"I've been in this kind of relationship before, and it's not healthy."

Despite what experts say.

“What are you eating?”

“Some chocolate…”

“But it’s not Saturday, we said Saturday would be our ‘cheat’ day, and it’s not Saturday. So you are cheating. Actually cheating. We are doing this so we can be healthier and you’re not very good at it.”

Whoever thinks dieting/exercising/being healthy together as a couple, clearly hasn’t done it before. The above is an actual conversation I once had with a former-boyfriend.

Despite both of our good intentions, it was a relationship that won at making me feel the most insecure about my body ever. I calorie counted. Every day. I ate things only because I thought they were good for me. I weighed myself and analysed every wobbly bit. I worked out like a machine.

You see, we both wanted to have better bodies. Be healthier. Be more active. Good intentions.

So, instead of going it alone, we made a pact: To get healthier. It included things like working out a certain amount of time each day. Not eating “bad” food six of the seven days of the week. And various other rules I’ve erased from my memory.

The couples that diet together, stay together. Not. Image: iStock

And that's where things went wrong. It became a competition of who did better. It wasn't an intentional competition, it just happened.

So as well as hating my wobbly-bits, I also felt like I let the person I loved down. Because while he was doing what I told him, by keeping me on track, he was also telling me I was failing. I was being a pig by eating chocolate on the wrong day. (Don't worry, I also criticised his meals that I thought had too much fat in them.)

The crux of it is that no partner should ever make hurtful, harmful remarks about your body. Intentional or unintentional.


And that is why I disagree with the latest research saying couples who are healthy together are more likely to stick the healthiness out.

Researchers at the University of London write, "Men and women are more likely to make a positive health behaviour change if their partner does too, and with a stronger effect than if the partner had been consistently healthy in that domain."

Sure, I get it. When you go into a couple you influence each other.

"It can go either way, if one or both are naturally lazy it makes for a lazy couple. If one or both are motivated to stay healthy it can help them." This was my colleagues response to the research when I mentioned it.

So, ice-cream is out of the question?

Another colleague said that her and her partner have never been so unhealthy. Despite them both hitting the gym during the week - even exercising together, they spend the weekend going out and eating bad food as a reward. Her argument is that your lifestyle habits are formed depending on what you do as a couple.

And yes, I agree. But not completely.

My husband and I have unusual eating habits. He is a meat and potato eater and I'm a vegan. And while he will only admit this occasionally, I'm a somewhat good influence on getting him to eat more fruit and vegetables. Mainly because they are around him all the time, not because I whinge and whine about potatoes the all-star veggie.

And while I de-stress through going for a run (read: slow jog), he will de-stress through watching TV.

But this is the thing. Both are fine.

The thing about being a couple isn't about pushing each other to be a better version than themselves. From my experience, it can get very very dangerous, especially when it wads into eating and exercising. Instead, it's about giving each other space to do what's right for them. About being there to encourage, not force.

In my previous relationship if I complained about being too tired for going for a run, I would get a long list of the reasons why I should get off my lazy wobbly arse. Now, if I complain I get a simple, "well, don't go then, your sexy as is".

And THAT is far healthier (mentally and phsycially) than any competitive health pact.

Do you think you are more likely to be healthy if you work out and diet together? Why?

Want more? Try these:

“Don’t judge me, but… I lie about my partner’s age.”

“In my heart and mind, I knew I was in love with someone who wasn’t my husband.”

Follow iVillage on Facebook

When you become a parent, you don't leave your brain in the delivery suite. That's why mothers with kids of all ages come to; because they're still interested in news about entertainment, health, current affairs and food along with an inspiring and useful stream of parenting advice and support.

Most importantly, they come because they want to hear personal stories of parenting directly from other mothers, without fear of judgement.