When you make a commitment to a healthier lifestyle and begin a weight-loss journey, there are plenty of benefits for your personal health. But a recent study from the University of Connecticut found that sticking to your lifestyle changes may also benefit your partner.
In the study, researchers used a randomized, controlled design to track couples' weight-loss progress while only one of the members of the couple was actually on a weight-loss program. They found that when the member following the plan was successful, so was their partner. They assessed the pairs after three and six months, and about a third of the partners who weren't actively participating in a weight-loss plan had lost more than 3% of their starting bodyweight by the end of the study.
Researchers divided the couples into two groups: one in which one of the members of the couple was following a structured plan and receiving in-person counseling through Weight Watchers, which funded the study; and one in which a member of the couple was given a four-page pamphlet about healthy eating, exercise, and weight-loss strategies, and had no other meetings. In both groups, the member of the couple who didn't receive an intervention also experienced weight loss.
“When one person changes their behavior, the people around them change,” says lead author Amy Gorin, according to a university news release. “Whether the patient works with their healthcare provider, joins a community-based, lifestyle approach like Weight Watchers, or tries to lose weight on their own, their new healthy behaviors can benefit others in their lives.” The study refers to it as a "ripple effect" that can have both positive and negative effects. While it helps when the partner actively trying to lose weight is successful, it can hurt when that partner is struggling to lose weight, the study found.
So next time you feel like throwing your diet plan or exercise program out the window because weight loss is tough, think of your partner. Even if they haven't noticed it, you've probably been helping them out, too.