Unequally Yoked in Fitness

There is a concept, usually among Christians, that it is forbidden to be “unequally yoked,” unless your conversion to Christianity happened after your marriage. To be “unequally yoked” means that you are a Christian, but your husband or wife is not. The metaphor references two oxen pulling a plow together. They have to be similar in size and strength for that to work well. While I don’t profess any particular religion, I understand the logic of that concept.

To be unequally yoked in fitness, then, would imply that although you are healthy and fit (or trying to be), your partner is sedentary and consumes the Standard American Diet (SAD).  Many people find themselves in this situation if they started exercising sometime after getting married or dating someone seriously. It takes a while for unhealthy practices to show up in one’s appearance and health. Youth is quite gracious, so many habits we developed as young people don’t appear on our waistlines until we hit our 30’s and beyond.

So, if you’ve reached the point where you’re ready to take control of your own health and fitness, but are committed to someone who is unhealthy or unfit, you will face greater challenges than someone whose spouse joins them. You will also have a harder time than someone who has always been healthy, but is committed to someone who is not. Someone with a long history of fitness will not be deterred by the unhealthy partner. They may be compromised to some extent, but they will not be hindered. However, if health and fitness are new to you, it will be hard for you to overcome your own habits, plus the habits of your partner.

They will probably subtly or overtly try to keep you the same. Part of the reason for this is that they have not made the decision for themselves, so they are not committed to change. Part of it is that they have always enjoyed those unhealthy habits with you, and will want to continue. Part of it is fear that you will change too much and leave. Most of this behavior is unconscious, but it can still ruin your chances of losing weight. So, what to do?

You do not have to give up. Assuming you want to stay in the relationship, you will have to be much more proactive about your new habits. Here are some tips that can help.

  • Get SOME buy-in from your partner. They don’t have to lose weight with you. But they should verbally support your decision to get healthy. Figure out a way to convince them. Reference your health concerns, or the fact that you will be able to do more housework or take care of the kids better if you’re healthier – anything that will get them to agree that this is important.
  • Get some outside support. There are many wonderful online and Facebook diet and fitness support groups. Hire a personal trainer or a wellness coach. Join a beginning running club. Find other people who are on the same path as you, so that you have people who understand the struggles, temptations, and triumphs of the journey.
  • Keep unhealthy food out of the house. If your spouse won’t support you enough to do that, make them keep their junk food in a specific cabinet – and then you stay out of that cabinet. You can’t fight temptation if it’s all around you, not until you get strong enough. Eventually your taste buds will change and that stuff will not be as tempting, nor will it taste as good. In the meantime, keep it out of sight!
  • Reassure your partner that you love them for who they are. They might project a feeling of rejection onto you and accuse you of trying to change them, even if you aren’t. People have to do things in their own time. Don’t make them feel guilty. Show them, through your example, how much happier you are now. If they love you, they’ll be happy for you, whether or not they ever become healthy themselves. Be extra nice to them during the transition period.
  • Plan some fun, active dates. Initiate walks, sporting events, trips to the local swimming pool. People often associate healthy food and exercise with misery. So, making it fun will go a long way towards getting your partner on board with your healthy habits.

The most important thing in all this is to be clear why getting healthy is important to you. Once you’re clear, it will be harder for people to distract you. Outside support is very important. Love yourself enough to give yourself what you need. The people who truly care for you will come around eventually. In the meantime, stay the course and have fun.

If you need any help staying the course, please contact me about coaching. It can be the support you need to finally make lasting change.

Peace and love,


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