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.
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.