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Get excited – I’m interviewing my husband, Eric Brown! We’re talking about how we prioritize health, fitness, and our relationship.
In this episode, we discuss:
[1:35] Our interest in fitness when we met
Eric and I have been married for 13 years now, and the way we view fitness has evolved just like our relationship has over that time. From the very beginning, we both realized how important it was to be physically fit. As we have gotten older, the importance has only been emphasized. When we first started dating, however, Eric didn’t see it as a top priority in our relationship.
[2:19] How our parents have influenced our fitness over time
Growing up in the 80s and early 90s, talking about fitness and diets was becoming more popular and accepted. Eric’s parents demonstrated healthy habits, as they both worked out.
As a swimmer, the big idea was to “carb load” before a race. Eric’s mom would bake potatoes before his swim meets and have him eat the potato right before the race. In addition, the potato came with a bottle of Cheez Whiz to put on it.
As I was growing up, we ate a lot of casseroles and drank a lot of sweet tea. It was the south – sweet tea was served with every meal. You also had to have your mashed potatoes, which my mom made about five days a week. I do think my parents did a good job of instilling the importance of eating at home, and we did save a lot of money that way. I don’t think, however, that they had a routine of working out like Eric’s parents did. My dad’s job was physically demanding so he did stay in shape, and my mom was at home running around with us kids (definitely a workout!).
[5:10] The importance of physical attraction in a relationship
I joke with Eric that it’s kind of embarrassing how boy crazy I was growing up as a high schooler and a college student. I don’t think looks are the most important thing, but I do think that if you are naturally attracted to someone then it is also very attractive when they take care of their body. While I think attraction is important, I think there are things that people do – their personalities, their love for the Lord, their intelligence, their good conversation – that make them more attractive.
Eric shares his belief that physical attraction is probably more important to men than to women. There has to be that initial physical attraction, and that gets you over the first hurdle. It opens up a guy’s mind to have a conversation and get a bit deeper.
[8:43] Holding each other accountable for our physical fitness
One of the things we talked about when we were dating and in our early marriage was the importance of remaining physically fit and being attractive to one another. We both hold each other accountable with our fitness and trying to look good for one another.
When we were in premarital counseling, our pastor asked us to think about our physical expectations of each other. We talked about our workout goals, how we wanted to eat well, and how we would spur each other on if we get out of those healthy habits. If one of us is working out, it makes the other one want to work out as well.
In addition, we encourage each other to find time to work out. On Saturday mornings, I go to the gym for a 9:00 class while Eric handles the boys. Then we meet in the gym parking lot, he gives the boys to me, and I take them home so he can go to a class as well. If someone does not get the chance to work out in a day, we will try to cover the kids so the other one has that opportunity.
It all goes back to communication, because we would not know about these expectations unless we spoke about them. At the core of our relationship is the fact that we have each other’s best interests at heart. Our schedules and abilities to work out have ebbed and flowed over time, but I feel like we both feel the most in sync and the most on the same page when we both feel good individually. We get a lot of energy from working out, and then we have more confidence in ourselves which leads to a more healthy marriage. Physical fitness instills confidence in yourself and in your relationship.
[15:57] Meal planning and cooking at home when life gets busy
Eric points out that this also goes back to communication and teamwork. If the burden is on one partner to do dinner, or any other task, those things can build up and become overwhelming. We often take a team approach to nutrition. Eric will grill or cook the main protein, and I will work on the healthy sides.
Throughout our marriage, we have tried to be conscious about how much money we spend on food. Often people believe that, in order to eat healthy, you have to spend a lot of money. You can do that if you want, but you can also eat healthy on a budget. Our main meals typically consist of a main protein, a vegetable side, and a carb like rice or potatoes. We keep it pretty simple.
Eric is definitely the better cook between the two of us, and I would say I am the main meal planner and budgeter. Working at eMeals back in the day forced me to learn how to write a coherent meal plan based on what was on sale at the grocery store. It’s a common misconception that you have to spend so much money on healthy meals, and I’m lucky that Eric is open to eating leftovers as well.
Typically on Sunday, I will sit down and make our meal plan for the week. Eric may weigh in if something doesn’t sound good to him, and he may make suggestions.
If you go to https://www.mylifewellloved.com/product-category/freebies/, Eric and I have a clean eating pantry staples list on there that you can print out.
When it comes to eating out, we typically choose one or two nights a week to have a date night or do something with the kids. We balance those nights with cooking and eating healthy food at home.
[20:35] Family activities for instilling a love of fitness in your kids
We don’t view our kids as an impediment to our physical fitness or our diet. Kids can be picky eaters, but a lot of times what we cook is what they are going to eat. We take our kids to the gym with us. We never want our kids to dictate our relationship. While they are a big priority, our main priority is our relationship because if that is healthy it will benefit the kids as well.
I’m a big proponent of walks as a family, which is something Eric’s family did as well. Having said that, he does have memories of griping and complaining about those walks – and our kids will probably feel the same way. As long as you can get out, get some fresh air, and maybe have those discussions that you can’t have in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, that’s a very big thing. You can also go to the park, run around, and then grab some food or bring a snack with you.
We hope that taking the kids to the gym and getting out in nature with them will make fitness less intimidating when they get older. We also incentivize them with treats at times … and that works for us as well.
[24:25] How we eat as a family
We have gone through different diets over the years, but overall our diet is fairly normal. We try to eat at home as much as possible (probably around 80% of the time), but we do have fast food every once in a while.
I have done Whole30 in the past, and I still do intermittent fasting (check out my interview with Nicki Entenmann about intermittent fasting and my intermittent fasting challenge). One of the biggest keys is supporting your spouse. You don’t have to do the exact same diet, but you have to respect what your spouse is doing. Often Eric would end up eating what I was eating anyway, so it was indirectly beneficial for him. Occasionally he will try to cut carbs, similar to a Whole30 or a Keto diet. No matter what the diet is, you have to give your spouse a lot of grace. Dropping blood sugar and a lack of carbs or calories can lead to agitation and the “Whole30 flu”.
[28:07] How to handle it if your spouse is not supportive of a specific diet
I think there are ways to compromise so that everyone gets what they want. Just like I try to have things in the house that the kids enjoy, you can do that for a spouse as well. You can also make a meal, but hold out certain ingredients for yourself or add certain ingredients only for your spouse’s meal.
Eric notes that if you continue to persevere and show healthy habits, your spouse will begin to pick up on it. You can talk to your spouse, in a humble and loving way, and explain that you want them to be healthy. You love them, and you want them to live for a long time. You can assure them that you find them attractive no matter what, but that you want them to feel confident in themselves. You can share the changes you have seen in yourself, and encourage them to experience that joy with you.
You have a place here, mama friend! Be sure to take a screenshot of your podcast app on your phone, post it to your Instagram Stories and tag me @healthywithheatherbrown to let me know your favorite takeaway from this episode on staying fit as a couple.