5 Secrets to Stress-Free Mealtimes When Your Partner Eats Differently Than You
Written by: Karen Azeez
Today, men and women of different backgrounds, political parties and spiritual practices are learning to live together in harmony. But many couples face an even greater challenge in the kitchen.
If your diet differs from your significant others, you may be taking on a host of issues that make religion, politics and ethnicity seem like a walk in the park.
Who’s with me here?
There is nothing more personal than what we put into our bodies; food literally becomes a part of us. What we choose to eat is often based on deeply held beliefs and psychological needs, or it represents our cultural identity or upbringing and, in many cases, our diets are carefully selected to avoid allergies or treat chronic conditions.
A serious relationship can be fraught with conflict if your partner loves a big juicy steak and you are a dedicated vegan. Or misunderstandings can arise if your boyfriend doesn’t understand what gluten-free means. And there is sure to be a ton of tension if you are trying to diet while your spouse is sitting on the couch next to you gobbling down a bag of potato chips.
If this sounds like you, don’t give up. Thankfully there are a few simple things you can do to stay happy in a “mixed food” relationship.
#1 Practice Mutual Respect: Just as you likely would not judge someone’s religion, don’t try to convert your partner to your way of eating. Sure, you may be absolutely convinced that your diet is the healthiest, but it is not up to you to decide what your loved one eats. Nagging is not a useful transformation tool, but being a good role model is. Over time, your partner may decide that he wants the energy and vitality you have and will put down the French fries. But until then, hands off.
#2 Establish Clear Ground Rules: If you are sharing a space, agree on what foods are allowed and how they are prepared. In my house that means if I do the cooking, I cook the kind of food I love to eat (no meat and lots of fresh, whole foods). My husband can bring in ham, bacon and burgers if he wants to make them. And, if I’m trying to lose a few pounds, I ask him not to buy treats that will tempt me. (Thankfully, the butter cookies he loves do nothing for me.)
#3 Take Responsibility for Yourself: That means that at Thanksgiving for example, don’t expect your in-laws to cater their meal to your needs, whether it is medically necessary or just a matter of taste. Instead, gently remind the host that you have dietary restrictions, that you don’t want to make things complicated for them and that you will be bringing food that you can eat. If they decide they want to help, great! But bring a back-up meal just in case they forget about the chicken broth in the stuffing or the nuts in the pie. And bring enough to share with others – it is the Holidays after all.
#4 Develop a Thick Skin: Because food is such an emotional subject, people will have strange – and sometimes hostile – reactions to your food choices, believing that they are somehow challenges to their way of life. For example: your new boyfriend’s buddies may call you a tree-hugger if you are a vegetarian; his sister may spend the entire evening trying to poke holes in the Paleo diet; his Mom will say that you are too thin and that one donut won’t hurt. In these cases, it is better to remember that it is not personal; it is just fear and ignorance. Don’t make this an opportunity for an improvisational lecture. Just smile, stay strong and practice patience. Your calmness and fortitude will say more than any words could and ultimately, may help them to understand a different way of eating.
#5 Be Creative: If dining out is a source of conflict for you and your honey, then make your evenings out about other things you can enjoy together: see a play, go ice skating, visit a museum. Dating doesn’t always need to revolve around food. Or take turns choosing restaurants, as long as you make sure your significant other will have at least a couple of choices on the menu.
There is one thing more powerful than food: love. If you put that first (including love for yourself), then any relationship – even a mixed food coupling – can work.
Health Coach, Wellness Expert and Freelance Writer
at Well Beings
Karen Azeez is a health coach, wellness expert and freelance writer. Karen helps busy men and women incorporate simple lifestyle changes into their daily routine to address issues such as weight gain, insomnia, stress and digestion problems. Karen enjoys cooking healthy meals, hiking with her husband and border collie and watching way too many TV shows about wedding dress shopping.
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