What to bring home if not the bacon?
May 8, 2013 5:58 PM   Subscribe

Help me cope with my live-in girlfriend's increasingly arbitrary diet

I've been living with my girlfriend for a couple of years now. She has been a "pescatarian" for as long as I've known her, which is fine by me - I love a lot of veggie dishes, and fish too. She's also never asked me to alter my diet to match. However lately she's gotten stricter with herself - fish is nearly out, so are most dairy products and anything with a hint of fat or starch (potatoes, rice, noodles). Basically she's down to only veggies, mostly zucchini, in fresh, steamed or soup form.

We used to go out a lot more, but it's getting more difficult to find a restaurant that will serve something she'll like. I've tried to cook a few times, but even the veggie recipes I find usually have too much *whatever* for her tastes, and she usually offers to cook for herself.

From my side, I love eating a variety of foods. Something new everyday if I could. Eating out is one area I'm happy to spend gobs of money. She'd rather have the same thing every day. I'm finding myself getting frustrated more than I should, and psychoanalyzing her choices

(I could go into depth about that - one driver is that she's focussed on her athletic performance, but she isn't following any guru's system. I occasionally worry about her getting enough vitamins and such, but she isn't suffering. Besides, I don't know any better to claim the dietary high ground. I'm more interested in coexistence than conversion).

So what strategies can I use to navigate our wildly different tastes? I'm really concerned that little things like this don't build bitterness as we get older together. Eating together is such a social thing and all. Tips?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (39 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, if you are concerned about her diet, you can ask that she see a dietician. You should make sure they work with people who are vegetarian/vegan. That may put your mind to rest about the nutrition aspect, and to make sure that she is getting enough calories/nutrition.

As far as how to eat together, does she understand that her diet is making you unable to eat what you want? Does she understand that you are upset by not being able to eat out?

You need to make it clear that you want to support her choices and diet, but she needs to support yours too! (By your diet, I mean wanting to eat out and try new things, which is perfectly acceptable.) Also, do you fully support these new diet changes? That may make a difference too.

Is it possible to compromise? For example she makes something at home and you get something To-Go from a restaurant and bring that home for yourself? (Or delivery, etc.)

Also, you can try to make some restaurant recipes at home for yourself if you like to cook. A lot of those recipes you can find online.

Either way, she needs to know how you feel and you need to do your best to find a common ground. Also, how important is this to you? That may help you discuss it. "On a scale of 1 to 10 for how problematic this is, I would rate it at ___"

Personally, I understand wanting to respect someone's diet, but when it gets to an extreme where you can't go out on a date, that is problematic and seems unfair.

I kind of understand your place, although myself and my husband's dietary issues are of medical origin and not that we chose not to eat certain foods. (He is lactose intolerant and I am borderline hypoglycemic and my stomach can't handle certain foods.) So we both get frustrated sometimes trying to figure out where to eat out. I end up making a lot of foods at home so I can make sure they are lactose-free.
posted by Crystalinne at 6:13 PM on May 8, 2013


Remove your respective food choices from the equation. If you go out, do something other than dinner. Dinners at home, you cook your own food, she hers. Just keep your life and your food separate.
posted by xingcat at 6:14 PM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


You make dinner with salad and a zucchini or mixed side. If you want to go out, see if there are any vegan or macrobiotic places where you are.

And make plans to go out to eat with your friends now and then without her so you don't have to live a life restricted by her dietary requirements. Which have, by the way, long since jumped the shark from "restrictions" to "mental health issue."
posted by DarlingBri at 6:14 PM on May 8, 2013 [48 favorites]


Eating together is such a social thing and all.

She might not feel this way. She might feel that being together is the social thing.

Why do you have to eat the same things? Can't you eat together, but each cook your own food? Would you (or she) object to going out and you having a big/fancy meal but her ordering just a drink or a salad?

I mean, I think her specific diet is troublesome. But I would be really...not happy if my boyfriend saw me liking different foods than him as something that would "build bitterness." Even for some people who like a variety of foods, food is just nowhere near a big enough deal that different preferences about it should affect a relationship. Can you think of it from that perspective? Or is having a shared foodie lifestyle too much of a relationship priority for you?
posted by DestinationUnknown at 6:15 PM on May 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


I have tried to restrict my diet in various ways at times and it makes my wife crazy. Which in turn makes me crazy. Because no matter how many times I say "I don’t care what you eat" and " it’s not about you" it’s still about her. So I’ve ended up eating way more meat than I want to (even though she is a former vegetarian) and other things just to keep the peace.

Compromise is what relationships are about, even when it’s bullshit.
posted by bongo_x at 6:16 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Eat what you want. Cook dinner for you. She cooks dinner for her.

Which have, by the way, long since jumped the shark from "restrictions" to "mental health issue."

this.
posted by rr at 6:18 PM on May 8, 2013 [13 favorites]


I realize the question was not whether or not your girlfriend has a problem, and you are certainly closer than we are, but what you have described as her diet jumps out to me as disordered eating. Particularly troubling is the lack of fat, which is important for proper brain functioning. If you girlfriend is dismissive of this, well, that's another indicator of a problem. Is she a perfectionist? Ask yourself whether it all adds up, educate yourself about nutrition, and prepare for a tough ride. This isn't, at its core, about food. I am speaking from experience (I have been where you girlfriend likely is), and it can be turned around but she will need your support.

I hope I'm wrong.
posted by xiaolongbao at 6:20 PM on May 8, 2013 [35 favorites]


Of possible interest: "orthorexia nervosa"
posted by kmennie at 6:22 PM on May 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


A few years ago, I met a friend and a friend of a friend at a restaurant. Friend of a friend was a competitive triathlete with sponsors. She ordered a basic green salad and had brought cut up grilled chicken which she put on top of her salad. She said that she gave herself one day a week to eat anything but the rest of the time she was pretty serious about her diet.

My point is that being a serious athlete doesn't have to mean no eating out and being social. Your girlfriend's behavior does sound disordered and I'd encourage her to talk to a dietitian or nutritionist about what athletes eat.

As for how to cope, my husband could eat an entire pizza in one sitting without gaining weight whereas I eat two slices and need to work out regularly to not gain weight. We work different jobs so I usually have a salad for lunch so if he wants to make pasta for dinner, I feel less guilty. But he also makes great cookies and I'll eat about 200 of them. Eating with him, cooking with him, those are things we do together so if it means I need to work out a little more to stay in shape while he plays Grand Theft Auto on the couch, I guess that's the deal.
posted by kat518 at 6:36 PM on May 8, 2013


Well, if you are concerned about her diet, you can ask that she see a dietician.

The only thing I could throw into this is the fact that Temple Grandin, if you believe the film, only eats yogurt and jello, and she's healthy and alive.
Would she do sushi out? I know there are plenty of places where the chefs will custom make rolls for the customers. It WILL get expensive, but it would be a nice night out.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 6:44 PM on May 8, 2013


The only thing I could throw into this is the fact that Temple Grandin, if you believe the film, only eats yogurt and jello, and she's healthy and alive.


Don't believe the film. Temple Grandin doesn't only eat yogurt and Jell-O and is in fact an advocate of carefully balanced diets.

I'm another person who thinks your girlfriend is displaying some upsettingly disordered thinking re: food. This goes beyond compromise. This is most definitely some mental health issue and needs to be examined from that angle.
posted by pineappleheart at 6:58 PM on May 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


We used to go out a lot more, but it's getting more difficult to find a restaurant that will serve something she'll like

From my side, I love eating a variety of foods. Something new everyday if I could. Eating out is one area I'm happy to spend gobs of money.


Okay, so you're both going to have to compromise.

If you stay together in the long term, it's unlikely that she's going to be happy about you spending 'gobs of money' on eating out when it's something she doesn't seem to get much joy from.

On the other hand, you shouldn't have to stay at home cooking zucchini and salad or dinners-for-one all the time, either. Find other like-minded friends and enjoy some dinners out with them. Invite her, but present it as 'Sweetie, I'm trying out the new Mexican place with some people from work - of course, you're welcome to come if you think there's something you'll like'.

Also, don't feel bad. I have nowhere near a 'foodie lifestyle', but this kind of eating arrangement on a long-term basis with a SO would get me down, yes. Food is like exercise and sex, and all those other good things. If you enjoy good food, and the rituals of sharing the choice and preparation and eating thereof, it is actually quite an act of love to accommodate restrictive attitudes like your girlfriend's which go way beyond the norm
posted by Salamander at 6:59 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am going to dissent from a lot of responses and say that this would be a huge deal for me. I can't imagine potentially spendingthe rest of my life not enjoying food with my partner. Especially given that it is an arbitrary series of choices, not a solid reason around which I could plan (ie only going to guten free friendly or vegan places) and adapt.

This is an important lifestyle issue for you and that's okay. Its not silly for you to care about this.

That being said, you should talk to her about finding compromise s thay you can both live with and definitely feel free to dine out with friends, to see if that is enough for you. But this might be something that can't be negotiated to the satisfaction of both of you.
posted by cessair at 7:02 PM on May 8, 2013 [35 favorites]


I'm a carnivore who eats very little vegetables but lots of grains, cheese and fruit with a moderate amount of meat. The GF (who I've lived with for a few years) is a pescatarian (why the scare quotes?) but doesn't cook fish at home much. It took us a few years to figure out that trying to figure out what we were going to have for dinner wasn't the way to address the issue. I cook my food, she cooks her food. I usually load the dishwasher, she usually unloads it. We often eat together but sometimes don't. That just means that she's in the same room as me with her iPad while I eat or I've got a newspaper while she eats. The kitchen isn't far (we live in an apartment) so even if one of us is in and out of the kitchen, we're still together.
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:11 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'll also chime in and say that this would be a big problem for me, too -- you're definitely not alone, and nor are you some kind of monster for wanting to share meals with the person you love. (Hell, I have ended multiple relationships because the other person's dietary quirks meant that we basically couldn't ever eat together.)

How likely is this to be a permanent thing? Is your girlfriend doing this temporarily for Reasons (fight in a lower weight class, feel less icky after a 20 mile run, etc), or is this the new way of the world? My inclination is that these things can't go on forever, even if she is acting very "forever" about it. I would give it time and see if it passes.

Maybe cook separately in the meantime, and ask for a restaurant compromise? Like maybe you go to sushi together, she noshes on edamame, and you agree that she can order what she likes as long as you share a meal together?
posted by Sara C. at 7:39 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


One possibility might be for you both to see a nutritionist together, to get ideas for meals that might work for both of you (and, as a side benefit, to get an expert opinion on whether your girlfriend's diet is providing her with adequate nutrition, because it does not sound healthy or rational).

What does your girlfriend say about your desire to go out more? I mean, there are a lot of restaurants that will serve a veggies-only salad or steamed vegetable side dishes that she could get to be companionable while you eat whatever you like. Is she willing to do that? When dietary restrictions are involved, going out to eat can be more complex (doing research on menus before choosing a place, etc.) but should not be impossible if both parties want to make it work. But if she just doesn't want it to happen, then you don't have a lot of options except going out with other people instead of her. I mean, your desire is not at all unreasonable, but if she just doesn't enjoy going out then a compromise where she goes along but doesn't enjoy it and doesn't want to eat anything is not really going to make either of you happier.

If it ends up being that you just eat separate meals or go out without her, maybe the two of you can decide on some other time that you spend together relaxing and chatting every day in a semi-scheduled way (like having tea together in the evenings, or puttering around on some joint project) to replace the social time you lose that way. However I do think that making sure the path she's on is healthy and sustainable should maybe come before long-term coping strategies.
posted by unsub at 7:40 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


You say your girlfriend isn't suffering, but if she is literally eating nothing but vegetables, she will be suffering at some point both mentally and physically.

I am recovering from an eating disorder, and this looks exactly like an eating disorder. For one thing, my guess is that she actually can find things at restaurants within her [very unhealthy] limits - green salads with no dressing, side of steamed vegetables, etc. But, when you have an eating disorder, it can be terrifying to allow someone else to cook for you.

This is ringing all sorts of alarm bells. Please feel free to memail me.
posted by puppetshow at 7:46 PM on May 8, 2013 [40 favorites]


Add me to the list of people who think you're not a monster and who think your girlfriend has an eating disorder.

I've had friends who chose extreme diets, and they regularly trashed mainstream medicine and nutritionists. My friends always knew better, even as they turned alarmingly thin and broke out in rashes. So if you decide to suggest a nutritionist, don't be surprised if it's immediately shot down.

I love love love to eat out and try new things. If I were in your position, I'd get my "eating out" fix during meals that aren't usually shared with a partner, like taking a longer lunch than usual to try out the new Vietnamese place while my partner is munching zucchini at her desk across town. But mostly I'd push for therapy in whatever way is most likely to be successful.
posted by ceiba at 7:53 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Did you ask her why, exactly, she's getting so strict? Perhaps it's just a normal preference. I have an almost completely vegan diet. I don't like to consume animal products and I don't digest dairy products all that well anyway. I don't much talk about it because I get tired of people acting like it's weird or wanting an explanation.

One of the effects of being careful about my diet is that I really appreciate good organic vegetables and I don't like a lot of complicated stuff done to overwhelm them in cooking. And a lot of restaurant food is disgusting to me now. I don't mind if others at the table have whatever, but for myself, most dishes are so heavy, I don't enjoy it and I wind up feeling physically kind of gross afterward. Not gross as in, I'm gaining weight, but gross as in, I feel like I just ate a giant plate of deep fried glue and it's very unpleasant. Why spend money to order food you don't particularly like at a restaurant when you feel far better after eating a huge bowl of steamed organic vegetables. It's hard to find a restaurant that has delicious vegetable dishes that are prepared well which does not mean drenching everything in oil and/or frying it and/or topping it with cheese, and I live in an area with a huge variety of good restaurants. So.. can't you just go to restaurants that she does like? Try to prepare dishes that she likes (have a side of her veggie dish, and make your own main dish as well)?
posted by citron at 9:40 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I actually think it's fine that you are trying to psychoanalyze her, because diet is a control thing, and at the most basic level, she is sending you a message that she does not want you to control or manage her eating choices. You want to go out to a particular place to eat, she doesn't. Is it possible that she has tried to tell you in other ways that she doesn't like going to restaurants and spending gobs of money eating out, but you haven't been able to hear her, and saying "well we can't go because there's nothing I can eat" is the only way she can get you to agree to not go out like that?

I would take the advice you've gotten to try to back off and just let dining become a less central part of how you interact for a while. Don't try to force her to accommodate your dining choices, and similarly, don't try to unnecessarily accommodate hers. She may just want to do this eating thing on her own for a while. And unless she's got a serious eating issue, if she's not feeding herself well then at some point her athletic performance will decline and she'll realize she has to be more sensible.
posted by gubenuj at 11:22 PM on May 8, 2013


She doesn't have an eating disorder, does she? My friend's girlfriend thought certain foods did things to her and she didn't like other foods, but what was really happening was she had an eating disorder and convinced herself she couldn't eat foods she clearly could. She went to rehab finally after getting so skinny that people took notice.

If you are asking for suggestions on what she can eat, none of us can really answer that because it sounds like, based on what you said, she's not just vegan but a terribly picky vegan. So we'd need to hear from her exactly what she can eat.

But as far as co-existence, when it comes to eating out, I just think you should switch off. One night, she gets to pick. If that means she picks the same restaurant everytime, or picks a vegan restaurant that sells grass shakes, you tolerate it. And then another night, you get to pick, and if it's a steakhouse, she will order a couple side dishes or a salad and deal with it. You don't seem to enjoy the same food (although you don't exactly specify what you like) so I don't see how to get around it.

You may want to tell her that you're trying and you respect her food choices, but at times, she's going to need to be flexible and give into going somewhere you'd like. Perhaps setting specific days of the week or switching off like I mentioned will make it less of A Thing and make it so both of you understand the ground rules and know what to expect going into an evening out.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:50 PM on May 8, 2013


Yikes. Count me in with the crowd who would see this as a major concern. Personally, I love food, cooking and eating, and I love sharing food, cooking and eating, and to be with a partner who couldn't share that with me would be close to a dealbreaker.

Also, subsisting on zucchini is deeply concerning. Avoiding fat and starch is deeply concerning. She might seem well now, but there are going to be consequences in the long run.

You need to be able to talk about food in a relationship. You need to be able to talk about why you eat a certain way in a relationship, and negotiate how you'll give each other what you need. I eat what I'd call a paleo-ish diet - next to no grains, but I do eat beans and dairy - and that was definitely a topic of discussion in my household with my pasta loving partner, and we've found compromises.

You can either, (a) ignore the issue by cooking and eating separately, which might not be a big deal for some people, but would definitely be a good deal for me, or (b) find a way to talk with her honestly about this. Explain that you're not a nutritional expert, that you don't want to condemn or control, but her eating habits have X effect on you and you're concerned she's not getting good nutrition.

That's how I'd approach it, with the usual 'I'm just an Internet stranger' caveats.
posted by nerdfish at 12:40 AM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Your description of her behaviour is ringing alarm bells for orthorexia nervosa (what kmennie linked to): she's "gotten stricter with herself" recently; she's eliminated entire food groups; she's restricting herself to very limited specific foods within the one acceptable food group; she rejects eating out even when there are things she eats on the menu; she rejects your cooking even when you make foods she eats. She wants to exclusively eat food she's cooked herself because that means she's in control of it. This has nothing to do with being vegan or eating a strict but healthy diet.

I'm sorry, but I think you need to speak to a professional who is familiar with eating disorders, tell them your concerns and, if they suspect disordered eating, ask them to suggest a good approach.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:08 AM on May 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


I have no insight into any psychology that might be going on here, but I'm not aware of any athletic discipline that benefits from eating almost-only zucchini (even if you were just giving an example). The distinct lack of protein and/or carbs (not to mention refusal) tells me this isn't so much "athletic performance." Maybe yoga, but practitioners I've known don't really refer to associated dietary predilections in terms of sport.
posted by rhizome at 1:38 AM on May 9, 2013


The first thing I thought when I read your post was "this girl has an eating disorder". I know, because I've been there. The types of foods she's avoiding (fats, carbs) are clearly linked to a fear of weight gain rather than her just liking zucchini a lot.

My parents found me very difficult to live with when I was doing the same thing in my late teens. We went on holiday to Rome when I was about 18 and at a restaurant where the menu was full of all the delights of Italian cuisine, the only thing I could bring myself to order was a single grilled artichoke. That's pretty sad. Do you want to live the rest of your life with her like this?

Your girlfriend needs to nip this in the bud before it gets a lot worse. Eating disorders can be self-perpetuating in that that your rationality deteriorates as you continue to starve yourself, and so it gets harder every day to bring yourself back into a normal way of thinking about food.

At the end of the day you can't cure her, you can only try to help her. It helped me to have my behavior identified as an eating disorder and having people point out to me that I would suffer if I kept living like that. I'm fine now and have a very balanced and healthy diet, so I think it is possible to fully recover.

Honestly though, if she doesn't want change then I think this situation is just the same as being in a relationship with someone with a mental illness such as depression that they don't want to get help for. You can't sacrifice your own life to help someone who won't help themselves.
posted by RubyScarlet at 5:06 AM on May 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


The first thing I thought when I read your post was "this girl has an eating disorder". I know, because I've been there.

This.

Does OP know he can update by contacting the mods? (Has anyone said that yet?)

OP - I'm curious if you posted this question because you understand that this is not OK?? She is not OK.

and it sounds... frightening. Malnutrition will have even the most balanced person falling into an emotional toilet eventually, and if her behavior is escalating - from fish/balanced-sounding meals to now, almost nothing but zucchini, day after day - I would be really concerned that she is heading down a road that might end in hospitalization, major depression, self-harm, you name it.

If you are not exaggerating in your examples, then I think that WE are not being hyperbolic with our concerns. She may seem OK if this has not been going on long (you said, "I've tried to cook a few times," does that mean she cut out fish like, two weeks ago??) but again, if she is escalating, AND burning calories through sports/exercise, this could really, really harm her body forever.
posted by polly_dactyl at 6:17 AM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


This would be a dealbreaker for me. I told my husband when we were dating that if he wouldn't experiment with different foods and cuisines with me, that there was no point going forward. He's just as much of a foodie as I am now, and food is a huge part of our lives. So to me, its totally appropriate to address this as a relationship issue. There is food in restaurants she can eat. This sounds like more than a preference for veggies, and this needs to be addressed as a serious thing.
posted by freshwater at 6:33 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have an eating disorder, and I'm telling you that alarm bells should be going off if in fact what you are relating is what is happening.

Many people with eating disorders choose activities and professions that encourage very rigid eating. Dancers, Models, Actors and Atletes all must monitor their food intake to keep their bodies aesthetically appropriate to their profession/activity.

So your GF is an athlete and suddenly she's restricting her intake to a vegetable that has low calories and few nutrients. This is concerning.

I think you need to educate yourself on disordered eating, and then perhaps have an intervention.

This isn't a quality of life issue for you, it's a matter of life or death for your GF.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:34 AM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Even for some people who like a variety of foods, food is just nowhere near a big enough deal that different preferences about it should affect a relationship.

That may be true for *you*, but you can't generalize. Eating out is for my family, as for lots of folks, one of our main sorts of entertainment/self-indulgences -- it combines something you need to do with (a) a wider array of foods that you cook at home and (b) a feeling of festivity, without adding much additional time demand -- and to lose that would be a huge hit to my quality of life. We've gone to some lengths to make sure that our young child is capable of joining us at restaurants (ranging from bringing food from her at an early age, to bringing entertainments at all ages), to keep this outlet alive. If my spouse just shut this down for arbitrary reasons (let alone in a way that meant we couldn't take turns cooking), it would have a big effect on our net happiness and on our relationship! A sore that got rubbed every single night! wow.
posted by acm at 6:54 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cooking/eating/sharing food can carry a lot of social importance; it can be a challenge to navigate when someone has distinct dietary preferences/requirements. (ie, celiac disease, etc).

However, what you are describing is not a normal variant, but very UNhealthy, disordered eating. This is more that just trying to find a way to adapt to a partner's veganism or whatver. This is pretty solidly in eating disorder territory.

She needs to see her doctor. She would benefit from a referral to counselling, and from consultation with a registered dietician. (Be cautious of "nutritionist": registered dieticians ("RD") are licensed professionals who complete a postgraduate degree program. Pretty much anyone can call themselves a nutritionist).

She may not agree that she has a problem, though. Maybe meeting (together) with a legit RD would be a way to start the discussion, if you think she would go along with that?
posted by maryrussell at 7:49 AM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


From the OP:
Thanks everyone for your comments. It seems as though I've got two options - 1) make food less a part of our interaction, or 2) pick a fight about food choices. I don't like either!

There are a few restaurant options that we can agree on. We get Pho pretty regularly, but obviously it doesn't work every day. Fish is still an occasional option if it is prepared without much oil or batter (she's never been a big fan of sushi unfortunately). Maybe I'll have another look around for more vegan (which is closest to what she is these days, if you skip the rice) options. Alternatively I'll learn how to cook soy *shudder*.

As for the eating disorder, I know. She drives herself pretty hard with the training, and she has some body issues, not to mention the fear of some diseases that run in the family. Eventually I'm going to have to ease further into that discussion (I've gone as far as I can go without being patronizing). I might take some of you up on your memail offers to figure out the best way to broach the subject.

That said, she's still healthy as far as I can see. She's in way better shape than I am! She gets her protein from beans and egg-whites, and she isn't losing any weight, though I'm sure she'd like to. I think it's equal parts body issue, and enjoying a "lighter tasting" menu as suggested by citron. I'm not seeing the urgency, but I'm not going to ignore it either. For now, thanks for the warning.

And thanks too to the few of you who share my feelings about sharing the eating experience. It's nice know I'm not being unusually needy.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:00 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


That said, she's still healthy as far as I can see. She's in way better shape than I am! She gets her protein from beans and egg-whites, and she isn't losing any weight, though I'm sure she'd like to.

Eh, you don't know that. It sounds like you have a really great attitude and you're a good dude, but a lot of times people with eating disorders are really good hiding the fact that they're ill. Eating disorders are really common in female athletes, sadly - check out this description of the female athlete triad.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:29 AM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sweetheart, I'm concerned that your food choices are getting a bit limited, and that your nutritional needs might not be getting met. If I make an appointment for us with a nutritionist, would you come with me? Meanwhile, I'd like to be able to cook for you, can you help me keep track of what dishes we could share? You know there's only so much zucchini I can take, but I'd really like to make a dish for you in addition to some different options for me, since I like to be an adventure eater.

Meanwhile, you can research eating disorders, and see what you think. As with many disorders, you can try to provide support, but you can't be responsible for another person's mental health. You can talk to a professional and find out what's the best approach for you to take.
posted by theora55 at 3:58 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am really wary of diagnosing your girlfriend with an eating disorder over the internet and deciding that something is wrong with her. There's an underlying concern I have about this whole thread about pathologizing women who make choices that are out of the mainstream. Especially if she likes fresh vegetables, occasional fish, legumes, soy, and egg whites and is in good shape and not losing weight. (Note: your first post is significantly different than your follow-up: is it only the same veggies every day that she'll eat? Or is it a preference for lots of veggies/soy/beans/fish and you aren't happy about it?) How many times have I read a question on different advice forums about the adult who only eats pizza and chicken fingers, and the replies are along the lines of, that's funny but they should be more adventurous, not that person is sick. I know being a foodie is enjoyed by many, many people and I understand - what I don't understand is invalidating those of us who don't care for the whole span of foods out there but do like many foods (good vegetables especially) that are regrettably harder to find in your average restaurant. Look at it from another perspective and a lot of cooking is so limited in that it relies so much on meat and starch and too much fat. And what's wrong with soy? Tofu is delicious.

And yes, I get that dietary restrictions can be signs of other issues. Totally get it. And strongly feel that the helpful thing is not to pathologize and invalidate the person - you have a disorder, go back to eating what I think we should eat, and now there's no problem! If there's an underlying issue it's not really about food. Oftentimes I feel like there are so many interesting, real, significant (to me) conversations I'd like to have with family and friends and when we get together it's a missed opportunity because they spend so much time talking about food. Not even the food that's there. The food they cooked recently. The food they Instagrammed and Facebooked. The restaurants they've tried, the ones they haven't, the ones they've read about and how excellent they are. The different kinds of whiskey or beer and all the places you can get them and how they are made and what the tastes are like. It gets a little boring. I feel like it's a perfectly legitimate choice to not be tremendously interested in different kinds of food. If it was somebody's older relative who only liked meatloaf and potatoes and canned green beans on the side and wouldn't ever touch a bowl of pho, no one would think it was disordered in the least. Anyway, if you have a strong intuition that something is not right here, and you bracket out "food," what is it? It's something else.
posted by citron at 4:15 PM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


And yes, I get that dietary restrictions can be signs of other issues. Totally get it. And strongly feel that the helpful thing is not to pathologize and invalidate the person - you have a disorder, go back to eating what I think we should eat, and now there's no problem!

That's not what anyone is saying at all. She won't eat any fat or starch - sorry, but that's not healthy, especially when someone is an athlete and needs more calories than the rest of us. Especially an athlete with "body issues."

Please read up on the female athlete triad. Healthy-seeming twenty-something women with BROKEN HIPS from years of hard training and under-eating. It doesn't have to be a clinical eating disorder, but it can become one.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 4:42 PM on May 9, 2013


I am really wary of diagnosing your girlfriend with an eating disorder over the internet and deciding that something is wrong with her.

Apparently lots of people aren’t, no matter how scant the evidence.

Oftentimes I feel like there are so many interesting, real, significant (to me) conversations I'd like to have with family and friends and when we get together it's a missed opportunity because they spend so much time talking about food. Not even the food that's there. The food they cooked recently. The food they Instagrammed and Facebooked. The restaurants they've tried, the ones they haven't, the ones they've read about and how excellent they are.

Yes. It’s so tiresome. Some of us just aren’t that into food. It’s not a huge, painful sacrifice to limit our diets. This must be how people who aren’t interested in sex feel.

Your girlfriend may well have an eating disorder. The fact that she doesn’t eat the way you do is not evidence of that. I could be wrong, but I feel like there’s some exaggeration in your description that people are taking too literally.

...anything with a hint of fat or starch (potatoes, rice, noodles)...
...We get Pho pretty regularly...
posted by bongo_x at 5:20 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


[A couple of comments deleted; let's stick to answering the question. Thanks.]
posted by taz (staff) at 2:27 AM on May 10, 2013


I think there are ways to make this work. You mentioned some restaurants you both can handle...are there any raw food restaurants nearby? That could be a great option. You can also get sushi made without rice...and even without fish...avocado rolls! Cucumber rolls! And see if you two can shift priority quality time away from meals. Eat out with your friends more, and have special things planned for you two when you get home/next day.

And it's totally acceptable to just have different approaches to eating and maybe that's just an area of incompatibility for you. I'm a veg who prefers my own cooking to restaurants and I don't really use oil/sugar or eat diary at home or meat ever, so I get her perspective a bit. And I get yours a bit because I do also like to eat out as a social thing with friends.

And as citron said: "I am really wary of diagnosing your girlfriend with an eating disorder over the internet and deciding that something is wrong with her."
posted by manicure12 at 7:11 AM on May 10, 2013


Your update clears up a few things, OP. It sounds like she is eating from more food groups than it seemed from your original question--she eats some protein and, if she'll eat pho, she's eating rice noodles which are carbs. Now, this doesn't mean she *doesn't* have an eating disorder, but it's a slightly less drastic picture than we were all working with before.

I am wary of diagnosing your girlfriend with an eating disorder over the internet, too, which is why I suggested you speak to a professional about your concerns and let them weigh in. I still stand by this suggestion, because if you are overreacting they will let you know and it will assuage your worries.

As for the shared experience of food: as you can see in this thread there are people who are not as interested in the social aspects of food. Others take pleasure from food but it has to fit certain requirements. It sounds like you're willing to eat things that are OK with her dietary specifics, so, since the shared aspect of food means a lot to you, I think you'll have to agree to find workarounds for you that are OK for her--vegan restaurants, sharing the food she cooks, trying again to find recipes you can make that she likes.

Just as it's not wrong for someone to be less interested in food as a social activity, you're not weird or wrong to place value on the communal aspect of shared meals. Only you can decide if it's a dealbreaker. And it might be--it's not like either of you is going to stop needing to eat, ever. And honestly, eating isn't a solo activity for most partnered people. That's not to say it can't be, or that you can't adapt. Maybe if you focus more on the act of eating together and less on eating the same kind of food, you can get the social aspect you want and she can feel more relaxed about her food choices.

But again, do speak to a professional if you are worried about disordered eating. Talk to them before you bring it up with your girlfriend. They may tell you she's fine, or not, but at least you're better off knowing something more concrete instead of either ignoring a real health issue or alienating her by labeling her incorrectly with an ED.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:05 PM on May 10, 2013


« Older My pain in the ass, I mean lower back   |   Big screen glasses Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.