Does meal prep make me high-maintenance?
December 26, 2016 10:11 AM   Subscribe

Calorie restriction and eating a high-protein diet is difficult for me, but I need to do it. The only problem is I feel like an anal-retentive jerk for prioritizing my self-care with meal planning and more attention to my diet. How do I not feel this way?

I'm overweight, but for reasons beyond the scope of this post, it's not really possible for me to get much of a caloric deficit through diet alone - eating 1200 calories/day is not quite a 250 calorie deficit for me. (If you're really interested in why, see my post history.) To see some change in my body eventually, I need to be pretty consistent with this for a long time, and it feels like the only way to get there involves planning my meals, weighing my food and all that jazz. On-the-go calorie/macro counting without meal planning - especially when I'm eating takeout - has been too difficult for me to manage. And I've been trying for a long time now, so I think the next step is to eat with more intentionality.

I know other people do this successfully, but I have a lot of trouble feeling like I'm not a rigid weirdo for eating this way. Whenever I try to take steps to make this easier, like buying leak-proof containers or a food scale, I feel like wanting to do this is indicative of selfishness or some inability to compromise. I love to cook, and I even find the idea of making weekly menus kind of fun, but I can't take the steps to do weekly meal planning because it triggers this feeling that there's something unrelatably wrong with me for needing to do this for my health in the first place. A fear of mine is, would a future partner be put off by the fact that I put any effort into meal planning? Other than therapy, what emotional health hacks can I do to make meal planning feel more normal?
posted by blerghamot to Health & Fitness (38 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You are entitled to self-care. You deserve meals that serve your health goals. If weighing and prepping is what you have the time for, go for it! (And then help me out!)

I'd also add that these days, intricate meal planning is becoming pretty mainstream in lots of areas. Certainly among my group of friends, between the vegans and the celiacs and those with restrictive diets because of IBS and those attempting pretty important diet plans... we've seen it all. Think of your meal restrictions as a very fun puzzle that you have to complete each week; gameify it and think of yourself as a successful prepper. (And then seriously, I wish I had this kind of discipline and knowledge so consider yourself a role model!)

Sorry I don't have any concrete advice, but have some support and encouragement from teh internets that meal planning is not being a rigid weirdo; it's good for you!
posted by TwoStride at 10:21 AM on December 26, 2016 [7 favorites]

Well, your desired diet is rigid, that's the whole point of it. Plenty of people are rigid about their diets for any number of reasons, health, ethics, whatever. If it's important to you, who cares what other people think?
posted by crankylex at 10:27 AM on December 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

First, maybe take a step back and question the whole premise of "high-maintenance." I recently saw a tweet that said, "Do not aspire to be low-maintenance, because you are a human woman and not a car." I've been sharing it with everyone I know, because we're all afraid of seeming high-maintenance, and man, fuck that.

I know that's a big ask, and takes some time and work--work that you can do without therapy, BTW, by making a concerted effort to remind yourself daily, every time you start worrying about it. In the meantime, it may help to keep in mind that everydangbody is on some sort of special, high-effort diet these days. Hell, it's even kinda trendy right now. Between folks with allergies and intolerances, vegans and vegetarians, and people doing paleo and keto (which is great for weight loss and symptom reduction for PCOS, btw, in case that happens to be relevant to you) and various cleanses, you are definitely not weird or unusual for putting effort into meal-planning.

Also, never forget that taking care of yourself (in whatever form you need to) will make you a happier and healthier person, which is great for you and also for landing potential partners. It sounds cheesy, but seriously, nothing is more attractive in a partner than someone who's taking care of themselves. And anyone who finds that offputting in any way is not worth your time and will not make you happy.
posted by rhiannonstone at 10:27 AM on December 26, 2016 [20 favorites]

Also, never forget that taking care of yourself (in whatever form you need to) will make you a happier and healthier person, which is great for you and also for landing potential partners.

And then having to choose between getting into a relationship and risking having to dismantle all that self-care for some man who doesn't get it, or to stay single for good? This is one of my fears.
posted by blerghamot at 10:35 AM on December 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

And then having to choose between getting into a relationship and risking having to dismantle all that self-care for some man who doesn't get it, or to stay single for good?

You're tying yourself into knots for some asshole you haven't even met yet. There are men who will understand that you have things you do for yourself; meal-planning, knitting*, outings with friends, whatever. Staying single forever and taking care of your own needs isn't the only option, but it beats being miserable for dudes who are controlling, selfish jerks.

*that guy from that question way back seems to be casting a long shadow. I know you don't want to go to therapy, but you need to unpack this somehow.
posted by hollyholly at 10:43 AM on December 26, 2016 [38 favorites]

Those are not your only options. There are plenty of men who get it. It may not be the next man you meet and are interested in, or the next. But hold out for someone who will support you and not expect you to just be some sort of doll with no needs of your own. Being with someone who doesn't support you or understand that you get to take care of yourself and have your own needs is much more unpleasant than being single awhile longer.

Source: Been there, done that, it sucked, life is better now.
posted by rhiannonstone at 10:45 AM on December 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

If therapy is off the table, maybe some more generic books/workbooks (I always recommend The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, you can get on Kindle or paper) would be acceptable?

On your update: yes, staying single for good is preferable to being abused by a partner who won't let you take care of yourself in the ways you deem appropriate. (Seriously, replace food with alcohol and ask yourself the same question? No, being with someone who doesn't like or care about you is not better than being alone.) A decent grown-up human being is going to be fine with you taking care of yourself, and this isn't a rare quality in people. Honestly, most good adult people who like you aren't going to care much, if at all.

It sounds like what you might actually be afraid of is the current Wellness trends in food-planning meaning you're bad or basic for following the herd? Because meal-planning is huge right now, with the scales and those black prep boxes you get in bulk on Amazon and probably 40+ for-pay websites out there for doing your planning. I understand the sensation of wanting to not be associated with Performative Wellness, but the fact is that meal-planning and portion control are very old tools from multiple toolboxes - dietary and economical and organizational.

People have to do this to be able to afford enough food for the week. Not everyone has the privilege of whipping out ad hoc meals 3-5 times a day with no concerns about food waste or the cost of supplies. Many people have to do some version of this for their health. You're not a bad person for doing what other people do, or for not being a mega-rich naturally (and/or surgically-assisted) thin person with a team of people paid to keep you that way. It's okay to be a person, it's okay to require maintenance.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:51 AM on December 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

Small emotional data point you may be able to work into your internal narrative:

I see meal planning and prep work as a sign of someone becoming lower maintenance and opting to simplify their life. Rather than being rigid, I see it as liberating from having to make daily decisions about what to eat.

Meal planning/prepping can be a frugal, budget-conscious decision that leaves more cash on the table for fun/savings. And when I bring homemade food to work, I feel like I get a little awe and envy from my coworkers who admire my ability to be self sufficient instead of relying on takeout or frozen food. And I'm proud of the tasty things I make for myself.
posted by itesser at 11:00 AM on December 26, 2016 [13 favorites]

I don't know if this is helpful, because instead of telling you how to get over this, I'm just going to tell you that this seems so super normal that I had to read the question twice to be sure I understood your concern. Planning your meals? Prepping food on the weekends? Storing food that you've prepped for convenient eating throughout the week? When I accomplish this, I mentally give myself about ten gold stars. This is, quite literally, one of the ways I judge whether I am winning at life. (Yes, ok, maybe that's worthy of a therapist visit for myself, but I know lots and lots of other people who'd basically agree with this.)

FWIW, I don't consider myself remotely high maintenance, and it's never occurred to me that anyone would consider this character trait high maintenance. Organized, yes. Healthy, yes. Role-model-worthy, yes. High maintenance? Isn't that, like, not wanting to cook because you might break a nail?
posted by instamatic at 11:04 AM on December 26, 2016 [34 favorites]

FWIW, my husband started doing this a few months ago. Batch cooks, portions out all his meals, and mostly just eats that. We eat entirely different things for our meals now. I don't view him as high-maintaince at all. Instead I'm proud of him she doing something that requires a fair bit of effort and planning in order to accomplish his goals. It's impressive really. I don't think doing this will doom you to being single, although you might need to think of non-dinner date ideas.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 11:14 AM on December 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

I've always planned my shopping and meals because I like to eat healthy and I'm cheap and hate waste. I don't think it's a huge deal. I've actually converted most everyone I've lived with to my method instead of the normal US method of buy everything that looks good at the store then toss half of it. I make a menu, buy the stuff and a few staples and snacks and cook a bunch on one night.

As far as dating, if you are health conscious and self-controlled you will tend to also date people like that so shouldn't be a big deal. I lived with a guy for ages that only ate paleo, I lived with a guy with IBS who couldn't eat some other stuff, I didn't care. We worked around it. We ate out, we had fun, we drank some and cooked together. I couldn't deal with someone who wanted to eat take out pizza every night, watch three hours of netflix a day, stay up till 1 am on work nights and sleep till noon every weekend day though. Taking care of yourself really is a lifestyle thing not just a diet.
posted by fshgrl at 11:25 AM on December 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

My husband and I work together to meet our health goals. Sometimes that's meant me packing him XYZ food I don't eat; sometimes it's meant not bringing junk into the house; right now he makes the morning smoothies while I pack the weighed salads with protein. It's 100% possible to have a partner who not just puts up with but enthusiastically supports healthy living. As you assert your needs and get stronger you will probably notice those men more because they are also trading healthy snack tips and buying leak proof containers.
posted by warriorqueen at 11:45 AM on December 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

And then having to choose between getting into a relationship and risking having to dismantle all that self-care for some man who doesn't get it, or to stay single for good? This is one of my fears.

This is a false choice. There are many, many men out there. Some men are couch potatoes, eat junk food and watch tv. Some men are excited by women who are exciting and vibrant and take charge of their lives (even if the details may be different from their own choices) Some men have complicated dietary issues of their own.

This is not a bug - it is feature. You DESERVE to be a dating man who can love you for who are, who will appreciate all of you so that your diet may (or may not) be an inconvenience but it would certainly not be a deal breaker.

If a guy has issues with this, just thank heavens that you dodged a bullet and learned to quickly that he was not someone you would want to be a long-term relationship - not because he has a problem with your food but because it shows the kind of person he is.
posted by metahawk at 11:49 AM on December 26, 2016 [8 favorites]

I feel like an anal-retentive jerk for prioritizing my self-care

This statement tells me that it's not about the meal planning at all. Your self-care in ANY facet of your life should be a priority, and both you and any potential future partner should not only not have that be an issue, but it should be expected and celebrated. The only method I know for fixing this kind of unsupportive inner self is therapy.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 11:53 AM on December 26, 2016 [10 favorites]

I feel for you on this. One of my pet peeves, after managing to lose a bunch of weight a few years ago, is how much people seem to expect women to be able to maintain low (ish, in my case) weights with no effort. You;re supposed to be able to just shovel down whatever anybody puts in front of you, join in whatever junk food fest is happening at the moment (because not doing so makes others feel self-conscious, and how selfish are you??) and never need time on your own to work out, all the time maintaining that slim, fit figure. Grrr.

All this is just to say that, IMHO, yes, this is a thing, and you might well encounter some pressure and even slight disapproval from some quarters. But you know what, "some quarters" believe that Elvis is alive, and more "quarters" voted for a guy who called his own daughter "a piece of a$$," so really, are you going to let these people dictate your life and your health?

I have found that it helps to go about the business of preparing, planning, and eating in as matter of fact a way as possible. The clearer I am on my plans, the more organized I am, the less discussion there is about it. In the short term, try to eliminate any trace of apology from your behaviour, e.g., if you are in a restaurant, when the waiter gets to your order, just say as matter of factory as possible "I'll have the Caesar salad with chicken and the dressing on the side and no croutons please" rather than "Oh dear, I hope it is not inconvenient for you, could you possibly etc etc etc." The latter just draws attention to you and gives ammunition to anyone who wants to see you as presenting yourself as a "special snowflake." The former just makes it clear that you are a paying customer and you know what you want from the transaction. (Of course, if the server says she can't accommodate a request, listen to her and try to figure something out.)

On another note, I haven't read through all your posting history, but from your comments and the responses above, it sounds like you had a bad experience with a particular guy, and it left some scars. It's probably worth dealing with those separately. The better you take care of yourself in all areas, the less needy you will be, and that is not only better for you, it makes you a better partner, friend, co-worker, etc..
posted by rpfields at 12:04 PM on December 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

Had an ex like yours and it fucked me up good in the food department. It was so hard to learn how to eat again. What helped me was therapy and learning to see food as good self care. I dated another guy afterwards who loved my approach to food and eventually emulated my Sunday prep/freezer/inventory routine. He also loved that I knit. Good men are out there. And hell yes it is so much better being single than being with someone who thinks that my meal planning or knitting are selfish. Fuck that noise; I'm awesome, partly because of those things.
posted by sockermom at 12:05 PM on December 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

Not sure if you've checked out the reddit for this but there is very supportive group.

It's more about people showing off their work, the title came about being most people meal prep on Sunday but you don't have to, to be involved with the group. Notice that there are almost 200K members. Lots of people do this. This is a perfectly normal thing for people to do. You are not going to be some lone high maintenance "freak" or whatever. There are a lot of people out there that meal prep, no one is going to think it's weird. Some people are doing it for weight loss, some for health, some because they are super busy but want to eat well, or to save money, some because they are building muscle or whatever.

On an unrelated side note you might want to think about why you'd be thinking about dating a guy that didn't support you caring for yourself in a perfectly normal manner.
posted by wwax at 12:18 PM on December 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

Vegan here. I have been meal prepping forever and most people who I tell/find out about it think it is awesome and/or want to do it themselves. Right now there are about three months worth of tamales in my freezer for quick lunches. It is awesome to have healthy food waiting and that frees up time for other things during the week - including impromptu dates, if you want.

Meal-prepping is a good thing - it is taking care of yourself and also maximizing the resources (food and time) that you have. These are all positives. I think you should go for it and do what is good and right for you. In theory, this will attract to your life people who have similar values & interests.
posted by ainsley at 12:48 PM on December 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

1200 calories is pretty low, and per a previous question there's no way a BMI of 26 calculates to 45% bodyfat. I want to speculate that the low metabolism you describe is actually undernourishment: you don't have enough fuel, so your body goes into starvation mode.
posted by rhizome at 12:56 PM on December 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Well, anyone paying attention to diet, in any form, gets flack from the whatever % majority who don't, that's definitely true. I think some guys might question it, just because everyone does. But it doesn't have to be a barrier to a relationship, and it doesn't necessarily express some deep criticism of you. The right guy will at some point go, "ok, whatever, blerghamot likes to eat this way," and move past it, because he's into you. (The way to present it (to family, coworkers, a romantic partner) is as a non-negotiable or debatable fact about how you live your life. Make it not a big deal or up for discussion at all, and people accept it eventually.)

That said, it's true that with partners, it's a bit harder, because so much of dating involves eating (cozying up at home, going to restaurants, etc). But you can still do that to a degree, depending on your plan...

(But, blerghamot, I've met you, and I know you're clever with clothes [and lots else] but are you sure you're needing to go to a deep cut [or even overweight??]? But ok, taking for granted that it's true... If you're only seeing loss when you eat close to your BMR, screw it, switch to recomp and then do a slow cut. A because it's just easier and more sustainable, and B because the more muscle you have, the more you can eat (even while losing). Tons of people - your height, even - lose or maintain at 2000, 2100, 2200+, with lifting. Maybe add extra cardio for a buffer. And, if you're fine with meal prep, ok, it works for lots of people - but if it actually stresses YOU out, try this 80% of the time [easy to manage even with takeout, just get grilled stuff and veg] and leave the other 20% for date-related cheese and fig plates or what have you.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:48 PM on December 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

Lots of good discussion here. OP, here's another idea you might consider as you ramp yourself up for meal planning/prepping: it can save you a ton of money.

Last fall, as I was coming up for air after the horrid breakup of my marriage, I rediscovered my love for cooking. I also wanted to get back on a eating plan that works well for me (low/no carb). Finally, I was facing a future with one income and a mortgage, so the $10 or $12 a day I was spending on lunches out every day at work was looking pretty extravagant.

I made a New Year's Resolution to eat a home-cooked meal every day I was in the office; bought a bunch of lunch containers, and cooked up a storm over Christmas break 2015 and filled my freezer. For the rest of the year I hauled a beautiful tote bag full of frozen meals every week or two and brought back the empties when they were all consumed. Cooked a big meal every other Sunday to replenish. I do believe I bought my lunch exactly twice through 2016 and probably saved myself $1500 over the course of the year (considering that I spent more money on groceries.)

How much money would you save by taking the approach you describe?
posted by Sublimity at 3:20 PM on December 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

Planning for, shopping for, and cooking healthful meals are just skills. They don't come with a value judgement. Right now you are developing those skills to take care of yourself, later you might contribute those skills to a functioning household run by two or more people who care for each other. Right now you are working on the skill and applying the discipline we all have to apply when learning something new. Feelings don't need to enter into it or if they do, maybe acknowledge them and continue with the discipline.
posted by songs_about_rainbows at 3:39 PM on December 26, 2016

Follow a bunch of people on instagram who also meal prep. (Or follow on Twitter, or find a facebook group, or a forum, or the subreddit mentioned above etc.) There are thousands of people out there prepping meals! If you see daily that lots of your peers are doing it too, it may start to normalize for you.

I did this about eating low carb and going to the gym. I took some flak in real life about eating "weird" but it turns out I get to eat however I want and others can kiss my grits. And I lost 60 lbs and kept it off for 6 years now so that means others can REALLY kiss my grits times a million.

Taking care of your health is appropriate-level-maintenance! If you feel great now and have less joint pain in your 70s, whatever you did is exactly-the-right-maintenance, period.

So, to summarize, meal prep is NOT high maintenance and to make meal planning more normal, find your crew of people online who are all doing it and either kick back and observe or (even better) get involved and post your own menus, pics, hacks, etc.
posted by TheClonusHorror at 6:09 PM on December 26, 2016

I did 100%, 21-meal-per-week, every bite planned meal planning as a part of a series of elimination diets trying to figure out a chronic pain issue that wasn't adequately managed by medication. That sounds pretty sympathetic, right?

Your issues Are. That. Serious. Just because some people choose to stay uncomfortable and unhealthy, doesn't make that normal.
posted by mchorn at 6:21 PM on December 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Look, I'm a pretty type A individual. I have two graduate degrees, I have two kids, I work full time, I do research, I help run two nonprofits, I try to work out 6 days a week, I do daily lessons in two languages I'm trying to learn. I've successfully completed a Whole30, which is one of the most restrictive diet plans out there that I'm familiar with. I've never meal planned because it intimidates me!

I think meal planning is amazing, I've read so many cool stories and blog posts where people produce these beautiful sets of pre-prepped meals, but I've never yet managed to prep meals for even 1 week of my life. It sounds like a mythic feat to me, and people who do it for the long term are objects of my sincere admiration. (definitely planning to give it a shot some day!) I'd see the ability to meal plan as a pretty major bonus facet of someone's personality, especially if they wouldn't mind planning my meals too...

My husband (whom I fell in love with, in part, because of his dedication to a vegetarian diet) often raises an eyebrow at some of the things I decide to do for wellness purposes, but I'm pretty sure that he too loves me more because I love myself and because I'm always working on trying to improve my health, even though I don't always succeed. I think most people find that an attractive characteristic in a partner. I hope you soon find someone to be your partner who has that admiration for you! I'd be more concerned about the fact that you're worrying about what your hypothetical future partner might think about a hobby you haven't taken up yet. Whether you have confidence in and love yourself for who you are will make a much bigger difference in how you are viewed by potential partners than what you eat.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:40 PM on December 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

Another trick you can try is just doing it. Do the thing. Get out the scale, do the measurements. Be a scientist. I did WW this last year with my husband after scorning all diets my whole life. I actually found it fascinating how much I didn't know about what I was eating. WW felt like a kind of game. So here's the thing: you can go through all the motions that you know are right without solving your internal monologue and still arrive at a better place. I swim for exercise and often find myself in my inner monologue complaining about going, telling myself that I will get to the pool but won't get in, and make up excuses while at the same time going thru all the motions to get myself there. Sometimes my inner monologue complains thru the whole workout. But then I did it and it's done. You don't always need to solve you while doing better for you.
posted by amanda at 8:42 PM on December 26, 2016

I do this too, or try to! It's part of my recovery from my eating disorder. It's actually very healthy to do this, especially if you have to eat a certain way to meet health goals.

I [try to, anyway] cook large meals, enough for at least two things of leftovers, and cook two of these meals at a time. That way I'm set for a week. I also have pre-made snack containers with specific food items at a time.

It's so, so not a big deal -- AND! I am in a relationship with a wonderful man who not only is accepting, but is highly supportive and helps me create my meal plans! These people do exist!
posted by gloraelin at 8:51 PM on December 26, 2016

In answer to the question: no (to me "high maintenance" is more of a personality/neediness thing in any case) and if you'd like to cut down on the amount of effort you yourself would be putting into this, you could do things like have a base of recipes you know by heart and know the numbers for; have a list of restaurants that include calorie counts on the menu so that it can be easier to go out with friends or get takeout; have a plan for what to do when invited for a meal at someone else's place or when traveling; and just in general gradually build up a set of ways to deal with different situations/ingredients/moods so that you don't have to continually devote a huge amount of thought and energy into this. And with respect to how you feel about it, you could consider what someone else might think of you if you went daily to the gym or had a routine time set aside for exercising at home. Those things are generally considered admirable, and I'm not sure why this should be different. It might also help to think of this as something you want and choose to do rather than as something you're inescapably obliged to do, because (see below) that seems to be true. And choosing to spend some time on something that makes you happy is pretty different from being "high-maintenance", imo.

That said, I did look at your history and the height and weight you posted seem really, absolutely fine, and I found myself wondering how the weight-training recommendations that you marked as best answer elsewhere worked out. I was also wondering, before I saw the comment above, whether your very low metabolism has to do with your extremely low intake.

I also noticed the question about how to dry your hair without being high-maintenance, and it made me wonder if this is a general concern for you, and whether people in the past have memorably told you that you're taking up too much space in one way or another, or if this is a kind of manifestation of social anxiety, and so on. I hate having people insist they know my conscious or subconscious thoughts and don't mean to do that here, but I was so surprised by the numbers in the previous questions that I wanted to bring this up just as something to think about. (Apologies if you already have ad nauseum.)

Anyway, good luck with everything.
posted by trig at 11:11 PM on December 26, 2016 [7 favorites]

A fear of mine is, would a future partner be put off by the fact that I put any effort into meal planning?

Please don't let assumptions about what a future partner is going think put you off doing something that you want to do for yourself.

In my experience, although there is overall societal pressure for women to perfect but low maintenance and eat anything but stay thin, the men I have dated have never judged me for what I eat or don't eat. I doubt any of them would have had any kind of opinion about meal planning.

Your posting history suggests that it is your ex who was high maintenance (being shitty about you using a hairdryer? Getting upset about you knitting in front of the TV?). Try to shake that guy off and out of your life. You don't want to end up with someone like him again anyway, right?

My advice for you would be to start doing it. Go out and buy some leak-proof containers and a scale, start planning and cooking your meals. Think about how much time and money you are saving by being so organised, and how much better you feel now that you can eat so well so conveniently. And do not judge yourself for planning your meals, since it will only give other people the idea that they are allowed to judge you for it.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 11:35 PM on December 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

I think meal planning is awesome. It is a great display of self-control and life management. People who meal plan are on top of their shit in a really admirable way. I would be more interested in spending time with someone who meal planned than someone who didn't.
posted by rebent at 10:38 AM on December 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm from a family of martyr-types, so it took me a *long* time to learn this, but:

Self-care is not selfish.

Self-care is the opposite of selfish. Self-care is what fills your own cup so you can go back to helping others and being creative and doing your best and being a wonderful person.

If you don't take care of yourself, you make it harder for those around you, not easier. That's because eventually you'll burn out, and they'll have to take care of you. That's not good for you, and it's not good for other people in your life, including potential partners.

If you need help letting the idea that self-care isn't selfish sink in (I did), I'd recommend anything by Yoga With Adriene on YouTube. In particular, Yoga for the Service Industry (even if that's not your industry), Yoga Camp Day 20 - I am Worthy, and the upcoming 31 Days of Yoga Revolution may be helpful to you, but I find her whole attitude wonderful. Take time for yourself, whether it's yoga or meal prepping or whatever, so that you are able to be present to and help others - at work, in your family, etc.

Also, I'm with rebent - people who have it together enough to plan and prep their meals are rockstars. So are you!
posted by bananacabana at 9:56 PM on December 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

Thank you for the kind responses everyone. Someone upthread said that feelings really should come into play here, and that's absolutely right. My inner monologue spends a lot of time telling me that I'm boring, persnickety and less platonically and romantically attractive for wanting to take care of my life. I guess the only way to quiet it (for now, at least) is to get really involved in productive self-care that pays off.

Perhaps I'm not being super reasonable, but I just don't want to have to enter into a subtly-controlling dialogue with a partner about why I have the preferences I have. It's exhausting and it was like putting a spotlight on how much of a weirdo I am. I've had to deal with someone questioning me about liking good wine/not wanting to eat PB&J sandwiches for lunch every day/why I couldn't just make tuna salad for myself with mayo like everyone else, and it felt like a strange way for adults to engage each other about their preferences. I don't think most adults do this in intimate relationships, but who knows?
posted by blerghamot at 12:28 PM on December 29, 2016

> I don't think most adults do this in intimate relationships, but who knows?

You know! You are correct! That behavior is not normal, or desirable. Good job recognizing that.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:58 PM on December 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

Perhaps I'm not being super reasonable, but I just don't want to have to enter into a subtly-controlling dialogue with a partner about why I have the preferences I have. It's exhausting and it was like putting a spotlight on how much of a weirdo I am.

You are being extremely reasonable, because that is an exhausting conversation to have. The solution is to do what you want and to end relationships with people who try to control you in that way, rather than pre-emptively controlling yourself so that they don't have to.
posted by lazuli at 9:00 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

My favorite emotional health hack is using Post-It Notes all over my walls to remind me that I'm worth it, that I'm capable, that nothing's gonna get me down, etc. Current Notes festooning my walls:
* It's not what they take away from you that counts. It's what you do with what you have left.
* Pain creates suffering only when you refuse to accept the pain.
* Wrestle your trembles to rages.
* Lead yourself first
* You are enough

I've also used Notes for goals I'm working towards. For example, B.A.T.H.E.D. is an acronym relevant to my business. I'll plaster every surface with Notes in various colors saying BATHED, interspersed with pictures of bathtubs, people in bathtubs, you get the idea.

I feel like an anal-retentive jerk for prioritizing my self-care

Nope. Sorry. You're a self-aware rock star for prioritizing your self-care. Put that on a Post-It.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 10:08 AM on December 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

I just don't want to have to enter into a subtly-controlling dialogue with a partner about why I have the preferences I have

Correct, you want to not have to do that. This should be part of the triage you perform in the early dating stages before you accept someone as an actual partner, especially living partner. And if it crops up later in the relationship you can call it out once, but you should assume this behavior was either hidden from you until s/he felt safe to start controlling you in this way and end the relationship if it happens again OR they've taken a blow to the head or are having some kind of medical issue that needs prompt attention, because it's severe enough to change their personality.

What you don't want to do is make yourself so small and tiny and unconsuming of space - physically and emotionally - as a defense mechanism in advance. The worst people, the worst men, look for women who have compressed themselves this way, because they are easier to control and abuse. You don't need abuse-avoidance maneuvers, you need to just be like "nah, bye".

It is normal, in dating, that everything seems super-cool at first and then gets more real over time. In good and bad and neutral ways. And as you find these things out, you decide: can I deal with this or no? If no, you're done. And it could be anything - maybe it's not that he's garbage, but he has a really complicated family situation that you know you're not going to be able to manage in a way that doesn't create conflict between you. He has career ambitions that will mean he's in danger everyday, or gone for months at a time, and that's not the life or lifestyle or co-parent you want for yourself in life. He's pleasant enough to talk to, except all he talks about are his hobbies that you think are kinda problematic. These are all reasons to abort the dating process.

Aborting the dating process is not a personal failure or error in the system. It IS the system. This is literally the system that evolved in opposition to arranged/feudal/treaty/dowry marriage systems. You get to pick and choose who you date for how long, rather than being assigned to the fourth most suitable bachelor in the village because you have more teeth than most of the other girls nearby, but your father doesn't own much land.

Part of the dating process is familiarizing each other with your preferences. When you show/tell him your preferences around meal planning, look at his response. If he acts like he has never heard anything like this wacky concept before, bin him immediately because literally everyone is familiar with Tupperware and he's being disingenuous with his fake overreaction, and let's all agree to hate fake overreactors. On the other hand, if he's like "cool" or "a bunch of my coworkers do that, yeah" or "oh hey, I've been thinking about doing that, is it hard?", ding ding, that great news. That's a person acting respectfully toward you.

There may be moments with someone you're dating where you run into those shocking topics like no top sheet or facing forward vs facing away where one person has literally never considered there's another way to do a thing they do, but again it's the reaction you want to consider there. He may have a moment of horror when he realizes you don't use a top sheet, and it might even feel really awful to him and he just totally can't deal without a top sheet, but there's a difference between "okay, this is clearly one of those over/under divides and I'll bring my own top sheet for my side, I don't know how you live like this but whatever makes you happy" and "you're a monster how dare you make ME uncomfortable for a nanosecond?"

You will generally be happier and more successful in life if you are just yourself, and honest and comfortable about who you are, and learn to recognize that if someone doesn't like you that's their right and it's not a thing you can fix. If the actual right thing for you in your life is eating the exact same meal with the same plate and knife and fork every day at the same time except alternate Tuesdays when you go for sushi with your best friend, be with the guy who's like "I adore that she does that" instead of "she's wrong and terrible and it's weird that I would stay with someone I dislike so much".
posted by Lyn Never at 11:05 AM on December 30, 2016 [5 favorites]

The tricky thing is drawing the line between which preferences actually affect the way you share your life with someone else (e.g. indoor temperature preferences, need for alone time) versus which things like facing forward vs. facing away that probably have no bearing on the other person. I think the problem was more about agreeing which preferences fall on which side of the line, and it can be argued that food can straddle that boundary.
posted by blerghamot at 11:42 AM on December 30, 2016

IT DOESN'T MATTER. Don't pre-compromise with someone who's not even in your life right now. Live 100% the way you want to. If it bumps up against someone else's preferences later, then you can both decide how you want to handle it. Stop making yourself someone you're not on behalf of someone who doesn't even exist and who, if he did exist, would be an asshole you don't want to date.
posted by lazuli at 5:57 PM on December 30, 2016 [5 favorites]

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