When Your Spouse Sabotages Your Efforts

March 7, 2013 · 27 comments

bang head here

Are your healthy eating choices causing conflict in your marriage?

“What do I do when my spouse is unwilling to eat better, and even worse, sabotages my efforts to get our family on track?”

Sadly, you wouldn’t believe how often I get these comments from readers…

  • “He drinks soda every day and eats candy and then shares with the kids.”
  • “Nobody likes the yogurt I make or the homemade bread.”
  • “I’m afraid this is going to drive a wedge into our marriage.”
  • “The kids liked my cooking when they were younger, now they’re complaining just like they’ve heard him do.”
  • “They go get fast food when I’m not with them.”
  • “He sees how my health has improved but thinks the changes are in my head and that it couldn’t really be related to what I eat.”
  • “He’s freaking out over how much our grocery bill is.”

(By the way, yes, sometimes it’s the wife who doesn’t “get it”, but it seems like more often it’s the husband.)

What to do?!

Hopefully the lines of communication are open between you and your spouse, that’s the first issue.  If not, then I’d say your issues go beyond food.  (In that case, some of the posts at this link might help you.)

Here’s what I’d like to say to your spouse if I could talk to them…

Do you want your kids to have a shorter life expectancy than yours?

I’m sure you’ve noticed that things are not going well out there.  How many people do you know who struggle with obesity, anxiety, depression, diabetes, sleep issues, digestive troubles, behavior or learning issues, infertility and so much more?

How do you think your kids will learn about making a conscious choice in this world to be different and live better?

Not by watching you eat junk food!

If you really don’t have the motivation or willingness to cut the junk food or fast food indulgences down to a reasonable level, then for your kids at least sneak it! Eat it during your workday or somewhere away from the their eyes, and be sure to ditch the evidence out of your car before you get home.

Although even that is bad advice, because kids are great detectives and they’ll eventually find you out – then you’ll be a hypocrite and they’ll think eating crap is OK as long as it’s hidden.

Please consider at the very least NOT sabotaging your spouse’s efforts.  

Even if you’re not into healthy eating and not planning to BE there anytime soon, can you just make an effort to offer support in this area?

It’s not like you can never enjoy treats again.  

Because I’ll bet your spouse would be willing to make you homemade treats, which are so much better!  There are other healthier, but just as delicious, options to the junk you like.  Of course you don’t believe me, though, because until you find out for yourself how much better real food is, it’s too hard to believe.  That doesn’t mean you’ll love everything, but if your mind is open, I’ll bet you’ll love a LOT.  You love butter, right?!  Butter is real food!  That’s a great place to start.

Hopefully over time you’ll come alongside even more and learn about what is in all that toxic food you love so much.  You’ve met Mr. Google, so use that tool to learn more!

Kent & KellyWhat advice would you give to help this struggling spouse?  Please share!

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  • { 27 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Andrea Merrigan March 7, 2013 at 6:01 am

    Thanks for sharing this post, I plan to share it in my weekend wanderings post. My hubby sometimes thinks I’m crazy for being so hard nosed about our food and what I buy, he just isnt convinced yet it is bad and we shouldnt trust everything on the shelves to be good for us. It is a work in progress:)

    Reply

    2 Andrea March 7, 2013 at 6:32 am

    This really resonates with me. My husband is on the road a lot so he eats so much junk and fast food. What frustrates me is that normal food no longer satisfies him. He constantly wants the rush of HFCS and MSG. I slave away on a healthy dinner (sourdough bread, beef stew and salad for example) and he turns takes a couple bites, says he’s not hungry, and then pigs out on chips and soda later. I try not to make an issue of it but my kids are starting to wonder why Dad never finishes his food and my five year old has even added the prayer, “God, please help Daddy stop eating junk food!” at night. I hate the unspoken conflict and I don’t want my kids to follow in his unhealthy footsteps.

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    3 Kimberly March 7, 2013 at 7:55 am

    And above all, never stop praying!

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    4 Lynette March 7, 2013 at 8:40 am

    Great post, Kelly! It really made me stop and think if my hubby WASN’T supportive and made me so glad he is! He has always loved good food and thinks we eat so much better now…better meaning culinarily. It has been a process learning how to substitute ingredients, but it hasn’t been hard.

    One thing my hubby and kiddos love is we do have dessert almost every night after dinner. Most nights it is some type of fruit (usually cut up into cute little ramekins sprinkled with cinnamon, or topped with homemade plain yogurt (with a little maple syrup), or some chopped nuts, etc.), but on Fridays and Sundays, I’ll make a really nice dessert with real-food ingredients, like Chocolate Mousse, Creme Brulee (by the way, can’t wait to try your recipe!), yogurt cake, homemade ice cream, etc.

    A great book I read last year was “French Kids Eat Everything” by Karen LeBillon. Sometimes it isn’t just our kiddos that need to be more adventurous about food, it’s our big guys, too! Although the book isn’t about real food, the principles the author shares were priceless for our family.

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    5 Beth March 7, 2013 at 9:02 am

    When we started switching over we were already eating simple dinners of meat and veggies. However, after about 6 months my dh asked if we could please just have some real food. The irony was that we *were* eating real food, lol. So, at that point I started getting some of ‘his’ food and ‘our’ food. He has a shelf in the fridge with his junky mayo, lunch meat, etc. There is a section in the cupboard just for his choices of cereal, peanut butter, etc. His white store-bought bread is on the counter and his 2% milk is next to our fresh milk. He has a “snack” bin on the counter with things that he likes like the original Fig Newtons while the dc eat homemade versions. [Then there was the time that one dd put 'poison' symbols on the bottom of his food containers!]

    Our grocery bill did not change with the switch to better foods because I made things from scratch and was very frugal. It went up more when I added back in his separate foods but it also increased the peace in the house and between us. He works hard and is an adult – all that I make I strive to make healthy but if he wants a sandwich I don’t feel that it’s my place to impose a ‘no’ on him. Fortunately he’s a good sport and it’s kind of a joke whether or not dh likes something weird and healthy that I make. We still eat simple dinners so that’s not an issue usually and I try to accommodate him sometimes (for example, when I make enchiladas ours are homemade tortillas and I include about 3 in the pan made with yucky Wal-Mart tortillas).

    Regarding the children: The olders (16, 17) have learned alongside me and the youngest (11) hears about food a LOT :). When dh gives them Skittles in their Christmas stockings or whatever I will usually offer to trade it out for a special healthier version like Sunspire or Unjunked later. If he brings home donuts (rarely) they go ahead and eat some because that’s part of his love language. I do too. Bleh. Then I try to get in some bone broth for me and dc that day and life goes on.

    I’ve already rambled too much, lol, but I hope this helps someone. It’s a huge struggle but this is what works for us right now.

    Reply

    6 Kate March 19, 2013 at 11:41 pm

    You made a great point–that it’s part of his love language to bring home donuts to share. My husband has that, too. He wants more than anything to be my knight in shining armor and go get me some McDonald’s french fries (because that’s what HE likes– and he knows I love the taste)–but he really doesn’t understand that I actually feel sick and can’t sleep after eating that stuff. So every once in a great while I will let him go get me something like that because it makes him so happy. And although I don’t feel good after eating that way, I do think it is the right thing to do. Strange what we do to maintain our marriages, but they are worth it!

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    7 Naomi Williams March 7, 2013 at 9:56 am

    I started it, and now my husband pushes me to be even more hard-core about real food than I am! He would be thrilled if I made absolutely everything from scratch. I’m not sure he realizes how time-consuming it is, and I just don’t have time to make all of our condiments in addition.

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    8 Melina March 7, 2013 at 10:26 am

    Well, I have to say that I do struggle with this. Not just my husband, but also my teenagers. The little ones are great and pretty much go with whatever I suggest. It is however a reality and a challenge! So what do we do? Give up? NO!!! Find a better recipe! You only need a few recipes that everyone loves! Ones you have THE perfect bread recipe, THE perfect breakfast/lunch/supper, THE perfect dessert, THE perfect after school snack – then try experimenting some more! Just not every meal, all the time – they do get tired of it. Sit with the kids and watch a movie, with cut up veggies! How about a bowl of their favourite fruit! Even they will admit that they love it more than the “junk”! And don’t worry about the occasional sabotage by someone else – if we eat right MOST of the time our body is better prepared to get the garbage out.

    Reply

    9 Amanda Iden Howell March 22, 2013 at 11:38 am

    Good way to look at it!

    Reply

    10 Synde March 7, 2013 at 10:26 am

    When I suffered my last bout of diverticulitis I told my husband I was going to try the GAPS diet and his comment was “What about when we go out to eat!”. I was hurt that that was all he was worried about. He’s a sweetie, but just doesn’t understand the suffering from digestive issues.

    Reply

    11 Gina Lindsay March 7, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    We sat down and had a long conversation about why we were doing this in the first place…and what was important to each of us. It was really a matter of deciding what we could compromise on. My husband really loves having dessert. He thought I was getting rid of all his treats. The compromise was that if we can get rid of the junk that I would be willing to make desserts a little more often, but I make them with real ingredients. He is happy that I am baking and has decided that he doesn’t even miss those snack cakes. In fact someone had some at work the other day and he tried to eat one and couldn’t even finish it. Soda was another battle. I quit buying it for the house and he would stop at the convenience store on the way home and buy soda. Our compromise is that when I make things like pizza or burgers that I will buy a soda for that night’s dinner. Since we only do those meals a couple of times a month I made that compromise. I know he still buys them at work sometimes, but at least he isn’t going through a 24 pack of them every week.

    I also try to get his imput when I am planning meals for the week. For the most part I have been able to recreate meals that we used to eat out with better results. So now he knows if he is craving tacos he doesn’t have to go through a drive thru, he can write it on the meal board and it will show up in the next few days. Plus, I like the fact he is offering meal suggestions, it makes my job a little easier.

    We grew up in very different families and food is such a personal issue to both of us. There are some recipes that I make that his mom shared with me that mean a lot to him. I substite the best ingredients that I can and plan them occasionally because it means a lot to him. Sometimes they aren’t the best thing I could make but it keeps him happy enough that for the most part he has adopted a healthier diet.

    It was interesting too to find out what he didn’t really care about. I thought it would be more of a battle to get rid of the yogurt he always picked out that was full of not so good ingredients. That was one of the easier switches–as long as he has some fruit to throw in there he doesn’t care if I made it. Same thing with bread, as long as I make something that will hold his sandwiches without falling apart he is fine with not having store bought anymore.

    He also preferred that we go a tad slower than what I tried to do in the beginning. He was more resistant when I tried to do it all at once.

    I learned it is like everything else in marriage. It took a lot of communication on both sides–listening and sharing info that we each thought was important– and deciding what each of us could comfortably compromise on.

    Reply

    12 %kelly the kitchen kop% via Facebook March 7, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    My husband used to say I went overboard with “all that health stuff,” and “you just think you know everything,” (all said with a smile on his face, he is a great husband!). Now, he is finally interested and is doing his own reading and research and I cannot say how many times I get to say “I told you so!” :)

    Reply

    13 %kelly the kitchen kop% via Facebook March 7, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    You’ve met my husband, then? :)
    My husband likes most of my savory recipes. It’s the sweet ones. He has a HUGE sweet tooth. Whenever I home-make the real food version of something, he doesn’t like it. He says, “This doesn’t taste like _____” (fill in junk food). In his mind it has to taste EXACTLY like it, or it’s just not good. I say, “Of course it doesn’t taste exactly the same, I didn’t use high fructose corn syrup and etc.” He just doesn’t get it.

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    14 Maryjane March 7, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    Many people have a very hard time admitting that they are doing something “wrong” — whether it’s how they eat, how they drive, or how they are performing at work. Pointing out how “bad” they are (eating, driving, performing) just raises their defenses. (I tend to do this a lot, so I’m preaching to myself!)

    I recommend education. Educate yourself, and then share what you’ve learned — in a non-threatening manner — with those you love. It doesn’t have to be a long lecture; maybe just a comment here and there: “Did you know that . . .” or “I read today . . .”. Then just drop it. As someone has already pointed out, husbands are adults that need to make their own decisions.

    And definitely pray for them!

    Reply

    15 Tina March 7, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    My advice. Bring them “on board” on their own time. My husband still loves diet coke. I have been a real foodie for about 3 years and he is coming on board on his own in his own time without me nagging. I quit eating most grains and definitely frankenwheat. He thought I was nuts. Still ate bread, pasta – you name it. Now, he’s the hard nose on this. When I make stew, he pulls out the white potatoes! I love white potatoes. I have compromised and use einkorn flour every now and then for pizza or some other treat. He now drinks a raw milk kefir smoothie every day – hard to believe, I know! Takes fermented cod liver oil butter blend every day. Little by little, step by step, he’s getting there! We’ve been married 37 years and I realize that just because I decide I’m going to change, I shouldn’t try to make him. One thing to remember, when they see how well you are doing they then want to change. My husband noticed that I never got sick – even when he brought home the nastiest flu and colds. Just keep fixing healthy meals and providing healthy things around the house to snack on and give it time.

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    16 %kelly the kitchen kop% via Facebook March 7, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    My husband loves my cooking but it’s not enough and he still has to have random things like packet cakes and bags of sweets from dollar stores. I mean he likes the REALLY bad stuff. I used to care and take it as a personal offense but argh, it got too tiring to care. I have so much fight in me it’s not worth giving any to what my husband will and won’t eat. I can’t keep up and I won’t. I would literally have to make like 7 sweet snacks a day to keep up with him. he also rides 100km (60 miles) a day on pushbike. I figure he can have his cake and eat it too. We don’t have kids for this to be a REAL sore spot but I’m sure he’d take my side with the children.

    Admit I’m torn between healthy all the time and how €÷&$£ McDonalds is but the whole advertisedintomybrain ‘childhoodedness’ of it. Thank you Maccas for that ‘only real children with worthwhile childhoods went to mcDonalds at least a few times’ advertising. How am I supposed to protect a child from that? Don’t wanna agree with social norms for the sake of social norms…at the same time don’t want my kid to ACTUALLY be ostracized. But then giving in is showing my child how we conform to advertising and peer pressure and THIS is why we don’t have kids.

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    17 %kelly the kitchen kop% via Facebook March 7, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    This is what’s going on in my house. Hubby won’t read anything. Doesn’t want to know anything. I find myself sabotaging my eating plan since it is easier to cook for the majority. I have Crohn’s so I don’t need to be cheating. :(

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    18 %kelly the kitchen kop% via Facebook March 7, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    It has helped me a lot to go ahead and make his favorites like chocolate chip cookies, but to use whole wheat flour and Sucanat instead of the white stuff.

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    19 %kelly the kitchen kop% via Facebook March 7, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    Involve the kids in brewing homemade fruit juice drinks, root beer, regular beer, wine. Making home made soft cheese and go savory and sweet. Fabulous crepes/pancake/waffle meals and sweets can’t be touched by cheap store bought. I grew up with that as well as my son, and can’t stomach the cheap stuff.

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    20 %kelly the kitchen kop% via Facebook March 7, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Also using high quality spices/herbs like from Mountain Rose and keep in freezer to extend life to use in cooking makes a difference.

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    21 %kelly the kitchen kop% via Facebook March 7, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Such a big issue. Nicely tackled. :)

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    22 %kelly the kitchen kop% via Facebook March 7, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    I say ladies just keep chugging along. My hubby was skeptical 7 years ago when I starting our changes. I made a list of changes I thought we needed to start with and we talked about our feelings about food, health, where we were at then, Decided a few changes and after felt comfortable tackled some more. He would cheat for a lunch or 2 monthly at first. By year one we had both lost weight and didn’t feel deprived. I found a couple healthier homemade sweets he loved and make those, we do a few family traditional foods at the Holidays and forget being healthy. We aimed for 80/20 and now he rarely cheats, eat about 90/10. He’s late 60′s, down 40 pounds, feels so much better and recent labs were better than when he was 51.

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    23 Cathy F. March 9, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    It’s too bad when this happens, but more often than not, it happens because the spouse cannot believe that YOU know better than all the “experts” out there who hand out health & nutrition advice that more or less supports the Standard American Diet. Many years ago, when I was cleaning up my son’s diet of chemical additives, my mother-in-law thought I was a food-nut. She was convinced that artificial flavors and colors in candy couldn’t possibly be hurting my child and would feed him suckers and such when I wasn’t around. He manifested violent behavior after consuming those artificial ingredients…but in her mind, he was just throwing a “tantrum”– really, how could that be caused by food?!

    Yes, food matters. But without mainstream support, some people will never be convinced. We can’t control whether or not our spouse supports our efforts. But remember, every little bit helps. When we stick to our guns where we DO have control, it will at least provide good nutrition sometimes…as opposed to never.

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    24 Anna March 10, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Over the past year and a half I have increasingly become a real foodie. My husband thinks that I am kinda crazy but partially tolerates it. He doesn’t want me to buy pastured meat, but lets me get some pastured bones and liver. He doesn’t complain about all the local vegetables and fruit I buy, but doesn’t eat a lot of them either. I’ve sent him articles and told him about others and he dismisses them. He’s only 30 and doesn’t have any major health problems. He did well on the health test for life insurance. He thinks that it is all too expensive and his family has done well eating a fairly SAD. However, his dad had cancer and has struggled with weight for decades, his sister had (possibly still has) some pretty serious reproductive issues, and his paternal grandmother had alzheimers while her sister who drank kombucha did not. While my diet was never completely SAD, it was closer to that than WAPF and I had horrible morning sickness while pregnant. My ob prescribed me zofran and I still had trouble eating anything besides fruit and starch the whole pregnancy and laid on the couch from week 5 to week 14. Conventional medicine and food offered no ideas that helped besides a pill. Yeah, I’ve had it. Since I’ve looked over the “Beautiful Babies e-course”, I figure that I had a mixture of vitamin D and magnesium deficiency. I used to get PMS and cramps before I was pregnant. I don’t want to get pregnant again until I’ve had at least 2 periods free of both of those.

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    25 Amy March 18, 2013 at 9:52 am

    My husband has always been on board with our real food/healthy lifestyle. He lets me figure out what to feed our family and trusts my decisions. However, he has recently been getting a little impatient with the constant yo-yoing. He told me the other day that I need to pick something and stick with it and stop changing the rules! It is really hard when there is so much conflicting information out there, I never know what is okay to eat!
    My kids are 6, 4, and 1. They never like anything I make, healthy or not! They have all been raised on whole grains and very little refined sugar, so we haven’t had to make that switch with them. We don’t buy processed/packaged foods so they aren’t used to having that kind of thing. In spite of all my efforts, they still eat close to 0 vegetables, very little meat, and don’t like the meals I cook. They’ll eat sprouted bread, muffins, fruit, and whole milk dairy all day long though.

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    26 KitchenKop March 20, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    Amy,

    If they eat “sprouted bread, muffins, fruit, and whole milk dairy all day long” – you’re way ahead of many parents, believe me! (If you do raw milk, even better.)

    It’s normal for kids not to eat much meat, that will come around. As far as your meals, have you tried just adapting the recipes they already love into healthier versions?

    Kelly

    Reply

    27 Jeanmarie March 20, 2013 at 1:07 am

    This is a tough one! My partner David and I met at a real food dinner, a Full Moon Feast at Three Stone Hearth in Berkeley, CA. He went to Wise Traditions years before I did. But, he is a carbaholic, eats ice cream every night (at least he insists on Strauss, which is one of the better ones) and keeps a drawer of candy by his bedside. And, sometimes I get cravings and insist that he share with me! But he loves that I make my own mayonnaise, and occasionally hollandaise with our own eggs, and he usually cooks the steak. We are in agreement on buying (mostly) organic veggies and pastured meats from local ranchers, etc. We both feel strongly about not supporting the factory meat system, we are such animal lovers. So we are in harmony more than not, but the amount of sugar he eats does distress me. He doesn’t like things made from coconut flour or almond flour very much, and I’m trying to be gluten-free (and largely succeeding), so it doesn’t work for me to make treats, he doesn’t like the healthier ones I make. Oh well, baby steps. I’ve stopped nagging at least! We joke about it instead.

    Reply

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