Intuitive Eating with a Partner Who Eats Differently

Hi guys!

I can’t wait to dive into this topic today – it’s one that I’ve been asked a lot about and have had to personally learn a lot about as I’ve been living with Ryan.

I asked you guys on Instagram the other day what specific questions you had about this topic, and I am going to do my best to answer your Q’s through this post!

When I lived alone and was single, I primarily just had to worry about myself when it came to food. I cooked what I felt like cooking, I usually decided where and when I wanted to eat out, and I was able to focus on my own relationship with food without really thinking about anyone else’s.

In a relationship, I’ve found that all of this becomes more complicated:

  • I observe my partner’s relationship with food and find it hard not to interject at times
  • We like ordering, buying, and cooking different things
  • We have different eating habits / times / needs

As someone who has worked extensively with people around food, I’ve been really interested in navigating the challenges that come up in a partnership with food.

Here are some things I’ve learned…

 

1. Focus on YOUR relationship with food. DO NOT try to push your own ideas around food onto your partner. They need to find their own way and are on their own path.

Given my profession and history with food, this has been SO hard for me in the past. In past relationships, whenever I’d see my partner demonstrate an “interesting behavior” around food, like emotionally eating or not stopping when he was full, it was so hard for me to not say something. Because I had been there, I thought I knew what was going on under the surface, and I wanted to help.

That always backfired. Always!

I realized that it was so hard for me to hold space for my partner’s journey – and sometimes, their emotions. Imagining my boyfriend feeling an emotion that would cause him to emotionally eat was hard for me to feel and deal with on my own, so I’d project all of my own discomfort onto him.

I also know what happens to MY body when I overeat, or when I eat certain foods, and therefore it can sometimes be hard to not assume that’s the same for someone else.

I’ve worked a lot on this, and in my relationship with Ryan now, I am significantly better about  this. I’ve learned, over and over, that I need to respect and trust Ryan’s own journey with his health and food.

I focus on myself, and that’s it. I do me, and he does him. I’ve noticed that the more he feels free to explore things on his own, he actually asks me for advice and guidance more often. But when I try to control him in any way, it completely backfires.

So, you do you. Serve as an example and inspiration, without shoving it in their face. Let them find their own way.

 

2. Set an example of standing up for your own needs (and therefore theirs, too).

This is a really powerful lesson I have learned through all of my relationships and it extends far beyond food.

When you take a stand for your own needs, it gives the other person the space to do that for themselves, too. YOU can set the example of what this looks like.

A lot of people don’t know what it looks like to really ask themselves what they need and then express that. You, especially as the woman in the relationship, can be a powerful example for how to do that.

So, when it comes to food, really think about what you want and need in any given situation, and then express that.

If your partner suggests a restaurant that you really aren’t feeling, say that and suggest some other possibilities. If he / she suggests cooking a meal that doesn’t sound appealing to you, say that and discuss some other options. If your partner wants to share a bottle of wine to celebrate something and you really don’t want to drink, say “I want to celebrate but I’d rather not drink… but crack open that wine and I’m going to have some kombucha (or whatever) instead!”.

I’ve noticed that the more I gently stand up for my needs around food and taking care of myself, Ryan does the same. It shows him more of what this looks like and gives him space to do that for himself with me, too. It allows both of us to respect our own needs and each others’.

 

3. Compromise where you can. Don’t compromise where you can’t.

On that same note, relationships are about compromise. Know when and where you can compromise, and where things are a hard NO for you.

For instance, some nights I really feel indifferent about what we do for dinner. My body isn’t craving anything in particular and I just feel a bit “whatever” about it. Those nights I just tell Ryan to pick anything he wants.

Or, if I know he’s been craving something for a while or wanting to cook something, even if it’s not something I particularly want, I’ll of course encourage him to make it and I’ll find a way to make it work for me.

For instance, Ryan REALLY loves meat, and while I do like to eat meat often, I don’t crave it in the frequency or quantity that he does. He recently wanted to make a meat based chili with zero vegetables in it. If it were me, I would have made a chili with plenty of veggies, but he LOVES this particular chili. So, I of course encouraged him to make it, and I did what I needed to do in order to make it work for me: I ate it over a bed of greens, while he ate his over pasta.

How can you make both of your preferences work for you?

Then there are other times when he might suggest something and zero part of me wants that, so that’s where I say I’d prefer something else.

Know yourself. Know where you can bend and where you can’t.

 

4. Cook in a way that you can mix and match. Have options so you can both eat in tune with your preferences.

When Ryan and I first moved in together, we were cooking full-on recipes. This was fun, but 1) it took way too much time each day and 2) it didn’t give us much flexibility to eat in accordance to our own cravings.

We’ve found that cooking basics each week and then allowing each of us to mix and match has really helped. Here’s how we think about it:

  • Each week, we usually pick one or two meat proteins to have on hand and we cook these in batches. So this past week we made a big batch of meatballs and we cut up a Costco rotisserie chicken to have on hand.
  • We cook and chop veggies. We pick a few “hot veggies” and roast them ahead of time, we keep some fresh to quickly cook in the moment, and then we chop “cold veggies / salad veggies” to have ready.
  • We have fats on hand always: avocados, nut butters, seeds, nuts, etc.
  • We keep a dressing or two made in bulk in the fridge
  • We usually make a “snacky” food like these Walnut Cardamom Balls to have on hand throughout the week
  • For breakfasts, we make overnight oats in batches, or this banana bread to add peanut / almond butter to each morning!
  • We always have tons of eggs on hand to make omelettes, add to veggie bowls, or make for dinner in a pinch
  • We keep lots of leftovers frozen meals in tupperwares (chilis / soups), which usually supplement our batch-cooking each week and give us tons of flexibility

As you can see, we keep it simple! We choose some proteins, fats, carbs, and veggies, and then we just mix and match those throughout the week.

For lunches, we each pack our own using what we have on hand. We each choose whatever we want just depending on what sounds appealing to us.

For dinners, we tend to generally eat the same meal, but usually with variations based around:

  • Portion size
  • How much meat each of us wants (Ryan usually wants more)
  • If we are each craving more veggies / carbs / etc.

I tend to load up on veggies more than Ryan, while he will usually have more meat than I do. I’ll sometimes grab a zucchini or some kale and throw it in a skillet while we’re getting our meal ready, and that way I can quickly add some extra veggies to my meal.

Having options around and easily available allows us to each tap into our cravings and arrange a meal from that place.

For portions, we each just have what feels good to us! Ryan typically eats more than me (but not necessarily all the time), and we both follow our own hunger signals.

Your specific questions, answered:

How do you make this not time consuming on weeknights?

 

We have very little time on weeknights. Ryan typically gets home around 8:00 / 8:15pm and I often get home around that time, too. This is why we rely so heavily on our batch cooking Sundays. On weeknights, we almost always eat what we’ve batch cooked. For instance, like I mentioned earlier, this past Sunday we made a big batch of meatballs with sauce, lots of veggies and pasta, and we cut up a Costco chicken. A couple of nights this week we based our meals around the meatballs, quickly heating them up and putting them over pasta or veggies, and a couple nights we used the chicken + roasted potatoes and veggies to assemble a stir fry type of thing. Again, we just mix and match to create balanced meals really quickly once we get home. Batch cooking, having leftovers, and also having chilis / soups  in the freezer to supplement your weekly batch cooking is KEY!

 

How do you grocery shop when different things sound good to you?

 

This really goes back to my overall point in this post, which is let yourselves each do your thing. With two different bodies, you will have different cravings and needs. I would really encourage you to shop for what each of you want so that you each feel free to enjoy the food you like. With that being said, you can work together to try to find recipes that you BOTH are excited about so that you don’t have two entirely different grocery lists!

 

How do I ease my husband into Intuitive Eating? I’m still learning myself…

 

I would say for now, just focus on your journey with IE and if you feel like it, share with him bits and pieces of what you’re learning. The best way to teach someone  is through leading by example, versus pushing something on to them. So, focus on your own journey, share with him when you feel inspired, and lead by example!

 

What are your favorite veggies to cook, how do you make them taste good, and what do you do about veggies going bad?

 

I always have some sort of leafy greens (kale, spinach, chard) around – whether these are boxed / bagged (so easy) or fresh and ready to chop / cook myself. I like how I can use leafy greens cold as a base for a salad or cooked warm. I try to always have a few “salad veggies” on hand like cucumbers and carrots, and then “cooking veggies” like squash, mushrooms, and cauliflower.

We also use Imperfect Produce (a CSA kinda thing…in fact, click here for $10 off your first order in Aug!) which delivers in-season local produce each week, mid-week. I challenge myself to cook whatever is in season from our box.

To make things taste good, I honestly use VERY simple ingredients. Good olive oil or coconut oil, salt, pepper, lemon, and then whatever spices I have laying around: turmeric, curry, cumin, garlic powder, herbs.

In terms of things going bad – the more you meal prep, the more you learn how much you need for your household. We’ve gotten a lot better at this over time. But the reality is, sometimes things WILL go bad and you just need to toss them. The way I see it, I save so much money from meal prepping and waste way less food doing it versus eating out, so if sometimes we end up wasting a little bit of food, it’s okay.

Also, since we typically do our meal prep on Sundays, I will usually pick up a few fresh ingredients on Wednesday or Thursday to get us through the week.

 

What about going out to eat when you’re not hungry?

 

So first of all, if you know you have a dinner at 7pm, the more you get to know your body, the better you’ll become at knowing how to manage your hunger so that you are hungry and ready to eat at 7pm.

But, sometimes it still happens that you’re just not hungry when going out to eat. My advice here is to follow YOUR hunger cues! Just simply say, “I’m really not that hungry, I’m just going to get something small (or nothing at all).” It really is as easy as just doing YOU, regardless of what others think.

 

What about vegetarian proteins? He adds meat and I don’t know what to have!

 

I love making lentil salads! Or you can have eggs (if you eat eggs), and various forms of beans. I would look up “vegetarian meals” on the internet and see what recipes appeal to you. It’s definitely important to know your go-to’s to cook for yourself during the week.

 

What about meal time preferences? My husband likes 3 meals a day and I like to munch throughout the day.

 

I would say, first, decide if it’s important to you to eat meals together. When moving in with Ryan, we had to adjust our dinners to be very late due to his work schedule – we eat around 8:30 / 9:00 pm which is very late for me.

I knew that I didn’t have to eat dinner at this time – I could eat earlier and separate from him, and that would be completely okay. But to me, it felt important to eat dinner together, so I adjusted my schedule. I now eat a really substantial snack at 4 or 5pm to hold me over so that we can have dinner together.

Is there a way that you can munch throughout your day but align one of your “snacks” with one of his meals so that you can sit down together (if it’s important to you to eat together)?

Again, I would come back to the idea of you doing YOU, but if you value eating together, where can you bend or compromise (and where can he) so that you can align for some meals?

 

Phew, okay, I hope that helps you guys! Moral of the story… get comfortable doing YOU, compromise where and when you can, and meal prep so that you can mix and match! It will make your life so much easier. It takes time to figure out how to do this in a way that works well for you, but it is a skill worth refining.

Still have questions? I will be in the comments on this post over the next couple of days answering your more specific questions… so please do comment  and I’ll respond!

Lots of love and happy eating!

Love,

Jamie

 

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  1. Great article. Will follow all your tips as I start out with intuitive eating.

  2. My hubby also wants to eat with me, especially for dinner and many times he ends up eating a lot later than I want to, so I started honoring my hunger and eating between 5-7 pm and if he wants to eat later than that, because he’s not hungry at that time I still sit with him, but I just have a cup of tea or bone broth instead of a meal. Which is fine with me because I don’t mind eating earlier and alone. It allows me to eat more mindfully (slow/deep breathing) and I enjoy my food more. So it’s all working. I’d say we eat like this 3 maybe 4 times a week and it’s all good, so maybe this can help someone else who may be in this type of situation. Just thought I’d put it out there. Loved all of this Jamie, it was great advice.

  3. loved this Jamie so helpful!

  4. Thank you for posting this! I’ve been really bad about pushing my food journey onto my partner and it was really helpful to read that this isn’t the way to go about it, even if I knew it deep down. My partner likes to eat junk food on occasion and will ask me to go to a certain bar or restaurant that I know has no even remotely healthy options. I also like to eat junk food on occasion, but not for an entire meal. I will often turn down her request to go or say that she can go alone, because I’m one of those people who has trouble not eating food in front of me. Do you have any advice on how to approach situations like this? Thank you!

    • Hey Charlotte! I totally get this. Well, I would say that if you desire to be able to accompany her but just not eat what’s in front of you, maybe you can do some work on your end to be able to be around food without eating it? My Intuitive Eating Challenge will definitely help you with that if you’re interested in learning more! http://jamiemendell.com/intuitive-eating-challenge

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