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SBA Blog - Miriam

The Team Approach

April 27, 2021

Scale Back Alabama encourages participants to have a team member or someone to serve as a support system because science shows that accountability and encouragement are important for success. That means selecting your team member or support person is important. We know that people may be on very different “pages” when it comes to weight loss and lifestyle habits… and sometimes spouses are not the best ones to pick.

I’d like to share a peek into my marriage and the “team” approach to weight loss. Please keep in mind, that I am an RD who was active in weight loss efforts for 25 years. I used evidence-based approaches to help others, so naturally, I used them on my spouse. The comments below are a glimpse into some of our conversations over the years surrounding some of the approaches.

1. Make gentle encouraging statements to the partner as encouragement.

After finishing supper, we moved from the table to the den and he was already eating again.

Me: “Are you hungry again? (meaning: Did I not fix enough supper?)

Hubbie: “Just munchy.” (hearing “nag, nag, nag” and meaning: You serve small serving sizes and don’t serve dessert, and I’m still tasting for something.” OR “It’s been a long day at work and right now I am getting bored but don’t want to do anything.”)

2. Get the empty calories out of the house to reduce temptations.

Me: “I bought chocolate granola to top our yogurt with for dessert.” (meaning: This is for one dessert this week; the bag should last several weeks.)

Hubbie: “Oh that’s nice.” (meaning: Putting it on ice cream would be better.)

Me: “Hey, where is the granola?”

Hubbie: “I guess I snacked on it.”

3. Do an activity together, such as walking, taking an exercise class, or going to the gym.

Me: “I’m so excited that you are going to yoga class with me. This will be so much fun. I love yoga and am so glad you will share this with me.” (meaning: YEA!)

Hubbie: “OK.” (meaning: What the heck have I agreed to do?)

Class instructor speaking to Hubbie: “You’re really trying, but you seem rather stiff. Can I show you another poise?”

Hubbie: “I like corpse pose.” (Note: Savasana poise is lying on your back very still while breathing deeply to relax and give your body time to rest.)

4. Plan healthy menus together, making a grocery list based on the menu. And, then stick to the list when you are in the grocery store.

Me: “Let’s have chicken one night this week.” (meaning: I’ll fix skinless, grilled chicken breast with mushrooms, bell pepper, and onions.)

Hubbie: “Do you want me to stop by KFC?”

5. Sincerely share your concerns about the potential side effects of obesity.

Me: I love you, and I am worried that your “dad-bod” shape will make your hypertension worse. You could end up with diabetes too. There are so many preventable diseases associated with obesity. (meaning: I want you around to grow old with me.)

Hubbie: “OK.” (meaning: Hypertension runs in my family, so that is why I have it. Diabetes doesn’t, so can I have a candy bar now?)

And so, the discussions would continue. We were having healthy meals at supper; as the RD spouse, I tried not to push it at home because I value my marriage. I fell in love with him for many reasons, and not one was his waist size. However, he was a pant size 28 when we married. After 40 years of marriage, he has a waist size of — well, let’s just say it’s bigger. As his waist expanded, his lab values grew too. In fact, the A1C number is a concern now.

Now, I am looking back over the years and questioning what I did “wrong.” Wondering what I should have done differently.

This is what I realized about the evidence-based approaches I was taking. They work but need to be tempered with reality. It is a reality you and your team member (or mate) probably won’t have the same taste buds or food preferences.

To me, Little Debbie Nutty Buddy bars taste like chemical cardboard with sugar on top. To my husband, it tastes like childhood memories of delicious chocolate and peanut butter combined.

His taste buds take over his mind for decision-making; counting calories or macronutrients might flicker through his brain, but taste wins out.

My brain is just the opposite; I’m deciding what is healthy. Then of those healthy choices, I pick what I want.

It is also a reality that ease of preparation will win out. It’s easier for him to grab that cola and chips than to peel the carrots, put them in a bag, and pack the flavored water. It’s easier for him to sit on the couch and feed the munchies after a long day than it is to put on walking shoes and go for a walk.

But, guess what? I’ve got good news. We had that “hard” conversation. I asked him if I could refer him to an RD! He responded that if he would join me in the Mediterranean-style meals and go walking (with me) he could and would address his health.

So, it’s not all about the food; don’t get me wrong. Food choices are important. But, it’s about lifestyle choices, and those are often based on emotions.

Tonight, as he was putting on his walking shoes, he said a very romantic statement to my ears. He said, “You can pay the piper now or later. I’ve already paid the piper a little bit. My question to myself is do I want to continue to pay him with the lifestyle choices I am making with an outcome of deteriorating health or do I want to pay him by making a few changes? My answer is the payment of changes.”

And… I heard… I want to be around to grow older with you.

mim.jpegMiriam J. Gaines (Mim), MACT, RDN, LD, FAND

Registered Dietitian

Mim Gaines has 41 years of experience in nutrition and dietetics. Her professional dietetics career includes work as a corporate nursing home dietitian, public health nutritionist, and college instructor. In 1994, she created the Nutrition and Physical Activity Division at the Alabama State Health Department and served as the director until 2013, when she retired. In 2014 she started a second full-time career at Samford University as the Dietetic Internship Director and Assistant Professor. In May 2019, she started semi-retirement and is currently an assistant professor at Samford and a consultant for the Association of State Public Health Nutritionists. The Alabama Obesity Task Force recognized her by creating a Miriam J. Gaines Leadership Award given to selected members on an annual basis. Mim holds leadership positions in numerous professional and community service endeavors.

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