How to Eat Healthy When Your Spouse Isn't on Board
In many ways, I have my husband to credit for my love of food. We were raised with very different mindsets about nutrition, and I am from the family that puts emphasis on healthy eating. But even though I was raised with more knowledge of health, I was picky. For the first two years of our high school dates, I ate chicken fingers and nothing else, a stark contrast to the nutrient packed food I was fed at home. Ross wasn't interested in healthy food, but he loved a variety of food, and he forced me out of my comfort zone by taking me to a ton of restaurants and encouraging me to try new things. To this day, eating out is our favorite hobby!
When I was in college, I began to transition into the world of health food on my own accord. My chicken fingers and grilled cheese were traded in for kale salads and egg scrambles, and my interest in nutrition and fitness has only grown since that time. Though Ross has gone through several health transitions of his own, I think we'd both agree that his love for nutrition doesn't rival mine. However, I am blessed with a husband who has always been my cheerleader in this area and never protested my passions or my cooking. Well..the first year of marriage cooking was less than stellar (he actually took over the kitchen), but now I'm all good!
Regardless of your relationship dynamic, if you're reading this post, we probably have something in common. In fact, I would say that tons of couples face this dilemma:
How do I change my habits when my spouse isn't making the same change?
I'm sure that most of us, when we started dating our spouse, enjoyed shared interests with our significant other. Either that, or we were too much in the infatuation stage of the relationship to voice our differences. And if we're being honest, food is a central element of relationship. We commune over meals, decide how to spend our finances on groceries, and have to make choices about when and where to eat out. So, how does one member of the relationship shift their priorities when the other person doesn't feel inclined to do the same?
In my opinion, successfully living a healthy lifestyle when your spouse isn't on board hinges on 3 main elements: finances, flavor, and friends.
Thankfully, I am the budgeter, grocery shopper, and cook in my household, but I get questions from women all the time who say, "I want to buy healthier food for my family, but my husband is frustrated by the cost." My man is more of the "spend $$$ on whatever you want type", which gives me a great advantage in the food department! But, if you're a woman who doesn't control the purse strings, my advice to you is twofold: present your research and compare prices.
Healthy food can seem like an unnecessary splurge when you are uninformed. So, rather than present your new shopping plan as a fad diet or New Year's resolution, have an honest conversation with your spouse about why healthy food matters, with facts to back it up. Beyond that, getting the food you want on your budget may require you to shop at multiple places, price hunt online, and/or make sacrifices in your own spending (bye, bye shopping sprees). If you're serious about getting healthy, show your spouse that you are willing to go without something else to sacrifice for what you want. When we first got married, I was making 0 money and had just opened a new business. I gave up any shopping, manicures, trips, etc., and rearranged my budget so that my nutrition didn't suffer. When you really want it, you make it happen.
Ah yes, the old, "healthy food sucks" mentality. I'm going to be honest with you - if your healthy food doesn't taste good, you're doing it wrong! As I eluded earlier, when we first got married, my poorly cooked, plain chicken and veggies wasn't winning me any brownie points. So, if your spouse is less than impressed with the food you want to eat, it could be that you need to work on your cooking skills! Find your spouse's favorite dishes, and healthify them! Honestly, I think this is the main reason that Ross would say he enjoys eating healthy food! I don't just make salads, but I fill our house with paleo baked goods, Asian dishes, and grainless pizza (and sometimes, I eat the real stuff, too)!
Baby steps also go a long way. If you're in the process of shifting your habits, maybe you ease your spouse in slowly, occasionally make different meals for yourself, and clean up the ingredient list. Remember to still eat out, have fun, and have balance when it comes to treats you love to share together, too! Make sure they know you're not ditching them for life on the food train.
Food is a social thing. I'm on the Whole30 right now, and I've been to several friend gatherings this month. At those get togethers, I've either packed my own meal or eaten beforehand. No one has made me feel bad or strange, but I've definitely received a lot of comments that sound like this, "Oh I don't know how you can do that! It would make me feel terrible to miss out!"
While I'm all for eating out with friends and enjoying life together, I think our culture has a real problem if we make ourselves feel less-than for putting our health before peer-pressure. If you really want the splurge, by all means, get after it! But if you are only drinking, having dessert, or eating a "junk" food because you feel pressured to, that's a personal issue that needs to be addressed. We need to be strong enough to stand in our convictions, even in the little things.
When it comes to food and friends, I think it is crucial that your spouse supports your choices, even if he/she doesn't choose to do the same. Make sure you communicate with your spouse and let them know that it's important that they have your back, and don't let them join in on the teasing that may come in your direction from other people. Even if your spouse doesn't share your health goals, they can still be your cheerleader, as we should strive to be for each other in all areas.
It's completely possible to stick to your goals even when the people around you are on a different path, but within the context of marriage, it will always require communication, honesty, and compromise (just like everything else). Remember that your spouse is there to support you and encourage you to be your best self, so if they're not on board with your health goals, then it's time to have an honest conversation and look at the areas you can change your own habits (budgeting/cooking) to help them see your perspective.
Can you relate? Have questions? Let me know in the comments!