I actually met my now husband at the gym – so you’d think I’d picked up a fellow health and fitness buff. We’d live happily ever after eating salad and spending our Saturday mornings at bootcamp… right?
I was definitely a bit far off the mark with that initial assessment, however I’ve found I’m definitely not the only one who has a partner and/or family that doesn’t share their healthy lifestyle.
It can be a tricky area to navigate – how do you stick to your health goals when your partner hits the snooze button, wants to order fast food, or eats that block of chocolate in front you? We’ve got a few tips for you…
Respect their different goals and priorities – and ask them to do the same
Firstly, remember that while you have made the choice to make positive changes in your life, they may not have made that same decision for themselves. They may feel their lifestyle works for them, or they believe they have found their own balance with eating and exercise, or maybe they’re very career driven or busy with family commitments and food doesn’t register on their list of priorities. And that’s totally fine.
Try having a calm conversation with your partner or family about your health goals and how they can support you – maybe you need them to help you prepare healthy dinners during the week, or you need them to mind the kids while you go to the gym, or you need them to refrain from buying chocolate or corn chips at the supermarket.
Remember to communicate WHY you want to stick to these goals. Your family are much more likely to get on board if they understand that these changes will help you feel your best. It’s important they know that these changes aren’t an attack on them or their habits, they are for you and your desire to make positive change in your life.
Leave resentment at the door
My husband and I often have a bit of a laugh over the stark difference in our meals – his lunch consists of a big pile of cheese and mayonnaise sandwiches, while my lunch is much more #fitness (usually tuna, brown rice and salad).
At the time I make it into a joke, but I can’t deny there’s an underlying resentment there. Why doesn’t my husband want to take care of himself?
At this point I take a deep breath and return to point number one – it’s simply not a huge priority for him the way it is for me. Nagging or criticising your partner about what they eat or their lack of activity will not change their habits, it will only build resentment both ways.
Instead, try to find ways to connect that keep both of you happy. Whilst I cannot get my husband back into a gym, he will go for a long walk with me on the weekend. Maybe you and your spouse love to cook new recipes – suggest a delicious healthy dish to try out.
Find your balance
When your partner or kids are gobbling down a block of Cadbury on the couch after dinner (or in my husband’s case DRINKING a carton of custard) you can feel a bit left out, or like you’re a “buzzkill”.
Remember there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a treat with your family now and then! Being healthy doesn’t mean always saying no to everything that isn’t super nutritious, it’s about being consistent with your good habits so they outweigh the occasions where you splurge a little.
Find your balance where you can join in on some of the fun things while still working towards your goals. This balance looks different for everyone – maybe you’d still like to enjoy some wine, or some cheese and crackers, or a slice of cake. Choose the moments you really don’t want to miss out on and build them into your healthy lifestyle.
This way, the transition into your new lifestyle will feel much less “all or nothing” for both you and your family, who may feel uneasy about some of these changes.
Be a cheerleader for health
Finally – be an example for your family. Nagging, guilt-tripping and forcing changes onto your loved ones will never get them to follow in your healthy footsteps. However, being a positive role model does!
Making and enjoying delicious healthy food and staying active and fit comes with so many benefits for your health and mood, it would be very difficult for your family not to notice.
If your kids and partner notice mum or dad has much more energy after they’ve been for a run, or they’re in a really good mood when they come back from the gym, then they are going to make that connection and be curious about trying it themselves.
I make my own muesli, and now my husband eats it too after noticing how much I liked it. He also started walking to and from work after noticing that he feels much better when he gets a decent daily step count. It’s about small habits that you build into your day that they might see and think, I could do that too. Be the inspiration your family needs!