How to Eat Intuitively in a Relationship

Today I’m answering a question from a reader on how to eat intuitively when you’re in a relationship. This post is also for those of you who have families, a roommate, or co-workers you eat with on the regular. Apply this post to your own life in whatever way makes sense for you.

Question: How can I maintain my sense of intuitive eating being in a relationship? I find that I always “match” my appetite/taste to my husband’s… and he eats more often/heavily than I might (or than I used to when I was single). Isn’t it funny how that happens? I feel like I listen to HIS body more than my own!

In this post I’ll cover a few toughie-points I notice in my own life and in the lives of my clients, as these are the types of scenarios we work through regularly in sessions. It’s a beautiful thing when a woman discovers what would feel best and gives herself permission to live that out.

1. Slowing down

Many of my clients have told me that it’s hard to slow down and savor their food when someone is across the table scarfing their food down. Or, when they’re out to dinner and everyone around them is talking and eating quickly.

Our natural tendency is to MIRROR what the other people are doing, so this makes sense (especially when we’re doing the same thing – in this case, eating). 

There are usually a couple seconds of opportunity each time we’re eating where we’ll notice that we’re eating fast because other people or another person is eating fast. If we can learn to notice ourselves noticing these moments, we can use those moments as signals  to sit back, slow down, and refocus on enjoying our meal.

Don’t worry about eating more slowly than others. If you need to, you can always wrap your food up to eat more later. Eat at whatever pace allows you to feel your best.

2. Listening to your hunger

Another point many of my clients bring up is wondering how they can honor their hunger when their significant other eats at different times than they do throughout the day.

The beautiful thing about listening to your body is that are no rules. No rights or wrongs. You’re always allowed to do what works best for you; what feels most fulfilling and right

For example, if you decide that eating dinner with your family every day at 5:30 is best for you (even if you naturally don’t feel hungry until 7:00), you’re absolutely allowed to do that. Life is about much more than just food, and perhaps having this set time is MOST meaningful to you so you can spend it with your family.

The likelihood is, if you start eating dinner everyday at 5:30, your hunger times will shift naturally throughout the day anyway. You’ll be hungrier for breakfast early since you had an early dinner, then lunch, and then dinner, etc…

However, if you notice that you are hungry for a meal each day around 5:30 and your partner can’t eat dinner with you until 8:00, and everyday this causes you to feel stressed and overeat by the time you finally get to eat dinner and that’s causing you to feel stressed, this needs to be looked at.

How can we change this? How can you feel physically nourished by food, and still enjoy your partners company? Can you have breakfast together instead? Plan a different time to spend together on workdays? Plan to sit with them while they eat dinner and visit (and you eat dinner at 5:30 when you’re hungry)?

On days were Marco gets home after 6:00 and I’m hungry by 4:45 or 5:00 I’ll make a “small meal” like avocado toast to hold me over. However, if he’s getting off work LATE I’ll make dinner whenever I’m hungry and save some for him to have later.

It’s whatever works best – you simply must find out what works best for you. Key: permission! 

3. Eating what YOU want

The next point I want to make is that you must give yourself permission to eat what truly satisfies you; what you really want. Dinner can be a subject that you and your partner discuss. Communication is also key!

In my relationship with Marco, I’m the cook. Marco lives as far away from a stove as possible. Each week when I’m making our “Meal Ideas List” I run it by him: “This week I added eggs & toast, chicken/rice/broccoli, and southwest tortilla soup to the list, how does that sound?”

If anything doesn’t sound good, we’ll choose something else or make modifications. And this brings me to my next point, I will not cook two entirely separate meals.

4. Not cooking two meals

Marco and I don’t have identical tastebuds, but over the years we’ve found a variety of meals that we can both enjoy. The twist is that they’re usually meals that you can add toppings to yourself. Like, pizza (each person can choose different toppings), pasta (I like parmesan, he doesn’t), tacos, sandwiches, salads, burgers, bowls, etc…

For example, I’m a HUGE avocado lover and Marco could take it or leave it. He’s a pinto bean guy, and I like black beans. He’s not a tomato fan, and I’m a total tomato girl. Olives? I’ll have them ALL please. He never wants to touch one. If I make sweet potatoes, I’ll throw in regular potatoes for him. These swaps/preferences take no extra time.

When it comes to choosing meals for the week, try to choose something that the both of you will like. If you can’t, then ask the other person for help, or have staples on hand that they can make themselves. For example, if Marco WAS a cook and wanted to make his favorite Costco ribs for the night (I’m not a fan of them), I could pick up a simple rotisserie chicken and have that with whatever sides he made instead. It would be MY job to choose that.

5. Pressure

We all know the loving pressure that can come from others when it comes to food. I say loving, knowing that it’s not loving 100% of the time, but hopefully, most of the time it is. Pressures like: “You look fine, you can totally eat this!” Or, the most common one “One chip [insert any food] isn’t going to kill you!”

If you resonate with these pressures or can think of other similar pressures, here’s how I would speak to this challenge. Know this: It’s OK to listen to YOUR body and trust what you know will feel good for you.

Let’s say your partner is having dessert but you’re not feeling it. They say to you “come on, one bite won’t hurt!” The intention is probably innocent, and that doesn’t mean you have to eat it if you don’t want it. Rather, you know you can have it whenever dessert really DOES sound good, and you can calmly pass and let the other person enjoy it.

6. Appetite

Another thing that comes to mind is the size of our appetite/plate. I find that when I plate mine and Marco’s food I give us the exact same amount of food. Usually, this feels good for Marco, but he always knows if he wants more he can go back for more.

However, if you find that your partner eats much more than you, let it be. Stay focused on what feels best for YOU. The whole goal here, with every scenario, is to slow down enough in life that you’re checking in with what you want. You’re asking yourself what would feel good for you, and you’re finding a way to make that happen.

Want support in this area? I’d love to help. Read about how you can work with me here.

Questions?

I haven’t covered everything here, so if you have a question, put it below in the comments. There’s SO much we could talk about on this topic. Most of all, remember, permission permission permission. You have permission to do what feels right for you. Also, communicate, communicate communicate! Ask for what you want.

All of my love to you! I hope this was helpful. Xo.

Love, Paige
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  • Haha, hi Katie! Can I say yes and no? 🙂 It’s totally fine to have a conversation with your husband about this, however, it is totally their choice. Just as if the roles were flipped. How would you want your hubby to approach you? Personally, I’ve made comments to Marco before like, “Babe, don’t you want to enjoy your food? Sloooowwww down.” and honestly, he doesn’t seem to care as much as I do! So, I let it go and just focus on my own eating for enjoyment, trusting that he’s enjoying the food in his own way. I think the best thing we can do is to be an example. I am always MOST inspired by example. How about you? What do you think? Thanks for this question!

  • I love love love this post – thank you so much, Paige! Really resonating with the idea of focusing on oneself and letting the other person’s appetite be their responsibility. I think as part of a couple, we often feel the pressure to give all to the other person, sometimes at the expense of oneself. But I find I can take MUCH better care of the people around me if I’m emotionally and physically nourished myself. And that starts with listening to my own body’s needs first!

  • Suzi Clark

    I love this post! I actually came here because I read the title in the e-mail and thought, “wow I can relate to this.”

    One thing I’ve had to adjust to with my boyfriend is I like to have three small meals + snacks throughout the day, and he typically has two big meals and no snacks. It takes a lot of self awareness to eat what my normal portion is at breakfast while he chows down on a meal that’s going to keep him full for half the day. Also, when we’re out and about, he doesn’t get hungry at all, but I start getting hungry (and then hangry) within a few hours. One solution I’ve found is to buy a fashion backpack and always have a Lara bar + a piece of fruit in it. This keeps my eating schedule much more regular!

    • Hi Suzi! Such a great idea to keep a Larabar and fruit with you! I find that dried mango snacks are great to keep around too! Thank you so much for your comment and for relating – so glad this post was helpful 🙂