How to Buddy Up for Better Health

Oscar and Lola are a married couple who came to me for weight loss support. Collectively, they have lost just over 80 pounds and have continued to keep the weight off over 4.5 years. This is astonishing considering that research suggests that about half of individuals who lose weight will regain it all back in two years, and within five years, more than 80% of those who lost weight have gained it all back.

So why has this couple been so successful?

They attribute it to the fact that they decided to lose their excess weight together. Both are equally committed to getting and keeping the weight off, and they help and continue to support each other when the going got tough.

If one partner shares that they have put on a couple of pounds, the other partner makes sure that fish and veggies are on the dinner menu until the weight corrects itself. Luckily, there was never any weight loss competition between them, and they also contributed their success to keeping foods, such as sweets and treats, out of the house.

[READ: How to Help Your Spouse or Partner Lose Weight.]

Get a Partner to Lose Weight With

Oscar and Lola are definitely on to something. When it comes to eating healthier and managing your weight, there appears to be an upside to sharing your goals with your partner. A survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Nutrisystem, found that just over four in ten respondents said they were more likely to start a healthy habit when partnered with a friend or loved one as opposed to doing it on their own.

Other research also supports similar positive results using the buddy system. In a study of over 3,500 couples living together, researchers found that when one partner switched to a healthier habit, the other partner was more likely to follow suit.

Let’s face it: You’re more motivated to take a daily walk if your partner is also lacing up their sneakers and moving with you. When it came to losing weight, the researchers in this study also uncovered that if both partners were determined to shed some extra pounds, the odds tripled in their favor to be successful, compared to if only one partner needed to drop some pounds.

“Given that partners have a mutual influence on one another’s behavior, behavior change interventions could be more effective if they targeted couples as opposed to individuals,” stated the researchers in this article, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine.

[SEE: 11 Tips for Quicker Weight Loss.]

Courtney McCormick, a registered dietitian and the manager for Clinical Research and Nutrition for Nutrisystem, couldn’t agree more. “We know that our social network — significant others, family members, friends, coworkers — can have an influence on our health behaviors, including our eating and activity habits,” states McCormick. “When we engage our friends and family in adopting healthy behaviors with us, we are more likely to be successful and make those changes stick.”

To meet this supportive need, Nutrisystem has created a Partner Plan program designed to enable two people living in the same home to experience the benefits of losing weight together. The Partner Plan delivers food for two, shipped together, straight to the home.

[READ: 11 Healthy Food Swaps to Lose Weight. ]

6 Tips to Partner Up for Success

While research supports that changing a habit with another person may be helpful, there could be some downsides to buddying up with someone to lose weight. McCormick provides these tips to avoid any potential pitfalls:

Be a Partner, Not a CompetitorSetting up weight loss as a competition is a lose-lose proposition, not in a good way. People lose weight at different rates, so even if you and your partner stick to the same meal plan and exercise regimen, one of you may lose weight faster. That sets one of you up for becoming discouraged. Each of you should set your own goals and support each other’s progress rather than turning weight loss into a contest.

Combine Your Shopping Lists

Since many partners live in the same household, consider planning your grocery list together. Combining your lists and buying larger quantities of certain items could help you save money in the long run. Plus, cooking together is a great bonding experience.

Eat TogetherMaking time to eat together a few times during the week has proven beneficial. Your schedule might be busy with work, errands and other daily tasks, so this can be a great opportunity to regroup. Use this time to talk about your goals, celebrate your successes and discuss any hurdles you may be experiencing.

Share Your Personal Goals

Communication is key to making any relationship work. It’s the same for losing weight together. Make sure you and your weight loss partner are on the same page about what you want out of your weight loss journey. Maybe you want to eat healthier to achieve some health goal, like lowering your blood pressure, while he or she wants to fit back into those smaller size work suits tucked in the back of the closet.

If you know each other’s goals, you’ll be able to understand how each of you is measuring success. Reducing your blood pressure a few points or dropping an inch or two around the waist might be better measures of progress rather than the numbers on the bathroom scale.

Buddy Up for a WorkoutIt can be more fun to work out with your partner. You’ll be more likely to pass the time, push yourself and possibly even have a more enjoyable experience. There’s a social aspect to it. Try tossing a medicine ball or use resistance bands; or walk, jog or try a new exercise class together.

Provide Motivation and Inspiration

Remember, you’re there to provide motivation, not policing. Don’t berate your weight loss partner for the occasional slip up. Be his or her inspiration.

Based on the above, it appears that Oscar and Lola have nailed it.

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