b and I have started a new healthy lifestyle approach. In shorthand we refer to it as a diet but in all honesty it is really a lifestyle change as I don't see us "going off" of it. b is hypertensive and has been having unwelcomed side effects (are any side effects really welcomed?) from his medications. We are hoping this change will allow him to safely go off of his meds. I have been slowly gaining weight--from being over 40 and working towards tenure.
Our new approach involves going to the gym together 6 mornings a week (for 1 hour) in addition to any other exercise we normally do (him: paddling, karate, biking to work; me: yoga, tai chi, walking to work). We are also following the DASH diet. We are primarily focusing on portion control and balancing our eating to be heavier on fruits and vegetables, reducing dairy and/or using low-fat dairy, and reducing protein sources. For me a large part of the shift has also been learning how to eat throughout the day. By nature I am not a "grazer" but the over-40 metabolism does not work well with long periods between large meals. I have spent years teaching my body to be highly efficient with calories and, for once, efficiency is NOT a good thing.
When I tell people about our new lifestyle approach many comment on the importance of doing it together and the support that it offers. This is definitely true. In fact, I think it is incredibly difficult to make true changes unless your immediate family (those you share your household and life with) are on board and, preferably, actively engaged with you. Actually this is a large part of my current research agenda. The grant that I have been trying to write (for what seems like forever) is focused on making small healthy changes in diet and exercise within families and relationships. While I believe support is a large part of what can make this approach successful, I am also (maybe more?) interested in how changes in daily routines both affect and are affected by relationships. You see I believe that it is not only our strong relationship that makes this approach possible but that by doing this together we will make our relationship stronger.
In my research I am not focused on spousal or partner relationships but instead on mother-adolescent daughter relationships. These relationships have a very different set of issues, many of which are emotionally-loaded. This is not to say that spousal/partner relationships around food, exercise and body image are not emotionally loaded, but rather that they are expressed differently. I have been fascinated by mother-daughter relationships and daily life for a many years and see this as one avenue for exploring that association.
I am also intrigued by windows of opportunity. I see the mother-daughter relationship in adolescence as a window of opportunity for change. It is often portrayed as negative but I think it can be (and often is) positive. I am also realizing that the empty nest period is a window of opportunity for positive change. I think it is easier for b and I to attempt this approach now than it ever was before. Previously we have dieted together and it has been successful (in terms of temporary weight loss) but we have never tried anything as ambitious as this (we are also changing our sleep schedule and will soon be adding a meditation schedule to help reduce stress). I could see exploring issues of 'emptynestdom' in future studies.
My grant application also involves some cutting-edge technology and I am using my experience with b as an opportunity to try out some of this technology. Now this does not take the place of trying it with my population, as I am not studying 45 year old academic professors and their spouses/partners, but it is still helpful to see some of the bugs now before I (hopefully) subject my participants to them.