Two is better than one! Snag these healthy-living secrets to fight fat as a dynamic duoBy: Alyssa Wells
You put on that marital-bliss belly together, and now it’s time to take it off as a team. Though the science seems stacked against you—a 2009 study published in the journal Obesity found that just living with a romantic partner for more than 2 years correlated with obesity, inactivity, and sedentary behavior—you can still lose weight with your better half if you take the right steps. (Video: Try this 15-minute total-body workout!)
“Couples have so many opportunities to help each other—more than they would have if they were trying to lose weight alone,” says Jason Bazilian, a doctor of acupuncture and oriental medicine, who shares a practice that focuses on nutrition, exercise, and healthy living with his wife Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD in San Diego, California. In fact, a 2008 study found that when one partner enrolled in a weight loss program, the non-participating partner ended up copying their spouse’s healthier behavior: They counted calories, weighed themselves more often, and lost an average of 5 pounds. Here are eight strategies to ensure that getting hitched isn’t the end of healthy living—together, you can eat better, exercise more, and fight fat.
Check out these 10 things connected couples do!
Getting adequate sleep is super important to achieving—and maintaining—weight loss, says Wendy. “Jason and I really try to watch out for each other when it comes to getting enough rest. If we’re just sitting and lingering some evenings, we nudge each other to call it a night.” Missing out on shut-eye can impair your metabolism and upset the body’s natural appetite signals. It increases ghrelin, a hormone that increases appetite and decreases leptin, a hormone that tells us when we’ve had enough to eat. Messing with this killer combo is a surefire way to overeat.
To help each other hit the hay, Wendy suggests creating a wind-down routine. This can include anything from setting out your clothes for the next day to doing a few relaxing stretches before slipping between the sheets. Try to stay away from talking about your to-do list or other stressful conversation topics right before bed. And while it’s great to hit the hay together, encourage your partner to turn in earlier if you have to stay up to finish a project.
Which activity would you rather remember: the time you bicycled across the Brooklyn Bridge, or the time you stuffed yourself on Thanksgiving? “A majority of our framed photos are of us actually doing things,” says Wendy. “When you see yourself being active, you’ll be inspired to plan your next trip or weekend adventure. Sometimes all it takes to motivate you is seeing how fit you were or remembering how invigorated you felt at a certain time.” Displaying photos of you being active as a couple acts as a constant reminder of how you plan to live your life together.
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A calendar offers more than just inspiration to plan ahead–a crucial habit for healthy eating and making time for fitness (and each other). It’s also a great place to keep track of daily and weekly goals. Having your milestones out in the open keeps you honest and gives partners an opportunity to track progress and celebrate success.
The Bazilians share a week-at-a-glance planner that has a “his” and “hers” column for each day. “This way we can see when our schedules intersect and when each of us has obligations,” says Jason. “We use the planner to strategize around who’s picking up groceries, who’s cooking that night, and so on. It’s great for communication.”
Turn your calendar into a weight loss tool by color-coding different types of activities. Keep track of mealtimes using a green marker, exercise and opportunities to be active with a red marker, work and other obligations in blue marker. This is a visual reminder to make sure you have a balanced week that incorporates both work and play.
Even if one person tends to be the chef in the family, there are plenty of other jobs to go around when it comes to preparing meals and keeping healthy snacks at the ready. “We very much share responsibilities and give each other tasks to do in the kitchen,” says Jason. Shopping and stocking the fridge for whatever recipe is on the menu, cutting vegetables or fruit for healthy grab-and-go snacks, and organizing the pantry so smart choices are in front are no-cook jobs that couples can share, says Wendy. Making healthy foods available can be time-consuming for just one person, but having a partner in food prep leaves more time for fun.
Tip Make eating healthy a weekly ritual. Try a new recipe once a week and make extra servings so you have leftovers for the next day’s lunch.
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Sharing is caring, but it’s unlikely the two of you need the same calorie counts to lose or maintain your weight. “As a couple the tendency is to want to split everything even-stephen,” says Jason. “But if you just nudge the knife over a tiny bit to make more appropriate portion sizes, you’ll be closer to achieving your goals.”
You should have an equal partnership, but your portions likely won't match. “I shouldn't eat as much as Jason,” says Wendy. “I’m 7 inches shorter and I’m a woman—I’m at a metabolic disadvantage. There’s nothing more wonderful than sitting down to eat together, but that’s challenging when he has more on his plate than I do.” If you’re the one stuck with a smaller portion size, or the speed-eater who inhales a meal, try using chopsticks to pace yourself. Polishing off your plate at the same time helps the partner who'd finish first avoid going back for seconds.
Instead of plopping down on the couch to hash over your day, take the talk outdoors. “It’s almost like our couples therapy,” says Jason. “We fill up two bottles of water, put on our sneakers, and go outside to talk while walking around the neighborhood.”
But don’t worry about changing into gym duds or grabbing your pedometer. “It’s just extra movement to build into your day,” says Wendy. “The intent is not to go out and exercise—it’s to add activity to an everyday thing like talking about the day's events.”
Planning an evening that revolves around eating won’t bode well for your waistlines. Instead, make sitting down to dinner the date’s final destination, and spend the first half of your night exploring the neighborhood surrounding the restaurant. For an even healthier time on the town, try a dance lesson or get a group together to go bowling or play pool, says Wendy.
Or, ditch date night for date day. An evening setting naturally pushes you toward a more sedentary choice. But there isn’t a rule that says you can’t schedule special time when the sun is shining. A daytime date busts you out of the dinner-and-a-movie rut, and opens the door to activities like hiking, kayaking, and bicycling (weather permitting). And eating isn’t out of the question—lunch menus usually offer lighter fare in smaller portions so you can dine without derailing your diet.
These exercises, from Chris Mohr, PhD, RD, CSSD, and Kara Mohr, PhD, FACSM, owners of Mohr Results in Louisville, Kentucky, are perfect for couples. Try for 8-12 reps of each.
Facing one another, get into pushup position. Leave enough room between you to be able to reach out and slap hands. (The farther apart you are, the more difficult the exercise.) Lower your chests to the floor and complete a pushup together. When you are at the top of the pushup, extend an arm in front of you and slap opposite hands. Because you’re facing each other you’ll be reaching across to slap right hands together then left. Repeat and continue switching hands for 8 to 12 reps.
Medicine Ball Toss Crunch
One partner lies on the floor with knees bent, feet flat, holding a medicine ball. The other partner stands facing the first person, about a foot away. As the partner on the floor crunches upward, the medicine ball is thrown to the standing partner. The standing partner tosses the medicine ball back and it is caught just as the seated partner lowers back to the floor.
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