We’re kicking off Week 4 of our nutrition challenge. That means the finish line is in sight! It also means we need to start thinking about what happens after the challenge is over.
While we’ve talked about this concept of “nutrition in the real world” each week, it becomes more real as we near the end of the challenge. You’ll have to make solid food choices without the motivation of a point system or the accountability of a peer group.
You might even encounter challenges that you didn’t face during the challenge. Maybe your spouse wants to add in a few of your “old favorites” to the dinner rotation or coworkers want to grab a few more beers after work. Whatever the challenge, now is the time to address them – before they actually come up!
Let’s chat about some of the biggest hurdles and obstacles to maintaining healthy eating habits in the real world and how to overcome them.
Your Family Isn’t Onboard
I’m currently writing this from my hometown of Lakeland, Florida. Charlotte and I are on vacation visiting my parents (well, they mainly want to see Quinn, not us). I love my parents, but let’s just say they have different nutritional habits than we do. For example, my Dad had cookies for breakfast one morning. We had bacon and eggs.
It can be really tough to stay on the straight and narrow if your significant other or other family members don’t share the same enthusiasm for kale and chicken that you do. Arguments can erupt. Feelings can get hurt. You might not feel supported. They might feel like you’re a completely different person.
Nutrition is obviously important. We think it’s the linchpin to a healthy lifestyle, more critical than even exercise. You don’t need to ruin personal relationships in the name of Paleo though. Here are some tips:
- Don’t force your family to go cold turkey. If you eliminate all of their favorite dinners and replace them with mashed cauliflower, you’re likely to face a revolt. Keep some favorites in place and slowly add in some healthier alternatives.
- Plan the menu out together. Charlotte and I sit down each week and plan out our menu using an app called AnyList. This way, we both know what’s coming up during the week, and we each get to vet the recipes to make sure we like them.
- Offer to cook. While we’re in Florida, the deal is simple – I’ll cook all the meals provided my parents pay for part of the groceries. We get to eat good food and avoid having pasta every night. They get a good meal without the hassle of cooking. Win win.
Your Friends Aren’t the Best Influence
My best friend is a doctor. He’s also not a stranger to fast food, and let’s just say his gym shoes don’t see a ton of action. He doesn’t understand why I do things like ruck 50 miles throughout the night. I don’t understand how he eats McDonald’s without feeling gross. We still get along great!
The saying goes that you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. If that’s true, you obviously want to surround yourself with people that share your same values of health and fitness. Still, just because your childhood friend doesn’t workout, you don’t have to delete their number from your cellphone.
- Make better choices when you’re hanging out. My best bud knows that if we’re eating out together, I’m getting something fairly healthy. No fast food joints. Period. That doesn’t stop us from eating together. It just means that I’ll have a strong opinion of where we eat.
- Offer to cook. I have yet to meet a friend that will turn down a great steak. In college, my friends and I would get together for surf n’ turf at my house. A lot of their nutrition choices boiled down to time and effort. If I was willing to cook it, they were willing to eat it (and help pay for it).
- Introduce activities you both enjoy. Maybe your friend isn’t ready to come in for a CrossFit workout, but maybe they’re game to join you for a walk or throw a frisbee in the park. Don’t ruin a relationship by forcing them to get from 0 to 100 in one day. You can slowly work together to find activities you both enjoy that move towards health and fitness.
You Travel Often (And/Or Love Eating Out)
When we talked about common obstacles prior to the nutrition challenge, this one popped up pretty frequently. It certainly can be difficult to eat healthy on the road. Most quick options (i.e. fast food) are less than ideal, and restaurants can get expensive.
During college and grad school, I spent the better part of every spring traveling up and down the east coast timing track meets. This meant I was virtually guaranteed to be eating on the road from Friday night to Sunday morning. If I’m being honest, I had my fair share of Wendy’s (and skipped quite a few workouts), but I also tried to stay relatively healthy.
- Keep healthy snacks available. Keep an RX Bar or some beef jerky and nuts in your bag. When your hungry, you don’t want to be perusing the gas station for the best snacks. Your stomach will get the best of you, and you’ll walk out with a hot dog and some chips. My go-to is an RX Bar now, and I have one with me almost 100% of the time.
- Don’t drink your calories. Road trips can mean soda and energy drinks to stay awake and beer in the evenings to unwind. Stay hydrated and keep a bottle of water with you at all times.
- Order it on the side. Salad dressings and sauces at restaurants can be full of unnecessary calories and even sugar (especially dressings). Order them on the side so you can monitor how much goes on the plate.
- (Maybe) practice fasting. We’ve talked about fasting before. While you might not want to fast all the time, travel is a perfect excuse for skipping a meal. If you can’t find a great choice for food, consider skipping it altogether. Just stay hydrated and have a cup of black coffee if you want.
We still have two weeks left in the nutrition challenge, but it’s already time to start thinking about what happens after the challenge is over. By figuring out how you’re going to handle distractions in the real world now, you’ll be more prepared when they do pop up!