There’s no doubt about it. You’re far more likely to live healthier if your partner is on the same page (or at least close to it). And certainly, your partner – and your overall life together – reaps huge benefits, too.
Here are 10 tips for helping each other launch or continue with a healthier, happier, Pritikin-style life.
1. Make it a team effort.
You can’t do Pritikin for someone else, even your spouse. Nagging, using scare tactics, or playing the cop rarely works either.
Take the “we’re on the same team” approach. Repeatedly, studies have found that couples working together make successful lifestyle change more likely. Let your partner know that you’re his biggest fan. When he wins, you win. When he makes the effort, even the smallest of steps, you’ll be cheering him on.
And remember that two people working toward the same goal enhances each other’s motivation and provides great support if the going gets tough.
2. Replace negative comments and coercion with positive feedback and information.
Instead of trying to dictate a partner’s health – the restaurant entrees they order, the type of exercise they do – talk to them. Let them know how much they mean to you, and how much you look forward to spending many active healthy years together.
And if your significant other is already following the Pritikin Program, ask, “Is there something I can do to make it easier for you?”
Above all, notice when your partner is succeeding and compliment him! By doing so, you’re working together as a team rather than as a parent and child. Remember, too, you can be an example to your loved ones, and provide information to them, but they have to want to make lifestyle changes.
3. Fill the house with each other’s favorite healthy foods and sweep it clean of unhealthy, nutritionally-empty snacks.
If he tells you, “I can’t stand broccoli,” don’t buy it for him. It’s that simple. There are plenty of other green vegetables that will give him all the nutritional goodness he needs. Focus on the ones he does like (and hopefully there are a few!).
4. Never say “never.”
Take it one day – and one change – at a time. Instead of thinking, “We can never have meatloaf again,” trade the hamburger meat for lean ground turkey breast, then jazz it up with some of your favorite meatloaf seasonings – spices, tomatoes, and onions. While your partner may not like it quite as much, he or she may like it well enough. “Well enough” is a job well done, especially when the bathroom scale says “well done,” too!
And don’t expect your spouse to like healthier foods like nonfat milk or sugar-free coke the first time he or she tries them, or even the second, third, or fourth time. Instead, decide together to hang in there for at least three full months because scientific studies have found that our taste buds really can adapt, but it takes time.
5. Use creativity and branch out.
If you or your partner can’t imagine some foods, say, baked potatoes, without artery-busting condiments like full-fat sour cream, branch out a little. Introduce other tasty members of the potato family, like new potatoes, Yukon golds (they have a wonderful buttery flavor), or sweet potatoes.
And do try topping your baked potatoes with fat-free sour cream, scallions, and some healthy chopped tomato salsa. As noted in Tip #4, our tastes can – and do – change.
6. Find new treats.
If after a few months your palates are enjoying healthier, more natural fare, have fun trying out new foods. With your newly awakened palates, you can discover and savor new pleasures together, like the tropical tang of a mango, or the wonderful nuttiness of whole grains like farro. It’s a big culinary world! These flavors – and new recipes that use them – can be far more intriguing than the same-old, same-old salt and grease at fast food restaurants.
7. Let someone else be the drill sergeant.
Tired of coaxing each other out of bed every morning for exercise? Who wouldn’t be? You’re both peeved. The dog’s upset. What a lousy way to start the day. So give the dog the walk he wants. “You’ll get going and enjoy the benefit of relaxation provided by our beloved pets,” smiles Dr. Coral Arvon, Director of Behavioral Health and Wellness at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami.
After that walk, find a good personal trainer in town – someone who would work well with you and your partner – and sign on for several sessions. If all goes well, you have someone to make sure you maintain a fitness routine, and mornings are pleasant again. Or find a convenient gym, and schedule time there into your daily calendar.
8. Don’t expect perfection.
Despite your best efforts and teamwork, you or your partner may slip and have an ice-cream cone or not get out of bed on a rainy day to go to the gym.
Congratulations, you’re human! Just get back on your program, and praise yourself for all your success so far. If you beat yourself up for a temporary setback, you’ll feel badly and (no surprise!) reach for comfort food or be too demoralized to exercise. Let your partner know you’re having a tough time, and ask for support. Don’t let one mistake be an excuse for abandoning your healthy habits.
9. Get reinvigorated.
Even better than booking a personal trainer is booking a vacation retreat at Pritikin. There’s no better way to rev up motivation for healthy living. A week or two at the Pritikin health resort in Miami might be the boost you both need. If that’s not doable right now, do what you can. Steal away for a day or two for exercise-focused fun, such as hiking in the forest, swimming, bicycling, skiing, or golfing. It’s a great way to stay inspired.
And don’t underestimate the importance of relaxation to maintain energy and health. Learn to meditate. Take some yoga classes. Practice deep breathing. Let go of worry, and problem-solve instead. “An active body and a quiet mind are a winning combination,” sums up Dr. Arvon.
10. Dig deep.
In the second half of our lives, after we’ve raised the family and have the homes, the cars, and financial security, it’s fairly typical to feel, “Okay, now what? What’s my purpose?” And it’s all too easy to feel: “Why bother with the work of staying healthy, especially if diving into a fudge brownie and reading in bed are so much easier?”
Getting out of this psychological rut takes work, possibly one-on-one counseling with a psychologist at home or at the Pritikin Longevity Center. But wow, is the effort worth it. Both of you may find a zest for life that goes far beyond food and drink. With passion renewed, change becomes easier. That brownie simply isn’t so important anymore. What has become important is healthy living because now, once again, there’s so much to live for.