Relationship Fitness

S21 E8: Lifestyle Medicine

In this episode of Relationship Workout for Men, host Vince Vasquez and psychotherapist Roni Maislish discuss the impact of lifestyle medicine on men’s relationships. They explore how holistic changes in various aspects of life, including diet, exercise, relationships, and spirituality, can lead to healthier, more fulfilling connections.

**Vince Vasquez speaking:**

Welcome to Relationship Workout for Men, a podcast dedicated to helping men be intentional in choosing a better partner and being a better partner for the person they choose. Season 21: Men Navigating Strength, Vulnerability, and Addictions. In this episode, we’re going to talk about lifestyle medicine, and I’m speaking today with Roni Maislish, a clinical social worker and psychotherapist who has been working for 20 years on the psychological roots of emotional eating, food addiction, and obesity. So, in this episode, we’re going to discuss how living a healthy lifestyle can have a positive impact on having a healthy relationship. So, Roni, what do you think about this?

 

**Roni Maislish speaking:**

Yeah, I think, you know, in my field, the psychology of emotional eating and obesity, most people try to lose weight through dieting, changing their diet, and exercising. But you know, the statistics have stayed the same for the last 50 years. Only a small percentage of people succeed in losing weight and maintaining it for a longer period. One of the most important reasons why this happens is because they try to make a change in a very specific dimension. The reasons for gaining weight are so holistic—there are so many parts, including emotional, psychological, and spiritual. For me, when a person starts working with me, I try to explain that we are going to do some kind of lifestyle change. We cannot make 20 changes in a month, but our work is to address every part of life. 

 

What is a lifestyle? Someone once told me that the word diet in Greek means lifestyle. We need to change our lifestyle, not just eat salads and exercise. It’s also about who my friends are, what my hobbies are, where I’m living. Sometimes I need to move from the city to the country, and sometimes the opposite. We need to work on relationships with God and nature, and how much time we spend in nature. This is lifestyle medicine—you need to touch every aspect of your life to truly transform it and heal your wounds, diseases, and disorders. Many doctors and professionals talk about chronic diseases as if they are forever, but for people who really want to not just manage their disease but possibly end it, they need to work on all aspects of their lifestyle.

 

Sometimes I give advice that is not concrete but rather inspirational ideas for my patients. What kind of new hobby should they take up? What kind of new work or career should they pursue? What kind of new relationships should they form? We go from one area of life to another, checking each one, and see how meaningful changes can impact our relationship with food and eating. It’s not just about nutrition—most people try to make changes through nutrition alone, but the root cause of their weight gain includes emotional starvation, emotional neglect, complex PTSD, and other issues. We need to change and heal many relationships.

 

**Vince Vasquez speaking:**

Is there a checklist of what we say constitutes a lifestyle? Is there some magical list of all the elements of our lifestyle, whether it be food, hobbies, or work, or is it unique to each individual, and you have to piece together their life to identify those elements?

 

**Roni Maislish speaking:**

No, I see it as relationships. What kind of relationships do you have? You can have a relationship with God. For some people, reconnecting with God might be crucial. For others, it could be their relationship with money—someone who lost their money 20 years ago and is now afraid of making money again. Money is energy, like God is energy, time is energy. Your partner is an energy. It’s about relationships with God, money, career, hobbies, exercise, food—everything that nourishes you. We need to heal all these relationships. Lifestyle is built from relationships with your country, neighborhood, city, people, family, friends, colleagues, art, and nature.

 

**Vince Vasquez speaking:**

So it’s almost like you need to look for where there is a disconnect or void to identify the first relationships to work on, making it very unique to the individual.

 

**Roni Maislish speaking:**

Yeah, and I remember one of my teachers once told me to start with something small, not with a big issue. For example, can you give yourself 20 minutes every day to walk in your neighborhood and observe the trees and birds? Start small. We might find that people feel they are not allowed to give themselves something, like 10 minutes a day. Sometimes it takes years of therapy to allow this person to give themselves 10 minutes a day. 

 

**Vince Vasquez speaking:**

It goes back to what you talked about before about giving yourself that space, whether it’s for your purpose or journey, so you can come back in a healthier way to your relationship.

 

**Roni Maislish speaking:**

Exactly. I’ve seen that those who can’t give themselves space, even just 10 minutes a day, often struggle to change their habits, addictions, or lives in general.

 

**Vince Vasquez speaking:**

Sometimes you feel guilty giving yourself that space, right? You have to let go of that guilt.

 

**Roni Maislish speaking:**

Yes, and sometimes it takes years of psychotherapy to understand and develop the capacity to give yourself that kind of energy. It’s not just about food and eating—you can give yourself this energy from other perspectives.

 

**Vince Vasquez speaking:**

So it’s important to look at your whole lifestyle rather than singling out one specific thing if you want to move in a more positive direction.

 

**Roni Maislish speaking:**

Yes, and in our Western society, we don’t do that enough. Not enough therapists, professionals, or doctors look at the whole picture. We need to consider all parts and how everything is connected.

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