When Your Partner Isn't Into Eating Healthy
Ok, this is not an easy one. But it needs to be addressed. For it's real and can be a big deal breaker.
No one talks about this because it's such a sensitive subject. And luckily it doesn't happen to everyone. But when you want to change the way you eat and live, this knowledge can save your relationship.
Change starts with awareness.
Now the good news is; -let me tell you before you run off during the reality check below- at first it can be a drag when your food stops making up for the flaws in your relationship but at the same time, uncovering what wasn't working so well is the most precious opportunity to make your relationship better than ever before!
The biggest fear that my entrepreneurial clients all mention or face at some point of their journey to health, is...
Their significant other(s). How will they react? Will they support or sabotage?
Simply because when you do things together, it's so much easier. For most professional couples, healthy living takes 2 to tango.
These are the questions and remarks I always get when an expert is in a relationship and starts working with me:
"What about my husband?"
"My children don't want to eat vegetables."
"My boyfriend needs his meat."
"My wife is rolling her eyes and I can see her think: now what is he up to this time?"
Can you relate?
I admit: making food and lifestyle changes is easier when all you have to think about is "me, myself and I." No one to take into account, no fussing or arguing around: you make your own choices whenever you want. (We'll get into the challenges of single entrepreneurs in a different blog post.)
When you live together with a life partner and you change your food, you expect support, you hope for solidarity and the "We're in this together" feeling.
Experience tells us that this is not always the case. Some relationships do stumble when food changes.
Let me explain it step by step in all transparency and give you a few tactics that work.
FOOD IS A LANGUAGE
Which language brings you back together when you decide to talk a foreign language to your partner?
That's the first crucial fact for you to understand; we "talk" with and through our food. It's how we communicate non-verbally on an unconscious level with an unspoken "sign" language:
"I approve of you."
"We're in the same boat."
"I like your choices."
When you eat crap in group, you're all good. When you eat healthy in group, all is good.
But just think of the moment you decided to go on some kind of a diet all by yourself and were having dinner out with colleagues, friends or family.
At first there was no issue: you were choosing the same kind of dishes as they were, you ate rich dishes while having light and pleasant conversations, you got drunk together or sophisticated wine loosened up the spirit for silly laughter and fun. The only attention that went into the food was: "Wow, this is so good! Wonder what ingredients make it taste like this." And you fantasised in group about flavours.
But have you noticed that the vibe changes immediately when you choose to eat differently than the rest of your company? Meaning: healthy?
Let's say you choose to order a salad. "Are you serious? You're gonna eat a salad?" "What? You're not eating meat OR fish? No cheese or eggs either? What's wrong with you? Are you sick?"
Or you ask for a glass of water instead of wine. I remember when years ago one of my ex-bosses turned to the waiter during a restaurant visit, waiving his hand at me while saying scornfully: "Don't mind her: she's boring!"
The tone is set. Your plate becomes the middle of everyone's attention and conversations and you feel as if you have to justify yourself. This is usually that moment when you may tell the waiter: "I'll have what they have."
It's a fact: we want to "belong." We want to feel accepted by the group. And food does that.
If you stick to your choice, it's official: your healthy plate now becomes a "threat" to the mind and spirit of the group.
It's "you" against "them." But you will feel that they join forces against you.
Unconsciously, people feel threatened by healthy choices and perceive them as: "Oh, what I eat isn't good enough for you?" "You think you're better than me because you eat healthy?" Or they perceive it as a signal that they are doing things wrong.
As jalousie can pop up among people when you're successful in business, a similar jalousie manifests when you decide to make your own deviating food choices. You're achieving something that others keep struggling with: you're on a roll with your energy and looks!
That can be scary for your environment.
All of a sudden, you're talking a different "language" to your love, your friends and family. They don't understand what you mean. Your table becomes the land of "Babel."
And somehow, the table stories change. Can they still "trust" you? Conversations freeze, the atmosphere feels uncomfortable.
Just last week it happened again at a one day event when a nice guy sat down next to me in the sun, opened his lunch box, looked at mine and froze. "He took his sandwich with choco spread in his hand and apologised: "I'm so sorry I'm not eating healthy" he said. "I'll start tomorrow."
Food defines the quality of your communication (& relationship)
It becomes a big deal when your food choices mess with the relationship that's the closest to you: your love, your children.
Here are the 2 scenario's I have seen among my clients and beyond.
1. IT HAPPENS...
Some couples do split because of their food changes.
Now, I have to explain that.
That's what they think and blame at first! But they didn't split up because they started eating different.
They split because they took out the last connecting factor in their relationship: eating a lot of crap together and sharing superficial conversations about that, avoiding what they need to give attention.
Here's the thing about heavily processed food: it stuffs emotions very effectively. That's why it's so tough to get rid of having your potato chips in the evening or bucket of Ben and Jerry's in front of the TV. It smooths out the stress and relationship ripples of that day.
What you stuff doesn't need to be discussed or resolved.
But as soon as you start eating pure, that connection fades too. Your partner may feel upset. Alone. Eating crap all by him/herself. Without a topic to share something about. And a hash fell over the room.
All of a sudden it's right in your face: you realise that you used food to keep things easy and light during intimate moments at the table, where you're sitting face to face and have to talk about something.
The real emotions, frustrations, anger, sadness: whatever has been lingering in the background, come to the surface. And yes, they can lead to the inevitable: your roads part because you have nothing in common anymore at that point.
(But not necessarily. Just keep reading.)
Some take it very courageously and are happy that they made that choice. They thank their plant powered lifestyle for the freedom they wanted for so long but didn't dare walking into.
Others choose to give in, stop eating healthy and stay in an unhappy relationship. Their fear is bigger than the new knowledge that they choose for a partner who isn't willing to grow with them and to support their choices for the better.
Again, this is a very small minority but you need to know how food can suppress problems in a relationship, or reveal them for healing.
2. THE SABOTEUR
Sometimes, significant others start sabotaging and talking down the awesome results of their partner. I've seen it happen with both men and women: the better they started feeling, the more jealous their partner and the more tense their relationship became.
"You won't hang in for long."
"It's just one of your "things." It will pass."
"I give you one month."
"You're on your own."
It can be scary for a partner to see that you mean change. Where does that leave them? Will you still love them when you grow and they don't? Those feelings can cause them to work against you and the results you get. They stop doing groceries for you, they're moody and angry while you feel bubbly, they stop talking...
Sabotaging partners put a big claim on a relationship because they do everything it takes for you to fail and prove that they were right about you.
It's very sad when that happens. But the truth is that they are scared. Insecure. Afraid of losing you to feeling amazing while they feel awful.
That's why I always pay attention to how we can include your partner -especially when s/he isn't "feeling" it- in your process. At the beginning of each coaching project, we look at how much a partner is into living healthy with you. We want them in the same boat as you so that you can grow together.
BONDING THROUGH FOOD
I applaud those who take this challenge, turn it into an exciting opportunity to blow new life into their relationship and explore the new horizons together.
I've had many clients who saw this crisis as a wake up call and opened up their eyes about how they had been covering up lingering issues. They started talking for real and discovered what they were missing.
The real communication and bonding can start from here...
- Instead of making food changes all by yourself, include your loved one(s). You're not on a diet or a competition but creating a lifestyle. To begin with: you don't have to explain everything you plan to change to their plate. Nor do you have to justify why you want to serve the people you love the most healthy meals. Simply mix in your food as enticing side dishes on your table and invite them to try something new you created. Offer them the freedom of choice. Don't force but...
- Seduce your family with healthy versions of their favourite foods. Go that extra mile for yourself. Change has to hit the taste buds first. If they love desserts, start there. No one stays insensitive to tasty, beautiful pure delish that you made with love, intention and attention. They will get curious for more.
- Don't be afraid to ask your partner to be supportive of your different choice. Share your vision of a long healthy life with him or her and how you want to feel and look at your best. Talking about what really matters to you and that you want to bring back to the relationship, helps the other understand you.
- Find some nice plant based restaurants in your neighbourhood or in the next city and make it a new habit to have a weekly or monthly date and night out there. Fall back in love with life, each other and the fun things you stopped doing because you're both too busy. Food brings people together. Healthy food can do exactly the same if you make time for your relationship with intention and attention. And how about prepping a romantic dinner on your terrace or under the tree? Put the love back in your food...
- Now the fun part: dive into the kitchen together to make glorious food! Try out a new recipe once a week on a Sunday. Have fun with experimenting and exploring a new culinary world. Or take out 30 minutes after work to relax and wind down in the kitchen instead of with alcohol. It's so energising and sexy to make food together!
- When you're more familiar with your new food style, invite small groups of friends and family for dinner "new style" so that they get inaugurated in your tasty culinary world.
- Everything is presentation! You don't have to tell them that it's all healthy food or they may not want to taste. Just announce each dish or finger food platter with the same convinced flamboyant flair as when you summed up gourmet ingredients in the past. Blow them away with pretty presentations and your new energy.
Not your food makes a relationship work or fail.
But leaving out bad food from your life can bring the bad feelings you were stuffing, to the surface.
This is your chance to do something beautiful and meaningful with it...