Relationships: Non Dieting Loved Ones? What to Do (cont.)

While traditional "diet" foods may not sound appealing to your partner or family, experts say you can often make the foods that everyone craves in a more healthful and calorie-conscious way. This not only benefits you, but everyone you share meals with.

The trick is to learn the art of ingredient substitution.

"Use unflavored, no-fat yogurt in place of mayonnaise in coleslaw or salad dressing, always use skim milk instead of whole milk, make lasagna with low-fat cheese instead of whole milk-cheese," says Mezansky. "If you make the changes gradually over a few weeks' time, your family may not even notice the difference."

Creating a low-calorie shopping list will also help.

"If you get them used to baked chips instead of fried chips, popcorn instead of cheese doodles, diet soda instead of regular soda, you will be helping everyone -- and if you are tempted to snack, you'll be controlling at least some of the calories and fat," says Mezansky.

But what if you're not the one cooking the meals or doing the shopping?

Anytime you're served high-calorie foods, experts say, eat a little of the most calorie-dense dishes (like lasagna or pizza), and fill the rest of your plate with salad and vegetables. Be sure to skip the high-calorie accoutrements like garlic bread or gravy. The same strategy works when your best friend insists on taking you to lunch at Calorie City.

"If there are only high-calorie foods on the menu, ask your friend to split an entree with you so at least you're eating less," says Restuccia. And insist that next time, you get to pick the restaurant. Then choose one where you know you can order something healthy.

5. Be Reassuring

For some, seeing and smelling forbidden foods can be the ultimate seduction. For others, it matters not so much what their partners eat as what they say.

This is especially true when a loved one hands over that box of chocolates while saying things like, "I like you plump" or, "You're sexier when you're heavy." Experts say such words can often send a dieter over the edge. "Something many overweight people share in common is low self-esteem, and when you already believe you're undesirable, hearing that losing weight will make you even more undesirable can make dieting very difficult," Restuccia tells WebMD.

What should you do if this happens? First, Goodstein says, try to get the bottom of why your partner feels this way. You may find it's really their fears and not their desires they're expressing, he says.

"When one partner begins to lose weight and improve their appearance, the other may feel threatened or scared that this new attractive person won't want them anymore," says Goodstein.

By encouraging the dieter to remain overweight, the partner can exert a form of control -- or at least ensure that the one with the "new" body is less likely to stray.

To get around it, he says, lovingly reassure your partner that your weight loss goals are driven by health, not vanity, and that losing those extra pounds will help ensure a better future for both of you.

"Make certain to explain the serious health risks involved in being overweight, and assure them that sticking to your diet is one way to ensure that you'll be around longer to share the future together," says Mezansky.

What can also help: Include your partner in your weight loss rewards.

"Tell them that if they can help you to lose the next 10 pounds, there will be a reward in it that you both can enjoy, like a weekend away, or purchasing an item for the house that you both want," Mezansky tells WebMD.

If, however, a partner, family member, or friend appears to be deliberately subverting your weight- loss plans -- and talking it out doesn't help -- talk to your doctor.

Adds Goodstein: "Though it doesn't happen too often, sometimes, one person's need to subvert the other person's success is a sign of a sadistic personality -- with problems that are likely to be evident in other areas of the relationship as well."

Originally published Feb. 15, 2005.
Medically updated Jan. 23, 2006.


SOURCES: Charles Goodstein, MD, clinical professor of psychiatry, NYU Medical Center, New York. Nancy Restuccia, MS, RD, dietitian, Center for Obesity Surgery, New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, New York. Lynda Mezansky, MS, RD, clinical nutritionist, Health and Fitness Center, Tulley Health Center of Stamford Hospital, Stamford, Ct.

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Last Editorial Review: 4/22/2005 2:54:16 PM