Aligning your appetites for maintaining a diet gets easier with empathy.

By Cindy Hatcher
July 07, 2014
Illustration: Sarah Wilkins

Food can start out as a fun shared interest: romantic dinners, restaurant exploration, takeout and movies on the couch. But it can lead to problems as relationships evolve and one partner decides it's time that he or she lose some weight. Then, things can get bumpy.

"People struggle over boundaries in relationships, and these struggles get played out in food and weight arenas," says author and eating coach Karen R. Koenig, MEd, LCSW. "How partners handle eating issues says a lot about how they interact in general."

It can be touch when your goals feel unsupported, frustrating when you watch your partner casually polish off whatever he wants without apparent consequences (male and female metabolisms don't age at the same rate). Restaurant dining can create friction, too, if the dieter wants, for example, to split an entrée and the non-dieter has another idea.

"I used to be a bit possessive about my entrée in restaurants," says Scott Mowbray, editor of this magazine and a member of the Cooking Light Social Diet team. "My wife, Kate, has always liked to share a main course, and that felt a bit stingy to me, like we weren't really having fun. Then I decided to get serious about losing 20 pounds and realized that a split entrée is a way to get a healthy portion of food you actually are excited about."

Ideally, the non-dieting spouse will be supportive, and it's entirely fair to ask for support and to point out anything that smacks of sabotage. Everyone stands to benefit when the pantry and fridge are restocked with healthier foods But if you're the primary cook of the house, you still need to accommodate all appetites. Portion control is critical. Rather than walling yourself off in a diet-food prison, measure calorie-controlled portions of food that everyone will enjoy together.