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Posts Tagged ‘Support’

Shared Lifestyle Supersedes Genes, Study Finds

March 7th, 2016 at 8:19 am by timigustafson

When it comes to weight problems, many people, including experts, are inclined to put much of the blame on genetic predispositions. Yes, diet and lack of exercise are also known culprits, but ultimately our genes determine how well or badly we fare, common wisdom goes.

Now a new study claims that those we share our lives with, our spouses and partners, have a much greater influence on our health- and fitness status, regardless how genetically programmed we are.

The more decisive factors, it seems, are the choices we make in connection with other adults. Even the diet and lifestyle patterns established during childhood and adolescence eventually cease to dominate, according to the researchers.

“By middle age, choices made by couples – including those linked to diet and exercise – have a much greater impact than the lifestyle each shared with siblings and parents growing up,” they say.

The good news coming from these findings is that people who are obese and suffer from related illnesses are not cursed by birth or poor upbringing but can make changes that supersede their genetic profile. Even those who come from families with a history of weight issues can lower their health risks by altering their eating and lifestyle habits, says Dr. Chris Haley, a professor of the Medical Research Council’s Human Genetics Unit at the University of Edinburgh and lead author of the study report.

Husbands and wives can be each other’s role model for both healthy and unhealthy behavior, says Miranda Hitti, a medical writer at WebMD. They can function as a mutual inspiration for positive changes like improving their diets, taking up exercise routines, giving up smoking, getting regular physical checkups, and so on.

Unfortunately, loved ones can also get in the way when corrections are needed. I have seen it happening in my own practice as a dietitian and health counselor time and again. One party is ready, but the other isn’t and refuses to join in. Now there is a conflict, and oftentimes the one who wants to change course loses out and gives up.

There can be multiple reasons for noncooperation between life partners, including emotional misgivings like insecurity and jealousy. To overcome these kinds of obstacles, skillful communication is crucial.

If you have a significant other who is out of shape but not interested in doing anything about it, you can’t force them into making better choices. Nagging will not work. If it’s not his or her own idea, there will likely be a lot of resistance and rejection. But what you can do, is trying to plant a seed and getting the conversation started, by being supportive and building your case on positive rather than negative emotions, advises Steve Kamb, the founder of NerdFitness.

Without support it can be extremely hard to accomplish goals like weight loss and other health-promoting measures in any environment. But encouragement motivated by love, respect and concern for each other’s well-being is the best starting point any of us can hope for.

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Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog and at amazon.com.  For more articles on nutrition, health and lifestyle, visit her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.” (www.timigustafson.com).

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For Weight Loss, the Right Kind of Support Can Be Critical

August 16th, 2013 at 7:53 am by timigustafson

Addressing weight issues, especially when it involves others like family, friends or co-workers, is always a delicate matter. Asking for support can be difficult, and trying to be helpful can easily backfire.

Research has shown that the attitude of loved ones has enormous influence on people’s weight loss efforts, both positive and negative. Encouragement and genuine support are essential components for success. On the other hand, criticism, even if meant to be constructive, can do serious harm. So can sabotage and non-cooperation.

For example, one recent study found that urging a partner to go on a diet, even when done with the best of intentions, can lead to serious eating disorders. Almost half of the participants in this study reported that they were more likely to engage in binge eating, bulimia and other dysfunctional behavior around food when they felt challenged by significant others to lose weight.

Fear of rejection and being found unattractive leads especially women to take sometimes drastic and ultimately counterproductive steps in response to outside pressures.

In the workplace, corporate health and fitness programs are becoming increasingly popular, and they can indeed offer many benefits, including promoting team spirit and lowering healthcare costs. But if they are imposed in ways that make overweight employees feel disadvantaged and even discriminated against, they can quickly overreach.

In any situation, it can be hard to make one’s personal needs known, particularly when they conflict with those of others who will also be affected. No one wants to be a spoiler or the weakest link everyone else has to be considerate of.

For instance, it can be very difficult when only one member of the family, or any other group or partnership, is trying to change his or her eating habits, and the rest either doesn’t have to or doesn’t want to, says Linda Spangle, a nutrition counselor and author of “100 Days of Weight Loss” (SunQuest Media, 2006) to WebMD in an interview on the subject.

Asking for support can also be tricky if you are not quite sure what kind of help you actually want and would find useful. Stop and think about what you really expect in terms of support, then take pen to paper and write your “in a perfect world” list, Spangle suggests. This list should consist of ways others could lend a hand in your quest for a healthier you.

Ideally, not just you but everybody around you should be able to benefit from your actions. So instead of isolating yourself or forcing others to join you, it is advisable to point out how positive eating and lifestyle changes can benefit everyone.

For example, you don’t want to ask your family to give up certain favorites because they interfere with your diet program, but rather discuss how eating more healthily and becoming more active can improve the health and well-being of all members. Or, instead of avoiding your colleagues at lunch hour or after-work get-togethers, you can suggest getting more physical exercise such as walking, bicycling or playing team sports – together. You may discover that your co-workers, too, can use some nudging and may even thank you for it.

Good communication is always key when you request help, Spangle advises. Be as specific as you can. Don’t just say, “Be nice to me,” or, “Help me.” Instead, clearly state what you want others to do or not do in your presence.

If you are the only one who needs or wants to make changes, be aware of the potential consequences and give those around you enough space, so they don’t feel inconvenienced and imposed upon. At the same token, stand up for yourself and don’t lose sight of your goals, whether they are seconded by anyone else or not.

Also, keep in mind that different relationships in your life can play different roles. Not everyone has to fit into the same scheme. Your choice of going to the gym early in the morning doesn’t mean your spouse has to jump out of bed with you. Buddy-up with someone who has similar habits or follows a similar schedule.

What matters most is that you can draw strength from your surroundings, not resistance. Losing weight and keeping it off is hard enough without having to fight for it or suffering setbacks caused by others.

If you liked this article, you may also enjoy reading “Sometimes the Best Way to Lose Weight Is a Change in Venue.”

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Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog and at amazon.com.  For more articles on nutrition, health and lifestyle, visit her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.” (www.timigustafson.com).

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About timigustafson

Timi Gustafson, RD, LDN, FAND is a registered dietitian, health counselor, book author, syndicated newspaper columnist and blogger. She lectures on nutrition and healthy living to audiences worldwide. She is the founder and president of Solstice Publications LLC, a publishing company specializing in health and lifestyle education. Timi completed her Clinical Dietetic Internship at the University of California Medical Center, San Francisco. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, an active member of the Washington State Dietetic Association, a member of the Diabetes Care and Education, Healthy Aging, Vegetarian Nutrition and the Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition practice groups. For more information, please visit http://www.timigustafson.com

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