Do you constantly worry about how your partner’s lifestyle choices may be affecting their health? Your fears may be more common than you think.
A new study has reveals it’s a fear one in three of us have, with two thirds of people putting their loved one’s health ahead of their own.
The average Briton also worries about their partner’s wellbeing more than twice a week, with nearly a third discussing these concerns on a weekly basis with their other half.
The study by Bupa Health Clinics found that people often prioritise their partner’s health above their own, because they believe they’re healthy and don’t need to worry about their own wellbeing, saying they’ll address their own health issues if and when they need to.
Instead, 28% try to safeguard their loved one’s health by booking doctor’s appointments for them, with 22% saying it’s because their partner never gets round to booking an appointment themselves.
As well as helping to get a professional opinion about health concerns, nearly two thirds of partners take covert action, surreptitiously swapping food for low-fat alternatives, hiding treats and reducing sugar in hot drinks.
The study of 2,000 adults in relationships found that some of the top health concerns included getting stressed easily, not sleeping enough and niggling ailments like back pain or a persistent cough.
Dr Petra Simic, clinical director at Bupa Health Clinics, says: “People put more focus on their loved ones’ health at the cost of their own, but it’s important to understand that looking after ourselves actually gives us the ability to look after others, and is just as important.
“Couples can work together on setting goals and helping each other to achieve them.”
So what can you do to ease your worries in the meantime? We asked health experts to give us five sneaky ways to improve your partner’s health at home.
1. Prepare a healthy bedtime snack
One of the top concerns is that a partner isn’t getting enough sleep. As well as encouraging loved ones to get to bed at a reasonable hour, nutrition and weight loss coach Pippa Campbell points out that sugary snacks before bedtime can be a recipe for poor sleep.
Sleeping badly can weaken the immune system, impair performance, and even cause a pre-diabetic state, making you feel hungry even if you’ve already eaten, which can wreak havoc with your weight.
To help you and your partner get a good night’s sleep, Pippa advises paying attention to what you snack on before bed.
“Starchy carbs and sugars will raise your blood sugar and delay sleep,” she explains.
“Later, when blood-sugar drops too low (hypoglycemia), you may wake up and be unable to fall back asleep.
“I recommend not eating carbs or sugar before bed usually, but if you’re feeling stressed, a small pre-bedtime protein or carb snack might help (around 10pm). In these instances, I advise my clients to eat some almond butter on a small rye or gluten-free cracker.”
2. Cook a healthy breakfast for them
Nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville, author of Natural Alternatives To Sugar, says that another handy tip for helping to keep loved ones healthy is to check that they’re choosing healthy breakfast options, such as wholegrain cereals like porridge, organic live natural dairy products like yogurt, organic eggs and fruit.
“Sugar-laden cereals will cause blood-sugar to rise sharply and drop quite quickly, making people feel hungry more quickly,” she says.
“They need something that will sustain them and keep them feeling fuller for longer.”
3. Reduce inflammation
If you’re concerned about your partner’s weight, altering their diet to help reduce inflammation could help to shift the pounds.
Marilyn explains that fat cells produce substances called inflammatory cytokines, which pump up the immune system. This urges the adrenal glands to release more cortisol to calm it down, and the excess cortisol causes more fat to be stored.
When fat is stored, it releases more inflammatory cytokines, producing a vicious circle of fat gain.
“To reduce inflammation levels, look at your partner’s diet,” she advises.
“Keep them away from the 3Ps – prepared, processed and packaged foods, as well as saturated fats (margarine, pastries, crisps) alcohol, wheat and gluten-containing foods, and foods that increase blood-sugar quickly (sweets, juices, bread).
“They can also increase sources of anti-inflammatory antioxidants by munching on berries.”
4. Don’t opt for sugar-free alternatives
If you’re selecting sugar-free or low-fat alternatives, in the hope they can help your partner shift those stubborn pounds, you may actually be setting yourself up for a fall.
Marilyn explains that such foods could be increasing belly fat, as they’ll usually contain artificial sweeteners.
“These sweeteners have been linked to mood swings and depression,” she says, “and it’s been found that people who regularly use artificial sweeteners tend to gain weight because they can slow down the digestive process and increase appetite.”
5. Set exercise reminders on their phone
If your partner has a desk job, they may have a low step count, which can have a significant impact on the amount of exercise they’re getting. Sitting for long periods with few breaks also decreases activity of the fat-burning enzyme lipoprotein lipase.
Encourage your partner to walk around the office more and to take their lunch break.
“Set a reminder for your partner to make sure they have a brief walk around the office to get themselves moving, and always encourage them to take the stairs,” advises podiatrist Dave Wain of Carnation Footcare .