A new study published recently in the learned journal Health Communication tells us many things we already knew, or suspected, about internal family relationships and how they can effect your weight loss attempts. Doctor Obvious caught this one right away. Prepare to be underwhelmed…
Interpersonal communication expert Dr René Dailey looked at how couples interact in different relationship configurations, when one or both members of the couple are trying to lose weight. She says she ‘discovered’ there are four fundamental relational environments, each of which produces different effects on the couple in question:
- Synchronized: Both partners share a positive attitude towards weight loss and act as a team to pursue their weight loss goals.
- Autonomous: Individuals receive only sporadic encouragement from their partner, without undue interference.
- Contentious Cooperatives: Approaching the subject of weight loss sometimes causes conflict.
- Lone Battlers: In this environment, characterized by low team effort and higher relationship strain, Lone Battlers are even less likely to discuss weight loss as a couple.
Nothing there we hadn’t already figured out or, at least, suspected. Thank you, Dr. Obvious.
Modes of communication…
The three most common weight loss communications strategies couples use are encouragement (giving praise and reassurance), influence (pushing their partner to do better and make healthier choices), and coercion (making the other feel guilty by withdrawing affection).
However, Dr. Dailey observes, unless partners align these approaches with their specific relational environment, couples risk alienation and unnecessary tension.
Thank you again, Dr. Obvious.
I didn’t need Dr. Daily to tell me that adopting a Synchronous relationship environment would, far and away, be the best way to ensure that both partner in a couple lose weight and keep stress low. But that’s her main finding.
The study discovered that ‘synchronized’ partners, who framed weight loss as a shared goal, were far more receptive to all three strategies, including coercion. The negative emotions associated with this strategy, such as guilt, were more likely to be interpreted positively in this environment as a concern for their partner’s health, rather than as manipulative or controlling. This could lead to positive effects for both weight loss and the couple’s relationship.
“Relational partners co-create an environment in which people lose weight. Partner behaviours that support the weight loss can be viewed differently depending on the environment,” Dailey observes “For example, a person who wants to focus on diet but their partner focuses on exercise might see the partner’s suggestion of going for a walk as intrusive and unhelpful. By contrast, a person who feels they and their partner are on the same page about how to lose weight could welcome the suggestion.
“These findings suggest that couples might benefit from negotiating the best relational environment and desired support strategies from their partners, to facilitate their progress more effectively.” Dailey notes. “Ultimately, this would help them to better balance their weight loss goals with the maintenance of their relationship.”
Thank you, Doctor Obvious.
I wonder if this ‘study’ was funded by taxpayer dollars?
~ Maggie J.