Sunday, June 07, 2009

Does Weight loss Cause Marital Problems?

Three times in one week? Seriously? And again this morning a student pulled me aside to privately share with me that she and her husband were going through a "rocky period" and in the midst of a temporary separation. Sadly, I’m confident this person’s identity is protected despite this blog mention. Why? Because regrettably I have had the same conversation with three students in my fitness classes in this last week.

The truth is I've been delicately denying this sometimes seemingly related side effect of fitness.

It’s not an immediate side effect, but rather one that seems to develop as the newly fit person’s confidence improves and their priorities shift. It's far deeper than fitness, but with regret I must admit that it's not the first time I've felt like I could have done more to help! Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not a martyr who thinks they can save every broken bird. I’m not a therapist nor do I think that I have the training to interfere in a troubled marriage. I am however a resource for people embarking on a journey of a better life. Knowledge is power.

This is a call to action! This is a challenge to all fitness professionals and a warning to those of you who seek to begin your fitness journey and desire, in the process, to grow closer to your dearest friends, family and partner in the process.

Distance, resentment, jealously and fear; these are just a few of the emotions felt by someone whose friend or a partner experiences a rather dramatic change in lifestyle, personality or physical appearance. The side effects are rarely immediate, but seems to appear after a newfound confidence emerges.

As a Lifestyle and Fitness Coach my goal has always been to help people live better, fuller, richer, more propose filled lives. People might come to me to help them lose weight or tighten their tummies, but my first priority has always been to help them change their lifestyle for the better. I teach people to live balanced, healthy, happy lives, not obsessed with “perfect eating” or a certain number on the scale but rather to strike a balance in all areas. To do that I have to earn a level of trust and respect with people. I can’t inspire someone in just one video or in one class, but if they like my workout, they might like me. If they like me then maybe they’ll read my writings, follow my blog, listen to my motivation cd’s, sit in the audience with an open heart in one of my presentations and begin to understand that genuinely want to see people be happier.

I have always sought to help people enjoy better relationships and fuller, richer lives. Through my programs like Turbo Jam, Turbo Kick, or ChaLEAN Extreme, I have been invited into many people’s homes. Day after day they watch my videos and begin to feel they know me. Subconsciously they invite me to be a part of their lives. It’s an honor I take seriously. I work to include as many life improving tips in everything that I do, and not just fitness or nutrition, but things that help you become more aware of others. Because really…what’s the point of being fit, if you’re not happy?

The benefits of living a healthy, happy life are abundant. Yet in today's conversation with another newly separated and recently fit friend has brought me to the realization that as fitness professionals and coaches we must recognize the obligation to help people live happier lives. We must educate those we help as to the potential pitfalls of health and fitness. There are a few negatives…

1. You may have to buy a whole new wardrobe

2. You may have to extend your life insurance policy (as you’re certainly going to live longer)

3. You may find yourself not wanting to hang around people who have sedentary, unhealthy, depressing lifestyles.

4. “Haters” may be jealous of your newly toned booty!

5. Finally, as your waistline, interests, habits and lifestyle shifts, so too do your relationships with others.

The last thing in the world I want for people is to have fitness to drive a wedge between partners. Improving your marriage, strengthening your important relationships is even more important to me than improving your bicep strength. However, when it comes to friends, there are those who want the best for you and those who want a “buddy” who will make them feel comfortable about their own unhealthy decisions. Let go of that loser! Remain friendly, but to invest in yourself, you can no longer make with draws for these types of individuals. They may mean well, but they are not holding you to a higher standard. “Good friends” will make you think twice when you’re headed in the “wrong” direction.

When people lose weight and change their lifestyles, relationships change.

I've been helping people get fit and lose weight for 19 years and counting. Let's state the obvious. Someone who has let themselves go, who has considerable weight to lose, has low energy, low self esteem and has been dealing with the social and personal stigma associated with being over weight has often come to expect that people should treat them as "less than worthy" of respect, care, love and kindness. More often than not, when I meet someone who is beginning their fitness journey, they have allowed themselves to slip into “last place” on the list of importance. They have taught others how to treat them. They have taken care of everyone and everything else and practice a great deal of self-loathing.

Whether it’s over eating or under eating the root feeling about yourself is often the same. When people don’t like themselves they don’t expect much from others. They way you feel about yourself effects the dynamic in every relationship you’re in.

Fitness and weight are far deeper than just finding a great exercise program or eating less. I don't speak as an expert or therapist, but I do speak from 19 years of personal experience as a fitness coach and 14 years of marriage - that's 18 years with the same partner (my darling husband Bret) and a great note taker of all strong relationships around me.

Here's the challenge:

When someone begins to feel and look better, they start to think more highly of themselves. For the first time they look in the mirror and think, "I'm looking good. I'm feeling good and I CAN do this." They begin to recognize their own self-worth. They may be the same person they've always been, but suddenly they begin to believe, perhaps for the first time in a long time, that they deserve better.

Before long they may choose to resent those people in their lives (friends, family members, partners, even co-workers) who they have allowed for so many years to treat them "a certain way". Notice that I said, “they may choose to resent”. How you feel about others is a choice. Your mindset, your attitude in this process is critical. Allow your self to start spiraling negative thoughts about someone in your life and before long they become the villain. You can’t remember what you ever saw in them. Your anger builds. You begin to notice everything that drives you crazy. You take everything personally. You can only see and remember the worst.

In the mind of the person experiencing this physical and emotional transformation, the rules begin to change. The other person, even if they are supportive of the healthy changes doesn’t understand why the rules are changing and for that matter where to find the rulebook! This person begins to feel threatened by this unavoidable change or shift in the relationship. Friends may feel that their now "thinner, more fit" friend suddenly thinks less of them. They may feel judged or bad about themselves for not making the same changes and will find ways to sabotage their results or belittle their success.

A partner may suddenly no longer feels like they are the center of that person’s Universe. The newly fit and happy partner begins to get their happiness from within instead of from food or exclusively catering to the needs of others. The resentment and distance continues to build. No one is willing to talk about what’s going on. Everyone is too proud. Each waits for the other to make a step closer and in doing so they walk further and further apart.

Before long you’re doing everything as married individuals and little as a couple. You have your activities, and he or she has theirs; different friends, different schedules, different interest. The bond weakens. The resentment grows. It’s no ones fault, but someone could have done something. Someone should have done something before it was too late.

You often hear, “it takes two”, but I think a more useful comment is, “it takes one.” In every relationship one partner is more emotionally mature than the other. It takes one partner willing to do more than their share. If that has to be you, get over it! Do it. It doesn’t mean one partner is better, it means they are more in tune with what is going in and willing to swallow their pride, swallow their hurt and make it work. It takes one person taking the bull by the horns and steering the ship. It takes one person being the bigger person, and the next time you might be surprised when your partner steps up to the plate. It takes one person to schedule some time with a highly recommended therapist. If your first therapist doesn’t help you, they’re only human. It wasn’t a good fit. Find another!

Put yourself in the shoes of the partner or friend who feels left behind! Imagine going from being number one to number three without warning! No matter how happy you might be for your newly fit partner, you would certainly feel a bit of frustration.

Long term lasting weight loss means adopting a new way of thinking about yourself, a change in your lifestyle. Inevitably you will form new friends, tastes, habits and patterns. As these develop it's not uncommon for the significant other to feel lonely, left behind, angry, resentful, abandoned and even jealous. Will you be the hero? Will you be so wrapped up in your own healing that you lose sight of your partner’s importance?

Keep in mind that this has little to do with fitness and everything to do with "change", a disruption in the balance of power, a shift in the mind of your partner who might now believe they are have lost their importance to you.

So what can be done to avoid people growing apart when one person experiences a change in fitness and lifestyle?

1. Say “Thank you”! Remember that the most important thing you can do to keep your marriage and relationships strong is to make the other person feel important to you. Thank him or her for any small part they have in helping or supporting your journey. Everyone longs to feel needed. Try, “It means a lot to me that you do things like caring for the kids so that I can fit a workout into my day. I couldn’t do this without you!”

2. Communicate. They key to any relationship is communication. If you’re feeling differently about yourself and ready to ask for better treatment from others, then communicate your needs, calmly, with sweetness and understanding. Remember, it’s you that’s changing the rules. Keep in mind that your partner might feel like the rug is being pulled out from under them. It’s your responsibility to communicate your needs. You can’t expect anyone to read your mind. Lose your resentment. What’s the point of getting fit, if you’re all alone!

3. Practice Empathy. Put yourself in the shoes of your partner. How would you feel if the roles were reversed? Imagine how it feels to have change you didn’t ask for thrust upon you.

4. Get on the same path. Partners walking in separate directions cannot expect to stay together for long. Avoid creating a separate life. Invite your partner to join you in your workouts. Should he or she decline, ask again. Explain how much it would mean to you to be on this journey together. Allow your partner to pick the activity.

5. No alone time with opposite sex friends. I’m going to go out on a limb here and I’m sure many of you will disagree. This is a personal rule for Bret and I and it’s based on the practices of our own parents, each of whom are both still married after 40 plus years!
No friends of the opposite sex, unless it’s a friend we both share and time spent together is spent as a couple with this person, no alone time…no matter how perfectly innocent. I don’t flirt. I don’t cavort, or lunch or workout with my friends of the opposite sex. Why would I do anything that might make my husband have to think twice? Neither of us are jealous types; I just think it’s disrespectful. The rule works well for our marriage. If you’re married, the risks waaaaaaay out weigh the benefits. Why go there? You can find plenty of friends of the same sex.

6. Inventory relationships. Take an honest look at your friendships and relationships. Do you have friends or family who really do not want to see you succeed, who wish not to see you happy? What would be the point of giving these people your time? You know right now the name of at least one person who really only pulls you down, never lifts you up and only brings you drama. Lose the friend, lose the drama! If that person is your spouse…get into therapy before things get worse!

7. Do it for the kids. I recently had a conversation with someone going through a divorce. Together they have three kids. She told me she would do anything for her children, including lay down and die for them. Yet, when I pushed her she explained that she just couldn’t bare to spend another month in counseling with her husband. If you say you would do anything for your children, then do everything you can to repair your marriage, including having an open mind to the thought of falling in love again. Your history is the past. Your mindset is everything.

Let me be clear that I think there are plenty of “bad” even dangerous relationships that people stay in way too long. I’m not one of those people who doesn’t believe in divorce. There are certainly people who if they hadn't found their confidence and began to believe in themselves would today be trapped in a toxic marriage. Sometimes divorce is the only option. Sometimes its the only way to protect your children. In fact, if there are no kids involved… I don’t have much of an opinion if someone needs to get out of their relationship. Certainly you should do that before you have kids. Kids won't fix the problem, that's for sure! I just know that people are happier, kinder, nicer, healthier when their relationships are strong, when they feel safe, protected and loved by their partner. That doesn’t happen by accident. It takes work. I also believe that those of us with young children have a far greater responsibility to the world to keep our marriages strong. As I always say the most loving thing you can do for your children is make your spouse the center of your universe. As a country, if we spent as much time and money working on our marriages as we did working on weight loss, the world would be a much better place. That’s all.

Dramatic shifts in the power and balance between people can contribute to marital strife. Certainly changing one’s lifestyle for the better or worse can bring underlying problems to the forefront. Health is a precious gift, which if approached mindfully can strengthen your important relationships.


beachmom15 said...

Hi Chalene, I hope that you'll also post your progress and your review on the bodybugg! I'm on your twitter and see that so far you love it! I'm thinking of buying one, just haven't taken the plunge yet! We (my hubby and I) are hoping to start your Chalean extreme this week.

Lisa (lisita15)

jshort said...

Chalene, I just wanted to are so talented! In SO many ways. Not only do you help people get fit, live healthy lifestyles, and improve their have an amazing ability to give wonderful advice!

My husband and I, who have been married a few months shy of 8 years, just went through a rocky patch. We weren't thinking about divorce....but we were closer than we've ever been. We had just had our second child and were trying to fit our marriage into life with children...instead of the other way around. We had a newborn and a 2 year old and I was overwhelmed. I was too hard on myself if I couldn't keep a spotless house, dinner on the table, and spend a majority of my day caring and playing with my children. I am a stay at home mom, and it's the hardest job I've ever had considering time management. In the process I had put on about 25 post pregnancy pounds and had lost all my self confidence.

One day I sat down and decided my New Years resolution was to lose weight. (Just like everyone else who has a new years resolution.) I started out with a 10 lb. goal. I started doing Turbo Jam 6 days a week, changing my diet, and within the first month I lost 10 lbs. I was hooked. Then, I decided I was up for something a little more challenging. ChaLean Extreme.

I talked my husband into doing it with me, and since weight lifting was involved he was on board. After a month on ChaLean Extreme we had a remarkably better marriage, and I've finally figured out what improved it. WE WERE FINALLY DOING SOMETHING TOGETHER THAT DIDN'T INVOLE THE CHILDREN! For the longest time all we had in common was that we were human, married, lived in the same house, and shared 2 children. Now we had something new to talk about, share ideas, successes. Now, I've lost 20 lbs....just 5 shy of my goal and I am in the Push phase. (I had to start over because I had a freak bowling accident and fractured my tailbone. :0) My husband and I are finally have the communication we have needed for the longest time and another common interest.

So, in this case.....weight loss SAVED our marriage! Everyone....find a hobby together whether it is working out or somthing entirely different. Something together WITHOUT your children!!! There is nothing selfish about trying to create an environment around your children filled with peace and love.

Trainer T.s Fitness said...

Im glad you fixed your blog so I could read this. I still cant see your "Test" blog so there may be something going on.

Thank you for inspiring others and as I know you through video and blogs I like your morals and ethics very much. And of course your energy!

Thanks for this I will share it with my friends,

TheFitnessFreak said...

Amen! Way to inspire people in life as well as fitness:) Thanks Chalene!!

Visible Voice said...

This was so great! You have a great gift and I'm so happy that you are willing to share it.


Thank you for sharing this powerful message! I really appreciated the tip on NO hanging out alone with opposite sex friends (mainly having No opposite friends)! My husband and I have been using this philosphy in our marriage and it is an incredibly important rule in protecting your Marriage, it all comes down to "Marriage First"- that is our philosophy:)

Mike579 said...

That was incredibly well-written and powerful. Thank you.

carmen said...

I just love you! Great advice you offer here, especially the part about not spending time alone with friends of the opposite sex. It almost seems prudish in this world we live in - but isn't that why there are so many marital problems? People don't often treasure that special relationship and nuture it. I like what you said - it's a respect thing. You are an awesome lady and my hubby and I love working out with you in our home regularly!! He knows how much I love you - I love your amazing, positve personality and especially the way you work it when you DANCE!!

Sandra said...

Thanks for this Blog Chalene, my relationship isn't strained... yet .. but we are on two different paths right now and I've got to stop and bring it back together.
Thanks for your words.

Candice said...

Wow, this is great. I defiantly agree that fitness and weight loss can change your relationships, but not just marriages and the like, but also friendships.
Not sure I agree with #5 suggestion (a friend is a friend, no matter what their gender, sex, or sexual orientation), but it is certainly an interesting, and likely effective strategy.

tasha said...

Hi, Chalene! I'm a TJ addict, 75lbs gone to prove it! I enjoyed your post; I was so excited to read that you don't belive in opposite sex friends! My husband and I feel the same way, and have gotten some very strange reactions when we tell people this. I believe this "rule" is super-key to protecting any marriage.

Chalene Johnson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Baron Brown said...

Chalene, this post is dead-on. After shedding 20 lbs. in four months (with the help of TurboJam, of course), I find myself less willing to join my friends in binge eating hangout sessions or hours spent on the couch or in a movie theater. The sense of accomplishment gained by getting in shape encourages you to want more, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Thanks for keeping America moving!

Anonymous said...

I have found that my good relationships get stronger as I do. I have been doing fitness for 14 years, I am 27. I find that when I was to do my Extreme workouts it motivates my husband to do his own. I have developed a closer friendship with my coworker inspiring her to get active, lending her videos, helping her with her meals and calorie needs. It makes me feel good to see her so excited to come in with her pants getting too big.
I think your outlook has a lot to do with it. Building outer strength does nothing to unless you build and inner strength. Some people are doomed to always fail, always see negative sides of situations, always feel sorry for themselves. You just have to realize that life is short and rise above it.

homebody0404 said...

Hey Chalene,

Wow, that was a really powerful post. It is so refreshing to hear someone taking marriage so seriously. Thank you for impressing upon us that married people with children have a responsibility to try even harder instead of taking the easy way out. I'm sure this is going to help many people, including all those young people who will be married one day. Keep up the good advice.

The Wolfgangs said...

Yes! This is a such a great message! You make a lot of good points about working to create/sustain a strong marriage, which is something I think is so underrated in our world today. It is so common for people to take that way out (I think it's more than 50% of marriages that end in divorce now), when really it is not that difficult to find ways to strengthen a marriage or other relationship. Like you said, knowledge is power, and I think people just don't have the right information. One thing my husband and I have done is get our hands on some amazing books which give us a better understanding of ourselves and each's simply a new way of thinking! The Five Love Languages is one of the best in this area, as well as Personality Plus, or Positive Personality Profiles (D.I.S.C.). All of these books have contributed to our changed attitudes in our relationships...tremendously! We also make sure to surround ourselves with other couples who have strong, happy relationships. I've heard the saying often that we will be the same people 5 years from now other than the books we read and the people we associate with. We've found that these things work! Thanks for being so active in helping others change their lives! Sincerely, Emily

Johnny and Jill Family said...

Wow Chalene, I'm so glad you said those things! I completely agree with the no friends of the opposite sex. My husband and I have always had the same rule. We've been married 10 years- next week, and because of that rule, I can say that we're closer friends than ever. Also- I love Turbo Jam. I hope to buy Chalean Extreme soon- you're my hero ;) By-the-way, my sister Melissa looks just like you and I feel like you're another sister! lol You can check out my blog and see her picture with yours (leave me a comment and let me know what you think!) Have a great day and keep up the great attitude- it's contagious!

CT Olson said...

thanks for acknowledging this because it is so common. I think there are many times when people who go through these big transformations almost die to the old person - there's a sense of loss. The relationship is bound to need to adjust to this, which is a stressor. Good advice on the basics of maintaining trust and avoiding stupid stuff that really isn't worth the aggravation. Relationships are work and require some compromises to keep things going! I think most people ultimately desire more intimacy with their partners and we should value that highly!

Jenna said...

I'm starting ChaLean Extreme tomorrow and was lurking through your site. Thank You for your blog post. My husband and I have been married for 16 years now. Through the years we've almost divorced twice. Your post was dead on regarding marriage. We put our marriage first and recognize that our kids (we have four) will not be living with us permanently. We also have the no opposite sex rule, or if a spouse or friend of the opposite sex stops by, they are not allowed in the house without the hubby or wife being home too.

A happy marriage is a marriage that is consistently "worked" on!

Kate said...

Chalene - Did I see you talking to Joel Stein in a clip from Dr. Phil ?! After using Chalene Extreme for over two months now, I have your face memorized! LOL !!

Anonymous said...

"the most loving thing you can do for your children is make your spouse the center of your universe"

I LOVE this, and I've put it on my blog.

Thanks for the words of wisdom.

jana said...

Really glad to read your words about not spending time alone with opposite sex friends once you're married (an oft-scoffed at, but vitally important commitment) and doing whatever you can to provide your kids with a healthy home environment, which often means putting a lot of hard effort into healing a marriage. I love Turbo Jam and ChaLEAN Extreme (and getting my graduate school friends into them, too!) and now respect you so much as a person. You're a great example!

Anonymous said...

You are my dream woman. Keep up your inspirational work.

Jana said...

Just another happily married woman who follows the no opposite gender friends rule! I wish everyone had this-- it's so good to hear it from someone who is a role model for many.

Anonymous said...

Chalean, that was an excellent blog. It's very easy for both parties in a relationship to become a little insecure or resentful when changes begin to happen. You've given us a lot of good ideas on how to respond to such upsets.

I'm really enjoying your blog. Thank you for making it public.

vcmora said...

Hi Chalene, This is perfect timing as I am currently going through rocky times....I especially like the part about it takes ONE.....often times we are too proud to "give in" but with so much to lose, a husband, three children, a happy family.....pride takes a back seat and hope and trust take over....I'm glad to report that we are working on our relationship and that I know in my heart that we will get through it....but it is good to know that I'm not alone....Thanks again for your powerful message....

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