How to motivate your spouse to exercise and eat better | Kimberly Garrison

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You can help him live a healthier life.

Someone recently asked me for advise concerning her husband who has a negative attitude toward exercise, along with food issues. In this relationship, it is the wife who is the real sports enthusiast; she has been a long-distance runner since high school, and now also enjoys a little weight training. But her husband was never into exercise or sports.

Consequently, he is now dealing both with aging and some unforeseen health challenges. While she is concerned, and rightly so, she doesn’t want to pressure him and potentially do more harm.  She also admitted that since she can eat basically whatever she wants (yeah, she’s one of those ectomorphs), she rarely gave thought to the rich meals she created at home or ordered when dinning out.  (An ectomorph is the body type that is characteristically slim, long, with very little fat, and they typically find it hard to gain weight.)

On the other hand, her husband, who has convinced himself that he hates exercise, is a classic endomorph.  Endomorphs are just the opposite of ectomorphs, and they are characteristically large, have high body fat, and can store body fat easily. To add insult to injury, he also believes that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and he isn’t motivated to even try.

She desperately wants to change his attitude and self-defeating ways of thinking. In the past, they have worked to make healthier choices, but have been inconsistent. All of which, made me wonder, is there way to make exercise and healthy eating a permanent choice?

While never easy, changing a spouse’s (or anyone’s) attitude toward a healthier lifestyle is definitely possible, with the right type of motivation and encouragement. One thing that really helps is compassionate understanding and taking small but consistent steps.

Think before you speak

First and foremost, be mindful of your language and think before you speak. Don’t ever say things like “Damn, looks like you’re really packing on the pounds, Big Poppa” or “Now, I know you’re not going to eat that hoagie and big blipping bag of chips.” Trust me, he knows he’s gaining or gained weight, and the last thing he wants from you is criticism. Besides that, criticism will likely exacerbate the problem and reinforce the very behavior you want to change.

Encourage him to cultivate his talents

Encourage your husband to cultivate his talents and gifts in the arts, music, writing, carpentry, and crafts.  Encouraging your sweetie to develop his interests and talents will likely help to boost his self-esteem.  Not surprisingly, boosting confidence in one area of life can spill over almost magically into other areas of our lives, too.

Girl, make his dinner

If you want to help your husband make healthier eating choices, don’t order a cheese steak and fries or swing by some fast food place for dinner.  Instead, show sincere support by deliberately making delicious and nutritious meals at home, and also take the lead in ordering healthy choices when dinning out.  If you must have dessert, go for something light, like sorbet, but absolutely skip the cheesecake.

Bring fitness into the home

Keep fitness equipment in the house, and encourage him to use it, too.  Stationary bikes are great for cardio and they don’t take up a lot of space in your home.  For strength training, keep some dumbbell and elastic bands handy, which also don’t take up a lot of space.

Get physical

Make it a habit to engage in physical activities you both can enjoy.  Who say’s you have to go to the gym in order to get fit?  The key is finding activities you both dig.  For example, if your guy likes to dance, dancing is physical, fun, and an evening of dancing may even lead to some pillow talk later.  If he’s intimidated by the gym, take nice long walks or go on adventurous hikes.

The bottom line, do anything you can to stay physically active as a couple.  You know the old saying, “Couples that play together, stay together,” and once you embrace healthy habits together, it becomes contagious.