Marla K. Ruhana, Psychotherapist

Women's Renewal Retreats

Stop Criticizing, Start Caring on Valentine’s Day
By Andrea Nobile-Westfall, Macomb Daily Staff Writer

The day devoted to love is tomorrow. Consider that before you nag your spouse about eating six cookies you baked for everyone BUT them.

That’s the message nutrition expert and author Dr. Rovenia M. Brock is preaching this Valentine’s Day.

Brock, a Washington native known as Dr. Ro to fans of Black Entertainment Television’s “Heart & Soul,” knows firsthand how important it is NOT to whine to a spouse struggling with weight issues.

Her husband, Dr. Murray Riggins, is a big guy who carries most of his weight in his midsection. The two have been married for five years. Weight has been a lifelong battle for him.

“There are people falling out of love and abandoning their relationships and their marriages because of it,” she said. “There are things I have to do and not do in support of my husband.”

St. Clair Shores psychotherapist Marla Ruhana stresses the importance of being pro-active as well.

Both spouses need to know the emotional, social and physical triggers that cause one partner to overeat, then work together to eliminate those. It could be avoiding fattening family dinners, finding a neighbor to walk with, or getting the family to eat meals with a low glycemic index.

“We need social support to help us obtain goals,” said Ruhana, who is hosting a couple’s retreat June 27-29 in Lakeport, near Port Huron.

“People shaming people is only going to make them rebel,” she said. Positive support and changes in habits, including better diet and exercise, will do wonders. “They will enhance all your relationships, all the way around,” she added. Brock quickly learned that tender love, NOT tough love, was the key to keeping her marriage alive and well. “I didn’t marry a torso. I married his mind, his heart, everything,” she said. She often reminds him of that. “You are as fine as all outdoors. Know this,” she added. Brock recommends using Valentine’s Day to step away from the chocolate chastising — her husband once hid cookies in the closet — and instead remember just why you fell in love.

In other words, you’re in this together. Here are seven healthy ways to love your overweight partner:

1. Make over your kitchen. Toss out the temptations and stock up on healthier choices. Ready-to-go apples, strawberries, pineapple chunks, popcorn (perfect for munching around the television) and lowcalorie, low-fat frozen dinners for “emergency” meals.

2. Get moving. Grab your partner and go for a daily walk together. Even a quick stroll around the neighborhood is good for the heart and great for your marriage.

3. Put a new spin on old favorites. Don’t deprive, because it doesn’t work. Instead, modify your favorite meals. Steam, bake or broil instead of frying, and make good substitutions for “bad” ingredients such as fat-free chicken broth instead of butter.

4. Eat in. It’s easier to control ingredients and portions when you prepare. Cook more meals together.

5. Get tested. If your partner is behind on important tests such as cholesterol, start playing catch-up. If a problem is revealed, work on it as a team.

6. Take notice. Let your partner know you see his or her efforts to change. Celebrate every success, big or small.

7. Be a role model. Inspire your partner by feeling and looking great. Don’t preach, lead by example.

Brock’s book, “Dr. Ro’s Ten Secrets to Livin’ Healthy” ($6.99, Bantam) is available in paperback. More information at

For information on Marla Ruhana, including a women’s retreat focused on healthy choices Oct. 3-5, call 586-801-4701 or visit

Dr. Rovenia M. Brock, author of “Dr. Ro’s Ten Secrets to Livin’ Healthy,” with her husband of five years, Dr. Murray Riggins.