No one told me that dieting is a team sport. But it makes total sense.
If you want to alter your diet and you share food in a house with someone else, that person has to be involved. That, or you’re going to have to label your food with Post-it notes.
But I’ve always been of the belief that if your relationship can stomach joint bank accounts, then you can compromise when it comes to calories.
My partner, Aaron, is a tall, thin guy, who cooks and eats whatever he wants. The man is blessed with a metabolism in high gear. He loves beans and legumes, he doesn’t care much for sweets and he’s not much of a fast-food lover (unless you count burritos). Over our seven years together, I have taken many pages out of his nutritional book.
The man is also one heck of a cook and makes most of our meals.
When I started to pay attention to my nutrition, I told Aaron I wanted to eat healthier, make sure I had enough nutrients for my boosted exercise schedule and learn to rope in my sugar craving.
Soon, dinners were mainly vegetables with lean proteins. And, he always portioned out leftovers so we had healthy lunches the next day. One night, he made a batch of stuffed peppers (massive green shells, halved and stuffed with quinoa, chickpeas, onions and a little bit of feta cheese).
Almost a week later, one lonesome stuffed pepper still sat in our fridge. I told him I only wanted half of the pepper for lunch, to go with some chicken, a small orange and some nuts.
“But it needs to be eaten. It’s been in the fridge for almost a week,” he said.
“I can’t eat a full one,” I said.
“Just eat the pepper,” he said.
Before I knew it, we were in a full-blown shouting match over a stupid pepper that didn’t end until I was nearly in tears and shouted: “I’m trying to watch my portion sizes these days! Why can’t you be supportive of my efforts!?”
Research by Dr. Lynsey K. Romo, an assistant professor at North Carolina State University who has done numerous studies on weight loss and its effects on relationships, shows we aren’t the only couple who has faced a dietary speed bump along the road to healthier lives.
One of her studies, published earlier this year in the journal Health Communication, looked at 21 couples where one person had lost at least 30 pounds. The study found two major trends: The weight-loss journey affected couples’ ability to communicate, as well as their intimacy – for better or for worse.
For example, some couples found that better communication around weight management led to both people adopting healthier lifestyles. Other couples found that it led to nagging. In terms of intimacy, some couples reported a better sex life and feeling emotionally closer after the dramatic weight loss. But with at least two couples, weight loss played a part in the demise of the relationship.
“Couples seem to have an easier time changing their lifestyles when the reasons are health-related and when both people embrace these changes,” said Romo in an e-mail.
Romo advises people who are thinking about changing their diets to talk openly with their partners, explain why they are undertaking these changes and emphasize that they would love the support of their partner, even if she or he isn’t making the same changes.
“Or at the very least, [ask them] to keep unhealthy food outside of the home,” she added.
Already Aaron and I are talking more about nutrition without being fixated about it. And we’ve both already learned some important takeaways from “Stuffed Peppergate.” In Aaron’s mind, that giant stuffed pepper was no big deal. He just didn’t want it to go to waste. When I looked at it, I saw two-thirds of my daily calories in one stupid pepper. Next time I’ll cut the pepper myself.