When Kelvin first started working with me, he and his wife had already seen some weight loss success on a version of Weight Watchers. After our initial consultation together, I was able to give him some more pointed insight into caloric goals, macronutrient targets and some thoughts on double tracking against the WW points system.
He did see some more weight loss occur but it was fairly slow coming. After several months working with us, he got his wife Jean training with us as well.
Jean went through a similar consultation but since she is not only female but a smaller person in comparison to her husband, her numbers were invariably different.
We got through the 2019 holiday season together and Kelvin and Jean asked to sit down with me to revisit a weight loss plan so they could both reach new lows together.
They have both been kind enough to let me use their specific information to highlight some major differences when it comes to couples being successful together at weight loss.
I try to always be mindful to say that dieting in and of itself is stressful enough. Having a supportive spouse can be the difference between succeeding or not. The fact that Kelvin and Jean are on the journey together is a really big deal.
Kelvin is in his early 50’s, weighs approximately 210 pounds and has approximately 155 pounds of lean muscle.
Jean is younger than Kelvin (withheld for privacy purposes), weighs approximately 150 pounds and has approximately 100 pounds of lean muscle. It is important to remind the reader that women typically carry more body fat than men, a factor that not only affects hormonal differences between the sexes but can affect ability to lose weight as well.
Comparing the daily activity of each, Kelvin is more sedentary and Jean is on her feet more.
In comparing caloric needs between the two, Kelvin can consume approximately 2500 calories to maintain his bodyweight and Jean can consume approximately 1500 to maintain hers.
Since weight loss is the goal for both, I gave them each a guideline of roughly 15-20% to reduce their caloric needs by.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s look at 20% to compare both.
Kelvin can eat approximately 2000 calories a day and Jean gets approximately 1200 calories a day. Before I go much further on this, I do want to give the disclaimer that they could lose weight on less of a deficit, it would just be at a slower rate.
For conversation’s sake and to highlight some important numbers, I’ll stick with the 20% deficit.
A point to make is that if we use the reference point of 3500 calories per 1 pound of fat, if Kelvin does nothing but change his diet, he will lose 1 pound of fat per week (on average). It will take Jean almost 12 days to lose the same 1 pound.
Of course, we need to consider any additional activity (calories burned) to help expedite weight loss. The caveat I always give is that it is far easier to control intake than it is calories burned. This is why you hear the adage “You can’t outrun the fork”. To be honest, yes you can outrun the fork but you’re not going to like it…
Let’s continue to consider calories for a moment and just compare what meals might look like between Kelvin and Jean. If you split their days up into three meals, Jean could theoretically have three 400 calorie meals. Kelvin by comparison could have three meals just shy of 700 calories each. That’s significant.
This is where I start to see some degree of dietary resentment set in between the sexes. Kelvin gets to eat significantly more and will drop weight faster. This is just one of those unfortunate harsh truths about weight loss between genders.
My advice to them both was to start by getting the diet as predictable as possible. Assuming they can both eat the same types of foods with little variation it would take a bit of practice to nail the portion sizes down and then meal prep/planning can become more automatic. As weight starts to come off and portion sizes become more realistic in line with goals, more variation can be introduced.
Should Kelvin and Jean decide they want to go out for an evening at a restaurant, they could theoretically eat less throughout that particular day so they have more room within the allotted calories to eat out and still try to remain in a caloric deficit.
Since the two of them met with me a couple of weeks ago, their routine of food tracking has already reflected in weight loss for both.
Words I would give to any couple trying to lose weight together:
- Be Supportive. As mentioned before, weight loss is hard enough as it is. If you have a partner who tells you they support your goals but they come home on Friday with your favorite Oreos because you had a tough week, that is not support. It’s sabotage and it’s not helpful.
- Plan A Dietary Break. Some people can white-knuckle their way to their weight loss goal. They are not the norm. Get on the same page with your partner about when you will take your first scheduled dietary break. This could be a weekend or a week or two weeks even. This is where you spend the agreed upon time to eat at maintenance before you embark on the next cycle at deficit. Ask each other if it is a 10 pound goal, a pant size, or a timed cycle. In other words, will you diet for 4-weeks and break for 1-week?
- Know How To Communicate Through The Process. Because dieting is stressful, it’s important to set the guidelines for how you want to stay on path together. If your eating gets a little bit sideways, how do you want your partner to communicate that effectively for you? No one likes a nag but sometimes we all need a gentle nudge in the right direction. Learn those words and that unique vocabulary together so that your inner petulant child doesn’t rebel and head to the pantry.
- Stop Buying The Trigger Foods. If you know that your partner can level half of a pizza in 2 minutes flat, it’s probably not “safe” to keep up Friday’s pizza delivery service. Some sacrifices have to be made if you want to keep the progress moving. These are not necessarily long-term solutions, but make a pact about what foods you can control versus what you can’t. I talk more about trigger foods here.
- Celebrate but don’t gloat. Did you drop a pound this week? Congratulations! Maybe your partner was flat or they went up a little bit. Know how and when to mention that your progress is moving the direction you want. This complements #3 in learning how to communicate when one of you has “good news” and the other doesn’t. These things are temporary especially if you have to consider things like menstrual cycles which can invariably affect the way the scale reads.
Below is our RevFit power couple, Kelvin and Jean. They’re learning how to win together. You can to.
“We Make Great People Greater”