What are you having for dinner tonight?
You should know the answer to that question, even if your spouse is the one responsible for preparing dinner on this particular evening.
Lately I’ve been coaching a number of people who can’t answer that question, usually because they’ve outsourced all responsibility to their significant other. The problem with this scenario–even if, at best, it represents a mutually agreeable division of labor–is that it removes responsibility, buy-in, and empowerment from one half of the household equation.
Most of the time–though not quite all–it’s us dudes who aren’t quite dialed into what’s at the table. I’m sure someone smarter than me could give you an entire socio-historical breakdown about why this continues to be the case in 2016, but for now let’s just agree that husbands and boyfriends ought to be a part of the discussion.
Food is such a source of guilt (I shouldn’t have eaten that), turmoil (read: picky child eaters), and judgment (I can’t believe you’re eating that) that I can understand why we avoid talking about it. By outsourcing the cooking duties to someone else, I think there’s a part of us thinking that we’re absolving ourselves of responsibility.
“I’d like to eat a little better, but my wife does all the cooking.”
“I’d like to eat a little better, but my husband usually does the grocery shopping.”
If you’re married with children, my guess is you spend some amount of time discussing college funds, vacations, and visits from the in-laws. You have those discussions because navigating each of these things requires some degree of planning. I’m here to argue that food for your family is more important than all of those things combined–and requires no less planning than figuring out how to save for college.
Too many people talk about food in terms of willpower and discipline, but in my experience the real issue around eating well is planning.
Who does the grocery shopping and when?
What’s going on this week?
Kids have a softball game on Wednesday? Cool–what’s for dinner?
Compulsory after work drinks with the new boss? Cool–what’s the plan for eating well so you don’t end up eating all of the mozzarella sticks?
Traveling for work? Have you checked Google maps to see where your hotel is and what decent food options are around?
We think we get stuck, don’t we? “Well, I only ate McDonald’s because we had the thing and then I got off of work late and then–”
You ate McDonald’s because you didn’t have a plan, you didn’t have fresh food in the house, and you didn’t coordinate with your partner. It’s not because you’re dumb or because you lack discipline. It’s because you’re a human being with responsibilities and the only way to eat well under such circumstances is to plan for it with the seriousness you apply to other important things in your life.
I’m in no position to be giving you homework, but I’m going to do it anyway. If you’ve never talked to your spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend about food, do it today. See where the conversation leads. You might be pleasantly surprised about what you’ll learn from each other.