If you’re leading a healthy life, with regular exercise, a balanced diet, and fresh air then you’re leading a great life. But what if your S.O. isn’t ?
What if they need some guidance and care in this direction ? What if they actively ask you to help them live a healthier life, and aim for better health ?
Well, in that case this article will help you out. It’s not that you don’t know where to point them, but how you point them in the right direction matters.
So we are going to help make things clearer, on how you can help your partner lead a healthier life. This is largely based on our own experience as a couple’s transformation, and some tips we picked up along the way from friends who’ve gone through this as well.
So how do you help your S.O. live a healthier life ?
Alright, let’s talk about what a healthy life is, in this article. It can mean different things to different people. In this article, a healthy life is one that includes:
- regular exercise: 3-5 times per week, moderate intensity
- a balanced diet – with a low intake of sugar and carbs
- whole foods, so no pre-made or boxed foods
- adequate water consumption, around 8 glasses/day
- a regular sleeping schedule, with 7-8 hours of sleep
Now that we’ve talked about that, let’s see what you can do to help your S.O. We’ll write out the main points here, then get into details in the rest of the article. You can help them by:
- Talking to them – you must decide on this together, otherwise it will end up in an argument
- Being a good role model
- Setting goals together, and celebrating them
- Encouraging healthy couple activities, that include a fair amount of movement and effort
- Using positive reinforcement when they’re going in the right direction
- Starting small, since this will take a while
- Having patience, with each other and with yourselves
- Exercising together
- Working on your relationship as well, you need the support
Now let’s get into details here, and see exactly how each of those can help you help your partner.
1. Talk to your partner
Whether they came to you for help, or you know they need a nudge in the right direction, a talk is necessary. A big change like this is never easy, and requires a lot of effort on both parts.
So sit down with your loved one and talk through what needs to be changed, and why it needs to happen. Some of the habits they have might be very hard to quit, like maybe smoking or sweets or sleeping right after a meal.
It’s important that during this talk no one gets offended, since it can be a bit tricky to navigate. The best option we’ve found is to phrase it like something that will benefit them.
For example, don’t say “you need to stop eating fast food, your heart is going to have some serious issues and you could do with losing some weight”. It might be very true, but it’s harder for your partner to not be offended, even if they are indeed overweight and starting to have heart issues.
So go for something more like “if we switch to whole foods, in time of course, we’ll be able to lose some weight and find ourselves some nice swimsuits to wear on vacation” or something to that tune. Try aiming for something they would like o happen, or would like to do.
Notice how the second option doesn’t bring into discussion quitting fast food. It’s what is going to happen, but dressed in a way that sounds more pleasant.
2. Be a good role model
Your partner is learning new habits, so they will need some support along the way. Being a good role model will make things easier for your partner.
If you’re always right there with them, with exercise, with healthy food, with energy, they’ll feel spurred on and do their best.
A little healthy competition is fine too, as long as you remember that this is a team effort.
Maybe sometimes your partner won’t feel like going to the gym, but if they know that you want to go, and you gently remind them that you have faith in them and know they can do this, they’ll come around.
Another thing that happens when you’re the best role model ever, is that you have to be in great shape too. Which is good actually, even if you might get tired from time to time and feel your discipline wavering.
Your partner is looking to you for support and guidance, and you can’t really let them down. So even if a cookie looks tempting, you’ll resist it. So you’re benefiting from this as well.
Do remember though that being a good role model for your partner does not mean you’re their drill sergeant. When they have a craving for something don’t scold them, but talk them through it.
We are all human, including you and your partner.
3. Set goals together, and celebrate them
Setting some goals that you can achieve together will help a lot. It will look more like a team effort, and your partner will benefit from this support.
Also, if you tie a goal of theirs to you and your relationship, you make it emotional for them. And emotions always work, since the relationship is usually the most important thing in a person’s life. That includes your sweetheart as well.
Some goals could be getting into shape so you can take those dance classes they always dreamed of, but right now they tire too easily and wouldn’t keep up.
Or, maybe another goal could be losing a certain amount of weight so you can go to an exotic place together and show off those great bikini bodies you’ve sculpted together.
Or, even just something small, like quitting soda so their stomach can return to normal, so you can both enjoy some great tomato-based pasta.
Whatever the goal is, break it down into smaller steps at first, and celebrate them as you go. For example celebrate the first week of successfully living healthy, with all that includes. Then the first 30 days.
Or celebrate the first amount of weight lost with nothing but food and exercise. Even something like drinking less soda and more tea is something to be celebrated at first.
Make it about recognizing their progress, and celebrate it together.
Not with sweets of cookies or carbs, though. Be health-conscious about it, and opt for healthier versions. For example a fruit fro-yo instead of chocolate ice cream, or snuggling up to see their favorite movie with hot cocoa (no sugar).
4. Encourage healthy couple activities
Something that gets you both out of the house is what is going to help the most. Walking every day for a half hour in the evening is something that Dragos and I do, it’s more than a habit.
It keeps us fresh, and focused on the relationship as well, since it’s also a break from whatever we’re working on at home.
You could aim for a hobby that gets you both out of the house. You can find a neat list we’ve made for you here, they all support a healthy life, whether it’s about your nutrition or your bodies.
For example, establish the idea of a regular date night. Pick a day of the week, and set that evening as your date night, even if it’s just for a couple of hours.
And make that date all about yourselves, but outside. So instead of lounging on the couch and cuddling, maybe opt for the amusement park, or swimming, or even just hiking together to that hill overlooking the city, like you did as teens.
Leaving the house will always help lift your spirits, and you will benefit from all that fresh air. Even if it’s something as simple as taking a walk around the neighborhood, it’s going to help a lot.
5. Use positive reinforcement
When your partner is just learning to lead a healthier life, many things might seem hard for them. Switching from processed foods to whole foods will be a big move, and they need the encouragement.
Even their digestion will change, as their guts and stomach adapt to the new food. So help them out as much as you can, by noticing when they eat less fries than before, and get plain water instead of soda.
Or when they manage to eat a salad and feel full, without bread or a heavy dressing. That’s another milestone for them, and it’s something that needs encouragement as well.
Express your delight with them whenever you see them doing something for their health, since that’s what they will respond to best.
If you start arguing and criticizing, pointing out what they did wrong, several things will happen. They will notice your tone but not your words, and feel unloved. Then, they will get defensive and an argument will most probably happen.
Finally, they might just do what you’ve asked them not to do, just to spite you. People can be very touchy and easily hurt by the ones they love, often without following a clear logic.
So avoid criticism and nagging, since it never works. All it does is push your S.O. away from you and create a lot of tension.
Emphasize what they did good, and speak calmly about what they did wrong, and help them do it better next time.
6. Start small, this will take a while
This is one of the biggest things to remember, and one that’s helped Dragos and I make he necessary changes.
When your partner changes their lifestyle, it can sometimes mean significant changes. And since we’re all creatures of habit, suddenly changing many things in a big way can look very scary and too far from our comfort zone.
So, best to start small, with something you know your partner is able to do. If they need to stop eating sweets, then just quitting cold turkey can be too hard for them.
Slowly reducing the sugar intake, every week or every few days, and also giving them healthier alternatives to snack on will help greatly. You can find some great ideas for sweet alternatives that you can make at home, right here. Just scroll to the half of the article and you’l find them.
Then, as time goes on and your S.O. gets used to less sugar, you’ll find them willing to reduce other things as well, like the amount of bread they eat, or how much coffee they drink.
The point here is that your partner first needs to get used to the idea, and see for themselves that they can live with less (or none) of this or that kind of food.
If you make a list of things that need to change right from the beginning, and start with all of them at once, it will be much harder. They might be overwhelming for your partner and so you need to take it slow.
7. Have patience
Be patient with your partner, and be patient with yourself as well. Your partner is learning a new set of habits, and unlearning the old ones. This all takes time, and there will be ups and downs along the way.
For example Dragos and I used to have a few weeks of eating well, then indulging in a bit of morning jam on toast, then a couple of cookies at work, with some hot cocoa, and a bit of chocolate in the evening. For a few days, then we’d realize what we got ourselves into, and revert to healthy eating.
Each new episode of relapse was less and less severe, since we caught ourselves in time, and had more discipline every time.
But these things can happen to anyone, and if your partner just gives in one day and has a box of fries with garlic mayo, don’t despair. They know what they’re doing and how it’s not a good idea.
Instead, help them out by listening to what they have to say, and starting over with healthy eating. After each relapse you can supplement more exercise, or more intense workouts, to burn the extra calories.
Lastly, have patience with yourself. You can’t always shield your partner from cravings, and sometimes your patience with them will be thin. You’ve seem them long for donuts so many times that sometimes you wonder if they’ll manage to not enter a shop one day.
But being in a supportive mode can be tiring, and it’s alright to feel tired sometimes. You’re helping your partner out, so you’ll be tired as well.
Just remember that you are a couple, you both deserve love, patience, and respect.
8. Exercise together
Get yourselves a workout program that you can both do. Whether you’re teaching your S.O. new exercises so you can do them together, or you’re signing up together for a dancing class.
You can find here a list of the best workout classes for couples, where you’re working on your relationship as well as your bodies.
Another article that will help you a lot is the one about all you need to know when you start working out as a couple. We wrote that article from our experience as a couple learning to exercise together, and we consider it a companion article to this one. You can find the article here.
The point is that you’re helping your partner enjoy the workout, since they’re doing it with you. If it’s something that’s also a lot of fun, like dancing for example, it will be even better.
Sometimes your partner might get lazy and attempt to convince you that you can both skip the gym today. I know I was guilty of that in the beginning, I didn’t have much discipline at first. But Dragos helped me get over my lazy days and brought us to the gym, even if just to do some simple exercises.
Building discipline is what will help the most here, and just the habit of being active.
Another great thing about exercising together is that you are showing your partner support in their lifestyle change. However, if you’re experienced with working out, be careful with how you instruct them to do their exercises.
Be clear with instructions, but don’t be overbearing. Some hurt feelings might arise if your partner feels like you’re bossing them around.
9. Work on your relationship as well
The relationship itself might get strained a bit during your partner’s lifestyle change. They might be a bit cranky sometimes, or they might be so focused on what they need to change that they become a bit obsessed with it.
Your relationship needs some love and attention as well, in order to maintain a good supportive environment for yourselves.
Schedule regular date nights, or maybe a half hour every day just for the two of you, a foot massage here, a tight hug there. Everything that makes you two feel connected and loved, do that.
It’s important to keep things seeming as normal as possible for your partner when they’re making big changes like this. So a relationship that’s going well, and is fairly steady, will help things out.
Even if you lack the necessary time to spend with each other, like very different work schedules, you can still do this. Leave little love notes around the house, or when you pack their food for fork sneak in a little treat for them along with the note.
Even a random text about how much you miss them when they’re at work will be welcome, even if they don’t reply right away.
Make each other a priority, and show some love.
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What kind of obstacles can you expect ?
Living a healthier life is a big change for many people. So your partner might bump into some challenges here and there, and it’s important to know them beforehand. We’re going to cover the 4 main challenges, and how you can help your S.O. through them.
1. Lack of discipline
What no one tells you about leading a healthy life is the amount of discipline that goes into it. Being fit and eating well might sound easy and straightforward, but often people misjudge how much goes into that.
So if your partner is making a big shift from unhealthy to healthy, they will most probably hit a discipline obstacle. Not eating junk food, sweets, soda, and other foods that don’t do the body much good require discipline.
Ice cream is easy to eat, since it tastes good and you can get actual cravings for it. Broccoli, while much more nutritious and healthy, is rarely a craving. We’ve never met anyone with a broccoli and salmon craving, even if that’s one of the best meals you can give your body.
So you can help your partner by eating with them, or working out with them, or just enforcing whatever habit they need to learn for their healthy life.
Positive feedback also helps to make a habit stick, so that they can associate the good feeling with the habit.
2. You might argue more at first
This is why we recommend working on your relationship as well. A healthy life is a great life, but it takes a while to learn how to live like that.
And unfortunately, it might go against some of the things your partner does. For example if your partner smokes, a healthy life does not include that, so that’s a possible argument as well.
Not because you’re making them quit, but because the process of changing that habit is very tough and can lead to arguments just because your partner’s stressed out and you’re the only one around.
The same goes for most unhealthy habits, to be frank. It takes a while to shake them off, and those changes can be confusing at first. Plus, your partner no longer has the comfort they had before – if getting their tray with food at a fast food joint made them happy, they don’t have that anymore.
So make sure you talk and talk again about how a healthier life helps them in the long run, and point out the advantages that are related to your couple. Like better sex, more stamina for your dates, more energy to help around the house, and so on.
Your partner must also keep themselves in check, since an argument here and there is alright, but frequent arguments over not eating fries are a self-control issue on their part.
3. Slower progress
The progress your partner makes might be slower that you both anticipated at first, and that’s alright. To each their own, and we all have different speeds.
For example men tend to have faster results than women in the first few weeks of weight loss, but it evens out after a few months.
So if your partner is slower than expected, just keep doing what you’re doing. They will get there eventually.
Of course, they might get a bit frustrated at some point. Make sure to talk about this in the beginning, when you have your initial talk about living a healthier life.
Make sure they have reasonable expectations about how much this change will take, and what can happen in the span of 3 months, 6 months, a year, and so on.
So make sure you have patience with this, both of you. Changing a lifestyle can be a big thing, and will take some time for your partner to learn all the new and good habits they didn’t have before.
4. Occasional relapses
They might happen, or they might not. For us they did. But maybe your partner won’t have them.
If they do relapse, it’s alright. Help them get back on track without criticizing, but do talk to them about it. Hear them out on what they have to say, and trust that they most probably feel guilty enough over eating that chocolate.
No point in bringing it up every other day. However do bring it up when you notice their discipline wavering a bit. Not to start an argument, but to remind then to be careful and resist temptation, otherwise they’ll relapse again.
Relapses are most likely to happen with the habits your partner has had for the longest time, or had the deepest roots. If they tell you they have a craving for this, talk to them and hear them out, until the craving passes.
Offer something else instead, a healthier alternative to take their mind off whatever it is they want.
This is a change that will probably not come easy, but once it does, you will both be amazed with the difference. So make sure you have the patience necessary to see things through. It may take a few weeks, it might take a few months, even a year, but it will happen.
As long as you support your partner, and they have some discipline, they can do this.
We hope this article was helpful to you, and you’ll be able to help you partner live a healthier life.
Feel free to check our other articles as well, you might find something you like.