MEANS DIFFERENT SUPPORTERS PROVIDE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SUPPORT
Weight-loss support provided by romantic partners appears to be beneficial in increasing women’s healthy dieting attempts. Interestingly, intimate partners were more likely than friends and family to offer instrumental help, but less likely to offer informational help. The finding that informational weight-loss support is offered less often in romantic relationships also makes sense. Informational weight-loss support involves telling a dieter about better ways to exercise and better foods to eat in order to lose weight. Summary Perceptions of weight-loss support from romantic partners are intertwined with the functioning of the relationship. Women who are happy in their relationship and trust their partner’s loving care are more likely to feel supported in their dieting attempts. However, the role of partner support in dieting outcome is dependent in part on the dieter’s self-esteem. Perceptions of lack of support appear to motivate women with low but not high self-esteem to turn to extreme, unhealthy dieting techniques.
First, an awareness of the psychological profile of women who are using disordered dieting techniques allows those in the dieting and eating disorders fields to identify women at risk of developing an eating disorder compared with those who are simply using healthy and normal dieting techniques. Intimate partners have the opportunity in a number of everyday activities, such as preparing dinner, to help or hinder weight-loss efforts. Having a partner on board with one’s diet allows someone in close proximity to reinforce healthy weight-loss behaviours. Third, this study suggests that relationship functioning is associated with levels of partner support in dieting. Thus, weight-loss treatment programs may benefit from including a counselling component in which a dieter and partner are able to work through any issues that may be hampering dieting and supporting efforts. It is important to encourage the partner to provide weight loss support to women who are low in self-esteem in order to avoid subsequent negative dieting outcomes for these women.