If you’ve ever wondered what kind of advice you’d get from a nutrition coach, I have 4 lessons to share with you that I’ve learned from being married to one.
Where I’m Coming From
My diet has always been a weakness.
Facebook recently reminded me of something I posted about a decade ago that will give you a clearer understanding:
“Realized tonight my instant gratification need toward food. Had to toss an Oreo in my mouth while waiting the 1 minute for my dinner to heat up in the microwave.”
Needless to say, I rely heavily on Megan as the nutrition expert and cook in our house.
I’ve gotten better, but my bar was set pretty low to begin with. While I’m no expert on dieting, I do want to share some things I’ve learned since that post.
It’s all about the four C’s.
What’s healthier than a pop-tart? Pretty much everything.
(Hold tight, this is going somewhere.)
Megan isn’t big on eating first thing when she wakes up. It’s not a diet rule, just personal preference. I, on the other hand, am often ready to eat before my head is off the pillow. This means I’ve become the breakfast maker in our house.
Over time, I’ve learned I can do better than pop-tarts.
I can make pancakes now. They’re still out of a box, but I have to add eggs and milk, and that’s more cooking than I used to do. Plus, they’re whole wheat and high in protein.
I also do cream of wheat instead of sugary cereals. And I’ve gotten really good at making a variety of eggs, including a pretty decent omelette.
Most people probably wouldn’t even classify this as real cooking. But it’s a large step up from sticking a nutritionally devoid pastry in a toaster.
If you’re like me (an admittedly extreme example), there are still ways to step up your game.
You can learn easy recipes (like smoothies), find better packaged foods (like Greek yogurt), or when you go out to eat, choose a place where you can get balanced portions.
Lesson #1: It’s not about eating ideally, it’s about eating more suitably.
I learned many years ago that I’m sensitive to caffeine. Even if I have it in the late morning, it keeps me up at night.
Fortunately for me, I don’t like coffee. So quitting caffeine just meant no more soda. It wasn’t easy, but when I realized how much sleep I was losing, my motivation was higher.
Because of that, when I want to avoid high calorie drinks and stick to drinking mostly water, it comes pretty natural to me.
I’m also not big on sweets. There are certain things I can eat a ton of (like chocolate chip cookies), but in general, cakes and pies and things like that don’t appeal to me.
As much as I love chocolate chip cookies, since it’s one of few sweets that’s a weakness for me, it makes it easier to control my intake of foods that are high in added sugar.
Your strengths and weaknesses will be different from mine, but the takeaway is the same.
Lesson #2: Figure out what is naturally easier for you to control, and work on being consistent with those things first.
Every household is different. Some couples share the cooking duties, others are more like ours where one person is in charge, and some families just eat out a lot.
I’m sure Megan is somewhat envious of the couples who share that responsibility, but in general, she really does enjoy cooking.
One way she lightens her workload is by cooking in bulk, which means less total times in the kitchen. It doesn’t take much more effort to make the meals bigger, and then we freeze the extras for leftovers.
That’s where the compromise comes into play.
Obviously I don’t expect my wife to cook every single meal for me. But if I want to eat healthy, I can’t just heat up cans of Chef Boyardee whenever I’m hungry.
So now I eat leftovers more often than I’d like. Sometimes I have the same meal twice in one day. I’ll even heat up a bowl of beef stew or some other ungodly form of breakfast, because that’s what’s in the freezer.
It’s not always exactly what I want, but it’s healthy, and doable for me.
Compromise comes in many forms. It could be as simple as learning to like leftovers. Or it could be taking something you know you should do (like eating 2 fist sized serving of veggies at every meal), and meeting in the middle (like eating any veggies at all at every meal).
Lesson #3: If you’re serious about getting in better shape, but not excited about part of the process, find a compromise that’ll take you one step closer.
A big part of my problem has always been that I wait to eat until I’m starving.
And my entire family will tell you… I get hangry.
With Megan’s help, I’ve gotten much better at coordinating my eating schedule with my daily activities.
I do best eating 4-6 meals a day (depending on current goals). That means eating every 2-3 hours. If I go any longer than that, at the next meal I eat way more than I normally would. This is bad because:
I’m more likely to stuff my face with crap.
It gets me off track for my next meal.
It messes with my overall intake for the day.
Every day is a little different, and I still struggle with it. But when I stay on track, it not only helps my diet, it helps my attitude.
It’s worth the effort.
Lesson #4: Planning WHEN you’ll eat makes a massive difference in WHAT you wind up eating.
All Lessons Combined
It boils down to this: Find your strengths.
If you know what you’re capable of, as well as your limitations, you can learn ways to highlight your strengths and work around your weaknesses.
You can eat more suitably, control what comes naturally, compromise when necessary, and make plans that fit your unique needs.
If all else fails, you could try marrying a nutrition coach, but they’ll just tell you the same thing.