When you make changes to your family’s lifestyle, and in particular, the way by which you eat, it’s a big deal. It helps tremendously to have both parties on board, not only for you both to conquer the changes together, but to be on board with how you’re going to handle an uprising from the little people in your house. Because believe you me, there will be an uprising.
Several months ago, I decided that I wanted to start eating healthier, and eliminating some things from my diet. At first, it was an experiment with just me, seeing if I could really go without cheese for a period of time (I can), or to see if I had the skills to conquer gluten-free baking (I don’t). I made several new recipes for dinner, all of which were delicious and no one hardly even noticed the sometimes subtle, and sometimes dramatic changes I was making to our eating habits. But for the most part, the major changes were something I was just tackling on my own.
But then I started to get down to business, and realized that I had to change our whole family’s eating habits. The more I dug into “clean eating” and started researching different foods and things we as a family consumed on a regular basis, I knew I had to put my foot down and make some changes. It seemed almost wrong for me, knowing what I knew, to continue to only make these healthful changes for myself and not my spouse and kids.
So somewhat suddenly, I started boycotting foods, starting with things like chicken fingers. Then the nutella went in the trash, then my husband’s favorite boxed crackers. Then I went really off the deep end and started eliminating all meats and dairy products that were produced and grown in factory farms, seeking out locally raised, pastured animal products instead. This meant an end to eating out, or at least eating meat, at the vast majority of the restaurants we frequented. And we eat out a lot. Suddenly, my family started noticing and were all, “Whaaaa?!?!?”
So how did I get the most important person in my court, and on board, so that we could not only tackle this together, but meet resistance from the kids with a head-on unified front? Here’s a few of the strategies I’ve used, and I’ve recommended to friends, on how to get your spouse or partner on board with a more healthy approach to eating. And these suggestions are for whatever type of changes you want to make, no matter how big or how small, drastic or miniscule.
– Know the angle that’s going to work with your spouse. For my husband, who is a self-proclaimed germaphobe and terrified of “super bugs,” from bird flu to mad cow disease, all it took was sending him a few articles from well-respected sources to show how overuse of antibiotics in animal products can lead to super bugs. For your spouse, perhaps talk of ability to lead a more active lifestyle, or support of local businesses, or environmental concerns could all work. Whatever is going to be their trigger point for change, you have to find it and press that. You know your spouse and what will work, so focus on how you can make a compelling case for change, and how it can directly impact them for the better.
– But what if they don’t want to change? What if they think you’re already doing it right as a family? Many people don’t see how changing their diets or exercise routine could benefit them. They’re healthy overall, aren’t overweight, don’t find need to visit the doctor, and rarely get sick. So why change? I actually just described our family in a nutshell. We’re overall the picture of health, and could probably keep living our lives the way we were just fine, so why wreak havoc on a good thing? Well, quite simply, I knew we could feel better. Because even though we were all “thin,” or rarely got sick, I knew that I felt really bad after eating fast food and experienced sugar hangovers if I consumed too much refined sugar. I could see my kids experience sharp sugar crashes from gobbling down cups of sugary yogurt and hazelnut spread sandwiches. I saw that my husband was often exhausted by the end of the day and collapsed on the couch to watch TV for 2-3 hours each night. I knew our life could be better improved with a more healthful diet, and although on the outside we were the picture of health, once you scratched the surface, I knew that we could do a lot better. I brought up these points to my husband and he had a hard time disagreeing.
– What if they’re afraid you’re going to make them bland, tasteless food from here on out? This is where you may need to put forth the extra effort and put your money where your mouth is. It’s time to start cooking, and cooking good! No yucky, strange vegan concoctions or calorie restrictive meals that leave everyone starving. Buy a well-reviewed cookbook or two, and start building up your healthy meal repertoire. Show your family that eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring or dull or gross. I know from months of experience just how good healthful cooking can be, if you put your mind to it. So as the one rooting for change, sometimes you have to be the one that roots, and works the hardest at first. But if you cook the right food and show them how healthy cooking is done, they’ll be hard pressed to not jump on board.
– What if your spouse is concerned about the cost involved? This is by far the biggest hurdle you may have to overcome. There’s a very common myth in our culture that eating healthy costs more, but I promise you it doesn’t. While you could definitely spend your life, and entire paycheck, in the aisles of Whole Foods, by adding exotic seafood and packages of mystical super foods to your grocery list, simple healthful cooking and eating doesn’t have to break the bank. Just by cutting back on how often we eat out, which was a lot, I’ve saved ourselves plenty of money. The elimination of most packaged foods, including side dishes, bags of potato chips and boxed crackers, sugary drinks, and pre-made dinners was a huge cost savings as well. Next month I’ll break down a month of grocery bills for you, but even with the added expense of pastured meats, eggs, and organic dairy, we overall aren’t spending that much more than before. I won’t lie, at first you will see an increase in your bills, especially as you start to swap out items in your cabinets and stock up on essentials you never bought before, but after a couple of months of doing it, it pretty much evens out.
Life changes, especially involving something so intimate and personal as food, can be hard to make. But if you are supportive of each other, it’s all the more easier. Good luck, and let me know if you have any other tips or questions!
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