Even though you’re committed to making the healthy changes necessary to heal your thyroid disease — including diet and lifestyle changes — your family may not totally be on board. For some people, that’s OK; it doesn’t bother them to make multiple meals or to see their family members indulging in treats that are off limits to them because of their thyroid conditions.
But for others, that situation just isn’t going to hold.
Many thyroid mamas barely have the energy to cook one meal at dinner time, let alone two (or more) for picky family members. And for some, the transition to healthier eating will be hard enough without having to watch loved ones eating verboten foods at home.
But how should you approach this sort of change if you’re ready for your whole family to take the plunge with you?
Here are my best tips:
When I’m working one-on-one with coaching clients, I don’t ask them to give up sugar, gluten, coffee, and soy all in an instant — because I know how rough that is, both psychologically and physically! Instead, I ask that they make one small change at a time until they’ve achieved the bigger change they want to make, and that’s the same way you should approach it with your family. You might start by deciding that you’re only going to fix one dinner every night. Maybe that means adding a grain or starch to their meal at first (that you don’t eat) and then gradually phasing it out. But don’t try to force them to jump in all at once; you’ll only create resistance.
That old chestnut, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” is a little depressing, but true, especially when it comes to adopting a new eating plan. Make a list of healthy meals your family loves, then add meals that can be made healthier pretty easily (like leaving the bun off a hamburger). Once you’ve got a nice long list, it will be much easier to put together a meal plan for the week that your family will happily eat.
One meal at a time.
I mean this both in the, “Take it one meal at a time,” sense as well as only trying to health-i-fy one meal at a time. Most people will start with dinner, because that’s the big meal when they eat together as a family, but if you do, don’t try to change breakfast and lunch at the same time, even if your family is eating sugary cereal every day. Take it one meal at a time.
Aim for progress, not perfection.
You may find that there are some foods your family will happily forgo and others they can’t let go — and that’s OK! If they can’t imagine eating a hamburger without a bun, you eat yours without a bun. Then stop buying buns (they can get their own if they must). Eventually you will probably find that they don’t care as much, but aim for progress, not perfection. Likewise, you may have one family member (a picky toddler, perhaps?) who can’t live without a comfort food like crackers. If the rest of their day looks pretty healthy, and they have a few crackers at snack time, that’s still major progress.
Upgrade your grocery cart.
As you’re working on upgrading your family’s diet, work on upgrading your groceries. For example, you can stop buying margarine and just stick with butter from grass-fed cows. (I doubt anyone will complain!) Switch to whole grain breads and cereals with less sugar. Stop buying junky snacks full of corn syrup and artificial colors. Even if you’re swapping them for slightly less junky snacks, that’s still progress, and that’s what we’re aiming for. Keep moving in the direction of health!
Serve fruit for dessert.
If your family is used to having dessert every night, start by swapping fruit for dessert a few nights a week. Then transition to only having fruit. Then stop offering. (If they ask for dessert, they can still have fruit.) This may cause a minor meltdown at first, but if you go slowly, it will become normal in no time.
Don’t push too hard.
If you encounter major resistance at any step of the way, take a little time out. Remember, you’re investing in your family’s health for the long term, so don’t get too focused on any individual battle. If your family is pushing back hard on any change, step back for a week or two and then try again. Sometimes all it takes is a little more time.
And remember too: Just because you have chosen to eat a certain way for your health doesn’t mean it’s the only way to be. So your husband chooses to eat a snack from the vending machine at work, or your kids eat cupcakes at a school party. If you’re feeding them healthy, wholesome foods at home most of the time, then their health in the long term is going to improve dramatically.
I’d love to hear your stories of getting your family on board (or not!) with your healthy lifestyle in the comments below, or over in the Thyroid Foodie Facebook group!