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.

the recalcitrant spouse . . . part three (of four)

FOUR, just put more nutritious foods in the menu without taking any kind of soapbox stand about it.   Just do it with no fanfare, and have a rule that it’s bad manners to criticize the cook.   (You don’t want your kids leaving your home and turning their noses up at others’ cooking anyway, do you?   This is a good time to teach that.)

FIVE, tell DH  how much his support would mean to you.   Tell him in plain English how important making changes is to you, and why.   Tell him you care about HIS health–and if he says he feels great now even with subpar nutrition (which he might, if he’s young and  bad habits haven’t  caught up to him yet), tell him you want to be travelling, doing service, playing with the great-grandkids, and living a vibrant life with him when you’re 85!   He’s not dumb: he can look around himself and see the health of most people he knows who are even 65 and decide he doesn’t wanna go there.

Ask him to read  12 Steps to Whole Foods (or China Study, or Eat to Live) because it has changed your worldview and you want to be in harmony with him.   He can do that for you–many husbands will.   He doesn’t have much time to read?   That’s the thing about 12 Steps—it’s boiled down to just a short reading assignment once a month–each chapter takes an hour to read at the most.

the nutritionally recalcitrant spouse . . . part two (of four)

TWO, a major reason you’re enthusiastically moving ahead with health-related dietary changes and he’s resisting is this: you’ve been educated, and he hasn’t!   Obviously, or you wouldn’t be blogging on with full confidence that he’ll never see it!   😉

Ever go on long car trips?   I read China Study on a 10-hr. drive when it first came out, and reading bits of it out loud to DH and discussing it with him helped us make a lot of progress.   This kind of thing must be done in a “Wow, honey, can you believe this–so interesting!” kind of way, rather than a “I hereby condescend to educate you because your nutrition knowledge lacunae must be ameliorated” kind of way.   Your chats in the evening when the kids are in bed, or your weekly date night, or the dinner table, are more places to share pieces of what you’ve learned, a little at a time.

If he’s a logic guy, be SURE to cite empirical evidence, with details.   If he’s an emotion-based guy, tell him a testimonial of a friend whose health problems similar to his have vanished, eating whole foods–or  rave about  how your own health is improving.

And have low expectations: you’re not going to convert him overnight.   Your best shot at converting him is with the way he feels, over time, eating delicious, whole plant foods and cutting out most/all of the junk.

THREE, having said all that—and this is just my opinion—once you have come to realize that (1) you promote your family’s health following recommendations and (2) you harm your family with junk food . . . well, you have no obligation or motivation to provide junk food.   Your education means you can never go back to ignorance—which is NOT bliss, of course.  What DH does at work is his business.   But if you try to make dishes that taste good and are nutritious, you have met your obligation to your family.   (Many American women aren’t cooking anything from scratch.)   Be at peace with that despite DH’s misgivings and  mini-freakouts.   I realize this is a strong opinion and some may disagree (feel free to sound off!), but I would not provide a healthy meal for you and the kids, and a second meal of beef burritos and ice cream for DH.   This sends a mixed, confusing message to the kids, and it’s so much work for you that you’ll burn out.

Even if you were making traditional meat-and-potatoes standard American diet dishes, he wouldn’t like everything you made, right?   He’s a grownup and can go out of his way to provide himself disease-promoting foods if he would like to.   If it’s harder for him rather than easier, he’s more likely to just eat what you’ve made, and he just might love it!   Last night I served a raw, sprouted-quinoa salad and steamed broccoli for dinner.   DH (kids, too) LOVED it.   Twenty years ago, that meal would have resulted in Shock and Awe.   I’ll post the recipe when I’m done with this series.

Lest  Point Three  sound like I’m encouraging a power struggle, I’m not.    I’m not saying you don’t compromise.   For instance, perhaps you’d like to go veg, but he wants meat every day, and you settle on fish or chicken twice a week.   But make it something you can live with that isn’t going to significantly compromise what you now know!   Make that fish portion  tiny, on a plate piled high with salad.   And  take the high road:  don’t offer anger or domination, just your calm and peaceful assurance that you want to do the very best for him and your family.

the nutritionally recalcitrant spouse . . . part one (of four)

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl:

 “I am excited about eating right and enjoying the changes I’m making, but my husband/wife is sabotaging my efforts and doesn’t think eating white flour, sugar, meat, and  Diet Coke is really gonna hurt anybody as long as we mix in a salad now and then.”

You aren’t alone.   I give my DH a lot of credit for being open and positive (sometimes just for the sake of not confusing our kids by contradicting me), especially considering that he did not grow up in a home where whole plant foods dominated the menu.   But he was once overheard by my daughter muttering, “This just gets weirder and weirder.” I think this was when I started encouraging the kids to drink “swamp water.”   (That’s the alkaline dehydrated greens powder available on this site–name of manufacturer withheld so they will continue to let me sell their product for less than anyone else–added to my kids’ quart water bottles.)

And I have constant email and personal conversations with people about this.   Wives, if it makes you feel ANY better, solving this problem is easier for you than it is for a husband who wants to eat right but whose wife does the cooking.   Now THAT’S tough.   I’m talking to the women (or whichever spouse does the cooking) right now–these are my thoughts.

ONE, you know how in marriage a disagreement often isn’t really about what it seems on the surface to be about?   (I’m going to wear another hat here for a minute–I used to be a marriage and family therapist, by the way.)   Keep in mind that it’s natural for ANY spouse to be resistant to ANY major change.   We humans like habit and predictability and safety.   Imagine if your DH came home and said, “Honey, I know I just finished an engineering degree that you worked hard to pay for, but I’ve decided I want to be an artist instead: I’m quite certain that will make me happy.”   You might resist, yes?   DH is worried you’re going to become someone else (i.e., not who he married, someone extreme and scary).   You’re not—you’re just progressing toward becoming your best self.

As someone said on this site, food issues are BIG issues.   They are as emotional and deeply held, often, as religion and politics.   I learned this the hard way by soapboxing to my inlaws in my 20’s as I was discovering information and “experimenting upon the word.”   (To any of said inlaws who may be reading this, please forgive me for being dogmatic.)   Have some compassion for DH and realize that announcing, “We are now a vegetarian family: I’m quite certain this will make us all healthy” or something like that might be too much, too fast.   😉

To be continued tomorrow . . .