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How To Help Your Overweight Partner Improve Their Health

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It's not an easy topic to talk about -- your partner's weight.

Now, a new study shows more conflict between mixed-weight couples where one is overweight and the other is not.

One year and 50 pounds ago, Matt and Jessie Brouwer say they weren't necessarily in a bad place.

However, years of working at an Italian restaurant, not working out, and raising a toddler took its toll on Matt – in the form of pounds.

And that took a toll on the couple – and their lives together.

"When he gets home from work and the kids and I want to go to the park, and he doesn't have enough energy because he's exhausted, that could negatively affect our relationship," Jessie said.

The study found mixed-weight couples have more daily fights, especially when the couples eat together often.

The situation appears to be even worse when the woman is overweight and the man is not.

"It doesn't feel good when you have someone in your family that's in shape and you aren't," Matt said. "It doesn't feel good to feel like you don't fit her."

Steele Fitness director Joeleen Kielkucki has seen it in many of her couple clients.

"Maybe the spouse is more physically fit, gets more attention, and that causes turmoil," Kielkucki said.

Researchers say the more support for a partner, the less negativity there is in a relationship. They say that might be the best place for an intervention, because it not only improves the health of a relationship, it improves the health of your partner.

Betsy Schow wrote a book called "Finished Being Fat."

"For the wife, realize the validation and love that you feel needs to come from you first," she said. "For the husband, just give as much love and support as you can, and keep the focus other great things in your relationship."

For the Brouwers, the weight loss meant sacrifices on both sides.

"Getting up at 4:30 a.m., it's tough, but having her by my side definitely made it easier," Matt said.

Jessie picked up most of the slack at home, while Matt took on the Steele Fitness challenge several mornings a week -- first dropping 20, then 30 pounds.

"I wanted to make a change in my life and for my family's life to get healthy," Matt said. "I could see I was not going in a good direction in being there for my family and kids."

Researchers say the key to staying healthy in the relationship really comes down to figuring out if it's the weight difference that's leading to arguments, or if it's the arguments causing one person to eat more.

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