Recently (as in, literally yesterday) my husband and I decided we need to eat healthier. We both have a wicked sweet tooth for highly processed junk food, plus some portion control issues, especially when it comes to said junk food. On several occasions, I have eaten an entire package of chocolate chip cookies in one sitting, and I often eat ice cream as a meal. It’s bad, guys.
But we decided we want to be different! If you’re in a similar place but feel like there’s no way you can overhaul your eating habits and actually stick with it, join the freakin’ club. Seriously, this is our first foray into healthy eating, and we are both very nervous about failing miserably. So we’ve decided to take things slow. Read on to know more about our motivation for change, what we’re actually doing differently, and how it’s going so far (AKA, as of Day 1).
Our Healthy Eating Goals
First and foremost, my husband and I just want to be healthier. We want to have better cholesterol, better blood sugar, and as a result, hopefully have more energy and feel better in our day-to-day lives. We’re trying to keep our eyes on this big picture instead of getting bogged down by counting calories or cutting out any one food entirely. We do have some more specific goals in mind, but they’re different for each of us. My husband and I are in this healthy eating thing together, because having a buddy makes doing new things a million times easier, but we’re coming from very different places, and we’re hoping to get different things out of this change.
Personally, I am coming from a place of a lot of luck. My parents both had great metabolisms when they were my age, so I can generally eat what I want without worrying about my weight fluctuating too much. However, dysfunctional relationships with food definitely run in my family, and it’s something I’ve been actively avoiding for years now. Luckily, my parents were excellent role models. They always reminded me that I should eat if I’m hungry, and be done if I’m full, and my mom made healthy, delicious meals for our family nearly every night growing up.
As for goals, I’m hoping to reduce my reliance on processed foods as a coping mechanism for intense emotions. I tend to eat a lot of junk food if I’m upset, and because I’m so sensitive and emotional, this sometimes happens several times a week. This spikes my blood sugar, which makes me feel all twitchy and high-strung, and then leads to an almighty crash that makes me want to die. Such a great way to calm down intense emotions, right? I’d like to eat more healthy foods so my brain can get used to them and accept them as comforting, so I can make a smoothie next time my heart is breaking, instead of devouring an entire sleeve of Pringles.
My husband has had a very different experience with food. There have always been so many other factors influencing his food intake, that he rarely asked himself “Am I hungry? Am I full?” And if he did, he wasn’t sure how to get the answer. A few years ago, he found out that he has acid reflux, and has ever since he was a baby. To deal with it as a kid, he ate constantly because eating kept the acid at bay temporarily. My husband also played football from a young age, where overeating was often seen as part of training. Add in the fact that his parents (like most parents) were strict about clearing your plate before leaving the table, and it’s no wonder my husband became desensitized to his own intuition about food. There were so many other things to worry about besides “Am I hungry?”
Unfortunately, these eating patterns have led to consistent weight gain, which has caused all kinds of problems for him over the years. Like me, my husband’s main goal in this healthy eating endeavor is to generally be healthier, but his personal goal is also to lose some of the weight that causes issues in his daily life. He hopes to do this by choosing healthier snacks and learning to listen to his body when it tells him he’s full.
What We’re Doing Differently Now
Because our issues with food are mostly focused on portion control and a weakness for junk food, our solutions are focused on those things as well. We aren’t trying the keto diet or paleo diet or any kind of diet, we’re just making changes that will hopefully help correct the issues we deal with when it comes to eating healthy. We decided to make these specific changes because I Googled “how to eat healthier” this morning and these seemed the most relevant to our problems, and the most doable.
Appropriately Portioned Snacks: Instead of sitting down with a full package of cookies in front of me, I know I’m supposed to take two or three and leave the package in the cupboard. I know this, and yet, I literally never do it. Solution? Pre-portioned snacks! I spent a large part of my day today going through some of our snacky food and separating it into snack-sized baggies, that way next time I’m craving something, I can just grab a bag and avoid eating the entire container.
Fewer Processed Foods: As I said before, my husband and I aren’t cutting anything out entirely because we know setting such strict restrictions will only increase our likelihood of failure, and thus make us want to give up quicker. If we’re realistic and allow ourselves to eat processed stuff once and a while, we’ll hopefully stick to the healthier stuff most of the time. Still, a big part of this lifestyle change is decreasing the amount of processed foods we eat regularly. Instead of buying a package of cookies on my grocery run today, like I usually do, I bought ingredients for protein balls, which are sweet and delicious, but contain a lot less sodium and sugar.
Meal Prep (Sorta): I am absolutely in love with the idea of meal prep, but in reality, I know I don’t have the motivation to do it. I might do it one week, but then when the next week rolls around, I’ll just be like “Seriously? This again?? Nah, man. Nah.” But with our portion control issues, prepping our meals is actually a really big part of healthy eating for me and my husband. So I’m doing my own version of meal prep, which is really just making extra food for dinner so that we have enough to pack for leftovers the next day. To help with portions, I bought some cheap not-Tupperware from the grocery store that is pre-divided into sections, plus some Mason jars and fruit cups so I could copy this Pinterest video.
Checking In With Each Other: Learning to listen to your body about food after years of ignoring it is really freaking hard, so my husband and I are helping each other out. Today at dinner, I announced that I was trying to decide if I was full or if I wanted a second helping, and my husband asked how I decide that. We had a nice little discussion about interpreting hunger signals (and fullness signals), and taking the time to observe what we’re feeling. Just talking about these things can honestly make such a big difference, plus it makes both of us feel supported.
So…How Was Day One?
Day one was…long. I spent all day shopping, prepping, cooking, and cleaning. Here’s everything I did to get us started (with links to the Pinterest recipes I used):
- Went to the grocery to buy better snacks and ingredients for a few healthy meals I’d like to try to make soon
- Took a nap because it’s so freaking hot out, carrying the groceries in from my air-conditioned car to my air-conditioned house had me sweating and shaking
- Filled an ice cube tray with vanilla yogurt to make yogurt cubes; once they were frozen, I added them to smoothie prep baggies, which included yogurt cubes, frozen strawberries, frozen peaches, and some fresh spinach
- Cleaned and cut up strawberries and dried them out in the oven for several hours
- Filled a small pan with a fine layer of vanilla yogurt and added the dried strawberries to the top, then put in the freezer to make strawberry-yogurt bark
- Cleaned and sliced up a sweet potato, coated the slices in olive oil, sprinkled them with salt and pepper, and baked them to make sweet potato chips (also, bled through several band-aids in the process)
- Separated our container of honey-roasted peanuts into snack-sized baggies
- Made protein balls out of oatmeal, honey, peanut butter, mini chocolate chips, vanilla extract, and ground flax seed, and separated them into snack portions
- Washed spinach and added a pinch to the smoothie baggies; saved the rest in a separate bag for salads
- Washed romaine lettuce and saved the nicest leaves for wraps; ripped the rest up to be used for salads
- Made a healthy(ish?) dinner of pasta, sausage, peppers, and onions (plus lots of basil and Parmesan)
- Did an absolutely unimaginable number of dishes (with hubby’s help, of course)
I’m hoping the more I do this, the quicker this process will become, because this was seriously an all-day endeavor. I assumed it would take several hours, but I had no idea it would consume my entire day. Still, it was actually kind of enjoyable, in no small part because I knew I was doing something to help my family, and that made me feel good. Goodness, I sound like the housewife I always thought I never wanted to be. But it turns out, I actually really like taking care of our house and making food. Who knew?
Anyway, this is how my husband and I are trying to develop healthier eating habits. It’s early, but we’re hopeful! Keep an eye out for an update post in a few weeks!