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Love, without the handles: Part II

If you missed the first part of this series, you can get caught up by reading it HERE

Love, without the handles: Part II

Years ago I was in a relationship with a trainer. While we both worked out a lot, we ate whatever we wanted for the most part. There were plenty of mornings out to breakfast, lots of dinners, and happy hours whenever the mood struck. We didn’t overthink things – we just ate whatever made us happy, which often times consisted of a ton of wine and more cookies than I care to mention.
When I got a wild hair to do a Figure show I abruptly pulled the plug on our free-as-a-bird eating habits and our social life in it’s entirety. I refused to go out to eat because the temptation was so great and I made him get rid of any off-plan food in the house. But the worst part? I tortured him for what he was eating. I’d make crappy comments when he ate; things like, “I sure wish I could eat that… but NO. I have to eat this broccoli. I hope you are enjoying it while I starve.” If my energy was running low he’d politely ask me what was wrong and I’d viciously bark at him, “I’m HUNGRY!!!” as if it was all his fault.
Oops. Just thinking about it makes me cringe. Who was I to punish him for my decision to do a show, or for his food choices because I was dieting? Just because I chose to drastically change my eating habits didn’t mean it was fair of me to expect him to do the same.

How many of you have either been guilty of doing this, or have been on the receiving end of this type of behavior? Probably a bunch!

As much as I truly regret the way I acted, I definitely learned something valuable from it, which is that your goal is just that – your goal, and nobody elses. You have no right to blame, badger, berate or belittle anybody because your goals are not their goals, and vice versa.
What about when the opposite happens and you’re in a relationship where you enjoy eating pizza and chips but your partner has physique or health goals and eats clean, unprocessed foods? You sit at the dinner table together and he is trying to enjoy his delicious heap of brussel sprouts while you continuously makes snide remarks and try to get him to indulge in some greasy goodness? “Come onnnnnn.” you obnoxiously plead. “One little piece won’t hurt! You know you want some!” Either he sticks to his guns, abstains from indulging and you are annoyed, or he finally gives in to temptation, eats the pizza, and then he is upset with you because he fell off the wagon. It’s a lose/lose situation, right?

Why do you think it bothers us so much when other people are eating healthy and we aren’t? Easy. Because nobody likes being “bad” by themselves. If you’re with a big group of friends and you’re all eating ice cream, it doesn’t seem so naughty, right? As a matter of fact, it seems kind of normal. This is probably reason numero uno why many of us have a natural tenancy to try and lure our partner or friends into partaking in our indulgent behavior. I have bad news about this tactic though – the calories still count, regardless of how many people are eating the ice cream.
And is that fair to try and get people to make unhealthy decisions just to ease our own guilty conscious? Probably not. When you care about people you should want them to be the healthiest they can be, especially considering that health typically leads to happiness. A lot of couples that I’ve talked to seem to deal with this. One of them is eating something bad and so they try to entice the other into eating it, too. This is a vicious cycle until they both end up overweight and unhealthy. Stop that! Respect your partner’s decision to forgo dessert or wine. Besides, peer pressure is for junior high schoolers.

Lets talk about temptation foods. Almost all of us have a food that we can’t say no to, constantly overindulge in, or something that causes a domino-like effect of poor food choices or bingers. For me, it is nuts. I can’t ever seem to eat only the allotted amount of nuts that my nutrition plan calls for. I think, “What will an extra ounce hurt?” So I gobble another. And another. And pretty soon I’ve eaten an entire cup of walnuts and I’m furious at myself. What to do? Simple. Eliminate nuts from the house. Michael, a fellow nut fanatic, keeps his nut stash (hardee har har) in his gym bag. Out of my sight, out of my mind.
The lesson: If you know for a fact that the mere sight of peanut butter, donuts, cheese, whatever, is a temptation trigger for your partner, help them out and don’t keep those items in the house even if you consume them responsibly. The fact of the matter is that willpower is often not enough to overcome most people’s temptation, and what is more important – you eating your peanut butter or your partner reaching their goal and overcoming temptation? Thought so.

So your partner fell off the wagon…
The other night, I settled in for a night of emailing, blogging, and writing with a little tub of dark chocolate covered almonds. I’m sure this will come as no surprise, but dark choco covered almonds are not on my nutrition plan and they are most definitely a trigger food for me. Michael was sitting nearby watching tv as I munched away. I ate the entire tub; an amount that I have conveniently chosen not to disclose. The shocking thing here is hardly that I ate them all, but that Mike didn’t say a word. He didn’t raise an eyebrow, didn’t make any weird noises, nadda. This is a tricky situation. I can guarantee that if he would have said something I would have came unglued, but on the other hand he doesn’t want to see me self-sabotage myself after working so hard all week long. This is a topic that you and your partner need to discuss up front, before the chocolate scarfing situation can present itself. Do you want your partner to say something to you? Or would you rather them let you be, even if it means that you’ll regret indulging and likely piss and moan about it all day the next day? Because you can bet your bottom dollar that Michael heard me whine about how I felt sick after eating all of that chocolate.
I have a friend that told me that her and her husband have a “safety word”. They both know each other’s trigger foods and if they notice things are starting to get out of control, they calmly, nicely, and nonchalantly say the safety word to the other person and then they drop it. It’s just enough to bring awareness to the person without being judgmental. From there, it is up to that person to either stop the behavior or to keep on going. The rule: Once the safety word has been said, it is a “No complain” zone. That means if your husband says the safety word to you and you continue eating that entire bag of Cheetos, you are not allowed to complain or say one word about it. This includes, but is not limited to, feeling sick, water weight retention, weight gain, insulin coma, etc. It’s an interesting concept and I can see how it’d work for some people.

Dinnertime!
You and your partner are both on a fat-losing, health-improving mission. For some couples this can be no big deal but for other couples, tension can definitely run high, especially when things are strict. I’m married to a successful competitive powerlifter and body builder, and, as a competitor myself, we both know firsthand that it can be tricky to find your groove and stay on track, all without driving your partner insane.
While we surely don’t know it all, here are the things we do to support each other:

  • Be your partners biggest fan. Do they look like they’ve made progress? Tell them so! Tell them over and over and over again. Nobody gets sick of positive reinforcement as long as it’s sincere. Michael gives me positive reinforcement frequently and it fires me up to work even harder because he has notices the little things. “I’m really proud of you because…..” or “I can tell you’ve been working really hard on….”
  • Keep it sexy. Okay, so eating fish and veggies for dinner may not be the most exciting meal but jazz it up. Turn on some background music, use the nice dishes, light candles and make a moment out of it…nightly! Remember, the food doesn’t make the moment – the company and the conversation are often what makes the moment.
  • Help each other. Does your partner need some chicken or meat grilled? Can you help them by preparing extra veggies? Volunteer to help and then do so enthusiastically. Do anything you can to help keep your partner on track and hopefully they’ll return the favor.
  • Don’t mention what they shouldn’t be doing, but acknowledge and reinforce the positive changes that they are making! 

The most important thing to realize is that you, yourself, are solely responsible for meeting your goals but there are things you can do to make it easier on your partner and relationship.

In part III, I will wrap this up by talking about some challenges that my friends have shared with me that they have faced in their relationships and what they’ve done to overcome them so that they can keep working towards their goals.

Have you ever lashed out at a loved one because of your diet choice?
What do you and your partner do to encourage each other to stay healthy? 
Do you and your partner give each other positive reinforcement when it’s deserved?
Drop me a line below!
Want more on fat loss? Click HERE for “Tick tock, the fat loss clock” 
or click HERE for “The Art of Consistency”.

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19 Comments

  • Reply
    Allison
    March 19, 2012 at 10:13 am

    My boyfriend has been doing intermittent fasting, often only eating from 4-8PM. As a former anorexic, I find this to be incredibly triggering. I understand the reasons that he's trying it out, and I know that what he eats (or doesn't eat) should have no effect on me, but it does. I find myself stressing out about when/what he's going to eat and thinking that I should be fasting as well. We've talked about it; he understand why I stress about it, I understand why he's doing it. But it still bothers/triggers me. Any advice?

  • Reply
    Tara @ Sweat like a Pig
    March 19, 2012 at 11:49 am

    My husband and I always try to play music and light candles before dinner a couple of nights a week, despite how unappetising our dinners are! I think having a safe word is a slightly extreme approach. The idea of bingeing in general just does not fly with me. I just don't have the bad foods in the house, but I let myself indulge every so often, and that seems to work for me.

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    March 19, 2012 at 11:49 am

    How do you deal with a partner that when you compliment them, "hey, I've noticed you've lost some weight, etc…" They fall right off of the wagon and start to indulge again, or their portion sizes increase?

  • Reply
    Kristal
    March 19, 2012 at 11:50 am

    I wholeheartedly agree in being their BIGGEST FAN! The little compliments go a long way, and it keeps us going- the look of admiration here and there is nice too! πŸ˜‰ We've learned that negativity and badgering doesn't help us achieve anything.

    His encouragement and incessant pushes of "you can do it. this is easy!" when we train means a world of a difference, and he says that he really appreciates how I help prepare his meals. It helps that our individual weaknesses are the others' strengths, so we help each other in the areas where we know we need the extra push.

    We've learned not to be each others downfalls. And no matter our goals whether they are aligned with each other or not – you have to be behind the other person 100% – but 100% in a way that they want to be supported. It's something that both people need to sit down to talk about. Never assume.

    Great blog Jen!!

  • Reply
    Jen Comas Keck
    March 19, 2012 at 11:54 am

    I love that you and your husband set up a warm environment for your meals. I feel like that is so important!

    And I agree that having a "safety word" is an extreme approach, but sadly, binging is a very harsh reality for some people, so I can see how having a way to reel them in could be helpful.

  • Reply
    Jen Comas Keck
    March 19, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    This is a great question and it's very common! When a person is making progress they feel that they DESERVE to cheat a little. It's the ol', "Oh I've been so good that I'm going to give myself a little reward" mentality. I've been guilty of doing this myself without even realizing it and my nutrition coach had to call me out on it.
    Have you kindly brought it up to your partner? There is a good chance that they don't realize they are doing it!

  • Reply
    Michelle
    March 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    This hits pretty close to home!! I myself need to learn how to not come "unglued" when my husband offers a warning. Maybe a safety word will be beneficial. He does not have to watch what he eats as closely as I do and every weekend it is like entering the danger zone for me. He wants to go out and eat and grab a few drinks. I try my best to piece together meals eating out and pray I make it to Monday!!

  • Reply
    Jen Comas Keck
    March 19, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Hi Allison!
    This is a great question and I'd actually like to refer you to my good friend and fellow Girls Gone Strong co-founder Nia Shanks for this. She has much more experience dealing with this than I do and she said she'd love to hear from you and offer what advice she can. Please feel free to shoot her an email at NiaShanks@gmail.com
    You can also check her out at http://www.NiaShanks.com πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Jen Comas Keck
    March 19, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    It's so hard, isn't it? I have no clue how Michael refrained from saying anything as I oinked down a vat of chocolate almonds. haha! But if he did say something, even if it was with good intentions, I'd be pissed! I completely feel your pain here. I think all we can do is know that they are ultimately looking out for our best interest because they know we will be disappointed in ourselves if we slip up too badly!

  • Reply
    Jen Comas Keck
    March 19, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    When I was writing this article, I was thinking about you and Edgar because I remember him saying you helped prep his meals and I LOVE that! It's so kind and thoughtful and I'm sure it's so helpful to him and his success with this.
    Encouragement really IS the key, and I love that you two are working together and kicking major butt!
    Love you both!

  • Reply
    Memrie Rounsaville
    March 19, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    I have definitely lashed out at Zach about some dang ice cream. This was before I started working with Jen… I was already in a dump b/c I had gained soooo much weight back and we were trying so hard to do things on our own. We passed by a Baskin Robbins and I asked him to let me go get some. Of course, he reminded me I didn't need it. The water works turned on and I lost it. Thankfully, I have such an amazing husband who just let it roll off his shoulders and we went and found dairy free ice cream(yes, I know it still ice cream but we were trying to make healthier decisions) from the grocery. Thankfully… all thanks to Jen for being so patient with me… I think I finally have my head on right and I am moving in the right direction πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    katydid
    March 19, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    This is excellent! I definitely lash out at the BF when I am dieting, especially since he can eat whatever he wants. Trying to stay on my diet, and watch him eat anything really makes it difficult for me.

  • Reply
    Jen Comas Keck
    March 19, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    I completely understand how this could have upset you, and I totally understand that Zach was trying to help! It's such a tough situation! But thankfully you have such a wonderfully supportive husband and he just let it go and helped you make a better choice.
    Don't worry girl – many of us have been there, done that. We just have to live & learn! πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Jen Comas Keck
    March 19, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Ditto this! Michael has a fast metabolism and a huge appetite. I end up getting quite annoyed by it as well! πŸ˜‰
    But at least we realize we do it so we can work on fixing it! I'm with you sister!

  • Reply
    Alyssa
    March 19, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    These two posts have really put things into perspective for me! I started at The Machine Shop, back in December. Which also just so happened to be a couple of weeks before my husband returned home from his deployment. So here we were, ecstatic that he was home of course, but he was ready for some super yummy food, instead of MRE's and chow hall food and I was trying very hard to change my extremely unhealthy eating habits. Lashing out, is probably an understatement for what I did. We would go out, and he would get a meal that looked amazing, and smelled amazing, and I would get a salad. Then practically drool looking at his food, heck!! even our toddlers applesauce was tempting me! There were many "Wow, that looks good, way better than my crappy salad." Even a few, "Gosh, I sure would like a cold beer, or piece of cheesecake, or a COKE!!"
    Thankfully, now I am not being as hostile, at meal time. πŸ˜‰

  • Reply
    pam
    March 19, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    He is very sensitive about his weight… so I have not talked to him about it. I find myself holding back compliments fear fear he will indulge if I do.

  • Reply
    Jennifer Ostrander
    March 20, 2012 at 6:54 am

    This is great! We've been on healthy eating this month, but with our work [ we're both military ] we've been pretty much in "Field" mode, no time for happy hour! I've been cooking pretty healthy, lunch boxes packed with tasty veggies, fruits, and home made lunches. Now with the upcoming weekend, I'm scared the progress I have made will go down the crapper… I know DH supports me ! I just have to remember your words here – "do I want to destroy all my hard work for a weekend?" I know he'll support me but maybe the safe word might help me from lashing out if I slip?

  • Reply
    Jen Comas Keck
    March 20, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Hey Alyssa!
    Thanks for taking the time to read this – love to see my fellow Machine Shop junkies stop by this site! πŸ™‚

    I can totally understand your husband being ready for some amazing food, and I can also understand how hard it is to abstain while the other indulges. Been there, done that, lashed out! But I can tell you with confidence that it DOES get easier with time and, as weird as this sounds, practice. The more you practice clean eating and saying no to foods that aren't in line with your goals, the easier it gets.
    (Just make sure you say YES to foods that aren't in line with your goals about 5% of the time or you'll likely go crazy!) πŸ˜‰

  • Reply
    Jen Comas Keck
    March 20, 2012 at 11:18 am

    Hey Jennifer!
    I easily shift into autopilot during the week in regards to squeaky clean eating but the weekends are a challenge for me, too! It's that innate feeling of just wanting to relax, let our hair down and EAT! However, I've seen many clients and friends spin their wheels for years because they blow their weekends to smithereens. Something that has helped me is scheduling and allowing for one small cheat meal, preferably immediately post-training. Having something like that to look forward to and then knowing it's back to business typically helps. I've also found it helps to do this as late in the weekend as possible (Sunday afternoon), that way there isn't the temptation of saying, "Eh, screw it!" the remainder of the weekend.

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