What to do when your mate sabotages your health and fitness goals

New Zealand’s biggest fun run, Round the Bays 2023 is set for Sunday, March 5, and to get you ready Stuff is launching the RTB Fitness Club. It’s an 8-week training programme designed to get you match-fit and excited about exercise with a like-minded community, whether tackling the event in-person in Auckland or virtually. Each week, we will bring you stories to inspire and educate throughout the fitness journey. Register your interest for the RTB Fitness Club here.

Karen Nimmo is a clinical psychologist.

ADVICE: “I’m on a mission to improve my fitness this year,” my client said. “But I need help and I’m just not getting it.”

She was referring to her partner who didn’t share her healthy mindset. He stayed up late, loved takeaways, kept a drawer full of peanut slabs and watching cricket was as active as he got.

“It’s so hard for me to stay on track with him accidentally sabotaging my efforts,” she said. “Or maybe I’m being too kind – maybe he’s doing it on purpose?”

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It’s a common problem for people who want to be healthy. They’ll often report being held back, or thrown off course, by a partner or their family; sometimes it’s their best friend or flatmate. Anyone with whom they share a home or, more importantly, a kitchen.

It usually goes like this. You decide to get healthy, you fill the fridge with nutritious snacks, you sign up for the gym and splurge on new activewear. You’re pumped about finally getting your health on track. But a few days in, your partner comes in from work and says they’re craving pizza. You do love a meat lovers (double cheese) so you cave. And then the guilt, resentment and futility rolls in. This is never going to work.

Is it your partner’s fault? Can you do it without their support?

Is it your partner’s fault? Can you do it without their support?


Is it your partner’s fault? Can you do it without their support?

Living with a ‘feeder’

I’ve worked with lots of people who are up against it when it comes to managing their weight, health and fitness. Their key people either don’t support them – or they’re just not interested.

But it’s another level of difficulty when your partner or friend deliberately tries to mess with your best laid health plans.

One woman I worked with described her partner as a “feeder”.

“He knows how hard I’m trying to lose weight but he just keeps buying delicious treats for us both. He says he loves me as I am and health kicks make me a bit obsessive. But I’m starting to wonder if it’s because he doesn’t want me to look and feel better than I do.”

It’s possible. Sometimes people are afraid of what a change in their partner – such as weight loss, more energy, more confidence – may mean for them and the relationship. And it may lead them to deliberately undermine, or try to control, those efforts.

But in most cases, people don’t have a malicious agenda. They think their partner is fine as they are, and just want to keep the status quo. They may not want to exercise or change their own diet. And they don’t realise how important being fitter and healthier is for their partner’s mental wellbeing and happiness.

Obviously it’s best case scenario if your partner supports you, but if not, there’s no need to give up. Try these tips to help.

Separate love from health

People can love you without jumping on board your fitness journey. Just as you have a right to manage your health in your own way, so do they.

Just make sure they accept what you need to do in order to feel good about yourself and don’t deliberately make it hard for you to do it. And that they are a good partner in other respects.

Be specific about how they can help

Don’t just say “I need your support”, because your partner may struggle to know what that means. Give practical suggestions when asking for what you need. E.g. can you please be here for the kids on Monday/Wednesday night and Saturday mornings so I can go to my group training sessions? Please don’t buy me banana muffins for morning tea, can we remove the chocolate from the kitchen drawer? And when they do support you, thank them. Do it profusely (and sincerely) and you’re much more likely to get a repeat.

Enlist outside support

Going it alone is hard. Not impossible, but harder than it needs to be. A trainer/mentor, friend, or a group – in person or online – can help hugely with motivation and encouragement. Bonus – it may meet some of your social needs too.

Introduce new habits

Any change to your health requires you to do things differently. Don’t rely on willpower – that’s too stressful and won’t work. Instead, create some new habits or a routine that will take you towards your goals. Then, when you have a bad day or lose your way, you’ll have a framework you can return to.

Only one person truly cares

Anyone who wants to improve their health and fitness is to be admired. So don’t get too caught up in whether your partner is supporting you or not – and definitely don’t use it as a reason to bail on your efforts. Celebrate each tiny win and remember that there will only ever be one person who’s 100% invested in your success. Do it for you.

Join the RTB Fitness Club with coach Bevan James Eyles to help get excited about fitness with the goal of Round the Bays in mind.


Join the RTB Fitness Club with coach Bevan James Eyles to help get excited about fitness with the goal of Round the Bays in mind.

What is RTB Fitness Club?

With Round the Bays set for Sunday, March 5, Stuff is launching the RTB Fitness Club with coach Bevan James Eyles to help Kiwis get excited about fitness, building long-term habits to stay motivated and connect with a like-minded community. Whether you’ve bought your entry to join us on the day in Auckland, or are locked in to take part virtually – we welcome you to connect and also be part of this club. Once you’ve bought your entry to the race, you’ll have the option to also join the RTB Fitness Club.

For $25 you will get:

  • An 8-week walk, walk-to-run or run-only training programme

  • Weekly mentoring videos with Bevan

  • Weekly live Q&A with Bevan

  • A strength and stretch component to help prevent you from injuries

  • Access to the exclusive RTB Fitness Club Facebook group