Guest Blog Post
This blog post is authored by my wonder wife, Jennifer Uren. We have been doing Bright Line Eating since February of 2018 and I asked her if she would do a blog post on how our home life has changed since then. She pulls no punches and shares with you several of our struggles when I was still in the thick of my food addiction. Jennifer is a home school mom to our five children, the COO of a non-profit food pantry and the biggest blessing in my life.
Follow her on Instagram @moremommymoments.
By Jennifer Uren:
Bright Line Eating has now been part of our family for over a year and it has been amazing to experience the change and even healing it has brought to our home and marriage. When my husband Jim first started following the four bright lines I was optimistic that it would help him. But I had no idea how much it would actually bring healing to our entire family – including myself.
One of the things that we realized is that, despite falling on opposite ends of the susceptibility scale, neither Jim or I had a healthy relationship with food. If we were dating food, he would have been the obsessive, clingy boyfriend and I would have been the distant, detached, playing hard to get girlfriend.
As a non-food addict, food never triggered me (I’m 2 out of 10 on the susceptibility scale). Rather, food was an inconvenience. In fact, I found it so bothersome that I had even taught my kids how to make their own breakfasts and pack their own lunches so that most days I would have one main meal to prep and that was only because I had to make it for the family. And it was not unusual that, because my natural bent is toward logistics and tasks, I would get so caught up in the doings of the day that I would simply forget to eat.
Jim is the opposite. Food addiction has always been a major challenge for him (he’s 10 out of 10 on the susceptibility scale). And I’ve learned that food addiction, like other addictions, can place added stress on the home and family. But thanks to Bright Line Eating, this non-food addict has personally enjoyed many wonderful benefits from following the four bright lines. So here are
The 5 Ways that Bright Line Eating has Changed My Home and Marriage
Cooking is Easier Than Ever
Cooking has never been something that I loved. I grew up on casseroles and hotdishes and I realized that one of the reasons I loved those was because it simplified the dinner process. Unfortunately, my husband Jim is not a fan of most of these one-dish wonders, so I stopped making them and instead resorted to simpler fare like chicken breasts. I remember one interchange early in our marriage…
Jim: “What’s for dinner?”
Me: “Chicken breasts.”
Jim: “Sounds great.”
Sitting down to dinner
Jim: “Ummm…when you said chicken breasts I didn’t realize you meant only chicken breasts. Do you think that you could maybe, you know, make some sides next time?”
I tried everything to simplify dinner. Before kids I eventually landed on doing all my cooking in one weekend so I wouldn’t have to cook the rest of the month. (So many dishes to wash!) I loved how dinner was on auto-pilot but after kids even that became too much work.
On Bright Line Eating, the formula is so simple that I find I use recipes way less and my Instant Pot way more. And despite having more kids than when we did the monthly cooking dinner prep, dinner is easier to plan and prep than it has ever been. (I have used Plan to Eat to simplify the entire meal planning and shopping process for years, so that has become our automated food journal and made this process even easier!)
I Now Actually Enjoy Cooking
I always assumed that the reason I didn’t enjoy cooking was because of the work involved and while that is true, it’s not the whole story. The rest of the story is that cooking wasn’t enjoyable because Jim didn’t like the food I cooked. In my brain I had equated that to mean I wasn’t a good cook, but I have discovered that it had less to do with me and more to do with his relationship to food. Nothing I made was going to be good enough in either quantity or quality. When the highest praise you’ll ever receive about the food you made was “It’s not bad” you give up trying because there’s no point.
Since switching to Bright Line Eating I have discovered that my cooking skills have always been good. As my husband’s relationship with food changed so did his perspective. I now hear things like “This is excellent, please make this again.” Or “I really liked that! Do you think next time we could try it with rice?” Because I no longer feel so beat up over the food I’ve served, I’ve begun to actually enjoy making meals for my family.
I Focus on Things Other than Food
As a slightly more Type A personality than the rest of my family, I really like to see things completed. This includes being in the kitchen. In my mind meals occur during a set time, the kitchen is cleaned, and when one enters that space it is clear, shiny counters with no mess to be seen. It means that we can now move on and focus on other things that need to be done. Since we have littles this is particularly important because the counter becomes my daytime desk and the kitchen table becomes play-dough central.
Before Bright Line Eating, this felt as elusive as finding a unicorn. Every time I walked into the kitchen someone was prepping something and then leaving their mess behind. I was constantly washing dishes and wiping down counters. And if I wasn’t home it wasn’t getting done. There were many days where I felt like less of a wife and mom and more of a maid. So, the kitchen was never clean and the rest of life wasn’t being tended to as it needed to be.
Since becoming a Bright Line Eating family, this has improved significantly. Meal times are meal times, so we have a clean kitchen between meals. We have created kitchen job-sharing roles so that most evenings all the kids do something to clean the kitchen and I can do other things.
This shift has impacted the whole family and I have seen it most with Jim and I and some of our other goals. Things that had fallen into the “I hope someday” category have begun to shift into the “this week I am” category. I’m seeing movement and progress that is intentional and paced. Seeing that our lives have become more meaningful than food has been healing and brought hope in ways I couldn’t have imagined.
Our Communication is Better
Several years ago after hearing how so many couples fight over finances and knowing that wasn’t something we fought about, we realized that we didn’t really fight much about anything. We teasingly bragged to our kids how fortunate they were to have parents that never fought and they quickly responded with, “You fight all the time!” Confused we asked them to elaborate and we were totally caught off guard when they said, “You’re always fighting over food.”
They were right.
One of the best things that Bright Line Eating has done is in how it has improved our communication. Food ended up being what we fought about, but it was really just the scapegoat. Food consumption had deeply impacted our finances, our health, our parenting, and our marriage. But those topics were too deep to tackle. The more we thought about it, the more we realized that we avoided conflict more than we didn’t fight.
But Bright Line Eating began to give us a framework for communication. Before if I expressed concern over the number of bowls of evening snack Jim was consuming, I would have been snapped at and told when you’re hungry you need to eat. I had no context within which to frame my concern other than my own feelings. Now, if I am concerned about something I observe, I can frame my question within the four bright lines framework and it is received differently.
This has shifted our communication from adversarial to conversational. By discussing the bright lines and making commitments to each other about what those lines are and how we will follow them, it has lowered my anxiety as I no longer wonder how my words will be received.
Because we are at opposite ends of the susceptibility scale one of our first conversations was about what the bright lines would mean for us. We determined a few things:
- Jim, as a 10, would stick to the 4 lines as outlined in the book.
- Me, as a 2, amended a couple of the bright lines for a once a week exception, which is what I stick to.
- As a family, all bright lines as outlined in the book would be followed within the walls of our home, but our kids would have freedom to choose differently when they were other places.
We’re Enjoying Holistic Health
I have often described the past 12-months as a year of healing for Jim but it’s really been true for our family as a whole.
There have been the physical things that my husband has blogged about before, but more than that, I have seen healing mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, as well.
But like with so many things, what we think is a personal choice and will harm ourselves, it actually has a ripple effect and impacts everyone around us.
At his highest weight, Jim’s capacity to handle something without it pushing him into a depressed state was minimal. I expended a lot of energy running interference to prevent this from happening. It wasn’t fun. In fact, most things related to fun – smiling, laughing, playing – were often missing from our home. It felt like the description from “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” where Narnia is described as always “always winter but never Christmas.” The joy was gone.
As Jim has healed, life has been restored to our home and I realize that all of those things are returning. Jim laughs more, and the kids are more relaxed. We play more together. Our family just enjoys each other more. And it now feels more like spring as buds of life make their appearance.