Tips to make couple closer together

Melissa Palmer remembers the struggle she and her husband Justin Ellis faced as soon-to-be newlyweds in late 2014, trying to find clothes that would fit him. They took trips to five different stores in search of a vest, and ended up having to have one custom ordered.

At 330 pounds, Justin was bordering on morbidly obese. He wore size 46 pants and took four different medications to manage a Rolodex of health issues: diabetes, high blood pressure and a high triglyceride count among others. He ate unhealthily and rarely exercised. Melissa, on the other hand, was an avid runner and triathlete. She ate well and kept track of her BMI. But she understood Justin’s troubles.

Both Melissa, 41, and Justin, 36, had struggled with weight from a young age. Melissa’s troubles only increased as a student at the University of South Carolina. By 2001, she weighed more than 230 pounds. She made valiant efforts to lose weight, dropping nearly 100 pounds at one point, but in 2005, back surgery derailed her fitness efforts and the scale crept back up over 200.

In 2009, Melissa began walking and watching her diet again. The feel-good effects from those small changes encouraged her to join a couch to 5K program—and sign up for an actual 5K race to cement her commitment. By the time the race rolled around in October 2009, she was down to 180 pounds.

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“I always thought running was something I could never do,” she recalls. “But something inside of me clicked after that first 5K. I thought, ‘Ok, I can do this.’” She began racking up the miles and within a year dropped another 40 pounds and completed her first half marathon, the Governor’s Cup in Columbia, South Carolina.

Crossing that finish line made her finally consider herself a runner. “It’s like anything in life: you just start,” says Melissa. “Once I ran four miles, I wondered what it would feel like to run five. And every time I ran, I just wanted to run more.” To date, she’s completed 35 races.

Conquering the Challenges
Justin watched Melissa’s transformation, first as a friend and then as a romantic partner. He was proud of her accomplishments, but did not feel inspired himself. “I was a little too young naïve, and cocky to let that motivate me,” he says.

“He’s a very stubborn person,” Melissa laughs. “So while I would encourage him to eat healthier and move more, it would go in one ear and out the other.”

Still, she continued her fitness journey. In 2013 she competed in a duathlon—biking and running—then finished her first triathlon in 2014.

“I never thought I’d get into triathlons because I really hate swimming,” Melissa explains. During that first sprint race, she could only swim backstroke and was the second-to-last person out of the water. “It was embarrassing. But because I’m really competitive with myself, learning how to swim better became another challenge,” she says. With the help of a local sports coach, she tackled this next hurdle, spending hours in the pool correcting her technique and actively working against her deep-seated aversion to water.