In a perfect world, we'd all find our dietary counterpart. Our gluten-free girlfriend, our plant-based partner, our lactose intolerant lover, our soy-free sweetheart. We'd share our gluten-free spaghetti, Lady and the Tramp style, feed one another dairy-free dark chocolate in bed, and sip almond-milk cappuccinos by the fireplace.
But life doesn't always accommodate both our dietary and our romantic needs at the same time, like that. Often times, our plant-based self falls in love with a meat-eater. Or our gluten-free self falls in love with a "bread-aholic." Or our organic-obsessed-self falls in love with a fast-food devotee! Fortunately, we don't have to choose between true love and true health. We can coexist romantically with someone of a different dietary persuasion. Here's how:
1. Try your best to understand where your partner is coming from.
Unless you ask questions, you're probably going to be inclined to judge your partner for their unhealthy habits. That's a lose-lose for everyone. Rather than assuming they're lazy, weak or undisciplined, just ask about their food choices and eating habits! What happens if you find out that your loved one grew up with a family who only gathered around the dinner table if pasta was present!? Or that their beloved, late grandmother's favorite treat was butterscotch which is why they eat a whole bag when they're feeling gloomy? You'll never get on the same page if you don't have open, honest discussions.
2. Timing is key.
Do not, seriously, DO NOT, talk to your loved one about food while they are eating the food! Criticizing or informing them on the not-so-healthy facts of their french fries will cause them nothing but anger with a side of guilt and a dollop of resentment. They’ll either throw their food away and be mad at you for days, or savor every bite and lick the plate clean in front of you for effect. Instead, choose to talk to them about healthier options before the big dinner, when their stomach isn’t fueling their emotions, or after eating, when they complain to you about how they might not be feeling so great.
3. Cut them some loving slack.
Just like you, your loved one's gotta let lose sometimes! So let 'em. You know that saying, "If you love someone set them free, if they come back, they were meant to be?" Yeah, well same applies here, with food. Set them free! Let them indulge on poker night with the guys or splurge during the bachelorette weekend with the girls. Letting your partner's fork fly free every now and again means they'll appreciate your kale and coconut water that much more when they return home feeling not-so-great.
4. Show, don't tell.
Want to convince your partner that a morning green juice trumps a sugar-laden coffee? Then show off your green juice energy buzz! They’ll want to get in on that. Show your loved one how great drinking green juice makes you feel, how much it has cleared up your skin, how much weight it's helped you lose or how infrequently you get the sniffles. By walking your talk, you'll inspire by example.
5. Give them a taste.
If you're making your famous quinoa pesto salad, why not make a little extra, just in case? Or if you're whipping up some banana ice cream, maybe prepare your partner a bowl too, just because you "had extra." Or if you're freezing some homemade veggie burgers, how about throwing them into the freezer unlabeled so you-know-who might grab one in a hunger emergency, heat it up and actually love it? Shifting to a healthier diet takes trust. One of the biggest fears people have it is that healthy foods equals weird or bad-tasting foods. Subtly dissolve that fear by nonchalantly serving them bites, handfuls, or sips of your delicious healthy foods, and soon you'll be hearing, "Honey, do you have any more of that green stuff in the fridge?" to which you'll smile and whip up another batch of delicious green stuff, even if it's in the wee hours of the morning.
6. Praise them like you should.
Let's be honest, eating healthy can be hard! But positive reinforcement makes it easier. Remember when you were learning to spell and you'd get those nifty gold star stickers when you nailed, "D-E-F-I-N-I-T-E-L-Y?" How fantastic did you feel getting recognized for your hard work? How much more did it inspire you to want to keep going? Well the same goes for your loved one and healthy eating! When your partner snacks on apple chips instead of Doritos, give them a smile and tell them their apple chips look so good. When they order a salad without the cheese, tell them they're so impressive. These little “gold star stickers” can go a long way in helping your loved one clean up their diet.
7. Remember to love, above all.
Unless their diet is truly a deal-breaker for you, treating your partner unkindly might be. Always remember to treat them with unconditional love. The same love you'd like to be treated with for your not-so-healthy habit. (We all have at least one!) Speak to them kindly. Remember, the reason you care so much about their overall health is because you love them! So, talk to them with love. They’re so much more likely to listen if they feel your genuine care rather than your genuine judgment.