When Your Health Goals Don't Match Your Partner's

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When Your Health Goals Don't Match Your Partners:

This is something that comes up often in my own life. I love my partner but if you were to ask him where his priorities lie, health would be pretty far down the list. He eats candy like, well, candy, and if I wasn't too ashamed to buy bologna once a week he'd eat it every day. So trust me when I say that I know it can be a challenge to maintain your own health when your partner's goals are not in the same realm as yours. 

So when one of you wants to get healthy, and the other one doesn't, what do you do?

1) I'm no psychologist but I've always believed that being in a relationship with the intention of changing someone can be damaging to both partners. Instead, I believe more strongly in leading by example, encouraging, and inspiring. I'm not going to force anyone in my household to eat spinach and quinoa but I'm selective with the "junk food" I do buy, and there are always healthy foods prepared and ready to go so we can just grab something nutritious as a snack. I also make a point of packing lunches and water bottles when we go to town, to avoid stopping somewhere and making unhealthy choices. Your partner may be encouraged when you make positive health changes.  

2) Meal times can be tricky, because who ACTUALLY wants to make 2 meals if you're the cook in the house? It depends what your health goals are: I eat quite well during the day so my suppers can have no limitations other than watching portion sizes.  Supper is always served with plenty of vegetables and I make as much homemade as possible to avoid additives. When organic fits the budget, we'll eat organic. But some of you may have more advanced goals or food sensitivities that do not permit that flexibility, which presents a larger challenge. 

Experimentation is key, and hopefully your partner has more of an open mind than mine, to try some substitutions and see if they too can live with those changes (ie. switching from rice to cauliflower rice or replacing yogurt with coconut yogurt if you're dairy free). If I am shifting my diet to meet new health goals than I meal plan ahead of time so I can use similar ingredients to cut the work, and usually it works out to somewhat the same meal minus certain sauces, and with a larger emphasis on the vegetables and the protein, and a smaller portion of our "carb", or none at all.

3) Finally, try as hard as you can not to use your partners resistance to a healthier lifestyle limit you. There may be compromises, much the same as any other aspect of a relationship, but plan accordingly for the challenge. You can do this by:

  • Setting boundaries with yourself; your partner may unintentionally persuade you to sway from your goals so you decide when it's acceptable. Maybe date night you splurge and have pasta and wine, or stay up a little later than usual. Maybe you decide that for 6 weeks you don't stray from your plan at all. You know your own psychology better than anyone else will, but know ahead of time that you will need to establish some ground rules. 
  • Communicating your goals clearly, and state WHY they are important to you. For example, I have a health condition that substantially increases my risk of heart disease and that is my motivation to eat well. If your partner understands you're trying really hard not to die earlier than necessary they may be more understanding. Second of all, communicating your goals out loud and stating WHY you have those goals may make you more apt to stick with them. 
  •  If there is a really heavy resistance to your lifestyle change, and you feel like channeling your inner Dr.Phil, see if you can determine if there are any underlying fears or anxieties in your partner. Some people are afraid to commit to healthy changes because they're afraid of failure, or a highly restrictive lifestyle. If you can figure out what's causing such a negative association with positive changes, you may be able to move forward with making improvements.

No matter what, I always believe it is important to reassess your goals, identify obstacles and move forward. We still have lots of time until 2019, so don't give up now!