So, you are trying to live a thoughtful and healthy lifestyle, but maybe your partner or other family members have not jumped on your wellness train. Dealing with your own inner demons and possibly destructive behaviors can be a daily battle all by 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 for so many of us. It’s hard enough being “out there”…but what if the 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 place to make healthy living stick. 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 voila’… dinner! (Usually right next to the gallon of cookie dough ice cream too. All you need is more willpower, 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 to get healthy?
Growing up I didn’t learn much about food. We just…ate! I was like any average American kid in the 80s and 90s, eating an average diet American kid diet; it did indeed include pop tarts, Kraft Mac n Cheese, and tons of 90s junk food!
As a new bride in my mid-20s, I had a desire to cook and prepare meals for my new husband but was exploring what impact food had on me. 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…a full garbage bag! Next, I learned how to cook with real food (kind of anyways, I wouldn’t say that I’m really a good cook!) My husband also values being healthy, but not like me. 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’s been a good sport, but reels me in if I am getting off balance or overly focused on food. Therefore, I think that I am pretty lucky to have a good support system in my home. We don’t do all of our food shopping at the local farmer’s market, buy all organic, or regularly visit 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, so we must find practical ways to work together so we can ALL 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 without ever needing to go on meds!
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 audiobook for the daily commute could create a new habitude or at least make for an interesting dinner conversation. (Please keep in mind that when you’re watching, listening, or reading something new or different, we don’t have to agree with everything the writers say in order to take-a-way a few nuggets to apply.
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 afterward (or don’t!). You get the picture.
4. It’s all about taste!
Serve fresh, in-season vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are actually quite tasty when they are picked, prepared, and used at peak season and not served out of a can.
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 likes the salad. If Susie cringes at the salad you know she appreciates the fruit you have prepared for dessert.
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. Taking a coffee in a travel mug from home, or packing that lunch to carry top work really does save a ton of money!
7. Get creative.
If your family or spouse doesn’t like what you’re cooking, move on. Try some other recipes. Keep showing them that eating healthy and clean can taste good. Don’t give up.
8. Be open.
Share reasons for why being healthy is so important to you. The purpose here is not to nag or make our loved ones feel bad. 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. Try new companies.
Have fun trying new brands of better and organic products.
10. Refine your language.
Describe your recipes as “tasty” rather than healthy. Think of it as a bonus that the food you prepare is healthy!
11. Don’t be a short order cook.
Tell the people you are serving that this is what we are eating…like it or leave it!
12. One polite bite rule.
Make sure your family at least tries it.
Keep it simple silly! It’s difficult in today’s hurried world and our busy schedules 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, or sign on for a few days/week of a healthy meal delivery service. If you know that your loved one will not reach into the refrigerator and make a salad or reach for a healthy snack even though all of the fixings are staring at them, do some prep work to make it easier than opening up a bag of chips. The cost may outweigh the savings in the long run!
14. Don’t buy junk food.
If you don’t buy it, we can’t eat it. Crazy, right??
However, I have heard that this can create a war zone in certain households. 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’s 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 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 donuts!
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 can instill in each of our kids the value of health and wellness when they are young, but the choice to eat right and move is still going to be up to them as they grow. At the end of the day: You. Control. You.
If you have any additional tips, I would love to hear them!