Dietician, Kristi Spence, explains how couples can overcome eating obstacles.
The key is awareness! What are you doing currently, and what needs to change? What does your eating environment look like? What do your eating habits look like? We can’t change current behaviors unless we know what is going on and what we might actually need to change, so we need to start by taking stock of what we are doing, what our significant other is doing, and if applicable, what our kids are doing. We need to consider this in two arenas:
Let me give you some examples of some habits that I have encountered in patients over the years and use these as an example of what I mean.
Scenario 1: “My husband comes home from work and he’s really hungry, so he pulls open the drawer, grabs a bag of chips and snacks as I prepare dinner. I wasn’t all that hungry, but when I saw the chips, I thought, ‘Oh those sound kind of good!’ so I start snacking too.”
Scenario 2: “I always pick at my kids food, even after I have already eaten. It is sitting there, so I just eat it.”
Scenario 3: “I notice that I eat more or eat different things when I am out with certain friends or family.”
Scenario 4: “I want to give my kids good, healthy meals, but I often feel that my biggest enemy is my husband. He doesn’t like to eat healthfully – I understand that that is his choice, but it means that I cook one meal for us and he brings home or fixes something different. My kids wonder why dad doesn’t have to eat what we are eating.”
Scenario 5: “I always feel like I need something sweet after dinner – a little treat”
Scenario 6: “My wife likes to have a candy jar out on the console table. She has no problem walking past without grabbing a piece (or two or five), but I can’t help it. The candy calls to me and I grab a piece. If I put the jar in the cupboard, even if I know it is there, I don’t even think about it.”
In the chart below, I have identified some common habits and environmental triggers that can be potentially problematic. The solutions and the research on which many of these concepts are based come from work done by Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating.
Problem (could be any/all or a combination)
eating after work/school before dinner
when stressed or emotional
often eat to quench other emotions. This is problematic because the
isn’t satisfying and this type of behavior can lead to poor
doesn’t deal with the issue at hand.
helps to become more aware of what is really going on. Are you
angry, or frustrated? Are you really hungry? Try dealing with the
If you can’t, just becoming aware of what’s going
on and the fact that you are
not hungry will help.
off kids plates
often end up eating a significant amount of calories when they eat off
kid’s plates in addition to eating their own meals.
don’t like certain foods out of principle
of variety and missing out on key nutrients. Kids’ tastes for
various foods and
ingredients change rapidly, so it is really important to encourage your
try things over and over and prepared different ways.
isn’t an inherent problem, but for many couples, eating out
becomes a habit. We
can overeat, eat less nutrient rich foods, and spend more money if we
you want to prepare more food at home? What are the barriers, how can
spouse help? Can you plan ahead; can you get your family involved?
can choose 1 night per week as “date night” or
“family night out”
not inherently bad, but are we eating just because we have developed
and we always do. Many of us like something sweet after a meal, but
doesn’t have to be a big dessert.
multiple meals for picky eaters
spouse is eating so the other one eats
shows that the behaviors of our family and friends drive our own eating
If someone around us is eating more or a certain type of food, we are
follow those behaviors and patterns.
(TV, computer, events)
tend to eat more mindlessly when we are distracted, and when we eat
we aren’t aware of when we are actually full, so we often eat
more than we
would otherwise eat
of support from both parents
as a couple what your priorities are for developing healthy eating
your kids as a. Being on the same page is REALLY important, even if you
make compromises and concessions to get there.
one person to feel the burden of all the work/underappreciated?
silly, but when we eat all over the house and don’t have a
place to sit, we may eat more quickly and we may not enjoy the meal as
a comfortable, cozy place to eat. The food will taste better, and the
family/couple may be more engaged.
dishes on the table
the serving dish is in front of us, we have the suggestion of more and
the serving dishes in the kitchen. This forces you to ask yourself if
really still hungry before going back for seconds
tend to fill our plate. If we are using big plates we dish up more
couples looking to curb calorie intake but still feel satisfied, invest
slightly smaller plates. You will still have the same visual of a full
but you will be eating less food.
suggestion of food is quite compelling. While some of us can pass right
candy jar, others can’t
For more information contact:
Kristi Spence MS, RD, CSSD
Director of Health & Wellness
Mountain West Dairy Promotion
1213 East 2100 South
Salt Lake City, UT 84106