Nutrition, Diet, and Relationships: Are they mutually exclusive?

BlogHer Original Post

Almost five years ago to the day, I was interviewed for an article written by Mary Lynn F. Jones for The Chicago Tribune about couples who lost weight together. Mostly, I talked about how my husband and I encouraged one another to go to the gym by going together, but I also mentioned that we changed our eating habits together as well. Let's face it: if one person is eating cake for dinner, it's pretty hard for the other to resist a bite (or two or three or their own slice).

In fact, when the article appeared in 2004, my husband and I had already lost a combined 80 pounds over the previous five years through a combination of healthier eating and exercising. Over the subsequent five years, we've more or less maintained that weight loss by continuing our efforts to eat healthier and exercise. When it comes to nutrition, I found that it helps to be on the same page as the person with whom I most frequently dine.

In the early days, I was much better at maintaining efforts to eat better. My husband worked obnoxious hours at an investment bank, which often required him to order dinner in and eat it at his desk. He often ordered with co-workers, who tended to be other recent college grads with no interest in eating roast chicken. Left to my own devices for dinner, I found that I could better control the food that entered the refrigerator, and therefore began to avoid buying fatty or excessively caloric foods. (Also, I should clarify that as New Yorkers, cooking is not something we were familiar with. Our first apartment actually had a kitchen with no stove or oven, and it didn't phase me in the least. All I needed was the microwave to heat up my frozen foods, and the toaster over worked well for any other meals I "prepared.")

When my husband left investment banking, we found that he not only had more time to exercise, but that he could also better control what he ate. Unfortunately, he also seemed to not have a good sense of nutrition. After the gym, he'd go to the deli and buy two cinnamon raisin bagels with cream cheese for dinner. When I suggested that perhaps this was not the wisest choice, he regarded me with disdain. "It's better than what I used to eat." He found it odd, however, that he worked out harder than I did but didn't manage to lose much weight. Finally, he realized it was diet.

Yes, diet. While I cut back on pastas (especially ones with rich sauces - I don't think I've had fettucini alfredo in over a decade), beef, and dessert, he hadn't made the right adjustments. Once he did, though, the weight came off. We both ate more fresh fish for dinner, snacked on fruit and yogurt, and ate cereals that we high in fiber. We reinforced each other's positive shopping habits, and discussed which items on the menu were the best choices when we went out to eat. My main diet was to eat a high fiber cereal for breakfast, a banana for a mid-morning snack, a turkey sandwich and yogurt for lunch, a granola bar for an afternoon snack, and salmon or chicken for dinner during the week. On weekends, I could indulge in whatever I wanted. My husband more or less followed the same plan. Things were good for years.

Then I discovered that I had a slightly increased level of insulin resistance as a result of another condition that I have. As diabetes runs in my family, the doctor sent me to a nutritionist who designed a low carb, low fat diet for me. A diet that was utterly unsustainable for me. After diligently following the diet for about a month, I was starving and miserable. Bananas, a snack that I loved, were out. So were granola bars. I didn't eat much pasta anyway, but now that it was essentially banned along with dessert, I wanted it more than ever. I fell off the bandwagon with a vengeance, although my husband continued his eating habits.

Thus the last few years have been a bit of a roller coaster for me, but not my husband. His willpower in the face of my cupcake eating astounds me. He encourages me to eat better, but is not judgmental when I fail to do so. As a result of my poor eating choices (and going to the gym less), I've gained a few pounds back for the first time since I lost weight 8 years ago. Since a recent study indicated that diet impacts weight loss more than exercise, and I really need to eat fewer carbs for my pre-diabetic condition, I'm thinking of attempting the South Beach or Zone diet. My husband won't join a diet plan with me, but fortunately, I can count on his support - and desire to stay away from junk food himself - to help me through it.

Other stories about nutrition and couples:

If you have a partner, how does nutrition play out in your household?

Suzanne also blogs at Campaign for Unshaved Snatch (CUSS) & Other Rants. Her first book, Off the Beaten (Subway) Track, is about unusual things to see and do in New York City, which can involve a lot of healthy walking!

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