Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes!

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“But Lacey, it’s scary to change the way we eat.” These are words a great friend spoke recently at a catch-up lunch date. The words resonated with me long after I cleared my plate of fabulous quinoa salad and hummus. (You do not have to clean your plate, Lacey… repeat!) As we chatted life, kids, work, fashion, and yes, nutritional advice in the sunshine on the patio at Nick and Sam’s Grill in Dallas, Texas, I didn’t immediately hear the fear in my friend’s voice. I figured that, like most people, she was sharing that her hurried life, differing preferences and personalities of family members, and list of professional and personal obligations left no room for preparing healthy food at home.

For the sake of time, I’ll share that the lunch date came and went without any action plan or new revelation to make implementing healthier choices easier or more convenient.  The evening, I finally heard my friend. She called a little after 8:00 p.m. to share that her evening was filled with yelling, crying, and bitterness, all stemming from a meal she prepared, with love, for her family. Something can’t be right… so much anger and fearful emotion over food? Are we making things too difficult? I stopped my inner-questionnaire and listened to her story.

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She was four weeks into a new fitness plan, and became interested in the way I balance my nutrition. As her coach, I saw much improvement with our workouts simply because, before our work together, she didn’t workout at all! This is a passion of mine—to get sedentary people moving. Success! Once she saw the difference in her physique, she wanted more. She became eager to see what her body was capable of if she fueled it with optimal nourishment. Heck yeah—I’m excited to show her! Full speed ahead… until the evening of the somber phone call, that is.  Her words; her story:

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After work, I made a quick stop at Sprouts (a neighborhood farmer’s market shop) to grab something to make for dinner. I got the good chicken, the good bread, and the organic produce for a nice salad. I even got hummus and the good crackers for an appetizer, I thought we could enjoy as dinner finishes cooking. I even got a bottle of organic wine, which we never opened because the evening went south. I got home and got to work in the kitchen. The kids weren’t letting me concentrate, so I got short with them a few times.

They started bickering the minute (her husband—no names necessary) walked in. He put his things down right on my salad prep area and asked, “what the heck is going on here?” I didn’t love his tone. He grabbed a light beer before I could even show him the wine. Frustrated I went back to the appetizer tray. I proudly called everyone to the table and presented the appetizers, but nobody was interested. Strike two in my book, after the chaos my husband walked into. When we sat down to dinner, everyone’s facial expressions summoned tears to well up in me that I sucked back in time to ask, “What?”

Dinner looks boring… where’s the gravy… is this it… comments and questions shot out like bullets. I was done. I told everyone they didn’t have to eat it if they didn’t want to but that I wasn’t making anything else. The kids disappeared, and (her husband) asked why I was making such drastic changes.

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It occurred to me that we all find our “nutritional ah-ha moments” at different times, and that pacing change is best for long-term success. A former business leader comes to mind when I reference The Golden Rule: Treat others we you would like to be treated. Who wants to immediately and abruptly change what you eat and drink? Who wants to be told they can’t have something? My friend was trying to make too many drastic changes all at once, too quickly, and without any notice and very little helpful resources. I would have definitely given her my copy of, “How to Make Your Family Read Your Mind.”  Although her heart and intentions were in the right place, her delivery needed some work, and she needed a sprinkle of my creativity dust to encourage the household transformation along in a positive manner.

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Together, we realigned, reorganized, and re-energized her effort and excitement for implementing positive nutritional changes for herself and her family.  I want to share some of my favorite tips, in case you find yourself in the same spot as my friend, or if you’re ever the recipient of a good-intentions-meant chicken breast with a side of not-a-chance-I’m-eating-these kale chips in the future. Enjoy, and remember to find your own happy pace with a fit and fun lifestyle.  –Lacey

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  1. Make it fun! Implementing nutritional changes (or any changes) has to be fun, or most won’t be interested, much less excited. For example, add a fun salad side or a favorite dish made with a healthier recipe. No need to announce until everyone mentions how yummy it was.)  Decide to have a vegetable at every meal and let a member of the family choose the veggie each night.  If you’re going out, announce that everyone will be sharing, and ask them to pick a buddy to sit next to and share with. Use your imagination and tailor ideas to your family’s personality.
  2. Make it Flavorful! Use spices, herbs, and healthy oils to create flavorful sauces, dressings, and toppings. Seeds add a crunchy punch to veggies and meats. Trying to pass off mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes? Adding Italian herbs, garlic, or Greek yogurt and sea salt can help your effort. Who knew how yummy cinnamon is on spinach!?  (Simply shake spinach, a little olive oil, sea salt, and cinnamon in a freezer bag and POOF!)
  3. Communicate! Send your family members an email, text, Tweet or Pinterest board of options for dinner and ask them to select three favorites. Implement these into dinner so they have an investment in the change. Special note to moms (and step-moms): I’d refrain from posting anything on their Facebook wall, or sending photos of food options to Instagram, or otherwise communicating with them in public, on public forums… even if you think you’re hilarious, which, I’m sure, you are.
  4. Take it Slow! Implement healthy options a few times a week, then have a healthy meal each day, and soon you’ll be able to incorporate healthy options at every feast. We have appetizer night to reduce portions, make creative finger foods, and have the freedom to take dinner outdoors or to eat while playing a game together. Celebrate each week’s healthy changes!
  5. Theme Days! Who doesn’t enjoy a great theme party or costume party. A great way to introduce chickpeas, new greens, alternative protein options, and other healthier alternatives is to make it “Mediterranean Night” or “Asian Evening” or by enjoying another culture’s fare. What a great way to share the world with your family and educate them on other countries and foods. Did you know that breakfast in Egypt is often purchased and consumed at a street stall, and that it’s usually bread wrapped around assorted fried vegetables: eggplant, beans, tomatoes, and peppers? (Nobody would know if we grilled ours…) Also, according to folklore, pretzels were initially created as a gift to children who recited prayers correctly.  The pretzel shape was supposed to signify arms folded across the chest in prayer. One or two with almond butter could make for a great incentive for young children!
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