’s a bigger man, people think he has to eat larger portions and there’s never any thought that the food he’s getting is going to do anything detrimental to him. People just feed a big guy big food and he’ll eat it,” he says.

And so it seems that in many cases men don’t have as intimate a relationship with dieting and healthy eating as women. This can leave many partners wondering: how can I support his change for the better? Hound him to the gym? Police every morsel of food that passes his lips? No way, says Brooker. Instead, here are ways you can helpfully stand by your man when he decides to ditch the pounds.

1. Check yourself
“I’ve noticed that co-dependency can be an issue with couples and weight loss, and many times couples are overweight together,” says Brooker. While the term ‘co-dependency’ is generally reserved for discussing addictions such as alcohol or smoking, it’s applicable to overeating as well. So ask yourself: is this an initiative you’re truly supportive of?

2. Be proactive and inclusive
This is the advice I received when speaking with Oshawa-based Jim Crosby, who lost 178 pounds in 14 months with Brooker’s help. “Show enthusiasm but don’t be in their face,” he says. “Even if you see them slipping, do something like quietly purge the kitchen of things that they might be going for. Or suggest going out for a walk — do something together.”

3. Team up
“It’s generally easier to succeed as a team,” says Crosby. “This can involve everything from food shopping together, to planning and cooking meals together. Whether or not you need to lose weight as well, it’d be beneficial to both to eat and live a healthier lifestyle. It can be quite a romantic evening having a candle-lit healthy meal you shopped for and prepared together.”

4. Help make it fun
Crosby notes that the start of a weight loss journey can be overwhelming, “But as it went on, it got more fun — and it’s even better when you’re doing it with somebody.” To make his weight loss more fun, Crosby, a golf nut, broke down his weight goals into a golf scorecard with 18 holes or “goals” of golf.

5. Support a safe space
“Our number one rule is that your home has to be a safe haven,” says Brooker. “If it’s not, you’ll have all kinds of problems. And often that means eliminating things out of the home that have been staples or changing shopping habits. I compare it to an alcoholic going to an AA meeting and then coming home to someone who insists on keeping booze around the house.”

And while Brooker’s advice is geared towards making weight loss more attainable for the men in the house, this advice can easily be used by him to support you too. Whether you’re both feeling sluggish and want to make a change, or you’re trying to steer your guy to embrace a healthier way of life, we hope these easy tips help make the process more positive for the both of you (and your family too!).

To read about one man’s impressive and inspiring weight loss journey click here.