At the last few Fitter Food events I’ve discussed the role of relationships in health. Not something you might consider when you decide on a health or fat loss goal, but actually, it’s hugely relevant.
We thrive on social interaction and there are many types of relationships that play a fundamental role in our health including friendships, work colleagues, family and gym buddies. I want to focus on what might be considered one of the most important of these, due to its role and influence in our daily routine, of course I’m referring to that special someone in your life: your other half (OH these days).
There have been a few studies suggesting most people, perhaps more so women, gain weight in the first 12 months of a romantic relationship. We don’t need studies to tell us this, most of my dating days involved eating out, more weekday wine consumption, late nights, long brunches, missed gym sessions, and of course, once you meet the one you then swap to staying in and one of the highlights of your week is planning that all important Saturday night feast together.
The thing is you don’t want to be a spoilsport turning down romantic dates so you can stay in and steam kale or make sure you get to bed on time, yet equally a new relationship doesn’t mean that you should totally lose your identity and forgo the healthy habits and principles you’ve established in order to fit in with someone else’s routine and lifestyle. Here’s our top tips for ensuring your relationship always fuels your awesome:
1) Partner Portion Control
I learnt very quickly not to leave Matt in charge of my portions when he brought me breakfast in bed and served the cereal in my fruit bowl! It goes without saying his portions are twice the size of mine, he’s double the size of me, lifts twice as much weight and I’d like to keep it that way. When we first met I found myself disregarding what I knew to be adequate for me. One fillet of fish, a drizzle of olive oil and a couple of spoonfuls of potato suddenly became two fillets of fish, a large glug of olive oil and a mountain of potato because that was what he was eating. There were more starters, desserts, extra sides and sharing platters when we ate out. I seemed to be spending a lot of time feeling pretty stuffed and bloated, not exactly the best recipe for romancing!
A solution for me was to start using his serving as a benchmark for mine. When we’re dishing up dinner I have around half his serving of protein, fats and carbs. However, in order to not feel like I’m missing out next to his generous serving of fitter food I simply add extra vegetables or salad to mine. The fact that my plate looks just as full as his appeals to my competitive side. Similarly, when eating out I’ll order lighter starters like salad or soup and we generally share a dessert, he usually eats most of it but I still get to have my cake and eat it, just a little less.
2) Make Meal Timing & Macros Work
Another issue can arise from the fact that you have different schedules, body compositions or performance goals. This means you’ll likely need a slightly different nutrition routine but of course this has the potential to be pretty anti-social and appear a little selfish at times.
The key is to acknowledge your different goals and adapt accordingly. One of the most common scenarios we come across is when a guy is trying to supersize and stack on some mass or weight yet his partner has a fat loss goal, however, we’ve also seen the opposite where a female client is trying to get her partner to drop a few kilos. In both cases we suggest cooking the same protein and veggies but just having different side dishes so you can both adapt the macronutrients as per your goals. If batch cook some potatoes, quinoa salads, lentils, ratatouille and roasted vegetables the person who is trying to gain weight or who has a higher calorie need can chose more calorie dense side dishes, dressings and sauces.
Matt will also eat more frequently than I do and eat later in the evening. I learnt very quickly on my health journey that my energy and digestion are better with bigger gaps between meals and eating my dinner early in the evening. Whenever he was out late playing rugby or personal training, I’d try and wait for him so we could have dinner together but found myself so hungry that I’d eat the equivalent of a meal snacking away in the meantime, I’d still eat the dinner I prepared of course and end up going to bed on a full stomach feeling rather bloated. We soon came to the agreement that I would eat earlier and could still keep him company at the dinner table or I’d get the food prep done whilst he ate so we could have a few hours relaxing together before bed. Matt can be a nightmare for boredom and comfort eating too, on the odd occasions I’ve been roped in and joined him, I find myself not hungry at meal times (yet again eat it anyway!) and I’m left feeling stuffed. Now that I’ve made that association, it’s helped me stick to my guns and just eat in a routine that works for me. Of course, I’m more relaxed if we’re out and about doing things or during the weekend however I try not to make this a daily occurrence.
3) Have An Honest Heart To Heart
If you feel like your relationship is generally having a negative influence on your health and nutrition have an honest chat with one another. A good 3 months into our relationship despite being fit and active we were out most weekends drinking alcohol, eating out (with me stealing his chips) and spending our afternoons sipping cappuccinos with carrot cake or munching on pick and mix at the cinema.
Also after discovering a shared love for Cadbury’s chocolate and cereal, we kept buying them for each other as cute gifts. One morning I had real trouble squeezing into some gym gear, a muffin top was visibly spilling over the side of my leggings; clearIy I wasn’t getting away with the excess despite still exercising. I was pretty upset that my clothes no longer fit and spoke to Matt about it. Of course he reassured me that I looked fabulous but this was also about how I felt. I didn’t want to go on a diet or embark on any crazy gym routine, I knew I just needed to be more 80:20 as that worked in the past but I also wanted him to be on the same page and reign things in too or I’d easily be tempted by a fruit bowl of granola again. He agreed and knowing what we know now we’re so pleased we got into this way of life. We now enjoy healthy, nutritious food most of the time and a little of what we fancy every now and then.
4) Stop Bonding Over Booze
At 7 kcals per gram, reducing or giving up alcohol is always going to be your quickest weight loss win. If you drink excessively and frequently it’s likely making a huge contribution to an expanding waistline. It’s easy to put away a lot of calories with alcohol and in doing so these become your fuel which means fat burning goes on the back burner. Perhaps even more significantly is the reduced capacity for self control which results from alcohol consumption and often means takeaways, kebabs and sugary foods are consumed in large amounts as the sensible ‘off switch’ in you that which considers the implications and how you might feel tomorrow is well… off! Alcohol also plays havoc with blood sugar levels and sleep and this makes you more likely to crave processed foods and sugar the morning after. Here’s a few steps to limit the impact of alcohol:
- As a team both agree to increase alcohol free days across the week and do some none alcohol related activity, e.g go to the gym or cinema.
- Set yourself some principles. Matt and I try and stick to two glasses otherwise I know there’s a strong chance I’ll purchase a family sized bag of peanut M&M’s on the way home and then wake up at 5am wishing I hadn’t!
- Consume alcohol with a decent Fitter Food feast (not on an empty stomach) to keep blood sugar levels stable and you’re more like to feel full and drink less.
- If you know alcohol is a bit of a crutch for you as a couple try not to keep booze at home. Drinking in a bar or restaurant allows you to keep track of your serving sizes (your servings at home will undoubtedly be much larger than a pub or restaurant).
- Order wine by the glass. It’s more expensive and makes you think carefully about a second or third glass. If you both order a bottle you’ll drink a bottle.
5) Be A Couple Who Train Or Move Together
Matt and I met at the gym and sometimes joke that we’re as passionate about training as we are about each other. We trained together as pals before getting together as a couple so it’s part and parcel of our relationship. However, finding a means of staying fit and not letting this compromise or eat into your time together can be tricky.
What’s important to remember is there are so many ways you can stay active together. One of the most obvious is just walking, try head out in the evening after dinner, it’s a great way to catch up and chat about your day. Plan some city breaks, countryside walks or do some sightseeing at the weekend – you’ll clock up miles effortlessly.
We don’t literally train together now but might head to gym together and then plan something nice afterwards like brunch or the cinema if it’s the weekend. We spend loads of time out walking Hamish as it’s a great way to be healthy – you’re outdoors, chatting and often meeting new people. Some days we’ll walk 10+ miles yet none of it felt like ‘exercise’. You might prefer to do an active hobby or sport together, maybe something that you’re both completely new to so you can have lessons together, for example, tennis, badminton, rock climbing, salsa or golf.
So there you have a few ideas about how to stay healthy in your relationship and it really pays off. If you’re happy in yourself and full of energy it supports an awesome relationship together. If you want to kickstart your health journey together come and join us in our Fitter 365 membership site where we’re always running fitness challenges (as a couple!) There’s also a stack of healthy meal plans and webinars with lots of advice and guidance on sustainable weight loss, training and how to lead a lifestyle thats supports optimal health. If you want to know more about what we eat, you can grab a copy of our latest recipe book Fitter Food: A Second Helping here.