Vim & Vigor - Winter 2019 - UVA - 31

As Muñoz says, "You could say something like, 'Here's what I am thinking we
could do this afternoon-do you think
this would be helpful for you?' "

BE THE CHANGE-FOR
YOUR KIDS, TOO

By turning the focus on her own health,
a woman can help encourage her spouse
and children to follow her lead.
"What I see in my practice across
the board is that as women begin making these healthy choices, almost by
osmosis their partners begin to see
changes themselves. Whether they're
consciously or unconsciously adopting
those behaviors, it happens," Eaker says.
He believes that because of the
intimate nature of their relationship,
spouses are in especially good positions
to inspire each other to make better
decisions. "The closer the relationship,
the greater the influence you can have.
There's almost a transference of energy
as one person begins to notice the other
is sleeping better or less winded going
up and down stairs," he says.
And if you and your spouse manage
to improve your health, your children
likely will benefit, too. Researchers have
found that when parents adopt a healthy
lifestyle, the effect ripples out. In a
2012 study from the Journal of Physical
Activity and Health, researchers asked
parents and children to increase their
daily activity levels by walking more
than normal. They found that "parental
change in physical activity is associated
with child change in physical activity."
And although both parents had positive influences on their children, mothers
had a greater effect than fathers: Kids got
about 500 more steps on days their mothers met their goals versus the days their
fathers did. "It really is a group approach
when it comes to the family," Eaker says,
but even one person dedicated to inspiring change can make a difference.

ENLIST BACKUP

And what if you're truly, desperately
worried? A spouse may be drinking
heavily or using other substances, for
example, and might need more than a
pep talk or easy-to-grab carrot sticks
in the fridge. In this case, Eaker suggests scheduling an appointment
with the partner's primary care
doctor, who can suggest treatment
and possibly refer to specialists.
(Depending on the situation, it may
or may not be appropriate for you to
attend as well.)
"There is no question that serious
medical issues like addiction have to
be addressed before any meaningful
work can be done on areas of healthy
habits for the family," he says. ■

QUIZ

But First,
How Healthy
Are You?
With questions like "How
do you manage stress?"
and "Do you eat enough
vegetables?" the U.S.
Department of Health has
a fun "Everyday Healthy
Living" quiz that checks
your health habits and
offers practical lifestyle
tips. Go to healthfinder.
gov/healthtopics/quiz to
assess your knowledge.

HELP FOR PRODUCTIVE
PARTNER DISCUSSIONS
If you find yourself especially upset by your spouse's unhealthy behavior, the
issue might be communication. Here are tips for getting to the heart of things
from Alicia Muñoz, licensed professional counselor and author of No More
Fighting: 20 Minutes a Week to a Stronger Relationship.
Notice your triggers. Muñoz suggests keeping a list of health concerns
that bug you over a week. "Each time, if a huge catastrophe emerges in your
mind, take a deep breath and bring your awareness to the present." She adds
that sometimes the issue isn't really about your spouse, but something from
your past. A good individual therapist can help you work through these kinds
of memories.
Practice reflective listening. Muñoz counsels couples using Imago
Relationship Therapy, a way of talking where one person shares feelings and the
other listens, as she says, "without interrupting and criticizing or interpreting,"
and then reflects back what is heard; then the roles are traded. "If you just stop
and reflect what your partner says, you're soothing yourself, and they feel more
attached to you, because you're paying attention," she says.
Ditch the parental role. Keep in mind that even if you're concerned, treating your spouse like a child isn't going to help in the long term. "The price of
mothering is quite high-it can erode respect and infantilize the other person,
and couples can lose their sexual connection," she says.

WINTE R 2019

31



Vim & Vigor - Winter 2019 - UVA

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Vim & Vigor - Winter 2019 - UVA - Contents
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