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Her horrible diet is tearing us apart. Help!
March 26, 2014 6:54 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I have been married for five years, and overall, things are great. We get along famously, don't fight too often (and try to "fight constructively" when we do), and she's an angel for knowing how to deal with me, as difficult as I am. We've even reduced our fighting over money (the #1 reason couples fight) down to 10% of where it used to be. But there's just one glaring exception: She eats horribly, and no matter what I do, I can't get her to even consider changing her habits. I never realized how much resentment and bitterness this could cause me to feel, but it's causing serious rifts in our relationship. Are there more constructive ways for me to work with her?

I'll start by saying that I am far from perfect myself, but I try to stay educated and to eat at least somewhat healthy. I was better in my 20s and early 30s (but then again, who amongst us wasn't?), but I still make an effort. My general philosophy is "healthy middle ground" — keep portion sizes sane, eat only when your body says it's hungry, moderation in all things, have a balanced diet, eat "whole food" as much as possible, and don't get too tied up in the latest fads. There are no easy outs, no fad diets that will work, no magic short cuts. Diet and exercise, same as it ever was since the dawn of time (though it's a lot less effort to eat wisely than it is to eat like crap then kill yourself in the gym to offset the crap eating).

In the last couple of years, I've really started to be bothered by my wife's apparent unwillingness to move on from the eating habits of her childhood. Worse, it seems that any attempt I make to suggest changing is taken as some soft of effort to "change" her, which immediately taps into her pride about how she, as a strong and independent woman, won't ever change for anyone. Any effort I make to then reframe it as changing for her own good, rather than for me or anyone else, continues to fall on deaf ears.

So alas, she has an extremely carb-heavy diet. As we're both of Indian extraction, rice and flatbreads (chapati, puri, and other rotis) are a huge part of her diet — you can't have just one, in her view; you have to have both with any Indian meal. With Italian food, it's not enough to have a big plate of pasta or a few pieces of pizza; you HAVE to have several generous portions of garlic bread beforehand, too. Bread and rice MUST be white; she won't even so much as TRY a bite of brown (or black) rice or 100% whole-wheat bread (or, God forbid, skip bread once in a blue moon). Tortillas can't be anything but flour, anthropological-historical accuracy be damned. Diet sodas are unthinkable (let alone the very notion of, say, reducing soda intake altogether).

Complicating matters is the fact that as a quasi-vegetarian, the only meat she eats is chicken, which makes going out to eat a challenge at the frou-frou, farm-to-table places we both claim to love (except that she turns up her nose at at least half of them, since they don't always have chicken dishes). And for a supposed "vegetarian," she eats at BEST four servings of fruits or vegetables a week. Anything "exotic" like asparagus, beets, chard, arugula, pears(!), or blueberries (to name a few) are immediately vetoed by her.

She never eats breakfast, aside from her morning coffee and a cookie, which of course kills her appetite until 2-3 PM (we're late risers), at which point the inevitable crash has her feeling famished and scavenging for a carb fix. (She actually will make potato sandwiches at times — on white bread, of course.) I think it's only due to my slack-jawed shock and amazement, and some not-too-subtle shaming, that she's even started to feel mild embarrassment at the very notion that it's normal to have dessert after LUNCH. Let alone daily.

I don't go to the gym as much as I used to, but I try. I'm averaging 1-2 times a week, which I know is pathetic (especially compared to the 3-5 times a week I averaged a decade ago), but again, it's something. At work I have a standing desk. If I can't go to the gym on a given day, I leave the house and go for a walk, even if it's a lousy 10-15 minutes. It's something. My wife signed up for the gym with me a year ago, but only went with me about 20% of the time. That gradually slid to zero, and we ended up killing her membership. I now go alone and don't even bother asking if she wants to join me anymore, because it's pointless.

I have actually seen MY eating habits slide downhill since I met her, and it pains me to say it, but I have to credit some of my weight gain in the last few years to her. The rest of it, however, is due to alcohol. And THAT is the trump card she keeps using against me in an effort to shut me up.

Yes, I drink more than I should, but I'm working on it and my primary-care physician is making sure I do. I'm making slow progress, but it IS progress — the number of drinks I take in a week has steadily declined over the last year or so. But still, when she feels backed into a corner, my wife will ALWAYS bring this up as if to say I'm not bothering to try, so why should she? I find the notion absurd — that two wrongs make a right; that that she should be "allowed" to slide into a pre-diabetic state just because I have a problem (that I'm actively working on) — but arguing that point with her continues to get me nowhere.

On top of all this, we're trying to conceive. And my sexual interest in her has plummeted over the last year. And I think it's because I've grown to resent her utter lack of concern about her diet. She actively avoids any effort I make to get her a primary care physician here (she moved here after our marriage), yet she makes sure she attends my PCP appointments with me, to catch up on any and every problem with my health (and I have a few, but they're comparatively minor). I think that on some level, I've made the unconscious decision that I don't think I want to have a child that matures inside of an increasingly unhealthy body, who's going to be passively eating processed crap because of his/her mother's poor dietary decisions. But I also find it hard to feel sexually interested when my wife evidently doesn't care about herself.

This is NOT a case of someone who has low self esteem and therefore eats poorly as a result. Quite the contrary, she has the biggest ego and self-esteem in the world — she's always been like this — and often has helped me with my chronically bad self esteem. But with her, I think her "healthy" self image is blinding her — it's causing her to really think she can do no wrong. Her stomach has grown very visibly since we first met, I catch her getting winded at some of the tiniest exertions, and she gets headaches and other body pains with a frequency that was nonexistent only 3-4 years ago. Yet she laughs away any suggestion that any of this could be related to her diet and lack of activity.

We really don't fight about anything else — it's just diet, and her perception that I'm trying to "change her" whenever I "dwell" on it. I've finally started shutting down and not bothering to say anything anymore whenever I see her order crap at a restaurant or go into the kitchen and come back with a bowl full of processed chemical shit as a snack. I know, intellectually, that that's no way to deal with it, but talking about it has gotten me nowhere also. My current thinking is to just go my own way — even if it means pushing away dinners she makes if I feel they're unhealthy and instead making my own meals — and going to the gym alone (actually, I already do that) — and not caring what she does.

That's obviously not constructive. But hell if I know what else to do. So I come to you for help (if it isn't too late). So . . . help? Please? :-(
posted by CommonSense to Human Relations (62 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: poster's request -- taz

 
Wow.

Is this a deal-breaker for you? If so, you should divorce her. But it would seem a little weird to me if it were a deal-breaker, and if it's not, then you need to let it go. Your wife has made it totally clear that she's not willing to change her eating habits. Maybe at some point she will be, but she's not right now. You can't nag or harangue her into making a change that she doesn't want to make. You're just going to stress yourself out by dwelling on this, and you're going to create conflict in your relationship.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:07 PM on March 26 [7 favorites]


Wow. Merely eating lots of carbs does not mean --- despite today's fad diets --- that her diet is unhealthy. Your description of your wife and what she eats is appallingly contemptuous.

For example, I don't have a problem with dessert after lunch. I don't typically indulge, but it's not a priori evil. I eat lots of carbs, too.

I agree that if her diet is causing her actual health problems, then that might be something she might want to address, but if someone talked to me about my eating the way you described above, then you bet I'd not want to bother listening. This is not the way to be supportive.

I don't have much in the way of concrete suggestions. People here often suggest couples counseling. Perhaps that would help.
posted by leahwrenn at 7:08 PM on March 26 [17 favorites]


You obviously have some very strong opinions about diet and exercise. And to me you seem to have VERY high standards. 1-2 times a week at the gym is pathetic? Your profile says you are living in America, most Americans do not go to the gym even once a week. Dessert after lunch is shameful?

I mean, the basic problem is you think she should share your priorities in diet and exercise and she doesn't. Did you have a major shift in the last 5 years, or did you just ignore this until now? The "right" way to eat/exercise is so widely debated and there are so many points of view on it that assuming she should come around to your way of thinking is naive.

You say "Are there more constructive ways for me to work with her?". But this assumes your way is right and hers is wrong, and its up to you to educate the ignorant and bring them to your way of thinking. But it seems like she knows what you think and disagrees.
posted by wildcrdj at 7:09 PM on March 26 [3 favorites]


not bothering to say anything anymore whenever I see her order crap at a restaurant or go into the kitchen and come back with a bowl full of processed chemical shit as a snack. I know, intellectually, that that's no way to deal with it,

You're wrong there. You absolutely should not be harping on individual meal choices (especially at restaurants) to make your point. I think you need to dial back, way back, the level of "critique" you guys think are fair game towards each other.

You need to approach this out of genuine concern for her in a more detached, general setting. It also needs to be about what you want to do together, not about what you don't want her to do. So, not, "you eat too much carbs because you think Indian food should be..." That expands the issue way too much and is metaphysically impossible to not feel defensive towards. Bring it up around meal planning and shop planning as "I would like us to eat a little healthier". Get her buy in towards planning. Stop attacking individual meals. It will never, ever work.

The gym sucks. Instead of being so condescendingly disappointed that you never ask her to go anymore, why don't you see if there is a physical activity she would like? Games? Just walks? You're not trying to make this work for her at all, you're just making it your way or the highway.

(And it needs to never be about what she orders in a restaurant. Restaurants are not about making the best diet decisions, they are about having fun and socializing with your meal partner; taking this as an opportunity to continue your critique harms one of the most common ways married couples have "enjoyment time". Dial back eating out if you think it's so much that it's hurting her health.)

yet she makes sure she attends my PCP appointments with me, to catch up on any and every problem with my health

Stop going to each other's doctor's appointments, full stop. What your doctor tells you is not ammunition for fights. You guys need to pull back a lot. Just because you are married, you are not extensions of each other.
posted by spaltavian at 7:09 PM on March 26 [4 favorites]


What? I consider my husband to have terrible eating habits, but I also consider it none of my business what he chooses to put into his body. He's an adult, and free to make his choices the way he sees fit. I'm not his parent.

Food is not a matter of morality. She is not a bad person because she eats white carbs. Why do you need to control this about her? Until such a time as she is diagnosed with an actual health problem, what does it matter, anyway?
posted by Andrhia at 7:16 PM on March 26 [26 favorites]


I would suggest that what is more toxic to your relationship is not your wife's eating habits but your contemptuous and condescending way of addressing them. Practicing "not-too-subtle shaming"and causing her "mild embarrassment" about her "processed chemical shit"-- what?! She is your wife and your equal, not a child or a pet you're scolding.

Yes, being healthy is good, but eating habits can be a very sensitive issue and no one is EVER motivated to make difficult changes by being followed a big cloud of disapproving scrutiny and moral superiority instead of support. I'm a fairly healthy eater but all the all-caps, scare quotes, and incredulous exclamation marks in your description even made me feel defensive. And describing her as having a "big ego"? If that was meant to be a positive attribute or complimentary, it would make me really sad to know that is how my significant phrased what might also be called "aplomb" or "self assurance."

You turn to "anthropological-historical accuracy" seems to be a search of some sort of objective correctness, some proof that your feelings and opinions are somehow natural and logical and hers are unnatural and rational. Please keep in mind though on the other side of the science coin, it's not obviously just her silly lack of willpower at issue here; a lot of the food she is eating is actually designed to be addictive so big corporations can make money.

I know this is just a targeted question and not a reflection of the whole of your relationship, which you otherwise describe as strong. But even as a small part of how you regard your wife, this attitude is extremely destructive. Before you think about the nitty gritty of what it means to be individually physically healthy, make sure you have the most emotionally healthy bond with a woman that you care about.
posted by erstwhile ungulate at 7:17 PM on March 26 [31 favorites]


I think it's only due to my slack-jawed shock and amazement, and some not-too-subtle shaming, that she's even started to feel mild embarrassment at the very notion that it's normal to have dessert after LUNCH. Let alone daily.

Wow, it doesn't sound like her diet is the cause of your relationship falling apart. Female, mid-thirties, the healthy-eating conscious one in my relationship here: you're going about this all wrong. You don't get in a relationship to fix your partner.

Also, you mention unhappiness that your partner cannot overcome her childhood eating habits, but it sounds like you have been profoundly molded by significant events during your formative years to put such intense feeling (shame, shock, amazement, etc., your post is littered with all the things you're feeling) into your partner's eating choices.

Take a step back. Try to get a bit more into what SHE is feeling, thinking, etc. right now. Not what she is thinking because she knows you're shaming her in public, but what she actually thinks about food, eating habits and your relationship. You love this woman, right? Are you treating her like a person you love? It sure doesn't sound like it. I wonder what else might change in your relationship if you started being openly loving and supportive rather than openly embarassed and ashamed of her?

And if you want to DO something about what she eats, start by asking her what she'd like you to do. And be prepared to back the fuck off if she tells you she doesn't want/need your input/intervention, which at this point I think she is entirely likely to do.
posted by arnicae at 7:17 PM on March 26 [7 favorites]


I really, really, really feel for you for reasons I won't go into. It seems like you have a really hard situation and the only advice I have, though it's really important, is that I think she needs to understand the connection between her diet (well a lot more than her diet, but it seems to be the focus here) and her health, which I don't think she gets at all, and secondly between her well being and your well being (and the well being of a future child!). Even with the so called health craze now I think it's really common for people to simply not get how everything ( including food)relates to their physical health and how much of an impact their health is going to have on those they share their life with. Your wife seems to think this is a personal issue of hers. So though I think it involves TOTALLY changing how she understands both food and health, that what you have to do is get her to realize 1) that diet IS deeply, deeply related to everything that will happen to her body, even what she ate when she was 2 is already part of the history of her body, and 2) that your ability to care for and support those you love and are responsible for and limit their inevitable suffering is dependent on your own health and how you treat yourself. Part of this might be convincing her your not trying to change her, that it's not a trivial pet peeve of yours, and it's something that needs to be seriously dealt with you together, because it's about both of you, really (and your child).

And on looking at above comments actually attacking you, clearly others don't get it either.
My God, and just reading a couple of sentences you clearly established that she eats unhealthy by saying she eats AT BEST 3 or 4 serving of fruits or veg a week (insane), nor did you ever say or imply that she was "bad". You have particular ideas about fitness and diet as many do but clearly that's not all this is about.
posted by Blitz at 7:18 PM on March 26 [5 favorites]


Relationship psychologist John Gottman has found that feelings of contempt between spouses are the #1 predictor of divorce. Your description of your wife and her habits convey a strong feeling of contempt. People eat unhealthily for a variety of reasons - especially women, who are served a toxic stew of cultural expectations, diet marketing and body image stress and frequently turn to emotional eating. Even if your wife is not eating unhealthily for emotional reasons, your strong reactions are likely intensifying whatever reasons she's eating this way.

If you want to save your marriage I would recommend getting counseling for yourself and figure out why you feel such strong feelings of contempt for her habits, which as stated above, are shared by many Americans. Actually, get counseling even if you don't want to save your marriage. Whatever feelings you have are likely to be replicated in any relationship you'd have with a partner who doesn't make the exact same consumption choices you make.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 7:18 PM on March 26 [21 favorites]


Two things are jumping out at me:

she's always been like this

So, this is the way she ate before you were married, right? So it really shouldn't be coming as a big surprise.

when she feels backed into a corner

If one person in an argument has this reaction, the argument isn't going to go anywhere IME. Except maybe the exact opposite direction you want it to.

I know it's the standard Metafilter advice, but from your description it sounds like a case of counseling or decide if it's a dealbreaker. Getting upset about it is probably going to do nothing but make her double down.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:19 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


Trying to frame dietary changes as being for "her own good" rather than you trying to "change here" is almost more patronizing, because it assumes that you know what's good for her better than she does. Honestly, women deal with this attitude so often, day in day out, and it's extra grating coming from a partner who should be your equal. I get a heavy air of "mansplaining" from your question; I don't think that you're consciously thinking "As a man who eats vegetables and exercises, I know more about nutrition than my wife does," but that's sure as hell how it reads.
posted by ActionPopulated at 7:19 PM on March 26 [5 favorites]


And I'd suggest phrasing the request for counseling as "This is something we could communicate better about" rather than "This is something you do that bothers me."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:20 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


Prepare your own healthy meals, worry about yourself, and if you are experiencing lack of attraction perhaps you can be honest, delicately honest, and let your wife know that her weight bothers you. I get the feeling that if her weight was normal, and her stomach wasn't big, her carb intake wouldn't be an issue.

You cannot change a person. You especially can't change a person by chastising.

As a couple you may decide to stop eating out at restaurants. Restaurants cost a lot of money and maybe you can come to some sort of agreement that in order to save money you will forgo eating out. Also, instead of going to doctor appointments together, perhaps try to do the food shopping together and come up with a menu for the week that you both can agree on. She gets to have some of her favorite foods, you get to have yours.

The fact that you have poor self-esteem is driving you to focus on the behavior of others. It's sort of a blame game. Take responsibility for your own health. When you do this you may inspire your wife (instead of making her feel guilty and rebellious).
posted by Fairchild at 7:21 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


I think it's only due to my slack-jawed shock and amazement, and some not-too-subtle shaming, that she's even started to feel mild embarrassment at the very notion that it's normal to have dessert after LUNCH.

Also, dude. I'd rather lose just about any argument with my wife than win by making her feel embarrassed. This is someone you love, right? Make sure you always act like someone who loves her, regardless of what you are doing.
posted by spaltavian at 7:24 PM on March 26 [54 favorites]


you are not your wife's food policeman. recent anti-carb opinionz notwithstanding, my opinion gelled when bread was still regarded as the staff of life. your question appalled me, and i stand ready to offer my sympathies to your wife.
posted by bruce at 7:26 PM on March 26 [4 favorites]


Your condemnation and ridicule of your wife's diet is so extreme and over the top that I have to assume that you're talking about something else. Are you really talking about your wife's weight? Her socioeconomic background?
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 7:27 PM on March 26 [17 favorites]


If my significant other talked to me this way and or I thought this way I would be steps from a divorce.

You need to figure out your priorities for you and what you will and will not accept.

You cannot change anyone but yourself.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:28 PM on March 26 [6 favorites]


You seem to take your wife's eating as a direct and intended insult to yourself and, I'm sorry to say, to have an unhealthy obsession with EVERYTHING she consumes as an external sign of an internal flaw. I would suggest perhaps thinking more why you think her food choices are aimed at you and taking a period of reflection about why that is before you move forward. You really need to do this before you tackle anything about this situation.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 7:28 PM on March 26 [3 favorites]


Whoa.

I know my partner doesn't always think my habits are the healthiest in the world, for similar reasons as yours -- I like a lot of processed foods that he doesn't, and generally am not the biggest fan of vegetables in the world. But if he thought about my habits the way you think about your wife's, and went about trying to get me to change them in the way you are, there would be a huge problem in our marriage... and it wouldn't be my habits. You seem way more obsessed with her diet than is healthy, especially her diet and exercise habits are not really that bad compared to many people's!

I'll tell you what has worked to make me (slowly, but effectively) change my habits in ways that are healthier.

1. My partner cooks. This is by far the biggest thing, and I think if you're not willing to do some major heavy lifting in terms of actually preparing the food, you lose a lot of high ground for changing your partner's habits (it wasn't clear if from this if you are or not). My partner's view is that if I don't want to eat the food he cooks, I should prepare my own. I think that's totally fair. Since I'm also lazy and hate cooking, this generally means that at least one meal of the day, I have food that he thinks is healthy... whole grains, few carbs, nothing processed. Over several years of this I am even beginning to really like some of it.

2. My partner understands where I'm coming from. There is a lot of research that suggests that what we think is tasty, and especially what we find comforting, is set by childhood experiences. I grew up on a lot of carbs and processed food. That is just what I find yummy. I don't think that is going to change, except maybe over decades. Remove the moralising and contempt over your wife's food choices and you may make her more likely to consider your point of view. But as long as you paint her into a corner where she is made to feel guilty and awful for liking what she likes, I don't see this leading anywhere good.

3. My partner tries to make me less stressed about the whole thing rather than more. Because this kind of food is comfort food for me, my partner has found that when I'm less stressed I eat better... so he tries to make my life less stressed. Being so judgmental adds stress and is therefore probably counterproductive.
posted by forza at 7:33 PM on March 26 [7 favorites]


I think that on some level, I've made the unconscious decision that I don't think I want to have a child that matures inside of an increasingly unhealthy body, who's going to be passively eating processed crap because of his/her mother's poor dietary decisions. But I also find it hard to feel sexually interested when my wife evidently doesn't care about herself.

This sounds really, really strange, and I would examine these feelings. Does your wife want to have a kid? Are you viewing your wife substantially as a vessel for a child? What's going to happen if you do have a kid? Are you going to ramp this stuff up and lay it on the child as well - the hatred of your wife (I don't get contempt from your writing, I get hate) and your ideas about eating? What will you do if your kid goes through the kind of sweet-seeking that kids tend to?

And as far as the sexual interest goes - are you sure that it's not that you're becoming sexually uninterested in your wife (for whatever reason - boredom, fundamental incompatibility, etc) and are using the "she doesn't care about herself" as a proxy because it makes you feel moral instead of at sea?
posted by Frowner at 7:34 PM on March 26 [12 favorites]


I think that a lot of why you are being unfairly attacked here, as well as your question and explanation being poorly interpreted and understood with a complete lack of generosity, is because of the insane degree of individualism (as well as a completely dis-connected and retarded relationship to food and one's health) in American culture. Every one has a right to do what they want without care of how it effects others and everyone respects the right of others to do what they want, that's a given. I've seen it over and over in this forum. You may have your own issues and that might contribute to over-focusing or how you're thinking this, but clearly you are so valid in being upset and distraught. I think on some deep level you know very well how much she is hurting herself (and yes you too, of course it scares you to see what will hurt you eventually), and this along with your lack of power to do anything at all about it, and to be totally alone and defeated is something that is making you upset. Of course that's hard to deal with. So yeah, maybe see a therapist too, one who won't unjustly judge you like the above, but actually get it. Of course dealing with yourself is one aspect of dealing with this, though your wife's health as a problem is not going to thereby go away.
posted by Blitz at 7:40 PM on March 26 [5 favorites]


Hi, me again. Just want to respond to a few things. I wasn't very organized in this post; I just sat down at the keyboard and spewed. Some of your responses are making me realize that I misrepresented myself in a number of ways, so let's see here . . .

if someone talked to me about my eating the way you described above, then you bet I'd not want to bother listening

Oh, I agree. But I'm not talking to her in this post; I'm anonymously — well, semi-anonymously (hi, NSA!) — posting it on the Internet. This is by design; I want the detachment that anonymous strangers (but smart ones, this being Metafilter and all) can offer. So I was being very un-tactful and unguarded with my tone in this post. I don't mean to suggest this is how I address the subject with my wife. Because yes, that would be very asshole-ish, and you'll get no disagreement from me there.

You obviously have some very strong opinions about diet and exercise. And to me you seem to have VERY high standards. 1-2 times a week at the gym is pathetic? Your profile says you are living in America, most Americans do not go to the gym even once a week. Dessert after lunch is shameful?

Look, we all know "the average American" isn't exactly a shining beacon of excellent health. I'm just concerned because we live in a nation where it's exceedingly difficult to avoid unhealthy food, and as a poster upthread mentioned, it doesn't help that a lot of this shit is deliberately designed to be addictive. As for dessert after lunch — I failed to provide proper context. By itself, dessert after lunch is no big deal; I do it on occasion myself with no guilt. But I was talking about dessert after lunch 4-5 times a week. In addition to dessert after dinner. And a cocktail, and wine with dinner. If you still see it as no big deal within that context, that's fine, but I think I may have a couple more people see my side given this additional information.

You absolutely should not be harping on individual meal choices (especially at restaurants) to make your point. I think you need to dial back, way back, the level of "critique" you guys think are fair game towards each other.

Sorry if it sounded that way — I don't harp on individual meal choices as much as the entire big-picture of eating habits overall. I don't sit there and ruin our meals at restaurants.

Stop going to each other's doctor's appointments, full stop. What your doctor tells you is not ammunition for fights.

It's not "each other's," it's her going to mine. She has yet to go to one. She does not consider it "ammunition for fights," but rather, as her being a concerned partner interested in her husband's health. Which I can totally see. I just find it a bit grating that she consistently changes the subject away from finding a PCP here locally (she hasn't been to one in years), and the one time she finally made an appointment, ended up canceling it shortly afterwards for no real reason, then never rescheduling. But I've also given up on fighting that battle.

I consider my husband to have terrible eating habits, but I also consider it none of my business what he chooses to put into his body. He's an adult, and free to make his choices the way he sees fit. I'm not his parent.

I don't consider it my business what my friends, siblings, co-workers, customers, clients, etc. eat. If I were still dating, I wouldn't really consider it my business what my girlfriend ate. But the person I'm living my life with, who will very likely be the mother of a child or two with me, with whom I will partner with to raise that child (or children) — and incidentally, whose dietary decisions could very well have some impact on said child's prenatal development — really? Really? Am I really such an asshole to take some interest in that? We'll have to agree to disagree on this.

Until such a time as she is diagnosed with an actual health problem, what does it matter, anyway?

Yeah, I'm going to have to be a "controlling asshole" if it means thinking that wanting to catch a health problem before it happens is somehow a bad thing. Especially as we're both about to enter our 40s and want to have children. Again — it's "agree-to-disagree" time here, sorry.

More to come, but I see the replies are coming in fast and furious, so let me read those and get back to you . . .
posted by CommonSense at 7:43 PM on March 26 [5 favorites]


Your wife is an adult - you need to treat her like one. Also, is there any actual evidence that her crappy diet is actually affecting her health as rapidly as you seem to think? You mention that she looks bigger and is more winded, but has she actually received any medical advice to lose weight or change her lifestyle? How is her blood pressure? Her cholesterol and blood sugar levels? Some people can handle a lot more carbs than others.
posted by joan_holloway at 7:46 PM on March 26 [3 favorites]


"
In the time since our breakup, I’ve re-evaluated a lot of these things. At times the looks/weight thing kind of bugged me, even when I was with her, but I’m beginning to really see what crap those things are. And meanwhile, this girl has remained just as attractive to me, if not more so. The weight thing is crap, too -- it isn’t even that big a deal to begin with, and hell, it’s not as if I’m some model of perfection myself in that department, either.
"

You said this years ago on an ask me. What's changed ?
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:47 PM on March 26 [3 favorites]


Is this question just a way of telling us that you don't like how fat your wife is getting? Because I think we'd all understand that. Having a partner who's letting themselves go physically and experiencing a resulting lack of attraction is pretty common, and I think a lot of people can sympathize.

The thing is, if that's the issue, then you pretty much need to be honest. Like "I love you, but the physical side of our relationship is deteriorating because you're not taking care of your body."

But I didn't actually see you say that. I saw you express a lot of disgust at what she eats, not how she looks. If your issue is that you are contemptuous of your wife, that's not really fixable. The idea of intentionally "shaming" your spouse is bizarre and a shortcut to despair (at worst) or divorce (at best.)

I saw your edit, and I see your'e framing this as concern for her long term health. If it were me, I'd schedule his and hers appointments for general blood workup at the GP's office. I don't think it's unreasonable to say "would you humor me by going with me for a general health workup, both of us, to get a sense of what's coming down the line?" but be ready for it to be her decision, and hers alone, as to what she does with the results of the information. I have to say your sneering attitude probably makes her much less likely to believe that your criticism comes from a place of love, or able to accept it as helpful.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:48 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


I don't mean to suggest this is how I address the subject with my wife. Because yes, that would be very asshole-ish, and you'll get no disagreement from me there.

As strongly as you worded this post, my guess is that yes, in some way, this IS how your address the subject with your wife. If not overtly, then covertly, and I'd be amazed if she didn't pick up on it.

If my partner were as judgmental towards me about something I do at least three times a day, I'd resent the hell out of them, and I would balk at making any changes, simply because it's none of their damn business what I put in my body. My body is mine, and how I treat it is up to me, and I know it best.

Whether you're recognizing it or not, you are judging her. Judgment has no place in healthy relationships. Either learn how not to judge her for her food choices, or learn how to let her go and give her the mercy of moving on to someone who doesn't do that to her.
posted by mudpuppie at 7:50 PM on March 26 [7 favorites]


This level of obsession with food is not healthy on YOUR part, and you are not going to fix anything by bringing her over to your way of thinking about it. I agree that there is a frankly disturbing quantity of contempt here, and you seem to feel that you are entitled to make these decisions for her, which she has clearly not consented to. You say you're about moderation in all things, but people who're into moderation in a genuine way do not talk about garlic bread like that, trust me. They just don't.

So, mind, I'm a bit biased because I'm in permanent recovery from an eating disorder, but on the other hand, I have personal experience with eating disorders. What I see from this is you have a problem with your own body. You have a problem with alcohol, which in most cases stems from stress and anxiety and inadequate coping mechanisms. You're looking at having kids, which is also stressful. And you've been living with this long enough that you think that liking a somewhat imperfect body is an abnormal condition, that your anxiety must be good for you because it's not going away, and now you're pinning these problems not on your own stress but on your wife's eating. It has the advantage of being not your fault and also being something you can phrase as concern for her, but no, you don't actually sound concerned, you sound disdainful. And you are making your life revolve around this to an increasing degree, and it is making you less and less happy.

Not all eating disorders involve not eating. There is a thing called orthorexia nervosa which is specifically a fixation with "healthy" eating and exercise, but it's only one of many related disorders. For the most part, what eating disorders (kind of a misnomer because it's more about body image and food obsession than eating itself) are is a way of trying to work out your anxieties and lack of control in your life by using this big major part of your life, your body, as a proxy for everything else. It is totally possible to do it with someone else's body as well as your own. It is not healthy, but it is recoverable. And while this is the AskMe cliche, it is mostly something that requires a therapist.

It's not that wanting your spouse to be healthier is abnormal, but the degree to which you have taken this is not wanting to be healthier, it is a way of masking a completely different problem. The alcohol is the big thing here--not that it makes you a Bad Person, it's the signal that you've been trying for a long time to make yourself feel better from something you have not yet properly identified. You need outside help with this, and not just from your GP.

Everybody with an eating disorder trots out that thing about how "normal" behavior in the US is so terribly unhealthy that it must be avoided at all costs. It's not that it's untrue that "normal" is not great, but I'm just saying, I said it more times than I can count, and I have never heard it come out of the mouth of someone who wasn't trying to defend their obsessive thought patterns.
posted by Sequence at 7:50 PM on March 26 [26 favorites]


"In the time since our breakup, I’ve re-evaluated a lot of these things. At times the looks/weight thing kind of bugged me, even when I was with her, but I’m beginning to really see what crap those things are. And meanwhile, this girl has remained just as attractive to me, if not more so. The weight thing is crap, too -- it isn’t even that big a deal to begin with, and hell, it’s not as if I’m some model of perfection myself in that department, either."

You said this years ago on an ask me. What's changed ?


God, you're good.

That's an ex-girlfriend, not my current wife. Toward the end of our relationship, she began to eat healthier than I did. And noticeably lose weight.

Thanks for asking, though.
posted by CommonSense at 7:51 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


Look, we all know "the average American" isn't exactly a shining beacon of excellent health.

You cannot make anyone but yourself into a shining beacon of excellent health, and it's very foolish and damaging to your relationship to try. Her health is her own concern, full stop. Not yours.
posted by randomnity at 7:51 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


I sympathize with you, because it's hard to see someone make unhealthy choices. But it's her body and her choices. She's not going to change unless she has some sort of internal motivation to change. You can't provide that. Shame and judgment are not motivation.

(Speaking as someone who's had problems with disordered eating: if I were married to someone who viewed my eating habits like you view your wife's, I'd likely end up eating dessert whenever they're not looking, because they're not the boss of me and the cake is enjoyable and doesn't judge.)

Do NOT attempt to conceive until you've resolved your resentment. Your wife may be modeling unhealthy eating behaviors, but your attitude and your contempt of your wife's diet will give your child a severely unhealthy body image, and that's way worse and way harder to recover from than an all-carb diet. This is how kids get eating disorders.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:00 PM on March 26 [9 favorites]


Heh, PS: Just saw the title of this post.

Dude, "her horrible diet" is absolutely, 100% NOT the thing that's tearing the two of you apart. Seriously. Get some perspective.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:04 PM on March 26 [8 favorites]


Honestly, it would bother me if my husband made a habit out of eating potato sandwiches and dessert after lunch 4-5 times a week.

You want your wife to stop eating poorly, this is understandable. I'm wondering how much you're drinking if your wife uses this as ammunition. You say you drink too much but have been cutting back over the past year. Why can't you just stop drinking altogether? Stop drinking and get your nutrition up to snuff and then you may have a leg to stand on. If you cannot stop drinking then maybe you can empathize that it's not so easy for your wife to give up her desserts. You both sound like you use substances and food to cope and it's the pot calling the kettle black.

What can you do? Help prepare more meals, prepare veggies and fruits she does like, stop drinking, and if she agrees maybe you can plan menus and exercise together. It's fun to be on the same page and to get excited about something as a couple, but she has to want it.
posted by Fairchild at 8:04 PM on March 26 [9 favorites]


You don't want her to do a thing, you want her to be a way. That is not a recipe for success in a relationship.
posted by Etrigan at 8:04 PM on March 26 [18 favorites]


Worse, it seems that any attempt I make to suggest changing is taken as some soft of effort to "change" her, which immediately taps into her pride about how she, as a strong and independent woman, won't ever change for anyone. Any effort I make to then reframe it as changing for her own good, rather than for me or anyone else, continues to fall on deaf ears.

The reason she's taking this as an effort to change her is because that's precisely what this is.

Also, your obsession with carbs is . . . not in line with reality.
posted by toomuchpete at 8:05 PM on March 26 [3 favorites]


I have given birth to two children. I breastfed the first, and then she wasn't gaining weight, so I supplemented with formula and continued to breastfeed to give her antibodies until she was 6 months old. Then formula and food after that.

My son, I breastfed totally until he wanted to stop, maybe about 18 months.

In all of that, no man ever questioned my diet. Ever.

My children are both healthy adults. My daughter, in fact, has a child of her own.

My diet was never questioned by the fathers of my children. In fact, the only time my diet was questioned was by an extremely controlling man. Whom I never had children with.

So I believe that your question is misleading, in that you are only looking at a woman as a means to give birth to your child or children, instead of looking at her as a human being.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:05 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


Also, instead of going to doctor appointments together, perhaps try to do the food shopping together and come up with a menu for the week that you both can agree on. She gets to have some of her favorite foods, you get to have yours.

Doesn't work. We just end up getting what each of us likes, and there's some overlap, but otherwise we eat our separate things.

1. My partner cooks. This is by far the biggest thing, and I think if you're not willing to do some major heavy lifting in terms of actually preparing the food, you lose a lot of high ground for changing your partner's habits (it wasn't clear if from this if you are or not).

I cook sometimes; she cooks more. I don't cook very much, and I'm going to admit that I often drop the ball when I say I'm going to cook healthy for us both — more often, I end up bending and making something so-so to make her happy. There have been a couple of times when I stood my ground and cooked a couple of healthy dishes, and I could see her disappointment and grudging eating, leaving stuff behind on the plate. OK, I'll give her credit for trying, and hey, maybe it sucked (I never claimed to have any Michelin stars to my name). But I will confess that I could actually stand to make more of an effort in this area before I throw up my hands and say "FUCK IT I TRIED AND IT STILL DIDN'T WORK!" because to be honest, I haven't fully put in the effort yet that I could.

I . . . want to go on Fisking you guys' responses, but argh, screw it. You're right. A lot of this is about me and my own issues, and one of the great things about MeFi is that through this kind of dialogue, you gain new insights. I like to believe I'm an open-minded guy, the sort of person who examines his opponent's points of view thoroughly before flat-out condemning it, etc., so I need to be consistent here.

I've actually had little internal dialogues with myself, in my head, where the "other me" pretty much presented almost every single argument you guys have made above. Yet, somehow, having those arguments actually come from other people and not just the voice in my head has made it carry more weight.

I don't believe that my concerns are entirely baseless, mind you, but I am extremely open to the argument that the tactics I use to communicate them to my wife are generally pretty shitty. I can definitely see how my own oscillating self-esteem issues have a lot to do with my projection outward (I've plumped up in recent years myself and hate it).

I'd already been starting to adopt some of your advice anyway. As I said in the original post, I've started giving up on commenting on her dietary choices, and moving more toward a "quietly lead by example" approach. And also preparing myself for the very real chance that she won't care to follow my lead. Which will suck, but I guess I'll deal.

I thank Blitz for apparently being the only person who seems to at least somewhat see my side of things, though I see (most of) the counter-arguments as well. I suppose I should be grateful I haven't had someone suggest I'm a typical pigheaded male (proudly called myself a feminist since I was at least 15, by the way), because that derail would be insanely counterproductive. Then again, I haven't previewed the latest comments . . .

Anyway, thanks, guys. You're already helping me re-evaluate my thinking.
posted by CommonSense at 8:06 PM on March 26 [4 favorites]


I think there's more going on with your wife than a simple lack of desire to eat healthily. The constant desire to eat the comfort foods of her childhood, and the insistence on going to your appointments while avoiding any of her own strike me as signs that something is not right. Find out what that is.
posted by snickerdoodle at 8:09 PM on March 26 [5 favorites]


I don't think your concern is so outrageous as many do here. But I do think that you should hear their reactions as indications of how a lot of people would feel about their partner speaking as you do. And from that, realise that this is quite a fraught and loaded issue (maybe not in the sAme way for your wife but you say yourself that she sees it as an issue of independence) and that you probably can't do much about it. How about another metafilter favourite-
The 'when you do this I feel...' Your wife then gets to decide how she wants to respond to your feelings, rather than defend your absolute judgement of her.

I think you need to seriously consider that there is little you can do to explicitly change this. Your wife needs to decide to eat differently if it is going to happen. And there is a lot of damage that you can do to your relationship in the meantime if you focus on 'fixing' her, no matter how valid that may be.
posted by jojobobo at 8:09 PM on March 26 [3 favorites]


Did she used to go to doctors and something changed, or has she always avoided medical care?

Were I you, I'd probably shift focus from the weight/lifestyle critiques - which completely apart from any validity concerns have proven ineffective - to gently encouraging her to find a doctor she likes and trusts who may be able to suggest options to treat the headaches/body aches and perhaps do a whole health assessment and talk about pregnancy at advanced age stuff. I'd be very clear that she could see her new doctor alone if she'd prefer, or that you'd be willing to go with her for support. She'll get actual medical review and test results that may prove or disprove your weight/lifestyle/procreation concerns in a more impartial and data-driven fashion.

Certainly if you guys are planning on having children, she should probably have a trusted doctor she can call on if she has any issues/questions. Trust takes time to build, and not all doctors are great - so it makes sense to try to find one she clicks with now.

If she thinks you're trying to roundabout put her onto a lifestyle change, though, she will balk at getting a doctor. So drop all the lifestyle shaming.
posted by vegartanipla at 8:14 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


I think it may be worth pointing out that your wife could write this post about your alcohol use. Minus a few details. Maybe she has worked on her health and you haven't noticed. Celebrating small successes is key to going forward with change.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:18 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


Everybody's body is different, and you can't assume that what's good for you is good for her. Have a bit of compassion, and know that if her diet isn't good for her, it will start showing in some way. And if it does show, then gently point it out. But until then, don't assume her diet is bad for her.

My friend of several years has eaten like crap and exercised sporadically. I gently bug him, but it wasn't until recently when he hit his peak weight that he thought about changing his diet. I had tried, in the past, to try to get him into a more plant based diet. But that didn't work. What worked was timing and suggesting to cut out needless carbs and sugar.

So wait it out. Love her. Know that nature will tell her if her diet isn't working, and that you will be able to see it. Nutrition is weird. I had a very vegetarian diet for many years until recently, when health problems started to appear. I made tweaks and it's all good again. I'm sure if this is not the right diet for her, that it will show within a year or two. Hang in there. You will both learn a lot from whatever happens.
posted by icanbreathe at 8:19 PM on March 26


I agree with snicker doodle. I think she may come off as having good self esteem but that underneath it, she's unhappy (the avoiding the doctor thing is typical of a person who is frightened to find out what the doctor would tell them about themselves). This brings you back to the idea of therapy, because you could discuss further issues that might be bothering her, see if you can get to the root of things.

I also want to say I sympathize with you. I understand you were just getting your feelings out here. I understand feeling really sad that your partner might have health problems that would keep them from living a long and healthy life with you. Don't miss the forest for the trees - if you're going to talk about this with your wife, she needs to know that your underlying feeling is "I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you, and I want us both to be healthy so that we can live for a long time and enjoy it." Making comments about the diet or habits is not likely to be productive (but really, I've been there, and I really have to actively try to refrain from making snarky comments if I see a second dessert being eaten or a bag of candy bars in the shopping cart - but I know I need to refrain).

Anyway, try to make your conversation positive, rather than negative, and come from a place of love instead of a place of anger. It's much easier said than done, despite what many are saying here I doubt that there are many who have not had frustration at not being able to change something about a partner, as much as we intellectually know that people can only change themselves. Best of luck.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:22 PM on March 26 [3 favorites]


[OP, please stick to clarifications. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 8:26 PM on March 26


I do not, for the record, think you're being a pig, I think you're anxious and being anxious makes people treat others in ways they don't really WANT to treat them, because the obsessive thinking overrides every other concern. You're clearly not anorexic, but when I was, the worst thing I could possibly imagine happening to me in life was being fat. Now, well, complications from that have rendered me fat, and it turns out not to be the worst possible thing that could happen at all. It's not great, but my body image is considerably more a problem than my actual body. And the obsessive worrying about being healthy actually got in the way of my being healthy. Not that this might not still be an issue after you've had some time talking to someone and working on better coping strategies, but at that point it'll probably be a lot easier to deal with.
posted by Sequence at 8:28 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


You are apparently motivated to improve yourself, probably because you are excited about a potential future you can imagine, either vaguely or in some detail.

Does you wife have this kind of excitement about the future? If not, why not?
posted by amtho at 8:34 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


I used to eat in a manner that I thought was really "healthy" - which you seem to think is healthy - lots of meat and fruits/vegetables, no carbs, etc. It is very difficult to get enough calories eating so strictly, and even though I was no longer anorexic and eating nothing, my health suffered. I was convinced I was eating enough because I was eating something, and many diet sites advocate for unhealthfully low levels of calories; in reality I was eating about half of what a normal intake is. It is very easy to get a distorted idea of what is normal given the discourse around weight and dieting.

That said, I don't think your concern is out of bounds - but the way you speak of it is in terms of disgust and contamination, and very emotionally loaded. That makes it seem like its not about what you think it is, entirely.

If you only want to support her in eating more healthfully, maybe you could help her to add more vegetables and fruits that she likes - but don't focus on getting her to stop eating "bad" things. We all need filler calories to function (particularly to grow another human) and you don't know that eliminating them would be healthy. It is less controlling and more positive to encourage behaviors than to try to extinguish them.
posted by decathexis at 8:40 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


I only scanned your question and a few of the answers but for what it's worth, my husband and I do not exercise at nearly the same rates. As in, I work out around 3x a week (sometimes more, sometimes less) and he usually works out 0x a week. Sometimes he rides his bike home and we walk places often but that's it.

I love him like crazy and look forward to becoming parents together but this is one area where we just don't mesh. My major problem with it is that I would just love it if we could work out together because I love spending time with him. But I'm driven to work out and he just isn't. I would like it if he worked out but he's generally healthy so I don't bug him.

Basically, if I was in your shoes, I would do what I could to keep the door to healthy eating open but don't push it. I think that my husband knows that if he ever wants to join me for a run or yoga, I would be psyched and he is always welcome. But I don't pressure him because I don't think that's effective and if he doesn't want to do something, I don't want to make him. I like how exercise makes me feel. He doesn't like how exercise makes him feel (or at least he doesn't like it enough to do it). Hope that helps.
posted by kat518 at 8:48 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


You are not the owner of your wife. You are not the dictator of her health or diet.

If you don't want to have a child with her then don't, but don't harass her about her food choices. It counterproductive, controlling and just plain rude.
posted by 26.2 at 8:58 PM on March 26 [6 favorites]


I actually agree with you and would also be concerned with raising a child with someone I didn't see eye to eye with on basic things- food, exercise, lifestyle...and doubly so if you are no longer sexually attracted to her. I would go to couples counselling, see if you can see eye to eye, and if not, consider breaking up. So...a lone dissenter here in the Mefi wilderness!
posted by bquarters at 9:22 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


What do you do? You stop trying to control her eating habits.

And if you can't do that, let her be with someone who loves and accepts her for exactly who she is.

It sounds like you view her dietary choices as a reflection on you. (They are not). She is not your property.

I have actually seen MY eating habits slide downhill since I met her, and it pains me to say it, but I have to credit some of my weight gain in the last few years to her.

No, you don't. Did she tie you down and force-feed you starchy foods?

You talk about her dietary choices like she is 8 years old and/or doesn't have the ability to make her own decisions, and from what you've written, she does not seem to be incapacitated in any way.

Worse, it seems that any attempt I make to suggest changing is taken as some soft of effort to "change" her, which immediately taps into her pride about how she, as a strong and independent woman, won't ever change for anyone. . . . Quite the contrary, she has the biggest ego and self-esteem in the world — she's always been like this — and often has helped me with my chronically bad self esteem. But with her, I think her "healthy" self image is blinding her — it's causing her to really think she can do no wrong.

What is she doing wrong here, exactly, other than standing up for herself in the face of your constant criticism? It sounds like you feel threatened by her self-assurance.

It would be one were concerned about your wife's diet because of her health, but instead:

And my sexual interest in her has plummeted over the last year. And I think it's because I've grown to resent her utter lack of concern about her diet. . . I don't think I want to have a child that matures inside of an increasingly unhealthy body

Your question reads like "help me annihilate my wife's self-confidence in the most rational, scientific way I can think of."
posted by sevenofspades at 9:30 PM on March 26 [7 favorites]


It's interesting how you come down on her for not meeting your exacting standards but excuse yourself for just doing "the best you can" (emphasis mine).
posted by _Mona_ at 9:42 PM on March 26 [10 favorites]


1. Apologize to your wife for being a jerk, even if your controlling, patronizing, shaming behavior was motivated by true concern.
2. Cook your own meals, let her cook hers, if you can't peacefully cook together.
3. Work really, incredibly hard at the beliefs and attitudes that got you here. A therapist might need to be involved. Your goal, ultimately, is to respect your wife's ability to make her own choices, including what she eats.
4. Talk to your wife, not at her. Open up about the fears and hang ups that are driving you, as you figure them out, and listen to what she says in response.

Food and eating behaviors go really really deep...it made me laugh when you talked about a family, because if you are exasperated by a spouse's eating habits, wait till you get a kid who wants nothing but peanut butter and jelly for six months. And you can't force them either, without being abusive.

Love her for who she is, habits you dislike and all. You can be sure she has to overlook things about you too. Focus on why you married her...her laugh, her intelligence, her smile, etc. Those haven't changed. They matter do much more than the things you are obsessing over.
posted by emjaybee at 9:45 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


I think snickerdoodle is on to something. I'm living overseas for love, and it's HARD. How much support does your wife have; how much connection with the broader community? With her family back home? Has she been to visit? Does she work? Living somewhere "else" *forever* is a daunting undertaking.

How long have you been trying to get pregnant? This can be SUPER stressful, and something BOTH of you are subconsciously reacting to. You can't not get pregnant if you're not actually having sex, right? I have some reproductive health issues and when my therapist asked if I was worried about this I said no... three months later when we got pregnant on the first try a huge weight lifted, and only then did I realize how concerned I actually had been!

Aches and pains that weren't there a few years ago? Yeah, you're how old? I have aches and pains that weren't there a few years ago and I'm in very good health, have a very good diet, blah blah blah. It's just that I'm 32 and not 22. It happens.

I also agree with bquarters - individual therapy for both of you and/or couples counselling.

Seriously - her poor diet (and underlying unhappiness?) doesn't worry me nearly as much as your food/alcohol/communication/judgement issues. Do not have kids yet.

Have you read any Brene Brown or watched her TED Talks? It's a pretty gentle introduction to the shame issues faced by both women AND men (hint: it's the men's stories that she found more heartbreaking) and how they relate to each other. Maybe you could read the book together? Frame things as in "I have some issues I want to work on and I need your participation - can you read this with me for MY sake?" Leave her out of it. If she gets benefit from it, it's a bonus. Work on yourself first, and think deeply about showing her compassion. She'll come around in her own time.

Oh, and the Gottman books seem to be the marriage bibles around here on Metafilter.

And yeah - My aunt's friend's kid spent an entire year eating nothing but peanut butter on tortillas with sunflower seeds. I think he's a microbiologist now = he's "fine".

And yeah... I'd totally eat dessert just to piss you off. Dessert is yummy, and getting a reaction out of you is a control thing and very satisfying. Ignore what she eats - it's none of your business anyway. (Kids are like this too, BTW. A reaction, even a bad one = re-enforcing. Ignoring works a good chunk of the time. My mom's a behavior analyst.)
posted by jrobin276 at 9:50 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


I suspect that the responses would be quite different CommonSense had flipped the genders. A lot of these comments seem to be attacking OP without being constructive.

I had a similar issue with my ex, who ate tortilla chips and beer for dinner. Did it disgust me? Yes. Did I try talking to him? Yes. Did I try to set a more healthy example? Yes. Did it work? No.

A lot of it came down to him saying "But you do X which is not healthy so you have no right to say anything bad about what I do." So, in effect, unless I was absolutely perfect, I was not allowed to say anything constructive about the fact that maybe eating chips or cheesy poofs for every meal might not be the best idea. I feel a lot of the comments here are saying that because he is trying to not drink so much--and we don't know what "not so much" means, folks--he is not allowed to say/think anything about his wife's eating habits.

I have sympathy for what you're going through, CommonSense. MeMail me if you'd like to talk about it.
posted by sfkiddo at 9:55 PM on March 26 [5 favorites]


Yeah, it sounds like your wife has a very unhealthy diet. While carbs are "addictive" (Mmm, a potato salad sandwich on white sounds delicious to me), there is likely more going on with her eating habits than simple love of carbs.

And yes, since you are married to her, you do have a large say in what she gets to eat. Although whether or not she listens to you is another question. However, that is a typical challenge between husbands and wives - who enjoys greater "moral authority" in a marriage?

I do think you have a drinking problem, and I wonder how that is affecting your wife. While I myself struggle with my diet, I have absolutely no problem stopping drinking alcohol. Period. It would make me very sad to give it up, but as part of my own effort to get healthy I have cut back on beer and wine, as they are high calorie.

But if you need to work with a primary care physician to cut back on drinking, you have a problem. What is left unsaid here is how your drinking has affected your relationship.

Are you happy when you drink? Sad? Angry? Are you present? Has it cost you a lot of money? Has your drinking affected your sex life? Has it gotten in the way of any of your wife's ambitions?

While I think you have a say in your wife's diet (because it will either make her seriously ill, kill her, or at the very least wreak havoc on her body's hormone production so she cannot have kids if she wants), it's not enough to shame her into new behavior.

There is something between you two that has to change , and it will not change overnight.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:07 PM on March 26 [3 favorites]


Her eating is not ruining your relationship: your need to control what she eats is. You need to learn to let it go. If you cannot let it go because you are embarrassed or ashamed about her habits, focus on learning to admit that, and then deal with why you feel that way. If you can't let it go because it is where you refocused your previous resentment about money, focus on learning to admit that, and then find a better way to deal with that resentment. Food isn't a zero-sum game like money is, and you married her for who she is, not who you thought she'd be when she grew out of habits you find childish.
posted by davejay at 10:13 PM on March 26


I think it's ok to want your partner to have a healthy lifestyle, even if the way you framed the post was a little overboard, perhaps. Alas these are the kinds of questions that lead to many answers that bring in the answerer's own personal baggage. So that combined with the framing is going to lead to less then useful answers.

My advice though is this - set up the weekends as "free"; you can eat what you want, no guilt or consequences. During weekdays, you try and make some changes - no dessert after lunch, no wine with every dinner, no garlic bread before pasta.

At the same time, you need to approach this as a team, so think of something about you that she perhaps would like you to change - and work at it. Do you cook at all? What if you take responsibility for preparing the evening meals during the week?
posted by modernnomad at 10:13 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


Oh and if you don't like who she is these days, don't have a child until you work through it or break up. What a child needs as much as good role models for food is good role models for two people in a united, supportive relationship.
posted by davejay at 10:16 PM on March 26


Are you sure it's not a class issue too? Are you from the same social class? This "eat less carbs" is a pretty new thing and hasn't trickled down -- many people still subscribe to "low fat".
posted by batter_my_heart at 10:22 PM on March 26


Everyone would not have attacked you so one sidedly if you had posted your question expressing the exact same distress and way of dealing with it except with the difference that your wife were doing hard drugs everyday rather depriving herself of nutrition. Again, I think, this is the result of a complete lack of awareness of food and of health (the fact that this is a pretty typical diet doesn't change that, it only reveals the pervasive lack of understanding). They are not similar because I'm assuming you're wife is addicted to food, they are simply similar in that they are both an engagement of severely self destructive behavior. You are unusual in understanding this, and are also unfortunately having to witness it every day. Tell a spouse of a heroin addict that it's none of their business what their wife does to her body and he should quite whining and complaining. This situation of you being attacked for this is only one consequence of the complete lack of understanding of food and of health. People can read all these facts about how much vitamin c is in this or how much omega 3s are in that. Facts don't constitute understanding. Understanding is an awareness of the intimate relationship of food to your health in the broadest sense.
posted by Blitz at 10:32 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


Also, I'm so sorry that you feel like crap at the end of this. Even though all the attacks seem to be largely based on completely mis-construing the situation you describe, I can understand how you would feel so badly. I was shocked at how what you wrote was taken. You seem to me to genuinely care, and not at all like a chauvinist pig ( and I am really very critical of men's attitudes to things). It's okay if you're not perfect and you don't do everything perfectly and this might have exposed some things to you, perhaps. Again, I don't think you seem simply like a bad guy here.
posted by Blitz at 10:43 PM on March 26


Blitz: Thank you for seeing past what I admit was probably a tone-deaf post on my part into the real, underlying concerns. As I've posted in some of my follow-ups earlier, I realize that I really didn't assemble my initial thoughts as well as I could've, and the consequence is that it came off incredibly harsh, when in fact that isn't really representative (at ALL) of how I approach this subject (to the extent that I even do anymore) with my wife. I also neglected to mention (to my peril) that I've actually spent a LOT of time reading up on and educating myself on the sad state of "the food system" in the western world (and increasingly, the non-western world as well) nowadays, and how you increasingly can't win for losing.

One small thing I said in my initial post, that seems to have gotten lost in the onslaught against me (which is semi-deserved, in light of the horrible way I framed this post) is that I totally believe in all things being OK . . . in moderation. I don't think carbs are de-facto bad; I don't think ice cream at 2:30 in the afternoon is some mortal sin; I don't sit there and look at what's on your plate and run mental calorie counts. I don't think you're the devil incarnate for ordering a (non-Diet) Coke. Christ, I'm being made out as some kind of incredibly judgmental prick, and maybe that's kind of my fault because again, I just "spewed" in this post, as I said before, rather than sitting down and giving some thought to how I want to post this. I'm sorry; I didn't realize this was a master's thesis.

I have a really hard time seeing how 90% of the replies to this post aren't essentially saying "look, if someone wants to kill themselves, let them! Who cares if they're your spouse and you both ostensibly have a tacit agreement to be concerned about one another's well-being, because you two are each other's partners for life?" Instead, I get shoehorned into this or that box that tells me more about whatever issues the respondents are working through in their own personal lives than it does about me or this particular situation.

I really shouldn't have posted this. Consider this my second request that a moderator close this thread.
posted by CommonSense at 10:43 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


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