Home > Weight Loss > Is it True that Birds of a Feather Flock Together?

Is it True that Birds of a Feather Flock Together?

By Vitamin Expert Todd Whitthorne

WSJ Image

Image from The Wall Street Journal

There was a recent article in the Wall Street Journal  I found very interesting. It was about “mixed-weight couples” where one partner is overweight and the other isn’t.  Researchers from the University of Puget Sound and the University of Arizona studied 43 heterosexual couples and found those in the “mixed-weight” category experienced more relationship conflict, including resentfulness and anger, than so-called “same-weight” couples.  The results were published in the December 2012 issue of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

Results also indicated that those couples with the most conflict involved a healthy-weight man and an overweight woman.  When just the man was overweight it wasn’t much of an issue.

Hmmmm!

It’s not news that men and women are different. John Gray made that very clear in his famous book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex. Weight is a very touchy subject and when it comes to relationships, one should always tread lightly. However, while they certainly exist, “mixed-weight” couples are not the norm. We know that those in our “warm circle,” which obviously includes spouses, have a huge influence on our behaviors and habits, and ultimately our weight. A study in the July 2007 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine found that if your spouse is obese then you are 37 percent more likely to be obese. It might be surprising to learn that if your friends are obese you are 171 percent more likely to be obese! As I often say, when if comes to your health, which includes your weight, you are NOT the Lone Ranger!

In the Cooper Wellness Program we don’t often see “mixed-weight” couples. Usually those that come with their spouse have similar Body Mass Indexes and their overall health is fairly comparable. What we do see quite often though is a spouse motivated to improve his or her health that comes through the program solo. Then, after they spend six days getting Cooperized they leave campus completely convinced they will return home and “motivate” their spouse to hop on the wellness bus and embrace a healthy lifestyle. “Whoa, slow down!” In cases like this you need to be careful.

The last lecture of the Wellness Week is called “Managing Expectations” and its placement is intentional. We know that if you are willing to invest a reasonable chunk of change and six days of your life to come through the Wellness Program you are most likely in a “stage of change” that vastly improves your odds of success. More simply, you are ready to change. Remember, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” But ONLY when the student is ready.

It’s human nature that once you participate in a positive experience you want to share it with those you love. The problem however is if your loved one isn’t ready to change then your unbridled enthusiasm will most likely not be received as you intend it. In fact, it might completely backfire which could then potentially extinguish your flame. I’m not saying this always happens…just don’t be surprised if it does.

Change is difficult and when a spouse or close friend decides to change, even if it’s a positive change, then it often is viewed as a threat to the one being “left behind.” “What’s wrong with the way we’ve been ____________(fill in the blank…living, eating, exercising, etc.) for all these years? Am I suddenly not good enough for you?” It can lead to some very difficult, but necessary, conversations.

Stanford’s Dr. BJ Fogg teaches that as humans we are lazy, social and creatures of habit. Overcoming the status quo is often very hard but relying on the experience of experts can dramatically improve your odds of success. Human “energy” can be phenomenally helpful but remember that we are all unique and when it comes to change, those we love don’t always move at the same speed.    

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