the nutritionally recalcitrant spouse . . . part four (summing up)

Lisle and Goldhamer, in The Pleasure Trap, write about how as a culture we’re like that frog in the boiling water.   You try to put a frog in boiling water, he’s going to leap out.  But put him in cold water and turn on the heat, he’s going to gradually boil to death without realizing he’s in trouble.

If you could go back in time and serve a plate of chicken nuggets and fries to your great grandparents at the turn of the century, with a slice of Sara Lee afterward, they’d get very ill.   They’d be appalled and perplexed at the ingredient list, sickened by how sweet the dessert was, confused by the lack of natural flavor replaced by chemical/fried taste and texture—and they wouldn’t want that meal again.   But that’s not how it happened.

Like the frog, over a few generations, we have gradually been fed more and more addictive food, with more chemicals like MSG added, and in the past 30 years, meat consumption has doubled.   Refined foods have gotten less expensive while produce has gotten more expensive.   We find ourselves in a state of nearly the whole population being processed-food addicts, having been boiled to death gradually.   Our poor kids!

So, your DH has been like the frog in the boiling water.   You, miraculously, have jumped out of the pot.   Logic suggests that you could use the same frog-in-water approach to reversing the national trend in your home.

In other words, you take a step at a time, without fanfare, making meals he’ll enjoy.   Add another step a month later so he doesn’t even notice, a year later, that a radical transformation has taken place.   By then, he’ll be cooked!   I mean, hooked!   What he’ll be hooked on is how he feels (like the alpha male he once was) and how he looks (the smokin’ hot dude you married)—and he’ll never want to go back.

You have two choices when faced with a spouse digging in his heels over your changes.   One is to follow these suggestions (and feel free to add some of your own) with patience and the long-range goal always in mind.   The other is to throw in the towel and go back to eating trash.   Clearly one of these two choices would be a big mistake.

7 thoughts on “the nutritionally recalcitrant spouse . . . part four (summing up)

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  1. I needed this, last night my husband told me he wanted to do my diet (I eat raw food) and I was so happy I cried. (he’s obese and on meds) well, this morning he gets up and eats junk, I got mad- and I was hurt. I just need to go back to plan 1, change how we eat gradually. I’ve been doing this for some time and it isn’t like I feed my family crap, but I want to get rid of meat one of these days. It’s what he eats at work that’s killing him. I told him to read the book, I can’t baby sit him, and I won’t. so frustrating!

  2. My mom’s husband who is type 2 diabetic and who has had open heart surgery told her to not even get that green smoothie near him. He thinks it’s ok to eat all kinds of junk and then take his insulin. Go figure!

  3. Oh, Saskia, I feel your pain, I do! It’s so frustrating when you watch someone you love making poor choices even when you feel you’ve done all you can to help and educate them. Sometimes I have to get really clear with myself about the boundaries between me and my family members–literally say out loud to myself, “This is me and that is him–no umbilical cord attaches us. I can’t make him do it, and it’s my job to love him even if he doesn’t.” It’s hard though, huh! Your DH is struggling with addiction: it’s no less real and no less hard to break than a heroin or cocaine addiction. The only differences are that his addictions and those two are that his are socially acceptable and only slowly, almost imperceptibly deadly.


  4. Robyn,

    Thanks for your thoughts about changing our family and spouses diets gradually. The last time I served a meat dish was in January. Last night I served a small cornish hen. It had been in the freezer for a long time. I didn’t want to just throw it away. I was surprised that 3 of my 5 children said “No thanks, I don’t think I like eating chicken anymore.” I have been so focused on the end result that I forgot to stop and see how far I/we have come. The really exciting part to me was that they were able to choose for themselves.


  5. I whole heartedly agree that eliminating the junk from my diet has been a “weaning” process. I mentioned to my brother when he was over for a healthy dinner at my place that when was the last time you could say you were at the appropriate weight for you? I say it’s a process of asking yourself “what can I do alittle more healthy this time?” You have to literally “pick your poison”. I was talking (ranting) about how come I can’t buy bread without sugar (or some form of it) in it? I found a bakery locally that makes a 8 grain bread with no sugar, oil, eggs or chemicals and now I only get that…but a year ago I was happy with off the shelf whole grain bread. The list is endless but I feel better than I can remember.

  6. It’s been a long road for us. I grew up on a healthy diet, dh didn’t. My mother ran a health food store, bought a goat, studied nutrition extensively and all that. DH’s mother has all sorts of health problems and was on dialysis before she passed away. Yet she still kept eating junk food throughout it all even though she knew she shouldn’t. She did always have a good attitude, though. My mother was led to health foods because she too had all sorts of health problems. While her healthy diet has helped a lot, she hasn’t found the real solution (apparently) and she constantly complains about all her problems. So with these two examples, dh seems to have come to the conclusion that all healthy eaters are sickly, and that it probably doesn’t really matter in the end. Although the real conclusion should probably be that they have two very different personalities!

    Yet deep down, he really does believe that it’s wise to eat healthy foods. It’s just that his definition of healthy foods and moderation is different than mine! He believes that I am a food nazi! I finally just decided that we were just going to cut out processed foods (which I had to mostly anyway because of a gluten-free daughter.) So I make almost everything from scratch. And he actually likes most of it now. He loves the whole-grain sourdough bread, green smoothies, homemade yogurt sweetened with stevia and granola. When I serve vegetarian meals, he always make comments that it would taste so much better with meat, but he still eats it. Or when I pull out the homemade ranch, he’ll go on and on about how good Hidden Valley Ranch is. But he does eat everything I make for meals, and even takes the leftovers for lunch the next day.

    Our biggest problem is when it comes to treats. First off, his definition of moderation and mine are totally different. The kids are constantly bombarded with treats everywhere – church, school, soccer games, church activities (especially the girls!), holidays, grandpa, etc yet he still wants to eat treats at home 2-4 times a week (in fact, after every meal he has at home he always looks in the pantry for something sweet to eat… and rarely finds anything.) I don’t even think that he realizes how much he does this. And he’ll use any excuse to have a treat, too of course.

    I hardly ever make treats because I feel like the kids get plenty during the week already. But I wouldn’t even be so adverse to serving treats in the home if he’d eat healthy ones. He refuses to eat any healthy treats or snacks I make – won’t even try them at all. I made chocolate cookies and only subbed ww pastry flour and sucanat and he wouldn’t touch them because it looked healthy. He says that if he’s going to eat treats, they aren’t going to be healthy. I made the mistake of saying that white flour was like a poison to your body and he thought that was utterly ridiculous and it just made him want to go eat more white flour.

    I guess that maybe what I need to do is make more healthy treats and if he doesn’t want to eat them, well, that’s his choice. But hey, at least they are there.

  7. Robyn — in your post you wrote “Sometimes I have to get really clear with myself about the boundaries between me and my family members-literally say out loud to myself, “This is me and that is him-no umbilical cord attaches us. I can’t make him do it, and it’s my job to love him even if he doesn’t.” ———Thank you so much for this. I had an incredibly sleepless night last night because I found out that while my hubby has been turning over a new leaf & asking for the green smoothies — he picked back up smoking. I was so incredibly angry but truly you summed it up so well above. I need to apply that same thinking as my repsonse last night did no good in helping him — it only made him feel worse & likely made him (want to) retreat into his old habit from the stress.

    Moi — hopefully you get to read this…… Go ahead & make those healthy treats. You don’t even have to offer him any just have them available. I’ll bet when he goes on his treat hunt he’ll break down one day & try your “too healthy looking” cookies & just may like them after all 🙂

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