What to do when your partner DGAF about health, part two

In the 2020 episode of the same name, we gave you practical point-by-point tips for what to do. This time around, we're digging in deeper.

A couple sitting together

Show Notes
Program note: Hey, glad you’re enjoying the podcast! In this episode, you might hear Claire talking about Nutritional Freedom and Foundations. Since we launched the podcast in 2020, we've undergone a makeover to improve the membership experience. For more, listen to our "And we're back! All the updates!" episode.

Claire Siegel: You're listening to the Flourish podcast. I'm your host, Claire Siegel, founder of Flourish. We're on a mission to help women get healthy for good. Join me each week for a new episode that'll help you sustain healthy habits and nourish your body so you can Flourish in life.

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We are in the process of adding transcripts to our entire back catalogue. New episode transcripts are typically available within 24 hours of the episode release.


Claire Siegel: Welcome back to the Flourish podcast. And also, happy February!

We are 1/12th of the way through the new year, and, you know, I think the whole like new month, new week, new year fresh start feeling tends to get kind of like a bad rap, especially in the non-diet space... but I do kind of love it!

You know, I, I love the beginning of a new month and the feeling that comes about as a result. And also satisfying the very natural urge that I feel at the beginning of every new month to, to actually slow down and pause and reflect and assess and think about how I want to engage in life for the next, you know, 30 or so days.

So... welcome! If you feel that way too, then, um, I hope you're having a great start to your month. Well, regardless, I hope you're having a great start to your month.

Now today, we are actually revisiting a topic that I originally spoke about on the podcast back in 2020. That episode is called "what to do if your partner D G A F, D GAF, doesn't give a flying freak about health.

Um, and I'm going to go ahead and just rephrase that in a way that is perhaps more professional, um, and just say that today's episode is about what to do if you and your partner are misaligned in how you value and prioritize health promoting behaviors or what I will refer to throughout this episode as healthy habits.

Now we're revisiting this, not only because it's Valentine's day coming up, but also because this is just an episode that we share all the time. Like people will DM us on Instagram, you know, kind of with this struggle in mind or, um, it's something that gets brought up in every live virtual event and workshop and things like that, that we've done. I share it with our members. Um, so I thought it was worth revisiting.

Now, just to be clear, I still very much love the episode, the original episode from 2020. It is like full of very actionable strategies. More like kind of a bullet point list of truly what to do if your partner DGAF about health. Today, I'm approaching it in a slightly different way, but these two episodes are very complimentary to, to one another. So I would encourage you to listen to both. All right?

Some things to consider about health

Claire Siegel: And before we get into it, I do want to start with some really important context setting around just this topic of health. And honestly, we should probably do an entire podcast episode, just like diving deep into each of the points I'm about to make. But I think it's helpful for this episode, but honestly like our ongoing conversation that we're having on the podcast about health, so let's just, let's just start here.

Okay, so. The first thing I just want to be really clear on is that health is not a moral imperative, you or anyone else for that matter, including your partner are not, you know, quote good or bad based on your interest in or your ability to sustain healthy habits. Okay?

Your decision to prioritize healthy habits is completely up to you. And if you find that you judge yourself or others in response to how they view or engage in health promoting behaviors, I highly encourage you to make a note to reflect on this a bit further to just better understand where it comes from and the effect that these judgments are having on you.

I find that... this is definitely something that I experienced, that feeling of judgment, early on in my career. And it's certainly didn't serve me. And I see it happening now that I'm more aware of it and I've fully let go of it and really shifted the way I think about health and also understand things like health equity and, you know, the social determinants of health and all these different things.

I find that a lot of people are very judgmental of themselves and others in if or how they approach or value health. And I don't think it's very healthy! And at the very least it is mostly unhelpful. So, again, we can probably have a whole podcast just on this topic alone, but I think it's just worth taking a look at. Okay?

So health is not a moral imperative. That is kind of, um, context setting point number one.

Number two is that health exists on a spectrum. Right? And where you are on the spectrum at any given time is going to ebb and flow based on a number of different factors. All right?

Health is not just physical, but it's mental and emotional too. A lot of times when, you know, we talk about the word health, I think a lot of us think about healthy habits and physical health. And I think more and more the conversation is, is covering mental health as well, but I think it's really important that, you know, It's clear that when I use the word "health" I am speaking to it holistically, right? Meaning like... whole self health. Okay?

The next point I want to make is that health is not something that you can completely control. And this is, you know, a point that can be tough to really wrap your head around and accept.

But while, while we're here on the topic of control, I do think it's worth noting that quite often attempts to rigidly control one's physical health will come at the expense of one's mental or emotional health.

That has absolutely been the case for me, as I have shared many times on the podcast sharing my history of dieting and how, you know, when I thought I was supporting my physical health through dieting (which like spoiler alert: I wasn't) that was coming at the expense of my mental and emotional and social health as, as well. And all in all, it was just a total crap shoot, but alas, that is not what we're talking about today.

So with all of that in mind—and I'll just review really quick: health is not a moral imperative, health exists on a spectrum, health is not just physical, but mental and emotional too, and health isn't something that you can completely control—with these kinds of context setting points in mind, I just want to pause and state the obvious. And that is health is a complex topic, even when you're simply considering your own as an individual, let alone that of your partner. All right?

So there's a lot to dig into here, and I want to keep it kind of as, as simple and broadly applicable as, as possible. But this is complex and is going to vary quite a bit from person to person and relationship to relationship.

And on the topic of control, just because you cannot completely control health, doesn't mean that your actions don't have an influence on your health, both in the short and longterm.

And listen that's probably why you're here. You are interested in influencing your health through your behaviors. Somewhere in your set of values... there is health, right? Chances are you wouldn't be spending your time here if that wasn't the case.

But you may be in a position right now where you feel like your approach to your health habits is hindered based on the views, attitudes, and even the actions of your partner.

Let's take a closer look at your thoughts here

Claire Siegel: So... what the heck are you supposed to do about that? In the 2020 episode—we'll have it linked in the show notes below—I kind of give you maybe like five different steps in order to, to go through.

And again, I still stand by that, but today I actually just want you to do one thing. The only thing I'm going to ask of you in today's episode is to simply look more closely at this thought: "My partner doesn't care about health" or "My partner doesn't care about [insert healthy habit here]." Maybe it's, "My partner doesn't like eating healthy" or "My partner doesn't like to exercise."

I just want you to look really deeply at this thought. That is all I want you to do. And I'm going to help you do that because we don't naturally like to look very closely at our thoughts.

Thinking versus awareness

Claire Siegel: You know, I did a really powerful meditation the other day.

It was, um, I use the Calm app, and they have, what's called "The Daily Calm." And it's just, I think they're all like 10 minutes or so. And it's just an at random, um, you know, a daily meditation. And there's typically like, kind of like a topic that they cover. And this one from about... maybe a week or two ago, but it really stuck with me and it was exactly what I needed to hear at that time, and it talked about the difference between thoughts and awareness. Right?

So... if you imagine it—I'm fairly certain that they use this metaphor in the meditation—where they talked about... thinking is like being in a waterfall. Right? So like almost imagine that you're standing at the bottom of the waterfall and, you know, all the water is pouring on top of you. That is, that is thinking, okay?

Awareness is when you step away from the waterfall and just look at the water rushing down. And so that's what I really want to encourage you in the, the exercise here. Which is go from standing underneath the waterfall of this thought and these collection, this collection of thoughts about your partner and their commitment or lack thereof to their health and the impact that it has on you. Step out of the waterfall and actually just look at it. Start there. And let's talk about how you do this, okay?

Grab a sheet of paper, write down your thoughts

Claire Siegel: So I would actually love for you to at the top of a sheet of paper write down, "The way my partner views health." And I want you to set a timer for, I don't know, let's say five minutes and write down every single thought that you have about this topic.

And watch. Like... that, that act is you like every thought that you write down, you can imagine is like you taking a step back and away from the waterfall to get a clearer picture of what's actually happening here. Okay? So you're gonna write down all of these thoughts. As many that come to mind.

And I, I want to just really encourage you to be so incredibly honest with yourself. Do not censor yourself. Do not judge yourself here. Just write. You can shred this paper after this exercise, you can burn it.

I know some people really don't like journaling because... I remember I spoke with a member at one point and she said she didn't like journaling because she was worried that like, if something had happened to her that her family would find her journal. And come to find out this is actually a very common fear. So at least for this exercise, you know, I'm not going to try to get you to become a journaler. That can be an episode for another day cause I do think it's a very powerful tool.

But for this, just get a sheet of paper. You can rip it up, tear it up, burn it afterwards. All I want you to do is write down every single thought that you have about this thing, about how your partner cares or doesn't care about health. Okay? You've stepped out of the waterfall. You see the waterfall in front of you. It is on the sheet of paper.

What emotions emerge from your thoughts?

Claire Siegel: Now I want you to start asking yourself, how do these thoughts affect me? How do these thoughts affect my relationship? You can ask yourself these questions for like individual thoughts that you write down or, or kind of, you know, as a whole, as a kind of a collection of thoughts. Make note: what are some of the emotions that emerge from these thoughts?

Do you feel angry? Bitter? Resentful? Perhaps even disgusted? Do you feel fearful of what's going to happen to you as a result of this... you and your body and, you know, your future, your, your long-term health. Do you feel fearful of what will happen to your partner? Is it coming from a place of concern of, again, wanting to control their health, their outcomes? Do you feel discouraged in your own health journey as a secondary result of your partners approach? Is there any part of you that feels relieved, kind of like you're off the hook?

Again, I'm just going to encourage you to be so incredibly honest. This exercise only works if you're honest. And the only person that you have to be honest with here is yourself, for now at least. Okay? So take some solace in that.

So after you've made note of the emotions that emerge from these individual thoughts or kind of the collection... and hey, if you notice that some of the emotions are in complete conflict with one another. Cool. Write them down. Just notice it, notice it without judgment. That's how feelings work by the way. Like two things, two feelings that are completely opposite can both be true at the same time. All right?

What behaviors emerge from your thoughts and feelings?

Claire Siegel: So you've got the thoughts. You've got the feelings. What are the behaviors that ensue from there? Do you pick fights with your partner? Do you talk smack about them to your mom or your friends?

Do you, like I said before, let yourself off the hook for what you know is best for you? There's probably a myriad of actions or inactions. I don't know if inactions can be pluralized... but you know what I'm saying. There can be any number of things that you do or don't do as a result of these feelings.

Write them all down. Dig deep here. And, again, just be honest. Be honest with yourself about the downstream effects of the thoughts that you're having about your partner.

Think about how your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors serve you

Claire Siegel: Take a look at what you've written down, the thoughts, the feelings, the actions, the inaction, and ask yourself: is this serving me?

Now, you're probably going to rush to say "no." "No, it's not serving me." Because listen, it's probably not. We'll get there. But first let's just notice that there may actually be some ways that this is serving you. Otherwise, why would you do it? Right? So chances are it serves, you know, the part of your brain that seeks pleasure, avoids pain, and conserves energy.

So let's take physical activity or exercise, for an example. You know, the act of exercising often isn't that pleasurable. You know, your muscles are burning, your energy is drained. And so, you know, these thoughts come in and like I said, they let you off the hook. And for that split second, you're going to have a very, very happy brain.

But then, and this can happen, you know, moments later, there's this feeling of guilt as your internal should tells you that the longer-term benefits of exercise far outweigh that, you know, immediate, very fleeting pleasure achieved from not exercising. Plus there's the resentment you feel towards your partner because it's "their fault," right?

So when you start to look at the whole picture, okay, you start to recognize, you know, maybe in this split second this collection of thoughts, you know, serves me in some way, but all in all, you can recognize that the thoughts you're having about your partner's commitment or lack thereof to healthy habits actually isn't serving you in kind of the broader, bigger picture, longer term, internal should, best self version of you.

What thoughts do you want to think instead?

Claire Siegel: And so here's where you get to choose what you want to think instead, if all those thoughts are most of those thoughts that you wrote down in the first part of this exercise, aren't serving you. What do you want to think instead? Because you cannot control your partner, but you can control yourself. You can control your thoughts.

So what is a thought that you actually believe that can replace the thought of, "My ability to practice healthy habits is hindered by my partner's approach to healthy habits," because that's really like what's happening here. You cannot control your partner, so I just encourage you to focus on you.

Here's one that you can borrow. Only take it if you believe it, okay?

How about something like, "I'm going to focus on implementing healthy habits that make me feel good and that align with my values independent of my partner's view on the matter." You may also add, "And I'm going to work to release all judgment of my partner." Now assuming that this is a relationship that you want to be in, this is really all you need to do.

Become aware of the thoughts that you're currently having, no matter how ugly they might be. Take a closer look at them. And upon realizing that, you know, these thoughts aren't serving you or your relationship, decide to think a new thought.

I'm going to really, and truly encourage you to do this on paper, okay? It's really hard to step away from the waterfall when you're just doing that in your head. It's really, really hard to do that in your head. So I encourage you to either write it down on paper, or maybe have a call with, with a friend, or if you're a Flourish member, book a call with a coach to talk through this stuff. It is very, very difficult to do, you know, internally, mentally, alone.

"Dear Abby"-style advice

Claire Siegel: Now, you know, I didn't just want to give you this journal exercise for this episode. I wanted to spice it up a little bit and do, do something a bit different. So in preparation for this episode and thinking about how we could kind of spice it up from what we did back in 2020, I thought we could actually do like a little bit of like "Dear Abby"-style advice.

So I took to Instagram and asked you if you're experiencing this misalignment, send me a DM, let me know what's going on and I will address anonymously on the podcast. Okay? So I've got two submissions that I thought, you know, you might find interesting and helpful and so let's get into it.

Dear Ashley

Claire Siegel: So here's our first response from a follower that I will call Ashley.

So Ashley says, "he's totally supportive of what I do, but just doesn't do the same things for himself. And he's the pickiest of eaters. He hates veggies, et cetera, so it's hard to cook something nutritious that he'll also eat or just cook for myself."

So my initial thought, as I was reading this is, "How wonderful that he's supportive." Truly. How wonderful that he's supportive. Isn't that an amazing baseline to start from?

And I wanted to dig in a bit further, as I often do—you'll know this if you've been coached by me before. I ask a lot of questions. So I asked Ashley to be a little bit more specific to dig in a little bit more to, you know, kind of describe the trouble that this causes her. And already in, in her next response I started to see some more awareness being developed.

So she responded, "Um, I would say it makes cooking and eating the way I desire less consistent (which is on me because I find more joy in making something we enjoy together, or it's easier to be lazy and cook a frozen pizza or something instead of a well-rounded meal). Consistency in my choices as a result is the most frequent 'trouble.'"

Okay. So it was really interesting to see where we got here. So first, there was a very obvious shift in kind of viewing and describing the partners' views as the problem to accepting more personal responsibility, right? She said, "which is on me."

But what I did notice, or, or perhaps got curious about was perhaps a lack of objectivity here in, in describing that shift, like it, I almost sensed a bit of guilt coming in as she experienced that shift. And I think that's really normal, you know, when we go from blaming someone else for something to then realizing, "Oh, I actually have a lot more personal responsibility."

I think it's, it's normal to feel it like a pang of guilt in that, but I'll just, you know, offer that chances are it's probably not that helpful. So just, you know, noticing, okay? "I'm, I'm recognizing that I've been blaming my partner for something that, you know, perhaps is really more on me, and I'm feeling a little bit guilty about that."

Now I also want to kind of poke in on, on this part of, of what she said. She said, "I find more joy in making something we enjoy together, or it's easier to be lazy and cook a frozen pizza or something instead of a well-rounded meal." And to that I'll say let's normalize taking joy in eating with our partner, right? Like that is, is natural and normal and healthy and very understandable.

And not a problem, right? There's there's strategies that we can implement here to do both. Right? To feed yourself the way that you want to be fed and to enjoy a meal with your partner and or to take a weeknight shortcut. And I want to ask, like, why does this feel at odds with making a well-rounded meal? And can we be thoughtful in how we do both? How we kind of meet ourselves in the middle?

Lastly, she said, "consistency in my choices as a result is the most frequent trouble." Now I think this has to do a lot more with Ashley herself and her, you know, view of the word consistency, and, and just ensuring that her ideal of consistency is actually ideal for her.

Right? So what does her ideal level of consistency actually look like? And, first of all, just looking at it objectively. How far off is she from it? Is she actually as far off from her ideal of consistency as she feels that she is?

Okay. Now let's take a look at just the vision of ideal. What informs that? Is it realistic?

A shift I noticed in many of our members is they come in to Flourish feeling like, "I need to be more consistent." And, you know, in the case we're talking about here, "and my partner is getting in the way." And when we start looking at the definition or ideal of consistency, it is not consistent, it's perfectionistic and thereby unrealistic. And so, partner or not, you were never going to get there.

So this is a time where Ashley needs to actually set aside the topic of her partner and just look at for her, what is consistency, realistic consistency that aligns with her values and supports her in the short and long-term? What does that look like? And, again, how far off from it are you?

So I have a lot of questions. That's actually what makes this, um, this idea of mine to do a "Dear Abby"-style advice section very challenging. Cause I just wanna, I just want to talk and ask questions and dig in deeper. But hopefully, if this is something that you relate to and I believe that many of you do cause I think this is like almost the most common iteration of this challenge, hopefully I've given you some, some things to think about.

Now I do want to highlight this for a second, because the kind of challenge that Ashley presented here is, is probably the most common version of this that I hear. You know, I know we're talking broadly about like what to do if your partner just doesn't care or value health, but like, this is often what it boils down to is... "I do the cooking. I want to eat healthy. My partner doesn't like healthy food. And so I cook what makes them happy and sacrifice what I want."

Women often take charge of food in a household. And here I'm talking about, you know, a heteronormative couple. Women often take charge of food. Sometimes that is a conscious decision between a couple, and sometimes it's just something that a woman puts on her plate.

Sometimes there is a delegation of duties, because meal, food, meals... it's not just one step. It's the selection. It's the planning. It's the grocery shopping. It's the prep. It's the cleaning. It's a lot.

And it actually pains me when I see this happening. When I see the woman putting herself in charge of food and then sacrificing her own needs. Especially in this context, when we're talking about you and your partner. Your partner who, I assume, is a grown person who is also capable of feeding themselves.

And this is not, I'm not directing this at Ashley, but rather the broader audience here and just challenging us as, as women or, or, you know, if you're in this situation and you don't identify as a woman, but like why should the person who is in charge of food, regardless of gender identity, not only have to be in charge of the food, but also be expected to sacrifice their own needs and desires?

And maybe it's not an expectation. Maybe it's not an external expectation. Maybe it's one that you put on yourself. Maybe this is a problem that you've created for yourself. Maybe this is an area where you need to put your own needs first and you need to set a boundary. Or you need to get creative in how you solve for this.

But if you are in charge of food, please make sure that your needs are met.

We could probably do an entire episode just on like this micro topic alone, and perhaps we should, because I have a lot more to say about it. And I think a lot of this, like, I mean, frankly, is, is an issue of patriarchal standards, but chances are you didn't come here to this episode, at least, um, for that. But I will just, I will just leave that little bug in your ear.

Why, why would you put yourself in charge of food and sacrifice yourself in the process? I mean, that is just lose, lose. Geez louise. All right?

Dear Molly

Claire Siegel: Okay. Okay. Let's let's shift to, to listener number two or follower number two. Submission number two. Let's call her "Molly" and we will call her partner "Eric."

So Molly said, "My partner keeps a lot of foods that I don't prefer in the house, and he wants to eat out a lot. How do I navigate him being indifferent on health when it's such a value of mine?"

So here I just have a bunch of questions, a bunch of questions. Dear Abby, I don't know how you ever came into like a singular conclusion about anything without asking a million questions and having a conversation. But more than anything, Molly, I want you to ask yourself these questions and I think you'll find a lot of clarity. All right?

So first I want you to ask yourself How do I know Eric is indifferent to health?" Write it down. "What evidence do I have to support it? And do I have any evidence to support the opposite? In an ideal world, how would I want Eric to think and feel about health? What do I need from Eric in this particular area? If there's something that I need that I'm not getting, what am I willing to do about it? What do I just want from Eric in this particular area? And if there's something that I want that I'm not getting, what am I willing to do about it? Do I need to get this thing from Eric, or can I get it from other people in my community?" Right?

So things that come to mind here for me are like an accountability buddy, a cheerleader, a partner. Let's not forget that our romantic partners don't have to be our partners for every single minute detail of our lives. If you want a gym buddy... cool. It doesn't have to be your partner.

Now the two food topics that Molly, um, mentioned... So the fact that Eric keeps food that she doesn't prefer in the house and that he wants to eat out a lot, these actually have so much more to do with Molly's relationship with food than they do with her actual relationship or with Eric at all.

So, you know, on the topic of Eric keeping food in the house that Molly doesn't prefer, this is very simple: Don't eat food that you don't prefer. And that's a bit of a can of worms, right? If you feel out of control around those foods, that's your relationship with food, that's not him. And there's work to be done there. Beautiful.

On the topic of going out to eat, we got to dig into to your thoughts on that. What do you want and expect when it comes to going out to eat? What's wrong with going out to eat more than you'd like? Is there a world here where you can both have your needs met?

One of the last kind of like bullet points on the episode from 2020 was all about ditching the dependence. And I very much still stand by this.

You know, Jon, my husband, and I talk a lot about how, you know, maintaining independence is something that we really value in our relationship.

There's a phrase, and I can't remember where I heard it, but you know, you hear about codependent relationships and, you know, I think we all know that those are, are very unhealthy. And, and as a alternative, there's this idea of having a relationship that is co-independent, right? And I love that, because it's this idea that, you know, you as a couple, as a unit, you know, are together, spend time together, share values, and you still exist independently from one another.

And if you have found that there is this dependency between how you view health and how your partner views health, I will, once again, just encourage you to ditch the dependence and to separate those two things in your mind and in your actions.

So. I hope you found this episode helpful. A little bit different from the way we approached it in a couple of years ago. Ashley and Molly, those are not your real names, but I would love to hear from you.

And I hope that you have a wonderful day.

Claire Siegel:

Thank you so much for joining me for today's episode of the Flourish podcast. If you enjoyed it, please take a second to leave us a five-star review or better yet, share it with a friend. And if you're ready to start your own journey to get healthy for good with accountability from expert coaches and the support of an incredible community, head to the show notes to get started on your Flourish journey.

I'll see you in the next episode.

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Claire Siegel
Co-founder, CEO
Claire Siegel is the founder and CEO of Flourish. Claire has made it her life’s mission to help women create a sustainable approach to their physical and mental well-being.

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