Romantic partner undermining of weight loss: Links between overweight individuals' weight management efforts and perceptions of their partner's undermining motivations and behaviors

J Health Psychol. 2022 Sep 20;13591053221123842. doi: 10.1177/13591053221123842. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

This study investigated romantic partners' undermining of weight management (i.e. hindrance of weight loss efforts) and how perceived motivations behind undermining were associated with weight loss progress. Data from 241 overweight individuals currently cohabiting with a romantic partner and trying to lose weight revealed two overarching undermining factors (i.e. verbal criticism/complaint, behavioral interference) and six perceived motivations (e.g. partner believed weight loss was unnecessary, partner relational fears, weight loss was an imposition on partner). Path modeling showed both undermining behaviors were negatively associated with weight management. Yet, only certain motivations (e.g. imposition on partner, weight loss was unnecessary) were linked to weight management, either directly or indirectly, through undermining. Specifically, whereas criticism/complaint mediated the associations between these motivations and weight management, interference only mediated the association between imposition and weight management. Findings are discussed in terms of the theoretical and practical value of distinguishing undermining behaviors and their underlying motivations.

Keywords: motivations; sabotage; undermining; weight loss; weight management.