Love On The Rocks: Why Relationships Change After Weight Loss

May 31, 2023

Self-improvement, such as changing your diet or starting an exercise regimen, can be exciting and life-enhancing. It can also upset the balance in some of the relationships in your life. When you change after weight loss, the “system” of the relationship changes by default. When one party to a relationship changes, the individual and the system become something new.

Why Relationships Change After Weight Loss

Weight loss can be particularly stressing to one’s primary romantic relationship. If your significant other has not embarked on a weight loss journey with you, your partner may feel jealous, threatened, and/or insecure. In some cases, the significant other longs for the “old you” and the dynamics of the relationship before the weight was lost.

If you are receiving extra attention due to your weight loss, envy and insecurity may enter the relationship. While change can be exhilarating, it can also be scary and a challenging adjustment. Sometimes, a significant other will struggle with your weight loss for unconscious reasons that even they cannot pinpoint. 

One of my First Clients

Years ago, when I was coaching one of my first obese clients to overcome emotional eating, I was struck by his spouse’s response. My middle-aged client mustered all the courage he had to stop shaming himself and come forward to seek help. Truthfully, it was a last-ditch effort to change his life and take control of the many health issues that had developed due to the excess weight. I admired his enthusiasm and respected his resolve to lose weight and address his emotional well-being.

During one of our sessions, I sensed that my client seemed somewhat quiet and dejected – a drastic departure from his usual jovial attitude. He reluctantly admitted that his partner’s behavior was weighing heavily on his heart. The more weight my client lost and the more he enjoyed physical activity, the more his spouse seemed to find ways to sabotage him. Particularly distressing was the couple’s new nightly routine. When my client came to bed each night, his partner was waiting for him with a ream of open cookies. He would proceed to entice him to “have just one”. On most nights, my client protested, made a case for his health and weight loss journey, and was able to resist the temptation yet fall asleep angry. On some nights, his emotional reaction to his partner’s insensitive offer prompted him to give in to an all-out binge. Needless to say, my client struggled to handle the ensuing, complicated emotions after such a binge. While he longed to improve his weight and physical fitness, he also loved his partner, whose behavior seemed cruel, uncaring, and incomprehensible.

Improving Communication

 Neither my client nor I were willing to condemn his partner’s behavior just yet. Since his behavior was out of character, we worked together to discuss boundaries and improve communication with his partner. Since he was intrinsically motivated to continue his weight loss journey, my client was able to stand firm and continue making changes. He accepted that he needed to take care of himself, whether or not his partner was supportive. Ultimately, my client’s partner realized that he was committed to change. He needed to get on board or be left behind. My client had effectively changed the relationship by changing himself. Personal growth is like that. You do not require anyone else’s permission to grow; you do it for yourself.

(This anecdote is shared with permission. Fortunately, with time and good communication, my client and his partner were able to work through the issues that arose in their relationship and are thriving today.)

 Working to improve yourself takes courage, discipline, and dedication. Your motivation to change must come from within in order to be successful. (If my client was losing weight in order to please someone else, he almost certainly would have failed.)  As you change, other people in your life may feel uncomfortable due to a variety of reasons. They may feel jealous of your success, insecure of the attention you are receiving, or neglected by the time you now spend away from them. On the other hand, individuals you are in a relationship with may feel inspired by your newfound success and decide to join you on your journey. 

Talk Your Feelings Through

Communication is key to addressing any issues that arise as a result of your transformation. Talking feelings through can help to alleviate any negative feelings in the relationship. If you can find ways to include your significant other in your weight loss journey, it will help to strengthen your bond. Reassuring your romantic partner of your loyalty and making sure not to neglect the relationship go a long way. Together, you can renegotiate the terms of the relationship.

One caveat though. Some couples have an unhealthy dynamic. One partner may be invested in keeping the other partner at an unhealthy weight. The reasons for this vary but can include the desire to control or abuse someone, insecurity, jealousy, and sexual fetishes. Therapy or coaching may help with some issues, but other problems may be insurmountable. Ultimately, you will need to decide if your relationship (s) can survive your new growth. The fact of the matter is that you may find you have outgrown some relationships.

Coach Jenna Nocera, MA, MFT, CLSC, CPFT is a Life & Wellness Coach, Psychotherapist, and Personal Fitness Trainer with Formula For Excellence® 

Change After Weight Loss


Coach Jenna Nocera, MA, MFT, CLSC, CPFT is a Life & Wellness Coach, Psychotherapist, and Personal Fitness Trainer with advanced degrees in Behavioral Science, Psychology, and Marriage and Family Therapy. She works with clients to redesign their lifestyle habits. Subscribe to the Formula For Excellence® newsletter to receive a Free Habit Tracker and occasional health and wellness tips.