I have heard this topic discussed quite a bit in recent weeks and want to share my story because I think it might be a familiar one.
I had been doing Crossfit for about 6 months when I decided to eliminate gluten from my diet. I quickly saw the benefits to my digestion, but my husband saw it as a major annoyance. He didn’t really even know what gluten was. He only knew that it meant that it was much more difficult for us to chose a restaurant or agree on groceries.
When I made my shift to a full paleo diet, I made a lot of the mistakes that many paleo newbies make. I ate too low carb and I frequently skipped meals because I couldn’t find a paleo option. One night I even ate only bacon for dinner because I didn’t plan ahead and it was what we had. Then I’d binge eat nachos on the weekend because I was basically starving myself during the week.
I provided our daughter with paleo food, that was fine with him. However, he certainly wasn’t going to do the same. We had major fights about his food choices (and consequently hers and we both dug in hard. His argument was that she ate better than most of the kids he saw at school. Mine argument was that the Standard American Diet (SAD) wasn’t much of a comparison. I think the low point was when he took her to the “Pancake Store” (McDonald’s) and told her not to tell me.
We were dietary adversaries instead of a team.
Things have gotten significantly better over time. He doesn’t eat a paleo diet, but he is supportive of mine. I know that we could have gotten to this point more quickly, and changing my approach could have made all of the difference.
Here are a few things I wish I would have done when I started:
- Set priorities and be willing to make compromises. Now that I have been doing this for awhile, I know that gluten is a never food for me. It is sometimes easier for us to find a gluten free option than it is to find a paleo option at a restaurant. For example, my husband loves pizza, but he can handle only eating it every other month. Gluten free pizza is far from a top pick of mine, but it saves him an extra trip to another restaurant if I am willing to make this compromise. In turn, he has been much more willing to compromise on his end. I have recently added things like white rice and potatoes into the rotation. For some, this is a paleo no-no. For us, it make this a sustainable lifestyle.
- Don’t be in a rush. A 30 day strict, squeaky clean paleo diet isn’t going to completely change your health. And while the occasional gluten free waffle might slow down your progress a tad (but probably not), if you are able to find a more balanced approach you are more likely to stick to this lifestyle. It shouldn’t feel like torture, and you should learn to eat well without feeling deprived. If you take this approach, you will be less likely to freak out when your husband surprises you with tacos when you were planning on sitting down to a strict paleo meal.
- Make it easy. If your significant other didn’t choose this lifestyle AND it comes with a bunch of extra work, it is more likely to cause resentment. We now have a handful of restaurants locally where I can find choices I feel great about. My husband now knows what I would likely order at each place. I could have made it easier for him at the beginning by doing my research before I started mandating paleo only meals. Even better, I could have made a list of places and options for my husband when he wanted to surprise me by picking up dinner. Also, I have taken on almost all of the meal planning and prep for the family. As he has figured out the types of things I like to make, he slowly started to take some of that back on.
- Consider their likes. My husband will probably never eat broccoli. Putting it into a stir fry means there is no way in hell he will eat it. If I stir fry some broccoli on the side, we can both happily eat an almost identical meal. Additionally, I strongly suggest getting Cassy Joy Garcia’s Fed and Fit book. She has developed many of the recipes with her husband in mind. My husband has loved everything that I have made from this book.
I think this would have helped make this transition so much easier for us. What are some things that helped you maintain a paleo lifestyle with a non-paleo significant other?