Is your man sabotaging your diet?
your partner's healthy appetite plays havoc with your slimming plans, but there are some sensitive ways to approach the problem
For better or worse, our love of food and our love of significant others are often inextricably linked. From that first divine dinner date to lazy mornings marked by breakfast in bed, food plays an important role in those blissful few months of dating. However, it's all fun and games until someone steps onto a set of weighing scales.
Much like those telltale greying knickers that start appearing on the radiator and a toilet seat that's never left down, certain food-based niggles start to creep in once the first flush of love is over. But how to stop food-related woes from impacting on a perfectly good romance? If food be the music of love in your life, read on . . .
1 He undermines your dieting efforts
Often, this can begin innocently enough; not fully aware that you might want to watch your weight, you have a boyfriend for whom dieting is an alien concept. Initially, he showers you with home-cooked meals and revels in his prowess in the kitchen . . . but the euphoria and novelty soon start to wear off.
"One friend I know has a boyfriend who cooks most things in duck fat," says Orla Walsh, a nutritionist at the Dublin Nutrition Centre (www.dnc.ie). "And, of course, when someone goes to that much effort it's very difficult to say, 'I'm watching my weight'."
In some extreme instances, it's possible that your partner wants you to remain as cuddly as you are; not just because he adores your extra 15 pounds . . . but because he might feel threatened by a slimmer you.
"Food can sometimes be a control thing," acknowledges Orla. "It can be an obvious way of someone showing their love but, in some cases, people feed their partners because they don't want that person to be desirable to others. What's more," she adds, "if you start to diet, the partner might take it the wrong way."
So how to lead a healthier lifestyle, without resorting to secrecy?
"It's all about making sure you are in control of your own diet, and being aware of both the internal and external triggers that make you eat," says Orla. "Also, try to communicate with your partner.
"It's very important to remember that only you can sabotage your diet. You must take control over your actions. Take ownership back!"
2 He's carb loading for the big game
While most of us drag our heels at the mere mention of the gym, our partners often enjoy active lifestyles. And, if he enjoys regular bouts of rock climbing while you enjoy regular bouts of 30 Rock, you'll end up with entirely different diet needs.
"Eating isn't just about fuelling, it's a social thing, too. It's natural that you'd want to eat with your partner.
"However, when someone is living a different lifestyle, portion control is a little skewed," explains Orla. "You have to remember that if you're not doing as much activity as your partner there's no need for you to eat so much.
"To overcome this, the girlfriend must become used to not eating every time he eats or get used to eating less."
3 He likes the finer things in life
In Ireland, very few of us go to the gym on our first date; where's the fun in that? Most relationships are marked by four-course meals, cosy coffee dates and shared bottles of wine. Good for the soul; not so much for the waistline.
"In relationships, the food dynamic often starts in the beginning whereby people are eating out," asserts Orla. "The good news is that eating out is an aspect you can take control over. Choose restaurants with healthier options. Some cuisines are better than others insofar as they offer a healthy variety on the menu. Thai, Indian and Japanese restaurants are a good option, plus they don't tend to specialise in desserts.
"You can order something to be cooked a certain way. Beware, though, that there's a fine line to tread, as you don't want to come across as fussy early on in your relationship."
4 He works unsociable hours
Relationships are often about two separate lives aligning . . . but when your schedules are wildly different, a compromise has to be made. Yet just because your man works long hours or is often on call, doesn't mean that you necessarily have to row in with this.
"Avoid comfort eating when tired and waiting for him," suggests Orla. "Write down what you're eating so you know what you've had.
"Distract yourself. Keep your own regime where possible. Make use of the time that you have together, light candles, cook together and take your time. If you don't want to wait for him, cook foods that are reheatable."
If you'd rather enjoy dinner time together, Orla suggests eating during the day in such a way that you can 'save' your calories for later on at night.
"When it comes to dieting, it's more about how many calories you consume in a 24-hour period, as opposed to when exactly you eat," she states. "A little forward planning is everything."
5You try and keep up with him, portion-wise
Be honest; there's very little difference between the size of your respective dinner plates. And in any balanced relationship, this sense of equality often goes as far as man-sized portions . . . for both of you.
"Men don't need the same amount of food as women, and they metabolise faster than we do, and yet many men seem to think that we eat the same amount," acknowledges Orla.
As to how to tackle this particular hot potato: "Very simply, serve yourself or show them how little you need to eat.
"In a general sense, portion control has gotten out of hand. We still have that attitude in Ireland that we need to eat everything on our plates. Any nutritionist will encourage you to take an honest look at your portion sizes."
A single serving of fruit and vegetables should be roughly the size of your fist, while meat or fish should be roughly the size of a deck of playing cards. Keep your snack servings to the size of a cupped handful, and it's likely the scales will soon become more friend than foe.
7 He's an overgrown child and never met a fast food place he didn't like
You may be a woman of the world with refined tastes . . . but in the wheel of fortune that is life, you might not be lucky enough to end up in love with a gourmand. In fact, there's a very good chance that your man will be of the Meat & Two Veg variety; averse to sushi or what he might endearingly term 'rabbit food'.
Or -- heaven forfend -- your man's idea of haute cuisine might be a French-bread pizza covered in Easi singles.
"Some people just aren't as familiar with different foods; others just like what they like," notes Orla. "But it's easy to introduce them to healthier versions of the foods they like.
"Sweet potatoes made with spray oil make a great alternative to chips, for example."
It may not be enough to call time on a perfectly workable romance . . . but how best to reach that middle ground before you've consumed your own weight in Supermacs because he won't try . . . well, Chez Max?
"You can't take a guy who isn't used to it out to eat sushi straightaway," advises Orla. "There needs to be some sort of compromise.
"However, it is interesting behaviour to observe early on in a relationship because if they're that controlling or uncompromising about their food, there's a chance they're like that in other aspects of their lives.
"The sign of a good relationship is when each partner makes the other a better version of themselves -- help him discover a healthier him! Ask him to help you get healthy."
If romance sounds like the enemy to healthy living, fret not; while evidence suggests that most of us put on that 'first flush' five pounds, it isn't always the case.
"The heartening thing is that not everyone gains weight at the beginning of relationships, even though everyone believes they do," says Orla.
"We've seen many clients lose weight because they're eating more mindfully with someone else around, and often do away with comfort eating and the like."
And with sex burning an average of 300 calories an hour, the food issues that crop up from time to time might not seem such a problem after all.