Many people wonder how their health decisions and journeys might affect life with their partners or families, and this is certainly something that I have had to navigate with my better half, Rob Issa. We have both faced individual struggles throughout our own health journeys and had to find ways to nurture our marriage while sometimes working toward differing health goals.
In this blog, I’ll be shedding some light on the ways Rob and I have supported each other and how we’ve tackled the intricacies of health transformations as a couple. Rob has been through his own unhealthy food journey and I’ll share where he is now, as well as how he views all the things we try together. While there have certainly been conflicts, our shared experiences highlight the significance of communication, understanding, and openness in maintaining a thriving relationship.
Rob’s Health Transformation
Before our paths crossed, Rob’s had already experienced a significant weight loss journey (around 100 lbs!). His twenties were marked by overindulgence in fast food and when he hit his thirties, the physical activity dropped off and made things worse. He then found himself at a personal rock bottom during a tumultuous year of divorce, loss, and self-realization.
Rob took charge of his well-being, starting with eliminating fast food and gradually cutting out deep-fried and sugary items. His commitment to self-improvement, though admirable, initially manifested as extreme restrictions. Reflecting on the challenges we faced as a couple, the rigid food rules he had in place made it difficult to share a meal due to his unwavering commitment to a healthier lifestyle–even a dollop of ketchup was banned!
Rob’s lack of flexibility was actually making him fairly miserable because it just wasn’t allowing room for life to happen. Once we started dating more seriously and began living together, I think our contrasting eating styles rubbed off on each other in a positive way. Rob brought a little bit more structure to me and my very chaotic eating, while I brought more flexibility to him.
This “yin and yang” dynamic has served us well in our marriage and I think one of the reasons why Rob has been so amazing in supporting me on my journey is because he had been through his own before and understands the challenges.
Understanding Body Image and Compliments
Rob’s transformation wasn’t just physical; it impacted his perception of self-worth. And as I continue to struggle with body image and accepting compliments, Rob often reacts very strongly when I dismiss his affirmations. In some ways, I think this reflects the feelings he had about himself before his transformation.
I don’t doubt that this issue is unique to our marriage. There will be many relationships out there where women have difficulties accepting compliments from their spouse. Talking about our bodies is never easy, but communication really is key with this. Consider asking your partner, “Do you know how I am feeling about myself lately?” as it might open up or start the conversation. Rob and I went a lot of years before we actually had a conversation about this and I don’t think anything started to change until we talked openly about how I was feeling about my body and how it felt to receive his compliments, as well as how Rob felt when I shrugged his comments off.
Couples have to work together on this issue through communication, being honest, and allowing a little bit of vulnerability in the conversation. But each person also has to do their own inner work and learn how to respond to each other. I’ve had to do so much work on my own body image to be able to flirt back when Rob compliments me. And Rob also had to do some work on understanding that I’m not rejecting him if I’m having a bad body image day.
Navigating Changes in Eating Habits
When someone is experimenting with new ways of eating, it can feel challenging to know how to bring this up with partners or family members. Addressing changes in eating habits required a lot of compromise and flexibility between Rob and I, but the key is to approach these conversations with understanding, rather than confrontation.
Understanding each other’s perspectives and preferences is vital in creating a collaborative approach to health changes. If you start with an open and honest conversation (rather than “this is what I’m eating now”), you may even be surprised about what your spouse is willing to do to support you.
Meal Planning Challenges
Meal planning certainly became a shared challenge in our journey. Balancing simplicity and variety became crucial in navigating the intricacies of preparing meals. Our initial tendency to overcomplicate recipes led to fatigue, prompting us to take a different approach. We established a list of go-to meals and introduced meal delivery services as a practical solution, streamlining the meal planning process and alleviating the stress associated with it.
I know that one of the most common concerns women bring to me when we’re starting to make changes is “how is this going to affect the family?” And by sharing our own experiences, we hope to inspire and guide others on similar paths. Communication, understanding, and compromise are essential components of a thriving relationship through the ups and downs of health journeys. But I hope our story serves as a testament to the strength that can blossom when couples navigate the challenges of change hand in hand.