Help! My Significant Other Doesn’t Want to Get Healthy!


We have a lot of rebels in committed relationships in the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

Unfortunately, we also have a lot of rebels in relationships struggling to live healthier lives while their significant other isn’t on the same page quite yet…making living a leveled up life all that more difficult.

I tend to get a handful of emails with similar situations every week: from husbands worried about wives, wives worried about husbands, girlfriends worried about girlfriends, children worried about their parents, robots worried about their robots, and so forth.

[note: This article has been edited. Explanation at the end!]

Here’s the gist of most emails: 

Hey Steve!

Being healthy and living right has been very challenging to say the least.  I’m currently struggling with making dietary adjustments: I tried creating my own grocery list separate from my family, but found out very quickly that I truly cannot afford it.

I’ve not quit working towards my goal of a healthier lifestyle.  On the contrary, I am trying to bring my wife on board too so we’re in this together, but it’s an uphill battle.  She’s not ready to make the changes I am, and it’s making it difficult for me to stick with my plan.

I have a hunch there are plenty of readers out there who are financially obligated to eat what the rest of the family is eating and want to change, but may be meeting resistance from a significant other.  Too often I have been a quitter in the things I start, but I am so sick of the way I look and feel that it just disgusts me to even consider giving up now.  I want to be able to see my grandkids one day (my children are 3 and 7) and I want my wife to see them as well. 

I know there are people out there like me who may be considering giving up because the push back from someone so close makes it feel impossible. 

How to turn things around…

Slanted Hallway

This is a crappy situation, one that I’m sure a HUGE portion of the Nerd Fitness community is dealing with right now.

You are with somebody who you love unconditionally, yet they enable your unhealthy behavior and push back when you say you want to make changes.  In fact, when you tell your loved one that you want to lose weight or start eating better, they say something like “but I like you just the way you are.”

There are other (even more difficult) situations in which rebels have loved ones who have let themselves go physically and are scarily unhealthy…let’s be honest, there is NO good way to tell from somebody you love things like “you need to lose weight” or “you really should start exercising.”  If you are worried about this person, I bet they already feel incredibly self-conscious and will get immediately defensive if you open up a discussion with them about their health or appearance.

If you can relate to these struggles, it’s time to use a bit of Inception to get your uncooperative significant other on your side!

Plant the seed

Seedling emerges from rocks

As we’ve learned from Dom Cobb in Christopher Nolan’s Inception:

“What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea. Resilient… highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed – fully understood – that sticks; right in there somewhere.”

If you have a significant other who is out of shape, not interested in getting healthy, and you find yourself worried about him/her, you can’t FORCE them to exercise or make healthier food choices.  Nagging them to exercise, or telling them they should exercise will NOT work. If it’s not your significant other’s own idea, he/she will reject it or quickly give up at the first sign of resistance.

You CAN, however, plant an idea deep in their subconscious that life is better when leveling up, inception style!  Note: We’re not advocating manipulation of your significant other – we saw how that worked out for Cobb’s wife in the movie!  Instead, we’re merely suggesting that you align the pieces in the right place so that when your significant other IS ready to change, they’re lined up for success.

REMEMBER: it took you years and years before you made the decision to get healthy; your significant other might be on a different timetable than you, so please be patient.  Here are some tips to make sure you are ready to help when they are interested in changing.

1) Just get the conversation started (thanks to Ramit for inspiration on this one).  Here are some examples: “Hey, I’ve been trying to lose some weight lately…what do you think about the Paleo Diet?” or “I’ve been reading this kickass website called Nerd Fitness lately and it has me thinking about how I want to make better habits.  Are there any bad habits of mine you’d like me to change?”  Yup, this is you throwing yourself under the bus, but at least it gets the conversation started!

2) Constantly ask for their advice and support on being healthier.  The goal is to get them talking about making healthier decisions, and make it more and more comfortable to bring up the conversation in the future.  When you find interesting articles about healthier living, share it with them and ask for their opinion.

3) Use me as the bad guy.  “Hey I read about this idea for habit change on Nerd Fitness…seems like it’s a little ridiculous, but what do you think?”

4) Try something together.  “____ Seems like a cool experiment, but I’m worried that I can’t follow through with it by myself.  Can we try this 30-day challenge together? I know you can help me stay on track.”

5) To borrow another quote from Inception: “Positive emotion trumps negative emotion every time.”  If they start making changes and you can notice a change (no matter how small), comments like, “Did you lose weight? You look great! Whatever you’re doing, keep it up!” will go a LONG way.  Become your significant other’s biggest cheerleader and supporter.

If you are constantly having an open discussion about health and wellness, sharing tips, asking for opinions and advice, HOPEFULLY you’ll get to the point where one day your significant other comes to you with an idea of their own that they’re “gonna try to lose a few pounds and try this ‘getting healthy’ thing.”

Build your team

Inception Team Sleeping

Once you’ve explained that you are working on improving YOUR life, you may still face pushback. Getting your significant other on your team is essential. If you are constantly trying to eat new types of food, to cook instead of getting fast food, or doing more active things and spending less time with your significant other, it can lead to hurt feelings and poor results…and we don’t want that.

Instead, you need to get your loved one on your team! You have a few options here:

Set a reward – Explain that you’re in a weight loss competition at work, and the winner gets $500 (this would be a good time to start a competition at work), and if you WIN, you’ll be spending that money on a romantic getaway for the two of you.  Suddenly, they’re working WITH you to win that getaway rather than sabotaging you with hurt feelings, a puss n boots face, Pizza Hut, and ice cream.

Find ways to be active together – Explain that you really need help staying on track, so you’d like to exercise together. Find activities that you both can do together, but don’t limit it to working out. Try hikes in the woods or park, a salsa dancing class, karate class, a yoga class, and so on.

Create a reward system with each other – If you have a significant other that is already interested in getting healthier, spend an hour with each other creating a fun spreadsheet of rewards for each other, keeping it as innocent or not innocent as you want – your call 🙂

  • Every time either of you loses a few pounds, you get a 30 minute massage or foot rub.
  • When you collectively lose a certain amount of weight, you get a special date night at your favorite restaurant.
  • Think of it like turning your life into a video game, except with way cooler, joint rewards.

Be a role model, not a dreamer

Chair tips over

While you’re trying to better yourself, until your significant other has fully jumped on board with the idea, you’ll face a barrage of well-intentioned but incredibly destructive comments like:

“Skip your run this morning, and sleep in!”
“Want to sit on the couch and watch TV tonight?”
“Why are you trying to change? I like you just the way you are!”

Your response needs to be something along the lines of: “Honey/Pumpkin/Muffin/Moonpie, I’m not doing this for you; I need to do this for me.  And I need your support.”

You need to become Captain Americathe inspirational and motivational person that will inspire THEM to want to change.

Here’s how you can get started:

  • Volunteer to do the shopping and cooking.  Cook meals as often as possible, and do what you can to make them healthy.
  • Politely (but firmly) decline invitations for sweets, desserts, and other unhealthy snacks.  Don’t judge if he/she eats desert, but you do not have to eat poorly just because they do.
  • Become a super hero that always picks healthy options over unhealthy ones, with a loving smile.

Remember, you’re not doing this for him/her, you’re doing it for YOU (and your friends and family).  

Having a loving saboteur in your house will make this a challenge every day, which is WHY a Support Team, either offline or online, is so vitally important.  

How would you help?

Inception City

This is just one humble nerd’s opinion.

If you happen to be in a similar situation as our rebels who aren’t on the same page as their significant others, or if you WERE in a similar situation and found a great way to get healthy together, how did you do it? PLEASE share your successes and struggles with your fellow rebels in the comments below.

Let’s help build an army of nerdy superhero couples.



PS – I’ve made a few significant changes to today’s article.  After reading your comments, I realized that I didn’t do a good job with properly conveying the real issue at hand in today’s article – what to do when you and your spouse aren’t on the same page.  I have the utmost respect for the hard-working super moms and super dads of the Nerd Fitness community; I’ve edited “Sam’s” letter to be more encompassing of the dozens and dozens of emails that I’ve received from concerned folks about their significant others, boyfriends, and girlfriends.

I’m hoping we can continue our discussion on how to handle this situation of rebels who are struggling to get healthy while their well-intentioned loved ones are unknowingly sabotaging their efforts.

photo source: spinning top, seedling, chair fall, city, sleeping team, hallway

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