It’s clear that when diabetics have family support it’s easier for them to make healthy diet and lifestyle changes to improve their condition. But the benefits may go both ways according to recent research. When diabetics shed pounds with the help of a special weight loss program, their spouses also change their diet and lose weight, say researchers at the University of Connecticut Department of Psychology.
The study examined 357 couples where one partner was an over weight type-2 diabetic participating in a multi-center evaluation of weight loss programs for cardiovascular disease prevention. Half the diabetics in the study received intensive life style intervention therapy involving sessions with a dietician and an exercise therapist while the other participants received only diet and exercise information on diabetes without personal or group support.
Not too surprisingly, after 12 months in the programs the diabetics with the more involved personal treatment lost more weight than those with less intense weight management counseling and care. But the researchers also discovered that the spouses of the diabetics in the intensive life style intervention group lost an average of 4.6 lbs more than the spouses of the diabetics receiving standard care, according to lead author Amy Gorin, Ph.D. and her colleagues.
The spouses of participants in the intensive life style group dropped an average of 5% of their body weight and reported improvements in their own diet associated with a decrease in high-fat foods in the home. The difference in weight loss "seems to be driven by dietary changes," Gorin says. "We did not observe any differences in physical activity in either group."
"We're always telling patients to change the home environment," says Dr. Gorin. "It seems to have a ripple effect. When we change our eating and exercise habits, it can spill over in a positive way to other people.”
“This is evidence that if you change your own behavior, you may motivate others around you,” adds Gorin.