Is Your Spouse Making You Fat?
An Interview With Dr. John GrayBy Natasha Burton
John Gray, Ph.D has been long regarded as a relationship guru. His iconic tome Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus has sold 40 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 45 languages since its 1992 release. We caught up with him to talk about his latest book, Venus on Fire, Mars on Ice, and picked his brain on a topic that we've come across quite often — the influence a person's spouse has, for better or for worse, on his or her habits. He gave us the lowdown on what being "too comfortable" really means as well as offered some tips for keeping a healthy and happy partnership.
How does your spouse influence your habits?
The problem starts when one partner wants to maintain a healthy regimen and the other person doesn't. Maybe your spouse likes potato chips and can enjoy them without gaining weight, but when you eat them, they only pack on the pounds. So you learn to avoid them and everything is fine. Then life brings a stressful situation to you, like a conflict at work or with a friend. When a person is under stress, the brain looks for quick energy. Sugar and carbohydrates offer that quick energy. So if your partner is eating a bag of chips on the couch after work, you are more apt to dig in and eat them too. ] ...Read More
Can you "catch" habits from your spouse?
Yes. Luckily the good eating habits are just as easy to catch as the bad ones. Quite often the nature of obesity is genetic, but I have seen where it is not. I used to offer family therapy to a couple with adopted children. The parents were both obese but the children were not. As the years progressed so did the weight of the children. This is just one example of the many I have seen over the past 40 years. It shows that eating habits can be contagious. But that can work for eating healthy too. When you eat healthier, you feel better. The hardest part is always consistency. In Venus on Fire, Mars on Ice, I show how the food we eat directly affects our brains, hormones and ultimately our relationships. I offer easy ways to create good eating habits without giving up good stuff, like potato chips. I explain how to encourage your partner to do it with you, which ultimately brings you closer and makes your relationship better.
What are some strategies for positively influencing or motivating your spouse?
If you think of it as an act of love, then your partner will too. Approach your partner and simply say, “I know eating anything at any time of the day works for you, but for me, I need help.” Then ask for that help. At the same time, acknowledge and appreciate how big the sacrifice is to your spouse. Most will respond by changing their habits around you. It can also change their habits when you are not around too. Ultimately the best motivation is to show them how good you feel and look. After a couple weeks of consistently eating healthy, this will be easy to do.
How can you get out of a rut if you find yourself picking up each other's bad habits?
Open communication. It's important to tell your spouse what eating habits are the hardest for you to avoid. But telling your spouse things like, “You shouldn't be eating ice cream” is not supportive and will never work. You should tell your partner that ice cream is one thing you are trying to avoid. So the next time you are watching TV and your partner runs to the freezer to dish up some ice cream, you can ask for help by saying, “Seeing you eat that ice cream is really tempting for me. I know it is inconvenient for you, but can you please not eat it around me?”
Can you speak to this idea of being "too comfortable" in a relationship, which often translates to letting yourself go?
I talk a lot about couples that have grown too comfortable in Venus on Fire, Mars on Ice. The University of North Carolina released a study that showed men and women who were newly married gained more weight than single men and women over the same five-year span. There is a natural reason for this: In the beginning of a relationship, the newness stimulates a hormone called dopamine, which increases passion and interest in your partner. After a while, when your partner begins to be somewhat predictable, dopamine production naturally declines. As it decreases, so does the motivation to impress your partner and the passion in the relationship. When you lose interest in sex, you lose interest in looking sexy. This causes you to grow too comfortable in your body and gain unnecessary weight. A healthy diet, along with certain supplements and minerals, helps stimulate the hormones that help you feel good, look good and increase passion in your relationship.
I've heard that as couples get older together, they almost morph into one another. Is this true?
Instead of morphing into one another, I would argue that they transform with one another. There's no questioning that men and women are different physically and emotionally. That is the reason there is an attraction at first. I teach to understand, respect and appreciate the differences between men and women so that couples can be closer with better communication. In a relationship, good habits rub off on each other and bad habits rub off on each other. One of the benefits of being together for a long time is your partner brings out the best in you. However, without being informed and aware, your partner can unknowingly bring out the worst in you too. When you understand how to improve your health and stimulate the hormones of passion, your relationship actually helps to lower your stress and improve your life.
Dr. Gray's book is available now on Amazon.comCourtesy of Mind Publishing