I’m five years into a marriage that I, quite frankly, can’t get enough of. And 7 years out from dating. Fun Fact: I never had Tinder. And bumble didn’t exist. Crazy, right?
I felt like it was time to share a very honest summary of the mistakes (SO MANY) I made along the way. Or, at least some of them appropriate for the internet. May this empower you to never lose yourself as you look for your heart-mate. I am here to encourage you. And to avoid a case of SPS. Shitty partner syndrome. Be with someone who loves you for you. You- the health loving, meditating, kale-noshing, you.
failed attempt #1
First, I tried the closet healthy version. During the week I would make healthy eating choices. But, when it came to date night, I dropped all my standards (really, in every category). Call me the cool girl. “Order me the special”, be it a massive burger and fries, or the spaghetti.
No, there’s nothing wrong with these options, and diet flexibility, but I didn’t even want them.
- I didn’t talk about my eating preferences, my food allergies, or my normal lifestyle.
- I overcompensated for what I thought looked normal.
- I was a little scared of sharing who I truly was.
And I suffered the consequences of not being my true self; post-date digestive havoc from the dramatic unsafe intake. Plus, was I attracting the type of person who shared by same values? Negative.
I attempted many different approaches in navigating healthy relationships in the past. Dating as a dietitian was hard. Do you ever experience some bit of commentary on your salad choice, your early-morning workout, or desire for a sober evening? Intensify that by ten in the dating realm, by 100 as a dating dietitian.
failed attempt #2
Then, I played the health commander! I only dated individuals who I believed valued their health. To my 22-year-old self, that meant the jocks. Did we work out excessively, share egg white spinach omelets, and shop for athleisure? Heck yes we did. Did I meet most of them during my time at Equinox on the stair stepper? Why, how did you guess? Then I found myself in the opposite extreme of health; skipping meals the day of our date, and overloading on caffeine and cardio. I felt pressured to be “fit” (read: thin) and eat really only lettuce and chicken at shared meals.
The body shaming came from both their seemingly harmless encouragements and my own internal dialogue. “He will leave if you don’t maintain your fitness.”
Let’s share in some disasters from this season, shall we?
That one date, who told me I could probably benefit from walking over “since I had pizza for lunch”. And the other, who berated me for eating his fries when he was gone from the table. I HAD TWO OKAY. This led to secret calorie compensation; stuffing my face with carbs and sugar when I wasn’t with them. Making up for the calories my body desperately needed. This dating pool is where deprivation bubbled up.
the key: realistic health + growth
Finally, after almost a decade of dating, I found my human. First of all, I had to let go of a lot of perceptions I had about a life partner.
1) We didn’t have to like all of the same things – but I needed him to be open to trying new things
2) We didn’t have to have the same fitness goals – but health had to be a priority
3) I had to lay it all out there
Early on, we talked through ultimatums and compromises. I was finally honest about my goals, passions and past times. But, at the same time, I realized how many rules I had created around health. It wasn’t health.
This is where my true understanding of 80/20 began. Together, we identified habits, activities, and actions that we were both comfortable sustaining for a healthy relationship. Ones that didn’t require restriction and were based on healthy not aesthetics. Health isn’t just about what you put in your month!
A few team Stuart favorites
- joyful movement – ping-pong, tennis, NOT ice-skating, long walks with pup.
- limiting alcohol intake – we drink, and enjoy alcohol, but we have set limits to stay alert and clear and safe.
- routine grocery shopping – we share a shopping list and this helps me keep variety in our diet!
- home-cooked meals – the best 1:1 time, we add music and love trying to recipes (The Primal Gourmet is a favorite)
- adequate sleep & slow mornings
- intentionally dating – early in our marriage I would schedule time where we weren’t always with others in a group. Even now, we strive for once a month just 1:1.
- a community, seeking wise counsel – we became members at a local church where we could be fed from others who were farther along in marriage and could be a sounding board when things get tough.
But back to food. What do we eat together?
Funnily enough, my Chef Boyardee- and Rotel-loving husband didn’t know how to boil rice let alone braise a pork loin in 2009. But, he was willing to grow with me and learn together! After dating a slew of body builders and burger mongers, this little quality made my heart soar. A man willing to learn and grow with me.
Together, we have found that balance of 80/20. Our decade long cooking journey has been filled with trashed quinoa bowls and tears over bad beet cupcakes (my idea for a birthday surprise). But, also getting wildly confident in the kitchen together. We take cooking classes, we experiment with new cuisines. Chase even joined my Whole30 takeover with a recipe demo! We cook beautiful meals together, for friends, and for family! Our house stays gluten and dairy free for my ease and safety. But there is no flavor of fun and flavor.
And, on the flip side, this is who made me realize the power of diet flexibility and social sweets.We enjoy gelato on a Tuesday night just because. He has been there to experience, with me, the joy of finally finding a bakeshop in the middle of Hill Country that made gingersnaps the size of my face (!!), and eating chocolate macarons on a patio before noon. And reminded me that it’s absolutely necessary and okay for a dietitian to do.
xx Team Stuart, forever
As we’ve grown together, I have identified the silver bullet to a healthy relationship; patience and honesty. Because, mistakes are to be expected. Marriage is work. You need someone willing to accept the suck, and dust off your rear when you fall.
Save yourself from the mistakes I made in the past. I stopped looking for perfection and pretending to be such. Be you. Be honest. Grow together. There’s enough time.
Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.