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- When your lifestyle changes, it can sometimes hit your healthy routine and mindset hard.
- Going back to your parents’ home or holidaying with family can be particularly challenging if they don’t share your interest in nutrition and keeping active.
- Instead of trying to change their ways or criticizing their lifestyle, explain to them what’s important to you and ask for their support.
- Ultimately, remember you’re in charge of you, but relaxing for a little while won’t undo your hard work, so try not to stress about it.
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I am 20 and have just finished my second year at university. I found it hard to get into a routine in my first year due to my social life and being lazy. However, in my second year, I finally got it together and started getting back into a routine of eating healthily and exercising regularly, and felt amazing, really improving my mental health, which had been affecting me for a while.
When I’m at home during the holidays, especially summer, I find it so hard to eat healthily and maintain a good exercise routine when my parents buy and choose what we eat most of the time and I find that I always want to do nothing and relax.
My parents don’t do any exercise or understand that I want to eat different things, such as swapping out meat for vegetables sometimes. How do I make them understand that what they cook isn’t always healthy and nutritious, and that filling the cupboards full of chocolates, crisps, and sweets is not good as temptation always gets the best of me and it feels like I have to start over with my healthy eating and exercise routine every time I go back to uni?
I’ve also been conditioned always to finish everything on my plate, and was taught from a young age that it was rude not to, given all the hard work that goes into preparing a meal. I sometimes find myself finishing off a large portion I don’t want to eat as I already feel full because of an internalized rule that I learned from such a young age.
What can I do to help my situation? I find it quite difficult and always seem to go back and forth with my physical and mental health as a result.
– Struggling Student
Dear Struggling Student,
First, awesome work on getting into a good health and fitness routine over the past year! As we all know, the typical student lifestyle doesn’t tend to involve treating your body like a temple. Hello, instant noodles, frozen pizza, lie-ins, and (lots of) alcohol!
Second, I know full well how hard it can be to maintain the strong mindset you’ve created when your routine changes. Whether you’re moving, starting a new job, on vacation, heading off to college, or indeed going back to your parents’ for the summer – a change of lifestyle can throw you off your game more than you think it will.
But it’s really important not to beat yourself up if you relax a bit over the summer holidays – it’s OK if you’re not working out as much as you have been and you’re perhaps eating slightly less nutritiously dense meals for a few weeks. You won’t lose all the progress you’ve made.
I understand your concerns about not wanting to live a yo-yo lifestyle, however, and it’s a tricky balance to strike.
The first thing I would say is: Remember that you are in charge of you. It’s up to you to decide how you spend your days and what you put in your body. And you don’t need to try to change your parents’ lifestyle.
“I find that it’s almost impossible to change people, especially your parents who might be stuck in their ways when it comes to eating,” a registered dietitian, nutrition consultant, and certified personal trainer named Alix Turoff told INSIDER.
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I thought it would be fun to do a little "about me" post for the new year for any of my new followers (or for anyone else who never caught my story) – ????????I'm a #RegisteredDietitianNutritionist & Certified #PersonalTrainer through NASM ????????????I run my own private practice & it's 100% Virtual (to check out what services I offer, go to alixturoffnutrition.com ????????????I went to #NYU for both undergrad & grad school ????I started as a Media major & took up nutrition after working for @tanyazuckerbrot at @ffactor & realizing that I wanted to become a RD ⚖️ I struggled with weight growing up & in college & have finally found my happy place. ???? I'm married to my best friend, Sean-his mom set us up (she was my gym friend)! ???? I was born & raised in NY & Long Island, stayed in NYC for college & grad school & lived there while dating my now husband. We moved to Birmingham, Al (roll tide!) while Sean did his fellowship in #interventionalradiology. We moved back to NY in July '18 ????I have a #furchild named Oliver who I'm absurdly in love with. He's a Boston Terrier/Beagle mix (#boglenterrier) ????I love reading & listening to podcasts, I love learning but I also love all things Bravo & reality TV ????I love beauty & skincare & used to be a beauty writer! ????My fave cocktail is a skinny spicy margarita, my fave wine is a Marlborough NZ Sauv Blanc & I'm REALLY picky when it comes to food (I eat alot of chicken) . I'm here to share my love of nutrition with all of you and help spread facts. I do my research & won't share info that's unsubstantiated without first telling you that. I'm not the most PC when it comes to my viewpoints on nutrition (& most things) & I'm really not ashamed to give my opinion on things that I'm educated on???? – I don't do rules & I don't believe there's any "one size fits all" diet. What works for me, might not work for you & I'll never be dogmatic here. I'm open to all opinions & viewpoints & love open discussions! – Ok, your turn! Tell me 1 fun fact about you!
“What I like to do with my own parents is introduce them to really delicious and healthy food by making it for them.
“They’re unlikely to do it on their own because this is your goal, not theirs, but if you can take one of their favorite foods or meals and make it in a healthy way and present it to them, it’s much more likely that you can get them on board.
“Maybe offer to make dinner once a week for the family and make something that you know they’re going to love.
“Don’t start with steamed spinach and dry fish. Try something like zucchini lasagne, a delicious summer tomato salad served over baked breaded chicken and spaghetti squash, or teriyaki salmon with cauliflower fried rice.”
Ultimately, you want to be able to enjoy spending an extended period of time with your parents while you can without stressing about every meal.
If your parents wouldn’t actually want you to cook for them, just make it work for you: Ask if you could cook some broccoli for everyone to have on the side of the family lasagne, for example, even if it’s only you who eats it.
For many people, going home to our parents’ makes us revert to teenage versions of ourselves, and it can take time for your relationship to match the grown-up you.
“On the one hand, your parents are encouraging and supporting you to use your wings to fly and find your independence and identity while living on your own while away at school,” Dr. Wendy Bazilian, doctor of public health, registered dietitian, and author of “Eat Clean, Stay Lean,” told INSIDER.
“At the same time, you have lived in their home presumably your whole life before that time, they still see you as their (albeit grown-up) child, and it takes time to establish some flexibility and change, and have that ‘new’ relationship grow,” she said.
“However as the relationship evolves, it becomes increasingly important to recognize that their home (which has been your home for all these years), is actually theirs – they own it and have worked hard to create that home environment.
“Unless you are paying rent, they are lovingly providing a roof over your head, and it sounds like comfort and food, albeit not the most healthy or nutritious food you may be desiring.”
Bazilian believes it’s important to be careful about how you broach the subject of how your family like to eat.
“Perhaps you can start by simply telling them how important good nutrition and health are to you personally, some of the discoveries that you’ve made at uni, and your hopes to continue some of those practices while you are home for the summer,” she advises.
“I would focus on your interests in a positive way, instead of comparing it to how and what they do and suggesting that what they do is in any way not appreciated or inferior to the changes you wish to make.”
Bazilian recommends getting involved in meal planning, shopping, and preparation; asking for some of your own space in the kitchen, pantry, or fridge; making some of your own healthy snacks and making enough to offer some to your parents, but not pressuring them into eating them.
Instead of telling your family that the way they eat and live isn’t healthy, explain to them that you’ve discovered a new lifestyle that makes you feel great and ask for their support.
You can’t stop them from buying sweet treats and having them in the house, but if you explain your goals to them, hopefully, they won’t keep pushing foods you don’t want to eat under your nose.
Bazilian also points out that healthy practices “can be contagious over time,” so you may find your family adopts some of your healthy habits of their own accord.
With regard to feeling the need to finish everything on your plate, a simple solution could be to find a smaller plate to eat from.
“This ‘eat the whole plate’ conditioning may seem hard to break, but as you are an adult and have an adult and intellectual mind, this is a perfect time to recognize that you have a tremendous opportunity to eat what is an appropriate and reasonable amount for you,” Bazilian says.
She recommends eating mindfully, making sure to chew well, eat slowly, and check in with your satisfaction levels as you go.
“Feeling satisfied is the point where you don’t feel hungry anymore and feel content but not overfull,” Bazilian recommends.
“There are many internalized rules that seem hard to break, and that actually are at times, but this is one that takes practice but is not insurmountable.”
I too detest food waste and so find it really hard not to finish everything on my plate, but the trick is to take less food in the first place. You can always go back for more if you’re really still hungry, after all.
Remember to pay attention to portion sizes, don’t let yourself get ravenously hungry, and remind yourself that the next meal or snack is only a few hours away.
“Eat slowly and consciously and let the thoughts of eating more just trickle and float through your mind instead of digging in and expanding,” Bazilian advises.
When it comes to keeping active, why not try to think of some fun activities you and your parents could do together that don’t even feel like exercise? Book a tennis court, take a trip to the local pool, go on a country walk, or even look up nearby dance or yoga classes.
Being somewhere different is a great opportunity to try something new, but if you’re not able to leave the house, why not look online for a workout you could do at home?
“There are tons of great apps you can download (many of them for free) and they can be done without any equipment,” Turoff advises.
Either lock yourself away in your bedroom to get your sweat on, or get the family involved and turn the living room into a workout studio.
“Do your best not to impose your lifestyle on your parents but instead, focus on incorporating them into your healthy routine and you might even inspire them to start changing their habits!” Turoff says.
At the end of the day, try not to stress if you’re not as focused on nutrition and training while you’re at home as you are at college. You should be thinking of your lifestyle as just that: a lifestyle. So in the scheme of your life, a few weeks of relaxing really won’t make that much difference.
Wishing you well,
As INSIDER’s Senior Lifestyle Reporter and a self-confessed fitness fanatic, Rachel Hosie is fully immersed in the wellness scene and is here to answer all your burning questions. Whether you’re struggling to find the motivation to go for a run, confused about light vs. heavy weights, or don’t know whether you should be worried about how much sugar is in a mango, Rachel is here to give you the no-nonsense answers and advice you need, with strictly no fad diets in sight.
Rachel has a wealth of experience covering fitness, nutrition, and wellness, and she has the hottest experts at her fingertips – she regularly speaks to some of the world’s most knowledgeable and renowned personal trainers, dietitians, and coaches, ensuring she’s always up-to-date with the latest science-backed facts you need to know to live your happiest, healthiest life.
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