I am married to a “meat and potatoes” guy. Not big on fruits and veggies. A bit overweight (ex-college football player – you know the type). No family history of heart disease. As a matter of fact, his blood lipids are surprisingly intact based on what his dietary intake has been for our 23 years of marriage (thank goodness.) Given all these facts, it is quite challenging as a dietitian to get him to eat well. Time and time again I try to get him to take one of his unhealthy habits and replace it with a healthier one. Well, you cannot make a person change. They have to want it themselves. I know it is very, very difficult to make changes. Let me be clear about that.
I recall an incident that happened when we went out to lunch recently. He ordered a cheeseburger, and as is typical, it was to come with lettuce and tomato. My husband unexpectedly states as he orders, “No lettuce, please. I hate lettuce.” I was horrified that he had actually said that out loud. Now who hates lettuce? He likes salads. Can you really taste the lettuce with all the cheese, bacon, ketchup, hot sauce, pickles and caramelized onions? Not only that, when you are married to a dietitian, never, ever say something like that out loud – even if it’s true. We argued a bit about this but he was emphatic about the fact that the lettuce would have ruined his entire burger. His thinking was don’t like the lettuce, don’t want the lettuce, don’t need the lettuce. I interpret that to mean he thinks he’s so phenomenally healthy and he eats really well and gets plenty of veggies (NOT). Now the way MY brain works is I am always thinking about whether or not I’m eating healthy, how I look, what’s going on with my weight, does my breath smell, etc. Now this is what I think my husband thinks he looks like….
When is reality, it might be something like this…..
and, of course, that is distorted as well. I’m getting carried away but the point I really want to make is this. First of all, I had not intended the blog to go in this direction but women, in general, are much harder on themselves than men. Ladies, let’s stop this! More on this at another time. Secondly, getting back to the burger caper, would it really be that hard to keep that little piece of lettuce on your sandwich? That flimsy scrap of what is barely classified as a vegetable? My point is, keeping that piece of lettuce on your burger can be a “small” change that you make. You will at least be heading in the right direction.
When trying to change your eating habits whether for weight loss, improved health and wellness, or controlling a medical condition, I think the first mistake people make is trying to make too big of a change or too many changes at once. Any change you make is important. Often people try to make big, drastic changes. For instance, deciding you are never going to eat junk food again might be a too much to conquer. As a guide, avoid words like “never” and “always” when setting your goals. The little changes can eventually add up to a big improvement in your overall health. When making a change, you also have to decide if it’s sustainable. Can I do this for the long haul? Don’t vow to eat oatmeal every day for breakfast if you are so-so regarding oatmeal. Telling yourself you’ll have a green smoothie for a mid morning snack five days a week won’t work if you hate the taste. Remember, if you don’t like the taste but think it’s good for you, IT IS NOT SUSTAINABLE!
What is the best way to make a change? Pick your new healthy behavior and remember nothing is too small. Let’s say your change is that you’re going to eat a banana every day (just an example). Do this for a month until not eating a banana doesn’t feel right. Put your focus on eating the banana. This may sound silly but I promise you it is the best way to try to change a behavior and have it stick. Just like some of your “bad” health behaviors seem irresistible, the good ones can become that way as well – as long as you make sure the altered behavior you want to change is small and sustainable.
In my husband’s defense, maybe it is unfair for me to decide that keeping the lettuce on his burger is a small change (but really I think it is and it’s gonna be hard to get me to feel differently). Maybe I’m wrong (that was painful). If that is truly the case, he surely can pick something else to improve upon. Hmmm….how about eating the skin of his baked potato? Could be another toughie. Guess I’ll let him pick.