What do you do when you’re ready to commit to a healthier lifestyle, but your partner recoils at the sight of any vegetable? (And any path to better health you can choose that’s worth a damn WILL include more vegetables…)
Long story short, you do you and you let him do him.
(Or her do her… I will be using male pronouns here since it’s applicable to my situation, but don’t doubt that I’m inclusive.) And if your partner will not A) eat the new healthy food you cook, or B) eat something else, then… you have serious relationship problems on which I am not qualified to advise you.
If your partner chooses option B (as mine has), make no mistake, life in the kitchen (and possibly other rooms) is about to get topsy-turvy. Even if you manage not to cuss each other out while cooking dinner because you’re fighting over the oven and you keep running into each other, it can be really tough to make healthy changes for yourself, start feeling the benefits, and watch your beloved continue to suffer from difficulties you know could likely be improved with diet and lifestyle changes. There is such a fine line between loving your partner the way they are (of course you do) and being concerned about how your future together could be impacted by their health choices (you have every right to be!)
So… what do you do?
- Lead by example only. Preaching the gospel of your diet, whether it’s my beloved Whole30 or Slimfast, is akin to your overzealous evangelical uncle telling everyone they’re going to hell. The last place you want to set foot in is his church whenever he does that crap! And body language is important too. That deep sigh of disappointment you want to exhale when you walk in the door and see him with a donut? Just keep it inside (or go somewhere else and let it out). It won’t stop him from eating it and will only pile bricks onto what could become a wall between you two.
- That being said…Communication is still important. If you’re making some sudden dietary changes, tell your partner what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. (I feel like this should go without saying, since most people in relationships tend to discuss their major life changes, but just in case…) Just be clear the changes you’re making are 100% about you and his participation is not required. No point in trying to do this by sneaking bites of zucchini noodles behind his back when he’s not looking.
- Get support from friends, local or online. Social media has its complications, but I couldn’t imagine sticking to my health goals without being so easily connected to friends (and strangers) all over the world who are doing the same. Search the #whole30 (or whatever health-thing you’re into) hashtag on Instagram and follow people who post yummy-looking dishes and inspiring quotes. I live in a small town, but luckily in one that has a thriving “real food” Facebook group that connects health-minded individuals in my area together so we can easily find locally-raised produce and pastured meat and eggs. If your town doesn’t have a resource like this, maybe try to start one? And if you are lucky enough to have real-life friends who would try something like the Whole30 with you, jump all over that!
- Cook only the food you should be eating (for the most part). If your spouse wants junk food, he can prepare his own. You’ll see this statement in a lot of articles about this subject, and it is great for the most part, but don’t be a jerk about it. I’m NOT cooking two meals every night, but if my husband is working late on spaghetti night, I will start the water boiling for his angel hair pasta. I’m not a complete ass.
- Separate your food from your partner’s food – or not. Many people in this situation have found success with corralling all her partner’s junk food into one area of the pantry/refrigerator, then never opening that drawer/pulling out that basket Ever Again. I’m not organized enough to sustain such a rule, and I actually feel less like the weirdo family health nut when all my ingredients are right there beside the Froot Loops, like it’s no big deal. Either approach could work for you – just try different things and see what feels right!
- Combine as many meal components as possible. Bunless burgers for you/regular burgers for him, spaghetti with squash for you/spaghetti with pasta for him, etc. We eat steak a lot with baked potatoes. (I prefer sweet, he is team russet.) But also….
- Cook at least one completely selfish meal per week that no one else in your house would ever touch with a ten-foot pole. Make it a ridiculously luxurious, comforting (but healthy) recipe that will make you feel like royalty while you are dining on it. Pack it for your lunch, or eat it when the rest of the house wants to order pizza. This trick will elevate being your house’s healthy weirdo to a weekly-mani/pedi-level of self-indulgence.
- Encourage small steps. The cold-turkey approach of diving right into a Whole30 worked VERY well for me to jump-start healthy habits, but that kind of approach is not for everyone. A really easy place to start is by replacing margarine and industrial seed oils with grass-fed butter and coconut oil. Try going gluten-free for a while before progressing to grain-free. And so forth!
- Do stuff together. (Another relationship no-brainer that I’m including just in case.) If you don’t already have hobbies you enjoy together, find something you both enjoy that won’t derail your health goals. Read a book together. Watch a series on Netflix together. Play board games. Try a new sport. Or just go walk around Lowe’s.
- Love the shit out of him. Force it when needed. When this health-goal-separation frustrates you so much (and it will at times) you don’t even want to look at him, go kiss him on the lips.