I think it’s normal for you to want your significant other to start taking better care of their health once you do. You realize how good YOU feel, how much you’re helping your health and future and you want the same for the person you love. You want to live a long happy life together and be 94 years old, holding hands in your rocking chairs and all that good stuff, right? This is a cute thought, but then you look over to see your S/O tearing apart a basket of all-you-can-eat cheese fries… and the grease on their face brings you back to reality.
Blog, meet Justin. This is my handsome, supportive partner in all things life. I couldn’t imagine going through this weight loss process, starting this blog, or really doing anything without his encouragement. He really is my number one fan and best friend. He also happens to be a 27 year old man with a fast metabolism and defined abs with no workout routine. We sort of hate him for that. He has always lived with other “dudes”, works in the restaurant industry often until 3 a.m. and wouldn’t list cooking as one of his favorite hobbies. Beer and burgers though? Definitely on the favorite hobbies list.
He’s doing his first Whole30 this month, after a few years of eating more and more of a whole foods based diet. It wasn’t an overnight switch in his tastes, habits and preferences. Some people (okay, I’m talking about men) are totally able to just stop what they’re doing and do a Whole30 or totally eliminate certain foods. Others are a little more resistant to letting go of the habits they’ve formed and all of their favorite foods. Especially when there’s no outward signs that they “need” too.
A lot of people ask me questions about how to help gently “push” their S/O to start making better choices with their food and their health. Maybe they’re overweight and have some health issues or maybe they’re fit (like mine is) but can house the junk like no other. Either way, whatever the reasoning, I do understand feeling the care and concern that comes with loving someone who might not make the most sound decisions when it comes to their overall health and wellness. Here’s a few of the main ways I helped nudge my boyfriend into eating a mostly Paleo, whole foods based diet.
1. Don’t Force, Guilt, or Scare Them Into It
Nothing makes me want to do the opposite of what I’m being told to do than when I’m being told to do it. Plus, we know that scare tactics and guilt trips don’t work, especially not long-term. You want them to find healthy habits for the right reasons… because they’ll feel better! Not because it’s easier than listening to someone nagging them over it. You want to create positive associations with healthy food instead of them being cornered into eating it and thinking “this sucks” the whole time, even if it’s actually delicious!
I make eating whole foods fun, exciting and something to look forward to. I never just give him a plate of lettuce and argue or guilt him into eating it because “#health”. I do it around a “date night” or make a delicious, savory, satisfying meal for him when I know he’s had a bad day. This makes the GOOD, HEALTHY food the best part of the day. Something happy to look forward to or a relaxing end to a crap day. That helps leave him with positive thoughts and correlations with eating well. Eventually, my boyfriend has realized (on his own) that eating healthy food actually helps him feel better and deal with his stress better than if he went out for bar food after a busy, long or hectic day.
2. Start Slowly Replacing and Cooking Old Favorites in a Healthier Way
Look, I know these are grown men and we don’t have to (shouldn’t have to) treat them like children… but, when this is all new to them and you’re the driving force behind wanting them to clean up their act… sometimes you have to do a bit of the work at first. If they have no reason to change what they’re doing besides you wanting them to, don’t expect them to be jumping up and down with joy or even knowing to replace bread crumbs with almond meal in their meatloaf. This stuff is going to be up to you for a while. Sorry.
But eventually they’ll see it’s not so different from what they know and love. Start recreating their favorite meals in a healthier way. Change the oils, flours, add more veggies where you can. Feed them a burger salad or burger casserole. Make boneless wings and chicken wings until their heart’s content. Show them they can have burrito bowls, nachos with plantain chips or loaded sweet potato fries. Don’t take away their meat and potatoes. Make salmon fajitas with extra veggies and pico. Make hearty meats like pulled pork, Mexican shredded chicken. Make easy one pan meals or slow cooker soups so he doesn’t think that cooking and eating well takes 5 hours of hard labor. Most of my boyfriend’s most loved foods I’ve remade in a way that is a fraction of the calories, carbs, and junky ingredients. He’s loved them all.
Even if you shoot for making 2 dinners a week that are a healthier spin on traditional meals, you’ll be heading in the right direction and positively impacting their health and habits.
I don’t know what it is, but dudes love putting sauce on their food. My boyfriend has a variety of favorites that I keep on hand which he likes getting to add to things that I wouldn’t have normally put it on myself. Like Frank’s on egg roll in a bowl or Yai’s Thai’s chili garlic hot sauce on his breakfast.
He is constantly asking if the Tessemae’s lemon garlic or habanero ranch would be good with grilled salmon, or if we should make wings with The New Primal’s spicy sauce. He tells me the buffalo chicken drummies I make are better than Buffalo Wild Wings and he can’t wait to use Primal Kitchen’s honey mustard to dip, coat or cover everything. I keep healthy options for mayo, ketchup and bbq on hand at all times. It helps him make his meals and meats HIS by being able to add whatever he wants to it, without me worrying about the sugar laden ketchup he’s dousing his food in. (Check out my Thrive Market list for the snacks and sauces I keep around!)
4. Ask For Their Input
Personalize the recipe to their tastes. Every time I make a new (to him) recipe, we always talk about what else could be added, what he’d do differently, if we should try this with a different meat/sauce/spice mix next time. It’s funny because what started out as me trying to help him enjoy eating Paleo actually turned into him becoming a major source of inspiration for this very blog! He’s always giving me recipe ideas now – these chorizo breakfast meatballs were actually his creation!
Asking for your significant other’s preferences and input helps you better understand what they need to make this sustainable. Are they tired or have low energy a few hours after eating? Maybe up the carb source. That meal doesn’t taste good to them as leftovers? Great! Now you know for next time and you’re on your way to fine-tuning your guys’ eating style. Asking for their input is also a good way to help them feel included in the decision making and let’s them know you’re genuinely interested in what they think.
5. Aim For Progress
Progress, not perfection, people. Most people just won’t do a 180 in a few days. Allow yourself to be okay with that! A little bit more veggies is better than none! With that, compromise where able. Let them add the cheese. If it’s going to make it more enjoyable for your partner, so be it. You don’t need to fight every battle and it’s a damn good thing most recipes are super easy to add cheese to the top of!
The same goes for things like coffee creamer, pasta, and beer. I’ve realized I can’t win every battle and if Justin is eating a 100% Paleo dinner and he wants a beer, well, so be it. If I’m making a pasta sauce and he just doesn’t want veggie noodles that night, I’ll just boil some healthier noodle options and let it be. He used to swear he “needed” his creamer in his coffee but over the last year has become a bigger fan of nutpods than I think I am (and I LOVE them!). Have some patience and be okay with the progress because the changes WILL come!
6. Finally, Lead by Example
Your significant other seeing you with tons of energy, looking and feeling better than you have in a while will be more of a reason for them to hop on board with you than you asking them to do it. Showing is always more powerful than telling! While it’s often easier to do this as a team, sometimes you just have to make the first move yourself and wait for them to come around once they see the positive impact it’s having on you.
At the end of the day, the only person you can really control is YOU but if your best friend is seeing all of these awesome benefits first hand, odds are pretty high that they’ll at least be interested in trying it for themselves, at which point you can help them by using these tips to gently ease them into it and get them on their way to feeling as good as you do. You can be the supporter or the nagger in these situations usually. I took the first option and now even going to the grocery store with my S/O is fun for us because he’s truly interested in learning more about food, where it comes from, and why it affects him the way that he’s learned it does.
If you have any questions or any other tips to share about how you helped someone you loved make healthier food decisions, please share them in the comments!
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