10 Ways to Help Your Spouse Eat Healthy
Slam. Click. That’s what I heard on the receiver of my phone. I clearly had pissed off the person on the other end of the phone.
Let me rewind a bit. I’m 20 years old. At the time I was dating a girl who happened to be sick – a lot. I was just to change my major to exercise science. I was also learning about training and earned the “health nut” label by those who knew me. My then girlfriend asked, over the phone, if she should start working out. Thinking about her constant colds made me reply with a simple “yep.” Thus the hang up. Days later I learned that she thought I was saying she was overweight and needed to workout to look good.
While in your 20’s you have the time – and the flare-for dramatics like this. But getting your spouse, partner, or friend to eat healthy requires some fine tuning. Communicating isn’t as easy as you thought, as things can get lost in translation. Say one thing wrong and you get hung up on. As a personal trainer I learned early that results came from clear communication.
Which is the point of this post. This article isn’t about your spouse. It’s about you. If you want your support system to step on board then it’s your responsibility to set the standard. Communicate well and expect good things. Become impatient and things will unravel right in front of you.
This also isn’t about change. You shouldn’t be trying to force anyone to do anything they don’t want to do. Change has to occur organically. Bodybuilders live with people who eat only pizza and sugar. Olympic athletes are married to spouses who don’t train 15+ hours a week. Support is one thing, but your results aren’t dependent on someone else doing a complete lifestyle overhaul.
With that being said, here are 10 ways your spouse can help you eat healthy.
- No ultimatums. Don’t approach your partner with a “do this or else” mentality. Ultimatums reinforce the thought that change is something that causes pain.
- Avoid “stories.” Sometimes we tell ourselves stories to understand someone else’s behavior. With fitness, this can turn into “she’s purposefully eating those doughnuts to try and sabotage my results.” Your partner probably has a legitimate reason as to why they are eating the way they are.
- Values and priorities. Getting to know your partner helps. They might just not value eating well. That may have learned from a young age to focus more on work than taking care of themselves. The more you understand why they do the things they do then the easier solutions will come.
- Be nice. If you’re going to talk to someone about their lifestyle choices, expect to run into a brick wall. It’s only natural for people to get defensive. Some might feel like they’re being attacked even if you’re not on the offensive. So just choose your words wisely and be patient.
- Start small. Cold turkey never works. Ditto for extreme overhauls. So start small. Introduce a new, simple habit. It might be having some asparagus with dinner each night. Or swapping their sugar laced cereal with oatmeal. Once the habit becomes automatic (like when your partner says “where’s the veggies?” when you cook dinner) bring in a new habit.
- Do it in private. Having junk food in the house can be a temptation for some. Asking your spouse to dispose of it is kind of strong. They might not be ready for that. But you can compromise. They can have their own secret stash. Ask politely if they’ll eat that stuff in another room, away from you. Emphasis on politely.
- Educate. Healthy meals shouldn’t taste like dirt. Show your partner that eating healthy should taste good. If you don’t know how to do that, then step your kitchen game up. Taking classes at a local community college can help, or even a simple google search. In fact, it can help to seek out a bodybuilder or physique athlete. They’ll have plenty of recipes that taste great.
- Budget. Have a budget meeting. Sounds like a wild night, right? But in all seriousness, set an amount allocated to eating out, takeout, and alcohol. This creates a sensible limit while still giving you some balance in life. It can also help you save money.
- Encourage success. How many times a day do you hear how awesome you are? Probably not a lot, since most people are wrapped up in their own little world. Give your partner an unexpected compliment. It can go a long way. Figuring out what they value can really help. If your partner wants to feel strong and confident, then compliment how strong they look. My personal training clients get pumped up when family and friends take notice of their changes. A few spoken words can be a huge influence.
- Clean slate policy. The two of you are going to have setbacks. It happens. Simply wipe the slate clean and start fresh after a road bump. Spend less time arguing about who dropped the ball and more time on moving forward.
Change isn’t impossible. But it starts with you. If you want your support system to tag along with you, it’s going to be a lot of hard work on your part. But like they say, nothing worth having is easy.