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Three couples share the ways they look after each other on the inside and out
Chloe, 23, and Charlie, 28 (pictured above), from Nottingham, work for a digital marketing agency and have been together for a year.
CHLOE: ‘Starting out in the working world put a real halt to my fitness. I was a keen runner at university, but when I got a full-time job in 2016, I was so busy that I rarely took a lunch break. And living four minutes from the office meant I didn’t even get much exercise walking there and back.
When I began dating Charlie, I noticed that he’d be irritable if he didn’t go to the gym regularly, which made me think my daily stresses were being compounded by a lack of exercise. So when, after four months together, Charlie suggested I join him on a run, I agreed.
Initially, I struggled to keep up. But I felt amazing afterwards, so I started to run regularly. I’ve been doing it several times a week for almost a year now – sometimes with Charlie and sometimes alone – and I feel more energised and more productive at work. By continually telling me that I’m strong and fearless, Charlie has given me the confidence to get fit and try things I never thought possible.
Last summer, in south Wales, he took me surfing for the first time. I discovered that I was a natural and I can’t wait to do it again. I’ve even signed up to run the London Marathon on my own in April. We’re also planning a ski trip this February, as it’s something I’ve always wanted to try. I feel happier, healthier and more adventurous than ever before – and I owe it all to Charlie.’
Charlie has given me the confidence to get fit and try things I never thought possible
CHARLIE: ‘The look of joy on Chloe’s face when she stood up on her surf board for the first time is a memory I’ll always treasure. When I met her, she was working so hard she didn’t make time for herself. I go to the gym, do weights or run most days, because exercise keeps me grounded – so I encouraged Chloe to start running again. I hoped that, if she got back into it, it would also give her the confidence to try new ways to keep fit. It worked.
The wonderful thing about encouraging Chloe to exercise is seeing her blossom. Not only does she have more vitality, but she’s happier. And she’s good for my health, too. Chloe’s a vegetarian and she reminds me to have more variety in my diet, so I’ve become a vegetable lasagne fan. I even add extra greens to my meaty mains. The house we now share is a 30-minute stroll from work, so Chloe insists we walk instead of taking the car. It’s a time for us to relax and enjoy being together. Having that shared love of staying fit and healthy has definitely made us closer.’
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Rob, 53 (above right), a business analyst and Michael, 45 (above left), who works in sales, live in London and have been together for eight years.
ROB: ‘Before I met Michael, I thought I ate well. I made all my meals for the week in advance, using a lot of shop-bought sauces which I bumped up with vegetables, and put them in freezer bags. When Michael found out, he laughingly referred to my meals as “bag food” and explained that the sauces could be packed with sugar.
He introduced me to organic food and cooking from scratch, which I’d never done before, and showed me how to make delicious curries packed with nutrients. He’s my very own masterchef. And the healthy lifestyle changes I made meant I had a lot more energy.
Dinner for me used to mean scoffing something I’d heated up in the microwave, but when we moved in together several years ago, Michael wanted us to make mealtimes special. So he’s banned the TV and phones while we’re at the dinner table and now our time is spent discussing work, family or simply laughing about our days. I really believe this chance to unwind and talk is as vital to our health as our diet. Eating a home-cooked meal with the man I love is my favourite part of the day. It’s a key reason why our relationship is so happy.’
Eating a home-cooked meal with the man I love is my favourite time of the day
MICHAEL: ‘As a teenager, I was bullied because I was overweight, but studying Home Economics at secondary school sparked my interest in nutrition. As I got older, I read books and blogs about healthy eating. I lost weight, felt good, and my confidence soared.
When I met Rob, I could see he was trying to eat well, but there was too much processed food in his diet, such as the sauces he poured over everything. As healthy eating had changed my life in such positive ways, I wanted him to experience that, too. I showed him quick recipes, such as stir-fries, which could be made in minutes!
Laughing over a stove brought us closer together and good nutrition has become a huge part of our lives. Rob and I love one another so much that we don’t want poor health choices to mean we’re a burden on each other in our old age.
Even though I’ve led the way with our healthy lifestyle, Rob has taught me that it consists of far more than diet and exercise. He’s an extrovert and encourages me to go out more. Even though I don’t want to sometimes, I always enjoy myself. He brings me out of my shell, which helps me relax.’
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Vicki, 63, a nurse, and Paul, 64, a charity worker (above), from Southampton, have been together for 30 years.
VICKI: ‘This time next year, we’ll be in Canada, the sun on our backs, hiking around the snow-capped Rockies and surrounded by nature. Being fit and healthy so we can enjoy our retirement is a major priority for Paul and I, and 13 years ago, it motivated us to quit smoking together – a relief for our lungs and our wallets. If either of us wavered, we’d remind each other of that vision of us climbing mountains, walking long, wooded trails and exploring beaches.
Last November, doctors warned me that I was severely obese, so I wanted to work hard on losing weight and Paul was keen to support me. Together, we ditched the regular takeaways and favourites, such as chips and pork chops. Now Paul does the shopping – stocking up on healthy food such as fish, salads and wholegrain bread – while I cook.
We also exercise more and spend our weekends on long walks, while we average 10,000 steps on weekdays.
Like when we quit smoking, Paul doesn’t nag if I waver. He just reminds me about our plans for Canada (and Costa Rica the year after), which helps me focus. So far, I’ve lost two stone and Paul’s lost one – we expect more to drop off as we keep up our new lifestyle. Healthy retirement, here we come!’
If we wavered, we’d remind each other of that vision of us climbing mountains
PAUL: ‘I felt an instant connection with Vicki on our first date and knew I wanted to grow old with her. I love photography and we hope to spend our retirement travelling the world, taking pictures and experiencing new things. I don’t want ill health to prevent it.
So when Vicki suggested that we make changes to our diet, it gave me the push I needed to drop a few pounds, too. It helps that Vicki knows how to cook tasty, healthy meals. She used to make my favourite bacon sandwich for lunch every day, but now I have prawn or tuna.
Seeing the effort she goes to makes me feel loved and I know Vicki feels the same when I go shopping, ensuring the fridge is packed with her favourite healthy yoghurts so she doesn’t snack on junk food.
Vicki is good at sticking to things, but if she needs a gentle push, I’m there. When we go on our walks, for example, I’m aware she hates the hills, so I’ll slow down. I know that when she gets to the top she’ll gasp at the view – and be glad she did it. We’ve always worked as a team – and always will.’
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Words Fiona Ford Photography Gemma Day