How my boyfriend got me to eat healthy again (and visa versa)

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Sometimes it takes falling in love to remind you of some of the things that are important to you. For me, that something was healthy eating.

I have quite a complicated relationship with food. After a lifetime of being overweight, losing 90 pounds with Weight Watchers in college, regaining most of it shortly after and finally getting a gastric bypass in 2009, I’m finally settled at a weight that I am happy and comfortable in.

Unlike many people who have had weight loss surgery, I’ve been able to maintain (most of) my 100 pound weight loss. I did it largely thanks to embracing healthy eating and starting to exercise (kinda, sorta, sometimes, maybe… okay, I’m still working on this!). Mostly, I went back to the kitchen and taught myself how to cook healthier meals.

For a while, I was what I called a “flexitarian” – a part-time vegetarian while I focused primarily on trying to actually find vegetables that I enjoyed eating. It took many years but I’m now happy to report that I eat a varied diet full of leafy greens, healthy fats, whole grains and plenty more things that are typically found on the Good For You list.

But what also happened over the many years since I initially lost weight and forced myself to eat better is that I went from an 80/20 approach to healthy eating to… well, a lot less than that.

You see, as I gained more and more experience as a food writer and editor, my culinary tastes became fancier and a helluva lot more complicated. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy kale and quinoa anymore, but that now there was just SO MUCH variety and so many new dishes to explore that I kept on exploring – even if that dish wasn’t what anyone would call “healthy.”

I was mostly happy with my diet, but at the same time I also knew that it wasn’t my ideal. My weight is about 15 pounds higher than my Goal Weight (ugh) and I noticed that I was eating a lot of meat and animal products and, often, eating a LOT more of them than veggies.

That’s where my life was in April of this year: I had a vague goal to lose a little weight and to go back to focusing on eating much healthier, but I didn’t really have a huge push to do so.

Until I met Adam the vegetarian.

He told me about his food preference early on. In fact, we talked about food for at least half of our four hour first date, and I liked it that way. I discovered that he had become vegetarian just over a year ago, and that he was what I would call a “transitional vegetarian” (also: lazy vegetarian) who still largely depended on meat substitutes and tons of cheese pizza.

Not that there’s anything wrong with pizza, mind you, but part of my journey into the food world meant that I fell in love with clean eating – meaning I try to avoid processed foods as much as possible. Faux chicken and bacon is just NOT the way to go, in my opinion.

I know that many people who go vegetarian or vegan tend to depend on these meat substitutes for the majority of their protein needs, especially early on, but I immediately wanted to get Adam away from that mindset. Or at least steer him toward some other options as well.

And so it began!

Slowly but surely, exploring healthier eating with him made me go back to my healthier eating habits too.

I would estimate that, by the time we met, I almost never had an entirely vegetarian or vegan meal (unlike when I was eating at least one of those a day, about six years ago). These days, things are MUCH different.

As we got closer, fell in love (pause for “awwwwwww”) and moved in together shortly after, I realized that keeping my meat-heavy diet just wasn’t an option. The only solution? Going semi-vegetarian again.

After Adam chose to go pescatarian with me during our Whole30 experiment, our house became pretty much veggie-only. It never made much sense to me to cook one meal for him and another for me, so I don’t.

Instead, he’s remained pescatarian-ish (with a LOT less fish than during Whole30) and I’ve remained flexitarian-ish.

When we go out to dinner, I let myself off the hook and order chicken or steak or pork if that’s what I really want. But more often than not, especially in the last month, I find myself still sticking to our pescatarian way of life.

Just as we share our healthy meals at home, I’ve found pleasure in sharing our meals at restaurants too. If he orders the Thai tofu with broccoli dish, I might order the spicy scallops with brown rice. When he goes for the Buffalo shrimp appetizer, I opt for the mussels and French fries. We ask for a side Caesar salad to share, and dinner is set.

Now that he’s accidentally pushed me back into the healthier eating habits, I’ve been feeling much better. During Whole30 and before, I couldn’t resist a good chicken quesadilla or scrumptious carnitas tacos. These days, while I still sometimes indulge in those things, I don’t find myself going for meaty dishes quite as often.

And for Adam? Well, there’s no more “fake” chicken strips as a go-to lunch in his freezer. Instead, I make us a brown rice and lentil dish or veggie frittata. 

While I can’t exactly speak for someone else (even my life partner), I’m pretty happy with the way we have inspired each other to eat better. Sure, we still indulge in pizza once a week. And yes, brunch almost always consists of an ooey gooey French toast. But more often than not, our meals are on the healthy side. They include real ingredients, plenty of vegetables and definitely *lots* of love.

It still surprises me that falling in love is what reminded me how important it is to eat (mostly) healthy. But boy, am I glad it did! After all, I’d like to stick around for a LONG time to enjoy my life with him. And if that means a lot more veggies and a lot less meat, I’m cool with it.

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