A Valentine’s day special on how relationships affect your health & fitness at any stage of your life. From single life to a new relationship forming, being in a long term steady phase or hitting new relationship landmarks. Let’s dive in –
Single Life –
While single people often have a greater emphasis on wanting to be in shape / caring how they look to attract a partner they also are more likely to feel alone which leads to worse eating & drinking etc. The advantage of not having someone directly affect how you eat / your schedule each day can be a good thing or it can mean you are free to go out with various friends and live a party or foodie lifestyle. The dating process is a usually negative for your body as many people eat and drink when on their first few dates as well as it disrupting your usual schedule.
How To Win at Single Life – Embrace the freedom to set up a health & fitness routine that gets results. Use this time to develop a relationship proof mindset so that you life never overly disrupts your fitness focus. To avoid feeling lonely establish a regular and uplifting social events / circles. It is also important to learn to date without getting drunk or having to eat out all the time.
New Relationship Stage –
So you have met someone…Great!! I am sure social media knows all about it :). The beginning of a relationship can be tricky, if gripped by love your health and fitness goals will often shoot straight out of the window as you want to spend time with them. In the great book ‘Love’s Executioner’ by Irvin D Yallom the famous existential psychologist discusses how working with someone who was in love was almost pointless. I understand his point of view as have often see a new relationship destroy someones health & fitness results.
Aside from being in Love, people there is the issue and balance of merging two people’s schedules, hobbies and desires. This is confounded by a fear of not wanting to be rude, seen as boring, weird or any other fears you may have by being health conscious. On the other side, while love is exciting it can also bring stresses, awkwardness and fears which many people hide behind through food or drink.
How To Win The New Relationship Stage – First and foremost you must keep your body and fitness somewhere in your mental awareness. Without this you will find yourself returning to it six months down the line with the potential for much damage to have been done in that period. With awareness in mind you can employ some Yin & Yang efforts to the new relationship phase, e.g. if you are out for drinks & dinner tonight then skip lunch or eat less in the day, if meeting after work learn to do a quick morning workout.
This new stage of your love life is about is creating a new health & fitness blueprint. Going from single to coupled you have to start again to form a new set of exercise & food habits that account for both people. You should set this tone early in your meetings, e.g. find ways to hang out without eating or drinking, do exercise or active pursuits together. The early stage of relationships are a a negotiation of how you will be leading your life for the next few months. If you leave out or all mention of health & fitness you will be caught out later on.
Long Term Life –
At some point your relationship settles into a balance, this could be after 5 months of a new partner or 15 years of a marriage. The affect on your health & fitness will be the result of the negotiation that happened in the last phase or following a new relationship landmark (see below). This could mean things are all running smoothly with your fitness efforts or if it got pushed out of the considerations you will be struggling to get things going.
Change now involves breaking up the old routine, in general people do not like change and thus you have to be careful how your new choices affect your partner. The goal would be to maximise your changes for the better while minimising the disruptions to others. Sometimes the key to this is having a good story that makes the change seem logical and a positive move so your partner is on board, e.g. When I eat well & exercise I am happier person so gonna try making a few changes vs I am out of shape & ugly so we are both going on a diet!!!
Winning The Long Term Game – If things are already on track then keep things going with current routine while training your mind & body for possible future landmark changes. For those who need to make a change then the focus should be on how your changes disrupt the relationship the least, protect the core values to the relationship and have your partners support.
New Landmark Stage – Whoa!! You have gone up a level in the relationship game!! Congrats!!, You have decided to move in together, get married or are expecting a baby. Longer term this could mean the kids starting or leaving school, you change jobs, you move cities or other types of change. More negatively it could mean a real struggle or tough time in the relationship or other personal reasons. In terms of health & fitness change is neither good nor bad but change means you have to react to it.
Living together for the first time you are almost back to square one on the negotiations stage of establishing your health & fitness behaviours again. Many think getting engaged is the best thing ever for weight loss with a motivated bride and groom. Personally I am not so convinced as many people who gets in shape for a wedding follow it with a few months of honeymoon type behaviours taking you back to square one. Changes in job, living or daily circumstance need you to adapt and experiment to new possibilities. Tough times emotionally require you to fall back on a low motivation plan for health & fitness. Baby life, be it expecting or once the child is born brings with it many issues. Men & Women will not have the same experience during this process of course. This has many factors to consider which I will save for another article.
How To Win Reaching A New Landmark – These new stages are some of the biggest real life changes you will encounter on your relationship journey. You need to be able to adapt with the times and understand that you will need to focus on how to change and compromise your behaviours to still get the best of both worlds. Wipe the slate clean then plan out, experiment, test and adapt your plans until you get a balance that works. This stage is a real test of your beliefs around health & fitness as they will be put under great pressure. Ideally the work would already have been done in previous stages of relationship life.
Exceptions To The Rule – Becoming Relationship Proof
There are of course exceptions to all of the above… I had one client who could only lose weight when dating in a happy relationship. Sadly this never happened for long enough for her to make much progress. To avoid the pitfalls of the above stages and processes the key has to be develop your mind set in to be better at all things health and fitness. To have better knowledge around food and exercise, to establish neural connections to good habits, to find low and high motivation plans that work, to insert your health goals into your major values. This will make you relationship proof so no matter who or what is going on you will make progress or at the very least break even until back on track.
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