Being Healthy while Living with My Parents
So, real talk time.
I’m one of those college students who’s living with Dad to save on rent. Let me tell ya, it brings a whole new set of challenges to being healthy.
I’m sure a lot of you guys can relate.
For one thing, you feel the need to constantly provide explanations for everything new you try. Even if your parents don’t pry into your business, they’ll snigger at you for drinking a green smoothie. Some moms will trot into the living room to find you in Downward Dog, and think it’s appropriate to interrupt your yoga practice by hollering “Oh, what’s my daughter doing with her butt in the air??!” (or some equally topical, stupid comment that seems like it must have been calculated to be irritating, because it serves literally no other conversational purpose) Sometimes they respond with impenetrable confusion. “Why won’t you eat my spaghetti? I never heard of a doctor saying you couldn’t eat spaghetti.” There are so many logical flaws in that statement that you can’t even start to explain to Dad why you won’t eat his carefully boiled wheat products.
Worse, some parents react with rage. This hasn’t ever happened to me, but I could see some more controlling parents getting scared that their kids are doing something unsafe, and trying to deal with it by grounding them until they eat froot loops again.
Bottom line: Parents are people, and a lot of people are terminally stupid.
The biggest challenge in my house is cohabitating with my father’s pantry.
Here’s a standard grocery list for my dad. I am 100% serious, not exaggerating:
- Little Debbie brownies
- two half-gallon tubs of lowest-quality ice cream
- a 2-Liter of Dr. Pepper (actually Dr. Thunder, it’s the Wal-Mart verison)
- store-brand potato chips
- granny smith apples (yay! Good try, Dad!)
- tube of ground beef (alright, unattractive, but at least protein)
- fun-size Butterfingers (we literally have a candy drawer in the fridge)
- tub of microwaveable mashed potatoes
- frozen broccoli (again, he tries somewhat)
- half a dozen frozen dinners
- orange juice from concentrate
- 2% milk (it’s taken years for me to talk him down from whole)
- a package of cherry tomatoes that will never be opened
- head of already-brown iceberg lettuce
- Kraft American Singles
My arteries hurt just listing this.
This is what was in the kitchen for me growing up, all throughout high school.
This shit is why I have a psychological dependency on junk food.Little Debbie brownies are home for me.
So needless to say, I’m safe from my dad trying to drink my Almond milk. Protecting my groceries is a problem I’m glad I don’t have to deal with. I hope none of you guys have that issue, but I can hear the arguments now - “MOM! That’s grass-fed cheese! You just grilled twelve dollars!”
So how do I deal with the temptation? Not well. This house, even when I don’t live in it, is always what derails my diets.
The key is planning ahead. If life catches me with no groceries in the house, it’s probably because I’m busy and stressed already, which means it’s REAL hard to resist popping open that freezer and sinking a spoon into some Rocky Road.
Healthy eating habits for me are 90% about breaking what I’ve learned my whole life from my Dad: “Don’t buy produce, it goes bad too fast,” “The cheap stuff is exactly the same,” “Salad is just iceberg lettuce swimming in Ranch,” “Feeling bored? You should eat something.”
I can’t blame him. He grew up in post-war middle-America, a culture built on subsidized wheat and corn, where skinny meant scrawny and husky meant healthy. But more on that in another post.
Some advice for any of you trying to make big changes under a cramped roof:
- Avoid confrontation. Don’t turn it into a thing. You only get to live with your parents for a little while (yes, I mean get), it’s better to make it as smooth as possible, and focus on making positive memories. Don’t forfeit your health goals, but understand that your parents’ perception of food and health is based on science from 30 or 40 years ago. Be patient.
- Don’t go all-out. The Lemonade Cleanse, for example, is not advisable if you have a closedminded Italian mom who insists you join the family for pasta and beef every night. Compromise. Your full-body overhaul or your self-experiments can wait till you’ve left the nest.
- Talk to them. A big problem I used to have: I’d get it in my head to get all heatlhy, start this great new diet, I’d buy all the stuff, make a weekly meal plan, aaaand…. dad makes stroganoff. Well, I’d hurt his feelings if I didn’t eat it… But, you see, if I’d explained to him that I’m going to start cutting out wheat, he might have been willing to try and work around that, or at least let me make my own dinner and just made enough noodles for himself.
- Willpower + polite refusal. No matter how serious you are, your grandma is going to make cookies for family game night. Don’t yell at Grandma because you explained to her that you’re not eating any more cookies. Don’t eat the cookie either. Smile, say “no, thank you,” and keep playing Monopoly. See the key lesson here? Your social life is not dependent on your diet. Your family will love you whether you eat chocolate chips or chia seeds.
- Listen.A lot of parents have no idea what they’re talking about, but sometimes they do. Make sure your diet is healthy. Are you at a healthy weight? Are you overdoing it? Do research. Show your parents your research, if it conflicts with their ideas - obviously, be nice about it. Maybe they’ll change their minds and it’ll be a learning experience for the whole family.
- Understand where they’re coming from. A lot of sensationalist claims are aimed at parents - “Tonight on 9News, the new starvation diet that’s killing your teen!” When people are scared, that fear often manifests as anger. So if Mom is yelling at you for watching your weight, don’t yell back. Calmly acknowledge her and ask her to explain her feelings on the issue. She might be trying to articulate something totally different from what she’s screaming up the stairs.
What about you?
I’d love to hear how you guys try to keep it healthy at home! Send me an ask with tips, or unsolved problems!