Home Q&A Wednesday Q&A Wednesday: How Do You Co-Habitate With Clean Eating?

Q&A Wednesday: How Do You Co-Habitate With Clean Eating?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Q: From what I gathered (just from reading a few of your posts), it is and has been for awhile just you and your daughter living under one roof and so therefore, you have ABSOLUTE control on what comes in and what doesn’t in your household and in your kitchen to keep any and all temptations/triggers (i.e. goldfish LOL ) at bay.  My question is, how will this change once you and your fiance share a household?  Surely, you may have to compromise on having certain things “allowed” in the household that were previously banned…presuming that he may or may not be as health conscious as you.  I ask, because I often struggle with that balance of maintaining a healthy life style and more importantly the discipline with sticking to it when my mate is not or doesn’t care to eat as healthily as I do because he doesn’t need to be (in his eyes). I am a big girl (I am 5″8 and 228lbs) and my live in boyfriend is 6″4 and about 185.  He can literally eat anything and not gain an ounce, he isn’t as invested into eating as healthily as I am….because he feels he doesn’t need to.  He is in pretty good shape and has been an athlete all of his life….doesn’t have to work out much and can literally eat whatever he wants and not gain….unfortunately for me that is not the case….so I am very interested in knowing if you are currently in the situation with you living with a significant other who isn’t as stringent  as you nor does he have the desire to be when it comes to his daily eating regimen and where as before when it was just you and your daughter, how do the two of you compromise where the two of you can co-exist and co-habitat harmoniously (as it would be selfish for me to expect/demand/control my SO to eat as I do indefinitely or for an unnecessarily long period of time) when or if the two of you have very different eating habits/regimen?

Food fight? I don't think so!

A: Y’all don’t play on these questions, do you? Jeez.

The mister and I are, in fact, sharing a household now and while I compromise, it’s not as much as you might think.

I kind of started off by swindling him – whenever I cooked for him, I cooked some of my very best dishes. I’m talking grilled wings, chicken biryani, roasted tomato pizza… everything. I did all the cooking in the beginning, and he really enjoyed it. I cook every night anyway, so it didn’t make a difference to me that I’d have to add another plate to the table.

After a while, we started to talk more about part of what I do for a living, which is this blog. We talked about what life was like for me at above 300lbs, we talked about what my pregnancy was like (which is where I most clearly remember my binging habits) and we talked about what my “recovery” was like. We talked about what I keep in the house now, what I use to “snack” (well, when I used to snack) on, and what my indulgences look like. We talked about my food addiction, what I think “success” looks like in overcoming it and how far along I thought I was. We talked about my relationship with food, and whether or not this meant I lived on rice cakes and other cardboard-esque “delights.”

Surprisingly (or not), he was extremely supportive and understanding. He actually appeared intrigued by the fact that all the good food I’d been cooking for him meant he was eating healthily. In fact, I told him – in advance – that my fried chicken recipe just might make him put a ring on it, and that I only would make it for him twice a year because it’d wind up having him give me all his money… and I can’t have him running around broke. That… was win #1.

Don’t get me wrong – there were a few hiccups in the road, namely in regards to sweets. I don’t keep baked sweets in the house. For one, they’re usually far too sweet with no flavor… so they’re usually pretty disgusting. For two, the ingredients list looks atrocious. I’d rather not be “tricked” into liking something. So, I told him straight up – when he wanted cookies, he could either buy them and eat them that day, outside of the house… or I could bake them myself. At bare minimum, I always have the ingredients to make icebox cookies in the house, and if he wanted something more he’d have to buy it. And before he had the opportunity to complain, I reminded him – if my dinners are great, my baked goods are phenomenal. He obliged.

I don’t keep ice cream in the house, either. He balked at that, too. However, I told him it wasn’t because ice cream is som terrible thing.. it’s just because I live around the corner from the holy grail of frozen delicacies and some fancy pants ice cream couldn’t really compare to it anymore. I took him there and, well, that was that. When you show people what the best looks like, it’s not that difficult to convince them that their “favorite” is, in fact, no comparison.

We talked about cleaning up some of his favorite dishes, we talked about some of his cultural delicacies and some of what I grew up on. We talked about everything. I’m a pretty laid back person, and I’m really go-with-the-flow… except for this. And smoking. That’s a biggie, too, but he’s equally bothered by that one so no worries, there.

We talked… a lot. For us – for any relationship, really – I think talking is important. One of the things I learned the hard way is that not talking is pretty dangerous. To be a bit corny and cliche, but if you’re not talking, it means someone isn’t being heard. If you’re worried, if you’re afraid, if you’re scared… my partner is the one I go to help me figure out how to assuage those feelings. That means that, sometimes, I’m oversensitive and other times I’m terribly nonchalant. As long as I’m not being one more than I am the other, I’m tolerable.

That being said, I think it’s different for my situation (introducing someone new to my house and how we do things here) than the one presented in the question (trying to change how we do things for someone who already lives there.) It’s also interesting that, while he may not be able to gain any weight, there’s no general concern for any of the other issues that come from just generally eating bad, poor quality food. Being thin isn’t a shield that protects you from these kinds of things.

In my mind, if you have two people who have to live together and are on separate ends of the spectrum on an issue, both parties have to move to the center. You want him to eat cleaner? Cook good food – dishes he enjoys. He refuses to kick a sweets habit? Bake the sweets for him, and keep them wrapped. I used to bake chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, wrap them in little candy bags with a ribbon and put them in my mister’s laptop bag. He didn’t feel deprived, and actually felt like he was “cheating.”

So.. if I were you, what would I do? I’d cook. Every day. For about a week. I’d bake a batch of cookies, wrap them up with a bow and leave them for him as he’s returning home. After 7 days of successful dishes goes by, I’d sit him down and talk to him. Tell him that you admire his fitness, and that you want to work towards your own. Tell him that every meal you’ve cooked for him has been a “healthy” one that’ll help you both stay healthy while also helping you lose the weight that’s been bugging you. Tell him you look forward to being eye candy on his arm, and you look forward to being and feeling healthier for you. Tell him that you’re afraid for your health, that you worry about your ability to prevent yourself from gaining any more weight and that, because you need to make changes, you worry about his ability to compromise for the both of you. Tell him you’ve been doing a ton of reading about food, how to cook, how to eat healthier and how to eat in a way that both tastes deliciously as well as makes sure you don’t get the high blood pressures, diabetes and everything you see around you. It’s important to be straight up about it – don’t be passive aggressive – and it’s also important to stick to your guns. While people insist upon harping on and on about will power, I will remind you that if you are someone who has never had much success in using will power… it is an uphill climb to actually develop it. If he brings that up, tell him that. It’s important that he think about that, too.

I find that people love to dig in their heels when it comes down to changing parts of their lives in order to accommodate someone else… but I’m also learning that a big part of long term relationships is, in fact, compromising so that your partner can thrive and be a better person. Seeing how someone approaches compromise can tell you a lot about their ability to handle long-haul situations, I think, so I guess I’d also be mindful of that as well. It wouldn’t be the straw that broke the camel’s back, but it’d definitely be a strike.

And, just to be sure, I asked my mister your question… and his answer? “I think if she has certain things that she feels she absolutely can’t have in the house without eating, she needs to let him know that. She needs to say ‘fine, I can understand if you don’t want to do this with me, I’d appreciate it if you did but if not, okay…but there are a few things that I feel like I really can’t have in the house’ and list them for him. I feel like, really, that should be enough. If the person cares about you, they should want to help you reach your goals.”

All that is to say, notice how much talking went on between my partner and I, and notice how much talking I suggested for your partner and you. You really can’t get very far without it, so spend a week playing in the kitchen and cooking your best, and figuring out the best way to convince him to take the plunge. Both you and your partner’s bodies will be thankful for it in the long run!

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HeatherE July 27, 2011 - 1:25 PM

I can relate to this. I have been changing my eating habits over the past year as well, and my skinny husband balked at a few things (It’s weird, but I was 5’8″ and 223 and my husband is 185 when I found this blog a few months ago). But we were able to compromise. The awesome home cooking won him over and he even bought his own cook book (a manly Webber Grill book) and tries new things with me. I don’t even use the word “healthy” because I don’t want to conjure images of a pantry full of “low-fat twinkies” and “sugar-free granola bars” that many (but not us followers of Erika’s blog) equate with healthy. Instead I tell him I want to eat better tasting “real” food. That is intriguing… what man doesn’t want the best? If you are cooking from scratch, with real ingredients, then you are eating healthy.

I still have a weakness for sweets, however, and don’t want it in the house. He understands and keeps a bag of cookies at work (I just can’t cook AND bake AND take care of 4 kids right now). He also agreed to get pop out of the house for a month. That was long enough for me to break my addiction and find substitute drinks to satisy me. Now we have it in the house again, but we keep it in a fridge in the garage where it is not in my face all day.

We have both given up fast food quite unexpectedly. After eating home cooked meals everyday for a month, we grabbed some McD’s (a fave for both of us), sat down to eat our Quarter Pounders… and felt ill. That was the beginning of the end of fast food for us.

(On a side note, my husband asked me why he always wants to snack all afternoon and I told him that it was because he has a pop with his lunch. All the sugar just makes you crave more sugar. I told him to cut it out for one day and see what happened… he came home at 5:30 and told me it worked… he felt fine all afternoon and didn’t crave snacks at all!)

I will admit, it is a process, but if you put the right spin on it, then it is something that can be exciting for everyone, not a drudge. And the kids are my trump card… who doesn’t want healthy kids?

Amanda July 27, 2011 - 2:12 PM

I don’t like it when some partners find it taxing on them to accommodate their partner’s eating habits or requirements. I get where it comes from sometimes but I still find it kind of an awful thing for a person to do.

After all, it’s really only socially acceptable to refuse to reasonably accommodate someone’s dietary requests when it’s “only” a health concern – what about if the person has religious restrictions? My uncle is Eastern Orthodox and his wife is a Jain. She doesn’t allow meat in her house except his canned fish (like anchovies) and because this is something he feels passionately on and she doesn’t care what he eats outside the house, he respects her religious convictions on the topic. Because his religion or health doesn’t *require* him to eat meat, and hers *does* have specific requirements it wasn’t rocket science for them to figure out that he would be required to give a little on this issue (and she gives – on the sardines and tuna fish.) Like on most issues in a relationship, the person for whom it’s most crucial to “win” should probably be allowed to “win. ” Someone won’t do damage to their health without Hostess snack cakes – but you will very possibly do damage to your health WITH Hostess snack cakes.

If your loved one cares for you and you are willing to meet their concerns (ie they can eat what they want outside the house or cook their occasional favorite meals or whatever) then I don’t know why health requirements should be treated differently than religious ones.

Erika Nicole Kendall July 27, 2011 - 9:04 PM

Not only do I agree, but I’m going to double down on this. If you tell someone that you’ve got a better, healthier and better-tasting way of eating you’re offering up for them, and they vehemently reject your offerings to the point where it feels like all-out war in your household?

I’ll call a spade a spade – that smells like a food addiction to me. Just because it doesn’t manifest itself as an “overweight person” doesn’t mean that isn’t what it is. It’s one thing to appreciate good food, it’s another thing entirely to be attached to it in certain questionable ways.

Amanda July 28, 2011 - 9:59 AM

I hadn’t thought of that but you’re right. It’s irrational for someone to taste something delicious and still be opposed to the dish based on preconceived notions of what they like or don’t like. That irrationality is either based on them having issues with food or not being too bright. Either way, it’s a definite problem or at least it should be.

Shante July 27, 2011 - 5:55 PM

This was excellent advice, if you ever write a book include this. It was spot on. Also great advice for women that aren’t in a relationship but living with someone.

Tina July 28, 2011 - 12:16 AM

Great Advice! I am currently going through this right now as my boyfriend and I have been living together for a year, but I am just kicking off my weight loss journey so your advice will definitely help me out! Thanks! Keep the great advice coming. When are you going to write that book. lol!

Bannef July 28, 2011 - 7:04 PM

Great advice! I might actually try some of it with my roommate… Obviously that is in some ways a more delicate situation (she didn’t sign up to deal with me the same way a bf would have, lol) but we are pretty close and share meals often so I think it would work.

Michelle of Chellbellz July 28, 2011 - 7:55 PM

this is so hard in my house because when i cook for myself my family eats it, and then waste it, and it really pisses me off. I’m trying so hard to get them all on board, but i gave up. It’s just going have to be a case of tough love, and i’m going to start buying my own groceries, and prepacking it all.

Fa August 3, 2011 - 3:31 PM

I love this post. A couple weeks ago my boyfriend told me that when he’s at my house eating my food he feels healthier and loses weight as opposed to when he’s eating at home. That made me feel amazing- that he notices that I put thought and energy into what I cook. The only place of contention is the sweets- he loves them and so do I, but we are both pretty health conscious so we will work it out. All in the name of love (and health)!

Angela July 26, 2012 - 12:43 PM

Thank you so much for this article – I am just starting my new phase in life but i often wondered was it wrong for me to expect/force my boyfriend to jump on my bandwagon…and apparently I am but through communication it could work out. I dont know about baking the baked goods…- i would eat the whole damn thing myself! I make a MEAN Yellow cake with chocolate icing as well as Lemon cake….

Angie September 10, 2012 - 12:50 PM

1. Do we have the recipe for “put a ring on it” fried chicken somehere on this blog?

2. Does “holy grail of frozen delicacies” = Rita’s?

Alana January 9, 2013 - 7:22 PM

Is one really over a food addiction if they can’t be around certain foods ?? And are constantly worried about withdrawal?? I can see not keeping certain things in the house until you’ve gotten over a food addiction or emotional eating, but banning things for life??? That sounds a little extreme to me . Don’t get me wrong, i understand sometimes some people HAVE to be extreme. I don’t like extreme though. I prefer moderation. Which has worked for me and I suppose is the point, we all have to do what works for us – both individually and as couples.

Erika Nicole Kendall January 9, 2013 - 9:33 PM

I had two initial responses: 1) do you believe “being over” is the same as recovery? Do you think a person ever forgets what it feels like to abuse a substance? Do you think that “being over” is the goal, or learning to not abuse the substance is the goal? Do you think that “being able to be around” certain foods is more important than developing the ability to abstain from abuse?

And, 2) how do we define addiction and recovery in terms of alcoholics? Does “recovery,” for an alcoholic, look like “oh, I can be around alcohol and not binge” or does it look like “I am finding and have found safe ways to cope with life without abusing items.”

Like, I’m always curious about people who challenge the idea that some stuff just doesn’t belong in the house of an addict, especially when it comes to food. It always serves as a red flag to me. Is your satisfaction of having X in the house more important than testing the developing will power of a recovering food addict?

You NEVER forget what it feels like to binge or be an emotional eater. NEVER. And though avoiding extremes and embracing “moderation” (the irony) may work for you, what doesn’t work for ME… is mocking the idea of what recovery truly means for an addict by questioning whether or not they can claim their recovery. They can claim it the very first time they decide to cope without food, regardless of whether or not they fear withdrawal.

Yvette July 24, 2013 - 10:48 PM

My husband and I had a great conversation when I started my journey. When we started dating, I didn’t eat red meat, and he was ok with that. I learned a long time ago that I can’t keep ice cream in the house; he obliged. Oftentimes, we don’t eat the same thing because he eats red meat. But he supports my new lifestyle, which is all I can ask for.

Marisa January 19, 2016 - 1:03 PM

I usually cook two meals, one healthy version for me and a regular version for my family (husband & two twenty-something college students). At first I thought this was going to be a pain, but it’s really not when cooking both meals at the same time, just different ingredient variations. I made a veggie spaghetti w/ the hidden veggie pasta & my husband asked that next time, I just make the veggie version. A lot of times, he’ll taste the healthy version and want that…he’s requested turkey meatloaf over beef!

Then there are days when I don’t feel like cooking two meals, I make my healthy meal & if the fam doesn’t want that then it’s every ninja for themselves…our household phrase!! So I agree, do your meals and let him taste it. My hubby hasn’t jumped on the zucchini, squash or sweet potato bandwagon, but baby steps!! My children have no say whatsoever…they can gladly go cook in their own kitchen, I’m actually looking forward to the day 🙂

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