Dr. Lynsey Romo, North Carolina State University - Weight Loss and Relationships

Dec 6, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. Lynsey Romo of North Carolina State University reveals why extreme weight loss can be rough on a romantic relationship. 

Lynsey Romo is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at North Carolina State University. Her research explores how people communicate about uncomfortable issues, specifically those pertaining to health and finances. She has also examined how couples can effectively motivate one another to engage in healthier eating and exercise behaviors. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin.

About Dr. Romo

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Dr. Lynsey Romo - Weight Loss and Relationships

Losing extra weight is generally good for our health. But is it always beneficial for our romantic relationships?

While studies have found that couples can help one another lose weight and stick to healthy behaviors, our research indicates that when it comes to romantic relationships, in some cases, weight loss can have a “dark side”. We examined romantic couples in which one partner lost an average of 60 pounds and their spouse did not lose weight. We found that relationships improved if both partners were receptive to the weight loss, supported one another, and jointly engaged in healthy eating and exercise behaviors. These couples reported greater intimacy, increased communication, and more shared activities. 

However, in a few cases, weight loss resulted in negative relational outcomes. Some partners who lost weight nagged their spouse to shed pounds. In other instances, the non-losing spouse was not supportive of the partner’s weight loss efforts or felt insecure or threatened by these changes (even actively sabotaging or criticizing the weight-loss efforts). In these cases, intimacy suffered.  Non-losing partners likely were not receptive to their spouse’s weight loss when they wanted to maintain the relationship’s status quo. They liked how things used to be and resisted the changes.

Our study is not intended to discourage people from losing excess weight. But before attempting to lose weight, people should be aware of the relational risks and rewards and talk with their partner about the   importance of supporting each other and being healthy together. Through proactive communication, individuals may be more likely to lose weight and maintain weight loss without hurting their romantic relationship.

Production support for the Academic Minute comes from Newman’s Own, giving all profits to charity and pursuing the common good for over 30 years, and from Mount Holyoke College.