T Nation

Helping My Girlfriend Lose Weight

Hi, I’ve got a desperate cry for help. I’m trying to help my girlfriend lose weight and get into shape but I’ve hit a major snag. We’re three weeks in and she isn’t noticing a difference and she’s getting frustrated and wants to give up.

I’ve been following what I consider a good weight loss program for a beginning lifter: total body lifting every other day which looks something like this: Leg press, straight legged dead lift, bench press, assisted pull ups, assisted dips, and rows for three sets of 10-15 reps.

Additionally we swim laps for about 45 mins 4-5 times a week. (some notes about the lifts, I have her doing less leg volume and the exercises listed because she has pretty bad hip and knee pain and is unable to squat, lunge, or step up).

While her diet isn’t perfect it is much better than what she was eating before (biggest improvement is more protein). Any suggestions? I need help cuz she is pissed as hell at me because it isn’t working.

Uh, as a newbie I can only offer questions; is she eating 5 times/day or more, do most of her carbs have a low-medium glycemic index, is it possible she’s snacking behind your back, and are you keeping a food diary to track her total calorie intake?

I don’t see how she can maintain a significant caloric deficit and not loose body mass unless her metabolism is shot, which is unlikely.

Start her doing tabata jumpropes or stationary bike. That will work for sure. Do the research if you need.

It is possible her metabolism is shot, she had mono last term (about 2.5 months in duration) and ate extremely infrequently and in small quantities as well as being largely bed bound due to the lack of energy. I can imagine this wreaked havoc on her metabolism.

Well, you are only three weeks in. It seems that though she is exercising more her diet didn’t drastically change. Therefore, results will be slower coming.

You need to remind her that the scale isn’t going to be her friend initially because she may just be replacing fat with newly gained muscle. Also, remember that fat tends to come off of guys quicker than gals, so she shouldn’t expect equal results.

yeah, that’s basically correct, we live in a dorm and have to eat the dorm food so proper nutrition is a bitch, couple that with her being very taste sensitive (if she doesn’t want to eat it then it’ll probably make her gag or vomit) trying to eat the ‘healthy’ food here is difficult. She hasn’t weighed, but based on her view of herself in the mirror she feels like she’s gained size and thus is extremely agitated (and is kinda taking it out on me since I’m the one who’s been telling her what to do). I’ve tried telling her that its slowly coming (it is) but she doesn’t believe me :(. So now she wants to spend an hour doing cardio every day (I try and tell her that this is a mistake but she’s falling into the female weight loss thinking :(.)

Man, I feel for you. This is a really tough one.

I’ve tried training my gf and proximity bias is a bitch (read the Chris Shugart article - hits the nail on the head). She is slowly coming around to doing some more weights and less mindless cardio but it is taking time, she also is very reticent to change her diet.

Quick results cannot be expected from exercise alone, the diet needs to be in check. Do you have any food prep area at all? a fridge?

A foreman grill, small fridge and some protein powder could really help you out.

Do you have any healthy options at the cafeteria? You need to educate your gf about what she is putting in her mouth, but without being patronising - if she thinks you are patronising her she will bring the pain, trust the voice of experience on this one!

How about swapping out a couple of those swimming sessions for High Intensity Interval Training? or even swimming in an HIIT way - sprint a lap all out, 2 laps gentle, then sprint again, repeat x number of times - you get the idea.

Can you give us a day in the life of her diet? Some indication of what she will and won’t eat?

Now lets look at the mental side of things:
What is her motivation?
What is the end goal?
How are you measuring progress?

The mirror is not always the best way, unless she is able to be extremely objective with what she sees, and few can be. Photos, or a tape measure are better tools. Scales are not great as she will probably build some muscle so her scale weight may stay the same or even go up while she loses fat.

Good luck mog.

Stu.

If somebody wants to quit after 3 weeks… she probably isn’t going to succeed anyway.

Additionally the whole “training your girlfriend” thing just seems like a recipe for disaster, as the hardest part of training for somebody is when they are first starting out, before the grow to love the “pain” of working out.

This is especially true for a girl, because most of them are not looking to get bigger, so it is not like they can get the newbie size gains that can encourage a guy.

My honest advice would be to get her a trainer. If she loses motivation, she’ll just blame it on having a shitty trainer and either go back to you with renewed confidence or she’ll stop lifting altogether- which she would’ve done anyway.

If she starts enjoying training and seeing some results after a few months, at that point it will be easier to start training together and you can get her seeing even better results.

[quote]Stuey wrote:

Quick results cannot be expected from exercise alone, the diet needs to be in check. Do you have any food prep area at all? a fridge? [/quote]

We have limited access to that kind of thing so we can try to make changes there.

[quote]

Do you have any healthy options at the cafeteria? You need to educate your gf about what she is putting in her mouth, but without being patronising - if she thinks you are patronising her she will bring the pain, trust the voice of experience on this one![/quote]

I do what I can about helping her choose foods and I’m working on getting more protein. She’ll eat freshly cooked meats with minimal seasonings or well cooked vegetables…these types of things aren’t really available in our dining center. So she ends up settling for blimpies or a club sandwich.

I’ve been working on getting the HIIT style into her swimming and its working alright, though usually she just ends up going back to normal laps (I keep trying to do races and other competition stuff to stimulate her…but she’s not as into competition stuff like I am…even though she’ll usually beat me in a swimming race). I did take the suggestion from above about the Tabata bike work and it kicked her butt (she did the first 2 mins, took a minute of slow peddling and then finished) so I think she liked that (she was pretty surprised that 4 mins on the bike could kick so much butt).

Umm…it’d be hard to give too many specifics, she has a fair amount of variation, but I think in general she’s probably too low on the caloric intake side of things and that has slowed her metabolism. I’m trying to get her to eat more often but she’s afraid of the idea because she feels like its too much. I think her diet for yesterday was about 1700 calories, 45% carbs, 25% protein, 30% fat (or so, used fitday to estimate what we could and guessed on what wasn’t on there).

[quote]
Now lets look at the mental side of things:
What is her motivation?[/quote]

She hates her body and is depressed whenever she looks in the mirror.

She’d like to lose weight (fat) and get to a place where she feels good about herself.

Currently only visual assessment (by her). She is worried about getting on the scale and freaking out and quitting all together. We’ve been talking about using a tape and she’s thinking about whether she can do that or not.

[quote]
The mirror is not always the best way, unless she is able to be extremely objective with what she sees, and few can be. Photos, or a tape measure are better tools. Scales are not great as she will probably build some muscle so her scale weight may stay the same or even go up while she loses fat.[/quote]

Thanks
A side note: She isn’t really all that large and I’m perfectly happy with her body, but since she’s so upset about how she looks I’m trying to do all I can to support her. I appreciate everyone’s help!

How about cutting sugar and refined carbs from her diet? She MUST clean up her diet to lose weight, drink tons of water and stop drinking anything but water. Water with lemon or herbal tea is fine but NO soda and NO juice and NO coffee!

Have scrambled eggs for breakfast with veggies. a snack of fat free yogurt. lunch lean chicken/fish and veggies and rice (not white). a snack of almonds or miso soup. then dinner similiar to lunch…spinach leaves with a can of tuna and walnuts and a couple teaspoons of flax oil.

Even be careful with fruit. One a day and eat it seperately than everything else.

Swimming may not be enough cardio perhaps. How about jogging? Can she get on the treadmill with an ipod and a magazine?

Long distance jogging will definitely make her lose weight. That on and off style…fast for a few minutes pushing hard and then slowing down for a few minutes, is supposed to burn the most fat. the uphill feature will help with cellulite too. Jog every day.

These are all just suggestions from some experience…some pilates exercises really do help with slimming down…
She’s not looking to bulk up so perhaps lay off those heavy weights?
(again I’m far from an expert, just suggesting!!)

I want to add a few things.
First of all, nothing good comes from hating your body. You can’t hate your body into being in shape. If she hates her body she won’t be good to it. This change has to come out of LOVE for her body and wanting it to be healthy and as it is intended to be.

If she hates her body she will abuse it. malnourish it and sabatoge it.
There is this silly book that worked wonders for me called “Think yourself Thin” it has some basic visualization techniques seeing her body at its best and sending it love.

Second she has to eat more calories. Eating a BIG breakfast I think might do her wonders. Make it a feast. Make a big omelette with some cheese and lots of veggies in it. That protein dose will pump her up.

Third I think how you said she just does regular laps, I think with swimming if it’s too easy it’s not good enough exercise maybe. Like I said before, if she can start power walking and jogging it might just do the trick.

Also, you are a nice guy I can tell. Encourage her. Tell her how beautiful and perfect she is.

[quote]
Also, you are a nice guy I can tell. Encourage her. Tell her how beautiful and perfect she is. [/quote]

:slight_smile: I do that a lot already…unfortunately she never believes me :(. Good suggestions ! if I can find that book I’ll see if she’ll read it.

We looked at her diet for today and I still think she’s a little low in total calories (around 1800-2000ish) Her fitday.com estimated daily expenditure is 2600 (basal+low activity lifestyle, working out not included)

[quote]fluffgirl wrote:
Water with lemon or herbal tea is fine but NO soda and NO juice and NO coffee!
[/quote]

What’s wrong with coffee?

[quote]mog16 wrote:
her being very taste sensitive (if she doesn’t want to eat it then it’ll probably make her gag or vomit) trying to eat the ‘healthy’ food here is difficult.
So now she wants to spend an hour doing cardio every day (I try and tell her that this is a mistake but she’s falling into the female weight loss thinking :(.)[/quote]

Have you reassured her some foods are an acquired taste?

You might also show her pictures of people who run marathons and still look horrible and pictures of female sprinters and female Olympic lifters. Google Shannon Hartnett

i think you need to look at NLP and motivation, rather than just a plan, she needs to find herself attractive before she can fix things

Progress! We’ve been able to progress and improve upon some of the joint pain she experiences enough so that we can do squats…kinda (in a smith rack onto a bench…but it is a start!)

[quote]mog16 wrote:
Progress! We’ve been able to progress and improve upon some of the joint pain she experiences enough so that we can do squats…kinda (in a smith rack onto a bench…but it is a start!)[/quote]

How do you use a broomstick in a Smith Machine??? I seriously doubt a Smith Machine will teach proper squat form.
Expect more sore knees.

TNT

[quote]A_W wrote:
fluffgirl wrote:
Water with lemon or herbal tea is fine but NO soda and NO juice and NO coffee!

What’s wrong with coffee?
[/quote]

Nothing is wrong with coffee. Everything is right with coffee. Coffee is a tried and true ergogenic/thermogenic. That is to say, it assists you in busting your ass the best you can and it creates heat in the body to accelerate calorie burning. Additionally, for most people it is the only bitter root they have in their diet and it is the foremost source of antioxidants in the Western diet. If this is an option, buy your own organic coffee (FAR different from conventional) and drink that instead of the dining hall coffee.

MTTP, just use tough love tactics. Speak with her frankly and ask, “What are you going to do, give up?” Remind her that this “fitness” deal is a life-long journey and that to be satisfied with one’s self is boring. It’s human to want to change and healthy for that desire to be a change for the better. The only time to call quits on improvement is when they close the coffin lid on that beautifully conditioned body for good.

You forgot a couple things that may help:

  1. print off and give her some of the women training articles, as well as (and especially), some of the T-Vixens training/diet logs on here or musclewithattitude.com. And pics of said people, if it’s ok with them. (I believe some of them have pics posted up, though you may have to search for them). Also, pick pictures that you think she will find motivating and attractive, b/c occasionally we guys will pick things that are “too ripped” (think figure comp. stage shape) or “look” too muscular to insecure/new women. Yes, that’s crap for the most part, but hey, you want to keep her motivated so pick stuff she might like. Also try to put into perspective HOW LONG these women worked and HOW HARD these women worked and ate to look like that. In other words, don’t let her fall into using the genetics excuse after seeing pictures. I suggest reading any articles/posts first to try and pick up on potential pitfalls and questions she’ll have, and plan answers to them, or edit said reading material. We’ve had several good articles in the past month or two.

  2. tell her that any body transformation will only start to appear after about 6-8 weeks. Even the infomercials advertise 8 weeks, or 90 days, or whatever. You can’t typically see results inside a month. And weighing yourself everyday is going to lead to mental problems with the exercise/frustration.

  3. finally, if you can see little things in her physique changing, compliment her on them and let her know she’s changing (slowly but surely).

[quote]mog16 wrote:
Progress! We’ve been able to progress and improve upon some of the joint pain she experiences enough so that we can do squats…kinda (in a smith rack onto a bench…but it is a start!)[/quote]

is it joint pain or tendon/muscle pain? Joint pain can be partially alleviated OVER THE LONG TERM by increased nutrition=better diet and more fruits and veggies, glucosamine/chondroiten and fish oil (Flameout).

It might be wise to emphasize the diet part, as she may be struggling with healthy eating the most and will want to look for magic pills/supps. Just let her know the more fruit/veggies/good FATS she eats, the better the chances her joint pain will partially go away the next two months or so.

Fats are an integral part of lubrication, so you absolutely positively need Omega 3 fats and other good fats. I highly suggest Flameout, but in the mean time, Omega 3’s come from walnuts (about 2g per 1/4 cup), omega 3 eggs, and a couple other foods (salmon).

Keep in mind that there are often other factors at work for joint pain, but nutrition can go a long way to helping out. Just one more reason to eat your veggies/fruits, even if you gag.