What is it like when you are living a thoughtful, healthy lifestyle, but your partner or other family members have not yet jumped on your wellness train? Dealing with your own inner demons and possibly destructive behaviors can be a daily mountain climb in and of itself. But in the over processed, sugar crazed, drive-thru, world we know as the norm, creating a healthy lifestyle continues to be a battle. What if that battle continues when we close the door to the outside world and enter what should be the safe zone…home?
I believe, for some, home proves to be the most difficult. I know many families out there that have kitchens filled with his and hers food items. There are dinners for kids and dinners for adults. There is a shelf in the freezer for mom’s diet foods; those meals that you pull out and cut a slit in the plastic and toss in the microwave for three minutes and viola’… dinner! (Usually right next to the gallon of Cookie Dough Ice Cream too. All you need is more will power, right?!) If our family members are addicted to the traditional American diet of convenient and over processed food items, how can we help convince them that eating real food is the key to health, strength, vitality, healing, and personal responsibility? How can we help a reluctant loved one to take the next step?
Growing up I did not learn much about food. We just liked it! I was like any average American, eating an average diet. I had some GI issues, allergy issues, and off and on headaches as a child. As a new bride, I had a desire to cook and prepare meals for my new husband, but was exploring some of my headache complications in relation to my diet. What did being healthy actually mean now? (Read more about my journey here!) The more I read, researched, and spoke with various people, the more I learned. The first thing I did was throw away the fat-free and processed convenience foods. I learned how to cook with real food (kind of anyways, I would not say I am a good cook whatsoever!) My husband also values being healthy, but I was taking it all in, month after month, year after year. Honey, do you want a spinach, carrot, beet, and green apple juice for breakfast too?! He has been a good sport, but reels me in if I am getting off balance or overly focused on food. Therefore I feel I am lucky to have a good support system in my home. We do not do all of our food shopping at the local farmer’s market or Whole Foods. But we do make thoughtful choices when and where our budget allows as that has been a part of our journey as well.
When I meet with friends and clients this topic usually comes up. Houses are divided, and we must find practical ways to work together so we ALL can live happier healthier lives…together.
Here are some tips and great ideas for convincing a reluctant love one to be healthy:
1. What’s your motivation? Asthma, allergies, acne, or arthritis? Eating clean could help. No ailments? Then get a health screen to see what your baselines are. It’s always good to know your blood pressure, lipid profile, and glucose readings. Often ditching highly processed foods, sugar, and junk foods will take care of many health issues!
2. Watch a movie together. Food Inc., Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, or Jamie Oliver’s TED talk, might stir the pot a bit. I also enjoyed Michael Pollen’s, In Defense of Food, and Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Reading these or grabbing them on audio book for the daily commute could create an new habitude or at least make for an interesting dinner conversation. (Please keep in mind that when being willing to watch or read something that challenges our former thought process, we do not have to agree with everything the writers are discussing. However, if we walk away with just one new idea or change we would like to implement, we are growing and making a personal lifestyle plan.)
3. Make old favorites with better ingredients. Swap out grocery store red meat for local farm raised grass-fed meat or even lean ground turkey. Use whole wheat or brown rice pasta instead of white. Sneak veggies into meals and tell the fam about it afterwards (or don’t!). You get the picture.
4. Serve fresh, in-season vegetables. Vegetable are actually quite tasty when they are picked, prepared, and used at peak season and not served out of a can.
5. Make sure that there is something on the dinner table that everyone likes. For example; if Tommy doesn’t like salmon, then you know he likes the sweet potatoes. If hubby hates sweet potatoes you know he like the salad. If Susie cringes at the salad you know she appreciates the fruit you have prepared for dessert. (This idea was given to me by one of my spin class participants and I think it’s brilliant!)
6. Track, share, and compare spending. Our motto here is that every dollar counts. It doesn’t feel like it in the moment, but those fast food dollars really do add up when you look back.
7. If your family or spouse doesn’t like what you are cooking, move on. Try some other recipes. Keep showing them that eating healthy and clean can taste good. Don’t give up.
8. Share reasons on why being healthy is important for you. The purpose here is not to nag. However, if our motivation is out of genuine love and concern, we can hope that eventually our passion for a healthy lifestyle will rub off!
9. Have fun buying new brands of better and organic products.
10. Describe your recipes as “tasty” rather than healthy. Think of it as a bonus that the food you prepare is healthy!
11. Tell the people you are serving that this is what we are eating…like it or leave it!
12. Make sure your family at least tries it. (Three bite rule anyone? One bite at least?!)
13. It is difficult in today’s hurried world to take some extra time for cutting, chopping, and cooking! If your budget allows for it, take the extra it may cost, and purchase the pre-chopped vegetables. If you know that your loved one will not reach into the refrigerator and make a salad or healthy snack even though all of the fixings are staring at them, do some prep work to make it easier than opening up a processed package of easy mac. The cost may outweigh the savings in the long run!
14. Don’t buy junk food. If it is not in the house, the family can not eat it. However, I have heard that this can create a war zone in certain house holds. Wives are telling me that husbands go out and buy their own stash and children go on hunger strike and threaten to call the authorities. And it is not always the husband causing the problems. I know some men who long for the sugar to be out of sight and out of mind, but the wives are in charge of the grocery shopping. This is a difficult thing to navigate that takes continual on-going communication. As partners, we often feed off of each. When both are on the wagon, it’s great. But when both fall off…hello ice-cream, pizza, and doughnuts!
Husband: Honey, let’s just get a pizza?
Wife: But you said you didn’t want to do that any more.
Husband: I didn’t really mean it.
Wife: You didn’t?
Wife: Ok. Let’s do it! I don’t feel like cooking anyways!
5 pieces later….
Husband: Ugh…Why did you let me do that?!
Wife: Me?! You told me you wanted pizza!
15. This brings me to my last tip. You control you. This was a great piece of advice from Corey’s story. We are all responsible for ourselves. We live in a country where we are bombarded with poor eating choices by the minute. We can instill in each of our children the value of wellness when they are young, but the choice to eat right and move is still indivual. At the end of the day: You. Control. You.
If you have any additional tips, I would love to hear them!