I’ve had this blog post title on my list for over 2 years now. And to be honest I’d forgotten about it until I was having a really good rummage for inspiration recently and found it again.
The premise behind the title is my lovely husband, David (happy 6 month-aversary today hubby!). As you might know we got together through friends and as far as I was concerned we were not compatible for a long-term relationship at all.
Opposites attract and all that but after meeting him a couple of times I could quickly list of things where we did not align: He loved football I hated it. I worked in the arts – he’d never been to a classical music concert in his life. He lived in Dublin, I lived in London.
BUT worst of all as far as I was concerned was our total incompatibility when it came to what we enjoy to eat.
Let’s take just a small sample:
I love: seafood – particularly prawns, muscles and oysters. Asian food and sushi. Savoury food above everything else – starter and a main, not a dessert. Vegetables of all kinds.
David loves: chocolate. Sweet things. Cake. Potato waffles and beans. Kebabs. Salami and red meat.
I dislike: Raw celery. Tuc biscuits. Peanuts. That’s probably about it.
David dislikes: Coconut, pineapple, coffee, mushrooms, shellfish, coriander, offal, runny eggs, kiwis, raw peppers, broccoli stems, rocket and other salad leaves… I could go on.
How to eat healthy when your partner doesn’t want to
When it became abundantly clear that we were going to be spending a lot of time together going forward (read: the rest of our lives), I realised I was going to have to find a way to eat how I want, but also find a way that worked for him too. I’m definitely not one for making two separate meals every evening so I had to find a solution.
We’ve been together four and half years now. Here are the tips I can share with you that have helped me continue to eat healthily, when my partner isn’t so keen:
Find meals you do agree on
This is probably obvious but when David and I first got together we had to find meals that we both enjoyed. These have become staples in our weekly menu and are things we both know we’ll be happy to have on a regular basis.
One of those meals is a stir-fry - basically a version of my Mix and Match noodles. We take it in turns to come up with a recipe each time. Over time I’ve convinced David on using less ready-made sauces, including a good blob of nut butter in the base, doing meat-free versions and topping with cashews and sesame seeds which I’m taking as a win.
Other things on our staple menu include a chicken roast dinner (which we’ve become pretty pro at), stuffed pittas (we’ve gradually transitioned this to a vegetarian meal using Strong Roots burgers and bites and wholemeal pittas) and pies or stews (Irish, obviously).
Having these dishes in our repertoire means we have plenty we can eat together that we both enjoy and that I still think of as varied and nourishing.
You do you
As well as working out what we agreed on, there were always going to be some non-negotiables where we were going to differ.
For example in the mornings I mostly have something savoury – more than likely a poached egg on toast or even a savoury porridge. David has stubbornly stuck to cereal and toast with jam, his sweet tooth speaking to him early in the morning.
I’ve managed small changes to that over time – encouraging him to choose a cereal that has less sugar in it and to add some fruit on top. The jam seems to be sticking though, although we have recently talked about trying peanut butter like Meridian or Pip & Nut as an alternative. We’ll see if that ever takes hold…
Chill the hell out
Eating healthily can (and has in the past) become a total obsession. Particularly in the days when I was restricting my diet quite a lot, it was very difficult to find meals we could both eat and this felt quite stressful.
I was also hyper aware having surrounded myself with health and wellness experts online that a lot of David’s preferred food choices could potentially harm him if eaten in excess over many years. Not a nice thought when you’re planning to marry someone.
But what I’ve come to realise is that as well as the types of food we eat, a lot of our health is about our mindset and attitude towards our diet.
Stressing and restricting, worrying constantly about cancers, fats and additives really doesn’t help with a healthy mind, let alone body. It also doesn’t allow us to enjoy life and food at all.
David is an incredibly relaxed person. He has been an unbelievable calming presence in my life and that has extended to my relationship with food too.
Despite all our differences about diet, we do both love food. We plan our holidays and time together around what we are going to eat and cook for one another and that brings me so much joy.
With that has to come an element of relaxing and enjoying what we eat together. Not overanalysing, not shaming, not feeling guilty. Truly appreciating what we choose to consume and balancing this where necessary. The occasional glass of wine, red meat dish or sticky dessert is not going to kill either of us.
I think this is the biggest one really. If I’ve learned anything from coaching (and just generally getting older and having friends and family), it’s that you can’t force people to do things they aren’t ready for.
As with eating well, the most sustainable way to do things is in small steps – making simple swaps and changes that all add up to a bigger impact.
I’ve already mentioned the few places where slowly but surely, David has made changes to his diet. He claims its not my influence but I’m taking the victory.
I think it’s so important to lead by example. What’s the Ghandi quote? “Be the change you want to see.” Watching what I eat, trying it and talking about it have all led to him making healthier choices without me ‘telling’ him what to do.
Yes it’s much slower this way. But it’s also his choice and on his terms and it’s more likely to stick that way.
No-one likes to be told they’re wrong and need to change - trust me, I’ve been trying to get him to stop leaving cupboards and drawers open for 4 years, with no luck!
But change does come over time if you let it. I actually made my chicken and roast broccoli salad the other night and David loved it and took a portion to work the next day.
And the other night, upon some reflection, he said he’d noticed that he’d had 3 or 4 days consecutively eating red meat and didn’t want that to happen again. And that he would be happy that we up our one vegetarian meal a week to 2 or 3. That came from him, and of course I’ve been only too happy to help and make us creative with those dinners.
Being with a partner who doesn’t match your eating patterns perfectly shouldn’t be the end of your efforts to eat well. Nor should it be the end to your relationship.
With someone who is patient and who loves you and who you want the best for too, there are always ways to meet in the middle. Be patient, lead by example, keep talking and do what’s right for you and your body always as the priority.
What do you think? Do you have a partner that doesn’t enthuse about healthy eating as much as you? What tips can you share? I’d love to hear them!