It Takes Two – Couples Getting Healthier Together
For healthy lifestyle practices to begin and “stick”, it often takes the support of a spouse, significant other, friend or co-worker. This is often the case when it comes to men who have been affected by cancer. In my experience working with married men following a cancer of the genito-urinary system, such as prostate cancer, the support of their wives it is upmost importance to help them along a healthier path especially when it comes to nutrition. While not always the case, it is often the wife who does the food shopping, meal preparation, and cooking and therefore becomes an integral part of the healing process.
I am always delighted when a spouse comes to an appointment, especially the initial appointment, and I encourage them to ask questions, as well as add to the discussion to provide insight into the patient/client’s health habits. Of course, the patient/client must be agreeable in allowing their spouse/significant other to provide input during the conversation. Even if a spouse/significant other chooses not to engage in the discussion they are often good at taking notes during the visit and asking relevant questions that may help them best support their loved one.
One particular gentleman that I had the pleasure of working with had a diagnosis of prostate cancer and was on hormone therapy (i.e., ADT or androgen deprivation therapy) to treat his disease. While ADT can be very effective in treating prostate cancer it can have detrimental effects on many aspects of health (e.g., cardiovascular, metabolic, bone health, sexual health, and mental health, to name a few).
He came to his visits with his lovely wife who was very supportive and wanted the two of them to begin making some healthy changes together to lose weight and to improve overall health. Realistic goals were set for small changes (e.g., adding one more serving each of a vegetable and a fruit to their daily diets, as well as starting to walk for at least 10-15 minutes five days/week), strategies and barriers were discussed with plans for managing obstacles, since realistically they do arise!
After 4-6 months both he and his wife were all smiles when they shared with me that they had both lost weight due to dietary changes and more regular exercise. They also felt more energy to do the things they enjoy, which is always a GREAT thing to hear! By setting realistic small goals and building on them over time they were both able to feel empowered and successful in improving their health and well-being.
It is well known that social support can be very important to helping an individual achieve health goals and in this case coaching both the patient and his wife helped keep them accountable to each other while on the path to behavior change. Having a successful, happy, healthier client, and better yet a healthier spouse, is what makes the health coaching process all worthwhile!