Is your household burning out on your goal to lose weight and get fit? Support each other! Here’s how to make it easier for your partner–and you!–to eat healthy at home, without becoming their parent or parole officer. From Love Me Slender: How Smart Couples Team Up to Lose Weight, Exercise More, and Stay Healthy TOGETHER.
Food-wise, people tend to fare poorly in settings that make bad choices easier than healthy ones. We can take this insight and turn it around on behalf of our partners; we can create environments that make healthy choices easier. Look around your kitchen and pantry and ask yourself how easy it is to find the unhealthy foods compared with the healthy ones:
• Is there a bowl of M&M’s on the counter? Move it to the closet and replace it with a bowl of tangerines. You’re not throwing out the sweets, just making them less easy to grab.
• Going shopping for your household? Think of filling your cart with fresh fruits and whole grains. If your partner wants sweets and salty snacks, he or she can still go out and get them, but you don’t have to facilitate unhealthy behaviors.
• Consider the powerful fact that we all tend to finish whatever is put on our plates. Rather than heaping your partner’s plate full of food, with another bowl on the table for seconds, try putting less on your partner’s plate to start with, and leave the leftovers in the fridge.
If you can create a home in which healthy choices are just easier to make, your partner will find it easier to make healthy choices. And—bonus!—you’ll find it easier, too.
MODEL HEALTHY BEHAVIORS. Part of setting up a healthy environment for our partners is recognizing that we are the most influential part of our partners’ environments. The better care we take of ourselves, the better it will be for our partners’ health. You may not be the one trying to lose weight, but would you be willing to cut down on desserts for a while if it would help your partner to lose weight? Your meat-and-potatoes partner might not be a fan of fresh vegetables, but those veggies might look a lot more appealing if you seem to be enjoying them. And the best way to help your partner eat smaller portions is to serve smaller portions to yourself as well. Yes, all these ways of supporting our partners require that we make sacrifices. Making sacrifices for our partner is a great way to show our love for them and our support for their health goals.
GET CREATIVE. It’s one thing to say, “Eat more vegetables!” but it’s quite another to say, “Hey, honey, remember how much you like beets? I found this recipe and was hoping we could make it together. Do we have any balsamic vinegar?” Think about ways to make healthier foods more exciting and delicious. It can be done, and here is where partnering and parenting overlap in an appropriate way.
Parents of young children often wrestle with similar challenges. How do I get those I love and care for to eat healthy foods that they may not like? Cookbooks for parents like Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld and The Sneaky Chef by Missy Chase Lapine are full of . . . well, tricks for tucking healthy ingredients into foods that kids will want to eat. It turns out that the same cooking techniques apply equally well when cooking for reluctant adults. Researching and experimenting with new techniques and recipes is a way of turning a chore into an adventure, of enticing our partners to make better choices instead of demanding them.
START SMALL. Partners who are trapped in the All-or-Nothing Fallacy assume that the only way to affect their partners is through severe behaviors like nagging, throwing out all the junk food, or monitoring their partners’ every bite. In fact, relationships are a context where little things really do mean a lot. So, if you care about your partner’s health, start small. Don’t worry about negotiating a big agreement between you and your partner; just take the initiative on your own. You can start today if you like. Eat a bit less, or a bit better. Buy less food, or buy healthier food. Try waiting a week before you buy your favorite baked goods.