Whether trying to lose weight, get healthier, or just changing eating habits, dieting can be hard.
If you've ever struggled to stick to a certain eating regime, you're certainly not alone. Research shows the once traditional method of simply cutting calories won't lead to long-term results.
More than just the stress of trying to balance what you eat or a changing metabolism, a bad diet could spell disaster for your relationship. To find out how important your diet is to the people around you, we surveyed 1,000 people about their experience with dieting and dating. We asked them whether they or their partners dieted, which diets led to the most relationship strain, and how many changed what they ate to match their partner. Read on as we explore their answers below.
Strength in Numbers
In the same way that finding a workout buddy can help you stay accountable to your fitness goals, there are a lot of great tips for staying accountable to your diet. And every little bit helps. Even though you may know certain eating habits aren't good for you, they may come more naturally than healthier behaviors.
Research shows our brain encourages binge eating even though it's bad for our bodies. And as much as you may want to stick to your meal plans, dieting can disrupt cognitive function, which impedes our self-control and lowers the willpower you might need to fend off certain cravings.
The solution? One possible way to help overcome the mental challenge of adjusting your diet is to find an accountability buddy to encourage you along the way. As our study found, people in relationships might have an easier time finding someone willing to make this food commitment alongside them. Ninety-five percent of people on a diet said their partner also dieted. Experts suggest approaching your diet as a team can help promote positive weight loss and provide motivation. Sixty percent of people currently dieting also admitted to changing their eating habits for their partner.
Not dieting yourself? People in relationships may feel less motivated to eat healthy when their partner isn't on the same page. Of those surveyed who weren't currently on a diet, more than half said their partner wasn't dieting either.
Dieting and the way you think about food can be an emotional struggle. For many people, comfort foods are an easy way to deal with stress, a bad day at work, or even bouts of low energy. Because parts of the brain are rewarded when we consume something high in either fat or sugar, eating things that may not be diet-approved sometimes feels better than what we know is good for us.
Choosing to invest in a diet or different nutritional habits may even be challenging for your relationship. According to our study, people were happiest when they weren't dieting along with their partner. Still, that mentality may not work both ways. Only 74 percent of people currently on a diet with a non-dieting partner said they felt satisfied in their relationship. In fact, relationships where neither partner was on a diet were more satisfying than people whose partners weren't committed to the same goals.
And diets where people were the happiest with their relationships? Vegetarians and Mediterranean dieters had the highest overall reported satisfaction. Research shows diets high in vegetables, fruits, and unprocessed grains can significantly lower a person's risk for depression and could boost overall mood.
Finding a Balance
Encouraging someone you love to eat healthier can be a challenge. Weight can be a sensitive topic for men and women, and for many of us, the attachment to food is as much an emotional relationship as it is nutritional.
Being on a diet may also change the way you think about your partner's health. Sixty-four percent of people on diets said they'd expressed concerns over what their partner ate, especially when they didn't diet themselves. Because these conversations can be so difficult, experts suggest actions may speak louder than words. Talking about your diet may not be as successful as making changes together in your eating habits.
For some people, dieting can be an important factor in deciding whom to date. In fact, 67 percent of pescatarians said they wouldn't date someone who didn't watch what they ate, compared to 63 percent of vegans and 56 percent of people on paleo diets.
Diet Deal Breakers
When it comes to finding a diet that works for you, picking the right program can be confusing. Cutting calories may seem like a good place to start, but recent reports from the National Obesity Forum suggest low-fat diets may not be as good for the body as you'd expect.
But not all diets will work for everyone. In fact, some diets may be so off-putting you might not even want to date someone whose eating habits don't mesh well with your own. Sixty-two percent of people didn't want to date someone who was vegan. Of course, they might feel a bit differently if they knew big-name celebrities like Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lopez, and Liam Hemsworth count themselves among the thousands of people who've cut animal byproducts out of their diets completely.
Vegetarians (30 percent), gluten-free eaters (25 percent), and paleo dieters (21 percent) might have a harder time making a connection than people doing Weight Watchers (15 percent), Atkins (15 percent), or ketogenic diets (13 percent).
Regardless of the diets they were on, people agreed on the one thing they didn't want their partners eating: sugar.
On average, people consume more than twice the daily recommended sugar intake, and that can have a negative impact on people's physical and mental health. Sugar has a direct relationship with the "feel-good" chemical in our brain, dopamine. You might have a cookie or a candy bar and immediately feel good after eating it. That uptick in your mood won't last forever, however, and the crash that comes after can leave you feeling jittery, anxious, and even depressed. Too much sugar can also rot your teeth, lead to joint pain, and make your skin age faster.
Other things that topped the list of foods your partner might like to see you cut back on? Meat, junk food, soda, and fast food. Women, especially, were interested in seeing their partners eat less meat, while men preferred to see their significant others cut out the sweets.
No matter the diet you're thinking about going on, there's more to consider than what you'll be eating regularly. What you decide to cut out of your diet (or add in) could have a serious impact on your physical health, mood, and relationships. People on diets without their significant other on board were less satisfied in their relationships than those who dieted together.
EllipticalReviews surveyed 1,000 people in relationships about their diets and partners' diets. Fifty-five percent of respondents were male, and 45 percent were female. Our respondents ranged in age from 18 to 75 years old, with an average age of 36 and standard deviation of 11 years. We did not have a validated measure of concern or relationship satisfaction, so we created our own scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being "not very concerned" or "not very satisfied" and 5 being "very concerned" or "very satisfied." No statistical testing was performed, and results are exploratory.
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