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

Robyn Openshaw - May 01, 2008 - This Post May Contain Affiliate Links

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.”

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 . . .

Posted in: Relationships, Whole Food

15 thoughts on “the nutritionally recalcitrant spouse . . . part one (of four)”

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  1. http:// says:

    My husband is by no means “on board” with me as far as healthy eating. He eats what I put in front of him, but does his own thing when I’m not around. Plus, he questions EVERY single thing I tell him about food. He thinks everything I say is made up or unfounded.

    With that said, here’s some things I’ve found helpful when dealing with my husband.

    I’ve taken a more hands-off approach than I used to. Sometimes I used to look at what he’d eaten throughout the day and say something like, “It’s dinner time and you haven’t eaten a single vegetable all day, have you?” Obviously, I wasn’t trying to see where he was coming from. Growing up he probably went months without ever eating a vegetable that wasn’t battered and fried. The changes he is willing to make (even if it’s just eating a big dinner salad and my vegetarian dinners) are HUGE successes!! So, let’s all try to recognize the little successes that our spouses have and appreciate the little steps they take with us! I don’t mean saying to them, “Wow! Great job for eating that!” No! I’ve learned that when I make a big deal about it, it turns my DH off from eating healthy things! We just need to remember and appreciate that they are making changes and they might not be changing as fast as we would like, but they’re still changing.

    Also, for those that have mentioned that you miss eating traditional dishes or that you’re tired of always experimenting with new things… I say then don’t abandon your traditional dishes yet if you’re not ready! For example, my DH loves sloppy joes. Rather than deprive him, I substitute Red Quinoa in place of the ground beef and serve it on wheat buns. Is it the most nutritionally sound thing in the world? NO, but it’s a big step ahead of using ground beef! We do the same thing with taco’s and a few other traditional dishes that he likes. We make black bean burgers when my DH craves burgers, etc… There are healthier substitutes to traditional dishes that might help you slowly convert your family to a better and better diet! Like Robyn says, take it slow. Husbands will come on board when they’re ready. We cant expect our husbands to change their eating habits right away when they’ve formed these eating habits over 30-40 years!

  2. Anonymous says:

    So are you allowed to at least list the ingredients of the green powder that you sell?

  3. http:// says:

    Yes, sure. If you’ve read my Green Food pages, you know I researched every powdered greens product I could find and only THIS one and one other brand are just the superfoods, no cheap fillers. (And the other brand is $96/bottle, network marketed!) I’ve capitalized the ingredients I think are really incredible and unusual to have in a greens product:

    Barley grass, wheat grass, nettle leaf, shavegrass, alfalfa leaf juice, dandelion leaf juice, barley grass juice, oat grass juice, burdock root, broccoli juice, kale juice, spinach juice, parsley juice, carob pod, ginger root, nopal cactus, amla berry, SPIRULINA, BROKEN CELL WALL CHLORELLA, Icelandic KELP, Nova Scotia DULSE, ENZYMES (protease, amylase, lipase, cellulase, bromelain, papain, alpha galactosidase), comprehensive PROBIOTIC mixture from natural soil organisms

    1. Evelyn says:

      If I found out through a blood test that at this time my blood has an allergic reaction to brocoli should I stay away from this product? Normally I am not allergic to Broccoli I just think right now I am having inflammation in my body that I’ve been working on for the last few years and broccoli was my favorite vegetable . Maybe I over did it anyway, it’s not an allergy that I know of a reaction from the outside but you think?

  4. I love this post. I say slip it all in quietly, and before they realize what happened, they’ve unknowingly transitioned. :o)

  5. thanks steff for your comments

    sounds like our hubbys are very similar in their food philosophy

    i would like to chime in though- perhaps for others- one technique that I have employed is to use less meat and replace with tvp or beans/lentils/boca crumbles- whatever is appropriate for the texture of the dish ( i know tvp is not ‘healthy’ per se- but it’s not meat) I would hear about it if i healthified a recipe he loved. When he wants a burger, he wants a burger. (He will eat boca burgers and other kinds of burgers- but not as a replacement.)

    i am looking forward to implementing the salads step in this program. i have been dabbling/experimenting with it this week- and we’ve all been eating them as an appetizer while i finish dinner prep. i haven’t announced it or anything- i just give them the plate as “something to eat while you’re waiting”…we eat more of the first thing we are given when we are good and hungry. I have been doing green smoothies for a month now- but I’m not quite ready

    i agree about not making it a big deal when they eat something good for them or even when they haven’t eaten anything healthy all day long. I definitely get resistance when I do that.

    Anyways- thanks again to everyone who has commented

  6. Anonymous says:

    I have done so much reading (China Study, Eat to Live) that I cannot bring myself to eat meat anymore and I told my husband. We have enough to last us for quite a while. I’m trying to make vegetarian dishes though I eat a raw diet. It’s hard for me because husband is obese and on medication for cholesterol and blood pressure. I’ve just learned to much, and sorry if I offend anyone, but meat is poison to me now…

  7. Anonymous says:

    I meant buy meat, I told him I wouldn’t buy it anymore, obviously I don’t eat it!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like our situation is the opposite of most families. I am the one that is pushing the changes in our diet. My wife is mostly on board and doesn’t like to eat meat anyway. What Robyn said about it being even harder for the husbands that are trying to make the change seems correct. I find it tough to come home from work then prepare a healthy dinner and still have time for family things. Keeping healthy foods prepared is time consuming and if my wife is not on board it is very hard. She does agree with what I am working torwards. I think the main problem is I’m the one doing the research and then try and put into practice what I have learned. So I am usually trying new things for awhile before she finally picks it up and goes with it. We are working together and our diet as a family has imporved dramatically.

    On a side note. My wife does a daily walk with a lady in our neighborhood. This lady has started giving my wife diet stuff to read. She is concerned about our diet and is afraid we have strayed. I find in ironic that 9 out of 10 people that question my diet choices are not even close to being in as good health as I am. Why do unhealthy people get preachy about diet to people that are 10 times healthier? That is just plain weird. This particular lady has all kinds of health problems. Anyway I just hope she does not influence my wife. I doubt she will.

  9. http:// says:

    Good to hear from the “other team” on here!! I doubt she’ll influence your wife either. In fact, just like your muscles build up only through being torn down, when someone pushes back on our (sound) ideas, usually those opinions are strengthened through the exercise.

    Sometimes I think those who criticize our lifestyle choices are actually more open than we think they are; there’s a teaching opportunity as long as NO judgment comes into it, and people don’t feel overloaded with information. I think of it as the “drip” approach. I just “drip” on them, telling them one or two small new things each interaction we have. It’s like when I’m mentoring another teacher: I might have 10 things I’d like to change in his teaching style, but I tell him just ONE. A few weeks later, if he asks or seems open, I’ll tell him ONE more.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I love reading all the posts and replies here and on the 12 step blog. Jeff brought up a point I am struggling with. I am the main, hmm, lets say pretty much only food preparer here. My kids can feed themselves if needed, hubby will just grab a bite at his mom’s (his dad passed away a few months ago) if he knows I am not here to cook. There is really no way my hsuband has the time to prepare any meals or other food. He runs his own business and barely has time to sleep. My problem is that I work too. I work a crazy schedule as a banquet server. In fact all four of us work crazy day’s/hours.

    I try to make up at least a full day – a day and a half’s worth of smoothies at a time. My 20yro son will drink them like crazy and the 17yro always drinks his quart. Hubby finally tasted them and said he would take them for lunch but I need to get a container for him.

    All in all green smoothies are about the easiest way I have ever found to get healthy. I don’t have to worry about finding ways to cook all of these veggies so that they taste good. I can cram a whole lot of nutrition in one simple smoothie.

    I do want to add salads but I am so strained for time. How do you ever clean and store all of this stuff? It really takes up the room and I have 2 fridges. I would love to have a really big fridge. LOL

    Robyn, I am so glad to have found your web site. My mom is even making smoothies in her blender. That is amazing! I am spreading the word!

  11. Anonymous says:

    My husband thinks I’m nuts and is against my new eating way of life. When he says “Ew how can you eat that?” I just answer that everyone likes different foods and he should not criticize me for what I like and I don’t like everything he does – like banana sandwiches!

    On a lighter note – I found myself preaching in the produce section of Wal-Mart last week! LOL. I had an older lady and young produce guy enthralled while I ‘educated’ them on this and that. If I keep it up then everytime I go to towards the produce section it will clear out and I will have it all to myself!

  12. http:// says:

    Laura, one way I have time to get a salad in every single night for dinner is the same way my mom did it. That is, make the kids do it! They eat, so they can help prepare. 😉 I made a salad for my family of 10 every single night, growing up. (Same salad, boring, but BOY I got fast at it! My oldest son is a whiz at making salads in 10 minutes flat.) And I don’t spend a lot of time cleaning the greens–just spray and rinse in a sink with several inches of water in it. Shake it dry and use it.

    I do have two fridges–I’ll post a photo of them sometime. We reversed the handle on one of them, so sitting side by side they look like one GIANT fridge. People always ask, “How did you get such a huge fridge?!” But if I could have just one thing (extra fridge or freezer), it would be a large freezer. You can work with one fridge, but without a freezer, you can’t stock up on sale items and therefore save money.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Get a good quality salad spinner, I love ours! It’s a tupperware, but I think you can get a good one from OXO. You spin it for 20 seconds, dump the water, spin again, and it’s dry. Plus my kids fight over who gets to do it (although that only works with the younger kids…)

  14. Pamela Barcita says:

    I have been working on recovering my health from autoimmunity for the last 4 years. I am gluten free, dairy free, soy free, mostly sugar free. My husband has been supportive of my new lifestyle and has noticed the changes. He does most of the shopping and buys organic foods. HOWEVER, he buys bread and cookies and soft drinks for himself. He is overweight and has insulin dependent diabetes. It is very disturbing to me to experience his disconnect while I struggle to maintain my health. I try not to harp but it is difficult to watch him go in the opposite direction. Sometimes I resent the possible future of having to take care of him with advanced diabetes which would’nt need to occur if he had made lifestyle changes like I have.

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