The Impact of Weight Loss on Relationships

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I’ve talked before about the fact that I didn’t feel as though I was losing things while I lost 158 pounds, rather I felt as though I was gaining health, fitness, and improving my self-esteem.

In the midst of all the good things that happened there were some unfortunate consequences, or “fall-out” from my weight loss success. There was the loss of my best friend of over 10 years. Our relationship didn’t survive my weight loss success. She said mean things to me so often that I finally believed she didn’t want to be my friend at all. 

There were times where I felt isolated in social situations where fattening food was all that was offered. When I refused to eat any goopy cake or store bought cookies my friends made fun of me.

Even my sweet husband was confused at first when I insisted on exercising every day. It took him some time to realize that I wasn’t taking any time away from the family, but rather was able to give more time and energy to the family because I felt so much better about myself.

I have known several people who have lost a substantial amount of weight. Over half have had struggles in their relationships and a few haven’t. Truth be told, more than half the people I know who lost a substantial amount of weight ended up breaking up or divorcing.

I’ve thought a lot about some of the reasons why relationships may struggle when someone drastically changes their appearance and lifestyle.

The two words that came into my mind were expectations and insecurity.

Expectations that a relationship will always continue in a certain manner, including appearance, habits, and life goals. And insecurity that comes about after those expectations aren’t met.

Unmet expectations are often what causes problems in relationships aren’t they? There were times when I expected my husband was going to do something or react a certain way and when he didn’t I got annoyed. And vice versa. I’m sure I’ve disappointed my kid’s expectations a hundred times or so. The key to managing disappointments and unmet expectations in relationships for me, is communication.

When I disappoint John (intentionally or unintentionally), I’ve learned over our almost 30 years of marriage that I need to own up to the issue and have a heart to heart with him. And he does the same for me. (Sometimes I have to cajole it out of him. .) It’s a give and take.

Expectations in relationships are often built over time. And when one person in the relationship changes in a drastic way, expectations don’t always change.

For instance, in our case, when I drastically changed my appearance, my lifestyle, and my outlook on food, John’s expectations of what was normal for us didn’t change — at first. At first, he still expected I’d have heaps of nachos as an appetizer and split a huge dessert with him when we went out to dinner. He expected that I’d still bake a fabulous dessert every night. And he expected that I’d sit around on the couch with him instead of having him watch the children while I went out for a quick walk or bike ride.

Preserving our relationship during a tumultuous time of weight loss wasn’t something I consciously thought about because I didn’t realize what an impact it could have. But I quickly found out and both of us made sure that we talked about how things were changing. It wasn’t always easy, of course, and there were hurt feelings on both sides, but at the end of the day, we came through the experience stronger.

As you travel this journey have you given any thought to your relationships? My hope for you is that your relationships, both friendships and more, will survive your journey to health unscathed and stronger. Any thoughts on how to help this happen, or is there nothing that can be done?  Diane

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