Supportive friends and family are incredibly important when you want to begin making changes. They should be encouraging, motivating, personal cheerleaders that understand and even help you reach your goals.
But what if you don’t have that?
You want to start eating better, but your family just doesn’t seem interested. You want to wake up earlier and exercise, but your roommate wants to stay up until 1am every night with all the lights on yelling at whatever movie they’re watching or video game they’re playing. It’s incredibly frustrating and demotivating.
Unfortunately, you can’t make everyone want to jump on the health and fitness train. Sometimes you’re going to have to work around other people to reach your goals. While it can be difficult, it’s not impossible. I have two children who are picky eaters and don’t always want what I make for them. My husband likes a big bowl of cereal or a large steak, but doesn’t always care for fruits and veggies or food with weird names like “quinoa”. I’ve found ways to stick to my resolutions, while still giving my family the freedom to do their own things. Here are a few ways I manage without going insane:
Talk it Out First
Suddenly jumping into any new routine that might affect your family can be a bit scary for them. One day you’re eating all your favorites together, and then suddenly the things they love aren’t an option anymore? It’s going to cause some kind of resentment or backlash. You want to talk things out with them first. Start your conversation with something inclusive and friendly.
“Hey, I’ve been looking at the way we’ve been eating/living and I feel like it’s not doing us much good. We don’t have as much energy as we used to and I think it’s affecting our lives negatively. I want to start making some changes to get us back on track.”
Who knows? After the initial conversation, you may find your family is on board with the idea.
Include or Make Time
When I’m doing body weight or mat exercises such as Pilates and Yoga, there isn’t much danger of me running into or dropping something on small people. I let my kids hang out with me, and they either watch a movie quietly on the couch next to me, or they get up and join me. They aren’t quite old enough to participate completely, but by letting them see what I do and try to do it with me, I’m setting an example that they can follow as they get older.
If the weather is good, I pack those two up into a jogging stroller and hit the running trail near my home. Sometimes we’ll walk to a park and run around and play. If the weather isn’t good, I wait until bed time so I can use my treadmill safely without worrying about them climbing all over it. (If you don’t have a treadmill, some quick paced exercises can get your heart rate up just as well.)
Replace and Cook at Home
When you go grocery shopping, there are a lot of little changes you can make to your every day list that your family likely won’t notice. Instead of white breads or pasta, opt for whole grain versions. Be sure to read the labels thoroughly. The first ingredient should be 100% whole wheat. Even if it’s advertised as whole wheat, if the second ingredient is bleached or enriched white flour, it isn’t 100% whole wheat.
Get lean meats as opposed to fatty ones. Aim for 80-90% meat with 20-10% fat in beef, and get more poultry and fish. Low fat dairy products are okay, but once again you want to check the labels. If the low fat versions are close to the same amount of calories and are full of more ingredients that are difficult to impossible to pronounce, chances are the full fat versions are a lot healthier. Try to get your cheeses in their block forms and slice or shred them yourself. The pre-sliced and shredded kinds often have additives to keep them from sticking together that you don’t really need in your body.
Nut and olive oils are full of good fats and come in a more natural (less added chemicals) form than vegetable oils do. Coconut, almond, and peanut oils are good substitutes for butter or shortening. Honey, agave nectar, and natural sweeteners such as xylitol or stevia are good substitutes for sugar. If you’re making baked goods or smoothies, naturally sweet fruits like bananas and apples are excellent. (I like to used vanilla greek yogurt in smoothies, myself.)
Homemade is almost if not always a better option than pre-packaged foods. Learning to enjoy cooking is beneficial to both you and your family. Things like rice pudding (or any pudding), mac and cheese, potato salad, soup, hamburgers, grilled cheese, burritos, pancakes, waffles, or just about anything you can get at a fast food chain or in a convenient little box – I could go on for a pretty long time – can be made at home. Wouldn’t you feel much better actually knowing what goes into your food instead of twisting your tongue over the listed ingredients on pre-packaged foods? I don’t know, maybe you’re one of those super nerds who likes knowing all the different chemicals and what they are or what they do.
Make Meal Time Family Time
If you make an effort to spend time together and eat together as a family, not only will you grow closer to each other and just have tons of love and cute, mushy feelings for each other, but your healthy habits will start to rub off on everyone else. They’ll see how much more energy you have and how happy you are and think “Gosh if only I could have that too.” Before you know it, health and fitness becomes a family lifestyle! Maybe. I’m still waiting for that to happen here. But hey, the family time is great anyway, so you should make a habit of it, regardless.
Besides just eating together, try to have everyone participate in MAKING at least one of the meals each day. If they have a hand in preparing it, they’re a lot more likely to eat it, even if they usually turn their noses up at anything green. You can always sneak the good food in somehow. Banana bread, apple bread, zucchini bread, fruit and veggie smoothies, (Veggie… Smoothies? Yes, they’re great. Go throw some steamed carrots or a handful of spinach into your next one.)
Don’t try to shoo your kids out of the kitchen every time they come in to see what you’re doing. Let them help. Teaching them to cook sets them up for a significantly less difficult life as an adult. Next time they burn their ramen in the microwave because they forgot to add water, hey they can’t blame you because you taught them how to make things properly.
Sometimes your partner will have things that you just won’t do or eat, and likewise you’ll probably find things you really love but they can’t stand. Not everyone likes kale, some people just like meat more than life itself. You might be with someone who thinks exercise for fun is just certifiable.
In my case, my husband could eat burgers and steak every meal of the week (and has once or twice I’m pretty sure.) but I would be much happier if I had it twice a week at most. I’m just not a meat person. Dairy gives me some pretty bad indigestion, but my husband won’t live without it. So for things like this, we compromise. He lets me get almond milk, I add meat to each of his meals. (It’s pretty easy to throw some steak or chicken onto a stir fry after it’s finished and served.) I let him get hot dogs for lunch, he lets me put quinoa and hard boiled eggs on our salads. It’s okay to eat different meals, too.
Budget/Keep it Simple
Sometimes the complaints about the way I eat are due to the cost of trying to satisfy everyone. If we all ate the same way it’d be so much cheaper, but with people who don’t like the idea of giving up their snack food for my carrots and peas, and with me not wanting to sacrifice my health for their snack foods, that’s hard to do. So we’ve got to find a way to budget our food.
It’s always a good idea to check with you local grocery for sales events and discounts. You can get a great bargain when you buy sale items in bulk. Then you just freeze them to keep them fresh longer.
Discuss beforehand which foods everyone will eat, and stick to those. Plan your meals ahead of time. Repeating meals is definitely okay. Sometimes the same old soups or sandwiches are better than spending more money on a variety throughout the week. I’ve had weeks where I just want to experiment for every meal, and I find myself buying ingredients that I only use once. That kind of cost really adds up.
Don’t Give Up
This is probably the most important point I want to make. It’s going to be hard, it’s going to get frustrating. There might be a lot of contention while everyone is on a different page. Just don’t give up. Keep eating right, keep exercising regularly, and keep encouraging your family to join you. It gets easier.