We are all starting to adjust to post-pandemic life and assessing the bad habits and possibly unwanted pounds that we adopted during the year and a half of limited activity and comfort food. Some of us may be thinking it’s time to start making some changes. During the COVID-19 lockdowns, we all heard the slogan, “We are all in this together.” The pandemic opened our eyes that health is not something to take for granted and that achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can help protect our health.
The pandemic impacted those who are overweight and have pre-existing health conditions more than those at a healthy weight and in good health. It has been reported that during 2020 there were 32,000 more heart disease deaths than the year before and 13,000 more diabetes deaths. This may be related to people being afraid of heading to the Dr. for a checkup or to the hospital when they were having a health issue. This may also be related to people exercising less and making poor food choices in light of the restrictions and stress the pandemic caused. Those numbers are significant and a sign that we need to move away from some of our COVID-habits and work together now to improve our health and the health of those we love.
Whether you need to lose weight, improve your blood pressure or blood sugar, or just start on a healthier eating path, research shows that having a healthy eating partner leads to more success than trying to make changes alone. Losing weight together provides accountability, motivation, and built-in support.
Getting fit and healthy is often a daunting task that might seem destined to fail without the proper support system in place to help you succeed. That’s where getting healthy together comes in, to make it a group effort. Obesity is often a family disease. So, it’s best to engage the entire family for the most successful lifestyle change. Studies have shown families tend to gain weight together, in large part because they share similar eating and exercise habits. When trying to prevent or manage disease, or reach a healthy weight, some approaches are much more effective than others. Having support and a healthy eating buddy is an approach that often works the best.
If you are looking for a buddy to work out with or to help you eat healthier that is outside of your family, no worries! You can pair up with a friend, coworker, or even find a group at a local fitness center. The key is finding someone that has similar goals and will help keep you on track. There is strength in numbers for helping you to reach your goals.
ASSESS THE SITUATION
Before getting started, assess your partner’s motivation to be healthy. You can’t force someone else to lose weight or make lifestyle changes. If he or she isn’t motivated to lose weight, it’s difficult to help them. Use open-ended questions to assess their feelings on the subject. Sometimes just being asked how they feel on a subject will allow them to think about the situation and changes they need to make. If they are not motivated at the moment, you can at least get them thinking about it, which is a step in the right direction. Remember, action comes after contemplation.
A buddy is key for keeping you accountable, which can be half the battle. Working out or dieting with a partner also increases your motivation. When it comes to working out, having someone to challenge you to work harder, faster, and longer will help you reach your goals quicker and easier. Ask yourself if you think this person will help you with each of these things?
Finding a partner with similar goals is preferred. Having a common direction will help you both stay focused. Encouragement, support, shared accomplishments, and pushing each other not only helps you reach your goals but makes it more fun. Workout partners also help keep things interesting and can help you get through a plateau.
If your partner isn’t interested in healthier eating, you don’t have to do a complete diet overhaul. Start with some small changes that will benefit you the both of you. Substitute unhealthy ingredients with healthier options in your cooking or add some new vegetable side dishes to your regular meals. For example, use low-fat sour cream and cream cheese instead of the full-fat versions. Try baking foods instead of frying them. Enjoy a fresh mixed green salad with your turkey burger instead of French fries. These simple swaps let you enjoy your favorite foods while cutting fat and calories.
Focus on eating more meals at home rather than eating out or ordering take-out. If your partner suggests a restaurant meal, cook a delicious meal at home instead. This lets you control what goes into the meal for a healthier option. Restaurant food is often high in fat, sodium, and calories. The portion sizes are also too large, which can make it hard to stay within calorie goals and may tempt you to eat more than you planned.
When going it alone, it is easy to make excuses and blow off the necessary work that is required to reach your goals. But when canceling a workout affects someone else. That becomes a bit more difficult. Since getting to the gym is the first step to a good workout, the buddy system is shown to be effective at pushing you to get there.
Workout buddies also allow us to prioritize exercise. For example, if you have to arrange a babysitter while you work out, you and your partner could coordinate your schedules and share a babysitter or take turns watching each other’s kids.
Plan physical activities to enjoy together. This gives you quality time together while you exercise. Start a nightly routine of walking or biking through your neighborhood after dinner. Another option is to find a sport that both of you enjoy and play it on a regular basis.
USE POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
We all need positive reinforcement and someone has to start it. Encourage your partner to continue making healthier choices by recognizing his or her efforts. Use positive wording when discussing healthy eating and exercise. Praise them occasionally to let them know you recognize their efforts and are happy to see it, but also that their every move is not under scrutiny.
A constant barrage of unsolicited health advice is perceived as ‘nagging’ or criticism. Avoid threatening or criticizing your partner for poor eating or exercise habits. This may cause a problem in the relationship and most often it has the opposite effect on the end goal.
Research targeting overweight children or kids at risk of becoming overweight is examining prevention tactics. Researchers are finding is that positive eating messages work. Encouraging positive attitudes toward eating is critical because studies have indicated that dieting and food restrictions during childhood may promote weight gain and even negatively affect eating behaviors later in life.
Remember a weight loss buddy is there for support, something all of us thrive on. The next time you’re feeling a lack of motivation or losing your drive to stay on track, calling a friend you can trust and one that you can help in return will have a huge benefit. The payoff is a better overall quality of life, a stronger body, a better outlook on life, and much more!
SET A GOOD EXAMPLE
Whether you’re are focused on helping your kids eat better and get off the couch or your sibling lose a few extra pounds, start by being a good example. It’s hard to have someone else make changes while you’re being sedentary and eating whatever you want.
Children usually don’t do the grocery shopping or food preparation. They don’t organize outside activities or drive themselves to the recreational center or park. Children aren’t able to change these behaviors on their own. So, to help children eat better and be more physically active their parents are who NEED to get involved.
When parents lose weight, so do children, even if that wasn’t the original goal. Researchers looking at family members of individuals that underwent gastric bypass surgery found just that. They studied 35 patients as well as 36 adult family members and 15 children. Before the operation, 60% of adult family members and 73% of children of patients scheduled for gastric bypass surgery were obese. At 12 months after the operation, significant weight loss was observed in the obese family members. They also found that family members increase their daily exercise, improved their overall eating habits, had less emotional eating, and reduced their alcohol intake.
For a friend, coworker, or another person you are teaming up with, being a good example will help them feel supported and may also help them to get motivated. We often learn from others and if someone sees you take your lunch break and go for a walk, they may decide they want to do that as well.
FOCUS ON HEALTH, NOT WEIGHT
The focus should be engaged and focused on being healthy. It’s not about losing weight as much as it is about eating right and being active to be healthy. When everyone is focused on health, it shows that eating healthy foods is not a diet or all-or-nothing, but rather about being strong, fit, and healthy.
By focusing on health, it helps to avoid the trap of a quick-fix or only making short-term changes. Making a long-term commitment forces you to make changes that are sustainable and can be followed for many years into the future. The goal is not a yo-yo diet or the latest fad diet craze but to set in place healthy behaviors such as eating fresh fruits & vegetables, getting in at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day, drinking more water and less sugary drinks, and taking better care of yourself overall.
A buddy can help in ways of celebration. Celebrating progress alone isn’t as much fun as it is with a partner. You and your partner can set goals for yourself and celebrate every few weeks after you’ve met those goals. Take a night off work and stress and celebrate together! Be sure to keep your celebrations to non-food-related items, or you can undo the work you’ve put in and end up back where you started. Check out our 10 Tips for Rewarding Your Weight Loss blog for some ideas.
When it comes to weight loss, starting an exercise program, or just committing to a healthier lifestyle, you don’t have to go it alone! Research shows you’ll improve your overall results by working together with a partner. While some of us can maintain good exercise routines and lose weight without help, most of us could benefit greatly from having a partner. Some questions to ask yourself when deciding if someone may be a good fit for you include:
1. Does this person have similar health goals as me?
2. Will this individual have the time to support me the way I need it?
3. Do I feel that this person will be able to motivate me and keep things positive?
4. Will they make me feel bad if I fall off the plan or weigh me down?
5. Do I feel comfortable sharing details about my progress with this person?
6. Do I feel they can keep me accountable for my goals?
Now that we are defining our new normal, we should move away from “We are all in this together” and move toward “Let’s all get healthy together.” Looking for a great way to kick start you and your partner’s weight loss? Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating not only provides numerous health benefits ranging from weight loss to lowering cholesterol, but our menus are made from fresh ingredients! View our traditional and vegetarian menus and learn how Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating can help you achieve your goal of a healthier, happier team!