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Welcome to our new column Ask The Fit RV, where we respond to your questions! Here’s a recent email I received and the actual email reply I sent. (Note: emails have been slightly edited for privacy…)
I am reaching out to you in desperation. I purchased a new campervan in the hope that my wife would adopt a healthier lifestyle as we get closer to our retirement years. She has battled her weight throughout her life, but is now to the point where I am deeply concerned for her health. I am trying to find ways to motivate her, but have been unsuccessful. Do you have any strategies or advice that could help me help her?
This is unfortunately far too common a scenario, where one spouse worries about the health of the other. You’re not alone, but that probably doesn’t make it any less frustrating. The biggest problem is that even if you want it for her, SHE has to want it, too. Enough that she’s ready to take action and make some big changes.
Here’s a little tangent. This past Christmas I had 2 different husbands purchase personal training packages with me as presents for their wives. Training packages aren’t cheap. Here we are almost half a year since Christmas, and neither of these wives have reached out to me to start their training. While both husbands had good intentions, I’m sure you get the message here. Fitness can’t be forced just because you want it for her.
Now, that isn’t to say you couldn’t try to manipulate things a bit. I’ve got some ideas for you on that.
1. The book “Younger Next Year.” There’s the original one and then the “For Women” one. Get them both. They are easy to read, and the chapters alternate between the chattiness and humor of the author who’s “just a guy”, and then the more scientific approach of an MD in the next chapter. Somehow, it works. I like to prescribe it to new trainees who are just getting into fitness. It’s the kind of book that sticks with you, reminding you that fitness is non-negotiable if you want to age well. Think of it like a book club. You read the original, she reads the women’s and once a week you get together over spinach smoothies and you compare notes, discussing what struck you.
2. Model it. As couples, we have a tendency to mold our ways and habits towards each other. So, if you start taking a fitness class for example, and friendships strike up, and you come home with funny stories about the class, she might get interested and want to come along so she’s not missing out. Or! If you were to put yourself on a strict and structured healthy eating plan and you 100% committed to it, she’s going to see your discipline, and the big changes you’re making for yourself, and well that can be some pretty powerful motivation (perhaps a little peer pressure, too?). You can’t change her, but you CAN change yourself. And since you’re both on the same team, your changes just might carry over and give her a desire to change, too.
3. Find like-minded friends. This can be tough if she’s more of the introverted loner type, but even introverts need friends. In fact, research shows people with strong social connections have better health and live longer. If you seek out active people to hang out with, she’ll be more motivated to be active. Maybe you could attend some group RV rallies or find other active RVing couples to meet up with. If your wife can make some RVing friends that lead a more healthy and active RV lifestyle, she’ll gain a new interest in living more healthy and active, too.
Those are just 3 suggestions; hopefully there’s something here you can take away. But one more thing…and perhaps this is the most important piece of advice I can give you. You need to tread carefully here. Trust me, your wife knows she’s overweight and she knows you’re unhappy about it. She’s unhappy about it, too. Women who already feel they’re losing the weight loss battle tend to struggle with self-confidence. They can easily equate concern like yours with lack of love. I know your concerns have nothing to do with how much you love her, but it’s just how the psyche sometimes works for women who battle with their weight. So, be supportive and be thoughtful with your words! While it may be in your nature to want to “fix” everything, this one has to come from her. You can be there as her biggest cheerleader, but only she can do the work. Stay optimistic that day will come!
I’m going to keep my fingers crossed for that.
The Fit RV