Lifestyle Change

A personal testimony submitted to UNC Exchanges about the impact of lifestyle change on a relationship and a family.

For the first 40 years of my husband’s life, he was a very large man. Several years ago, he decided it was time to get his weight under control. After many failed attempts, he lost and has successfully kept off more than 100 pounds for 5 years. However, he still struggles with his appetite—all day, every day. He loves food… really LOVES food. For example, when we go on a road trip, he researches and maps out all of the possible places he would like to eat along the way. Then, whenever and wherever we are ready to take a break, there is some new tasty experience awaiting us. I have learned many things on this journey with my husband—some of which were unexpected. One, in particular, still has me adapting.

“Lifestyle change.” This phrase was probably the vilest thing I could say to my husband, worse than any curse word to his ears. I found this out the hard way, early in his journey. I was so excited that he was ready to address his weight issues, and I wanted to give him advice, knowledge, and encouragement. My enthusiasm fell on deaf ears. He stopped listening when I said, “lifestyle change.” It was the one thing he did not want to hear, and he made that perfectly clear. He did not mind the word “diet” because, to him, a diet was temporary, and he could go back to the foods he loves. But “lifestyle change” meant just that. It might even mean the other dreaded word: exercise. He tried several different diets before he finally admitted that, in fact, he needed a “lifestyle change.” To this day, he still hates that phrase. If you are on a similar journey with a loved one, I would caution you to avoid those words until your loved one is ready to add them to their vocabulary.

What I was completely unprepared for was how my lifestyle was going to change. Gone are the days of, “I don’t want to cook, let’s order in.” Dining out is rare (or nonexistent) if my husband’s weight has crept back up. When we do dine out, we now each order an appetizer and split an entrée. At home, dinner menus are planned to mitigate “taste-bud” disappointment. Everything in a recipe is measured so that he knows exactly what his nutrition intake is – no “guesstimating.” There are healthy frozen meals stored for those nights when things are rushed or if I am away. I am careful to not indulge in my chocolate fix in front of my husband – which he greatly appreciates. Regarding exercise, in the beginning, my husband needed me to go with him on his walks after lunch and dinner. I resented this practice because I did not understand that he needed my companionship to help him establish a habit and to keep him accountable. I did not comprehend how hard walking was for him. Now I gladly join him on at least one walk a day, even if only for 15 minutes, because it is time for us to talk, and it does keep him motivated. One of the more positive results from this journey is my husband’s growing understanding and encouragement of my exercise routine and goals. This has improved my performance and enjoyment of my endeavors.

Has it been worth it? Absolutely. Admittedly, there are days when I am challenged, but the most important outcome is that my husband is much healthier. We now participate in activities that were not options for us as a couple before. He even enjoys shopping. Regarding food, the “lifestyle change” has changed his palate, and he is open to a wider variety of foods and epicurean experiences – another unexpected, but delightful, result.