The doritos stalk at midnight...
May 3, 2014 9:51 PM   Subscribe

FoodFilter: My boyfriend likes junk food. The exception being sushi. Otherwise it's all meat, cheese, chips, pizza, and soda. We may be living together at some point in the future as this is getting serious, but this is an issue for me. I've worked hard to get on a healthy diet and I do not keep ANY junk in my house. Sometimes tortilla chips and salsa. I eat mostly paleo, but do have cheese.

I know I can't change him. However, I absolutely dread the idea of having to deal with chips, bread, frozen pizza, cereal, etc in the house. I cannot have it here, I will eat it. Yes, that's my problem to deal with. Which I have dealt with by not having it in the house (as per the many askmes about "how do i not eat junk food? don't buy it.")

I don't eat wheat/gluten for health reasons. While I'm not celiac, I feel so much better when I don't eat that. My allergies cleared up as did my skin, I have energy, and my depression is easier to handle (meds seem to work better as well).

I'm just afraid that if we start living together I am going to have temptation everywhere and put back on the 30 pounds I've lost.

He's not interested in eating healthy. He has a demanding physical job so his diet isn't currently making him fat at all.

Here are things that he doesn't like:
- spring mix or baby lettuce (doesn't have a "crunch" like iceberg)
- shredded cabbage (tastes weird)
- shredded mexican blend sargento (tastes weird)
- any salad dressing that is not Italian and a very specific Italian (Wishbone)
- spaghetti squash and most other vegetables
- pickles
- cole slaw
- raisins, nuts, fruit (except for smoothies I make which surprised the hell out of me)
- soft corn tortillas
- ketchup, mustard, relish, sour cream, taco sauce, hot sauce

Here is what he likes:
- Doritos
- Kraft mac and cheese (not the generic)
- Red Baron deep dish pizzas
- Yellow blocks of cheddar
- cereal (sweet kind)
- soda
- bread and pasta
- ice cream sandwiches
- some sort of cheese dip that comes in a can

I'm listing these things so maybe someone can see a pattern of some sort. Is he some kind of super taster? He's one of the cilantro tastes like soap people.

I do not harp on him at all. I've gotten him to try things a few times when he said he's never had it. He sometimes likes things, but very very rarely. I got him to try almond milk with granola and dates and he was incredibly surprised it tasted good (I was surprised he liked it!). But other than that and the smoothies, he rarely likes anything that I like. I am not sitting here saying "you should eat healthier". I eat what I eat, he eats what he eats. We eat together at my house maybe once a week. I've eaten at his place, but other than breakfast (eggs and bacon! yum!), the iceberg lettuce salad with chunks of yellow cheese and Wishbone italian dressing made me feel kind of sick. I did not say a thing to him because I am trying to be..well, not a Food Nazi. I don't expect him to have special food for me at his place.

My concerns are:
- for him - he is eating himself to a heart attack. hopefully he goes in for a check up and the doctor will say something.
- for me - If/when we start living together, I only have so much willpower. I am able to resist donuts at work 95% of the time these days. I sometimes will have pizza or some bread when out on the weekends if we're dining out. But that's about it. I've tried to keep some food he likes here and I found it very, very difficult to deal with having it here. I don't think I have a food addiction problem, this is just like all those askmes where the answer is "don't keep stuff in the house you don't want to eat".

Please feel free to tell me this is all on me and I just need to buck up and not eat the crap I don't want to. It's just that for a long time, I've viewed my house as my safe place. There is no temptation here. I don't have cable so I don't sit and watch tv all the time. I don't have cereal so I don't just sit and eat cereal all the time. I'm ok with him liking different foods, hell, if he wanted kimchee around all the time or liked duck eggs or shrimp, totally fine. It's just that he subsists on the things that have been personal battles for me to overcome. And they're back.

And I don't know what to do.
posted by McSockerson The Great to Human Relations (48 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
It is your issue, but you seem well aware of that so there's not much need to keep beating yourself up about it.

And yes, I applaud your instinct about not harping on his food choices. He's an adult, he gets to decide what he wants to eat.

Would having separate cabinets/fridge shelves be enough? I'm unclear whether you're thinking of moving into a new place with him or whether one of you is going to move into the other's place (or whether this is all super-hypothetical at this point), so I don't know if you know what the food-storage options are going to be, but maybe he can keep all his stuff totally separate from yours. And if you are totally unable to avoid it even if you're not actually seeing it, maybe a lock on his cabinet?

I would recommend talking to a dietician and/or therapist if what I've suggested doesn't seem like enough to maintain your "safe place." Not because you're broken or weird or ill, but just because you need to find a food plan that doesn't cause you so much angst.
posted by jaguar at 10:04 PM on May 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

(Also, the pattern of what he likes is "sweet/carb-y foods that trigger a sense of comfort in most human beings." We're pretty much all wired to like those types of foods, because they give us short bursts of energy and enough calories to deal with aggressive interlopers and famine. It's not worth fighting him about this. If you decide you can't deal with him being not-very-adventurous with food choices, that's fine, but you can't argue him out of comfort eating.)
posted by jaguar at 10:09 PM on May 3, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Dude, you've got to talk to him about this. Tell him what you're saying here --- that it's been a real struggle for you to learn to eat healthier, and you're afraid with that much temptation around you'll slip back into old habits, and you know that if you do you'll be unhappy and upset with yourself. Make it clear to him that this is on you, but you need some help from him to deal with it, and see if he can come to some compromise about it --- whether that's getting his junk food fix outside the house, or maybe buying some stuff in smaller quantities so it's not sitting around tempting you. And if he is willing to do that for you, leave it there --- don't try to talk him in to eating more like you do.

Because otherwise it sounds like this is maybe a dealbreaker for you --- or at least means you ought not to move in together. Some people have successful relationships without doing that, of course. Whatever you do, don't just let this lie unspoken and hope it fixes itself --- you'll be stressed out and resentful if you can't chill in your own house without feeling like your willpower's being tested every second, and he won't understand why. It seems like you at least have some grounds for compromise here --- lettuce and cheese are still good, right? Try and find more. I think your instinct to avoid nagging the dude over his eating habits is on point, but your eating habits and how they affect you are an important thing and you're not wrong to give your needs there some priority as well. Everybody's got to make some compromises in a relationship --- you need this one from him. It may turn out that he doesn't even care that much about whether he has frozen pizza waiting for him back at home as long as he can pick up a slice for lunch or order in domino's when he feels like it.
posted by Diablevert at 10:16 PM on May 3, 2014 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Things he does not like:

Things he does like:
no/low effort
girlfriend with a good body

If you really want to move in with someone without the stipulation that they get the objectively garbage food out of your living space, I would recommend approaching it from the perspective of catering to things you know he likes. Keep hard boiled eggs or prepared meats in the fridge to easily snack on cold/microwave and try to have a meal cooked that conforms to what you like when you know he will be hungry (right after work/school?). As for personal temptations, I would recommend getting the most egregious/tempting offenders out of the fridge/pantry with the "this is really hard for me to be around when I want to look good for you" angle.

That being said, this does not sound like he eats like a pig. This sounds like he eats like a child. Our diet is what sustains us, and gives us energy to be able to address the things that we need to deal with during the day. Do you remember how lethargic/hungry/miserable you could feel when your diet was mismanaged like that? Adults don't make decisions to sustain themselves with food like that. You aren't being a food nazi in addressing this with him, you are asking him to act like an adult.

Good luck.
posted by GooseOnTheLoose at 10:23 PM on May 3, 2014 [23 favorites]

Response by poster: I can see that knowing the living situation would matter.

He would be moving into my house if we decided to cohabitate.

I thought I was being judgy by thinking that his diet does seem like a child's diet. I loved all that stuff as a kid. But I guess it's not just me who sees that in the list of his likes. He does sleep a lot. But I figured it was his job.

I need to work on some ways to discuss this with him down the road.
I like the idea of bringing it up as I look better when there is not a box of Honey Nut cheerios in the house or ice cream sandwiches in the freezer.

He does exercise to some extent - plays some sports and we play one together. I exercise several times a week so the idea of healthy living is not completely foreign to him. I haven't always liked spaghetti squash either, but I also didn't like my weight or energy then.

I haven't been to talk therapy in a while but maybe I should give her a ring and try to work this out with myself first. I can see that this is about my not being assertive about a need. Our relationship is otherwise fantastic and he is like my best friend. We've had some serious convos about sex issues so you'd think food would be easy :)

But this is going to be really hard for me to bring up and I hadn't really thought about in terms of a need rather than me demanding someone change for me.

Thanks for the answers so far. This is helpful.
posted by McSockerson The Great at 10:37 PM on May 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is an actual disorder. Feel free to memail me if you want to talk about it. He can get better because it's not really sustainable OR pleasant for him. Trust me, imagine "not liking" the vast majority of foods most people do... Yeah, our society has a lot of events and traditions centered around food.

But it's pretty unknown which is why some answers here are just "Tell him to act like an adult." Not sure you'd say that to someone with a more common eating disorder...

It is in the DSM V.

posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:41 PM on May 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

He's eating his way to much more than a heart attack. It's just a matter of which of many illnesses or debilitations comes first.
posted by Blitz at 10:46 PM on May 3, 2014

It's just that he subsists on the things that have been personal battles for me to overcome. And they're back.

This is the sign that these issues are yours to solve, not his. Which isn't to say that that's fair or easy, man. It really sucks, in fact. But it is true.

My SO doesn't really *object* to much, but given his druthers he'd pretty much eat pizza and tacos 24/7. If we eat something decently nutritious, it's because I bought and cooked it, but mostly...we eat pretty terribly. I was at my thinnest when I met him, and I've gained around 7-8 lbs since, and yes, it makes me incredibly anxious sometimes. So I don't want to sound like I don't know where your concerns are coming from, because I'm living them.

So from your (possible) future, I can offer you the following advice:

First thing: no diet plan that depends upon the complete eradication of 95% of temptation is long-term sustainable. My advice on this would be to find a nutritionist who could help you design a more sustainable maintenance plan so that you can feel "safe" in more of the world, you know?

Second thing: although you mention the tangible benefits of your new habits, your relationship with food seems to be one primarily of terror and dread. Food Terror is really effective at two things: weight loss, and ruining the entire rest of your life. AGAIN: NOT YOUR FAULT. Our culture teaches women that this is the only acceptable way to think of food. But because you mention depression meds, and that this diet assuages your depression, I want to float the following tiny balloon:

Is it possible that you may have a problematic level of anxiety in general, which you currently soothe by controlling your diet very strictly? I am just asking because your level of anxiety seems to be really high, and you seem to circle back continually to "how will i control myself, I cannot."

Finally: yes, if you live with him, you may gain some weight. But if you do, the world will not end. But the key is not to change HIM, it's to open up to him about your struggles with food and your anxieties about it. If he is a good guy, he'll love every inch of you, and if he's a great guy, he won't even notice there are one or two more inches. And if he's an amazeballs guy, he will be happy to be on Team OP, and help you both tackle your anxieties and stay on track with being healthier.

If he is not a good, great, amazeballs guy in these ways, then he is not the guy for you--but that would be true even if he existed on pure kale.
posted by like_a_friend at 10:47 PM on May 3, 2014 [28 favorites]

If his food is in a separate, locked cabinet and a second fridge with a lock would that work? Perhaps locating them in your garage?
And having things you like to eat at his home SHOULD be expected, falling under the category of "easy things to make girlfriend happy"
posted by Sophont at 10:52 PM on May 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Personally I don't think his diet is a healthy one, and I wouldn't want to have some of that stuff he likes in my house, but 1) I doubt you can fundamentally change him, and 2) I think it's speculative (especially since you didn't say he has a red meat eating habit) to say he's eating his way to a heart attack. There are many factors that contribute to any individual's health, including diet, exercise, stress, environment, and genetics. I'm not saying it's good for him to eat the way he does, but he still could outlive a lot of people who eat healthier than he does.
posted by Dansaman at 11:00 PM on May 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: OnTheLastCastle ... wow that link was interesting and not what I expected. He has many texture/smell things for food.

like_a_friend ... Just to clarify, it matters to ME that I maintain the weight I'm at. I lost this weight and made these changes long before him. And I'm not expecting no temptation ever. I just feel that my home should be my haven. I do have anxiety. My anxiety increases when I have a shitty diet and can't engage in the physical activities I would like to and feel tired all the time. This has nothing to do with being skinny, it has to do with being fit and happy. I am anxious over this potential situation because I was very unhappy when I ate the way he does and do not want to slide back down that slope.

I hope that helps clarify my anxiety feelings about this.
posted by McSockerson The Great at 11:23 PM on May 3, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: My husband has no willpower problems with junk food, while I do. Although he does eat healthy food too, he likes to have chocolate, cookies, chips, ice cream, sugary cereals, pies etc around at home for when he feels like them. I don't like to ask him to keep them out of the house, because I know it makes him happy.

What does work for us is that I always ask him to buy my least favourite flavours of things. For example, I don't like chicken flavoured chips (ugh, so fake tasting), or peanut chocolate, or plain vanilla ice cream, or sugar-glazed donuts, or plain cookies. So he buys those, and almost never buys my real temptations like salt and vinegar chips, peppermint chocolate, chocolate ice cream, plain donuts or ginger cookies. That helps a lot. I have to be pretty desperate before I start digging into the vanilla ice cream, or cracking open the homebrand chocolate chip cookies.

Are there variants of his favourite foods that you don't like (as much) and would be less tempted by if they were in the house?
posted by lollusc at 11:49 PM on May 3, 2014 [32 favorites]

I understand - your way is, arguably, the easiest way to keep things under control. Stick to the (very filling, satisfying) menu, no temptation. But there are other ways, if you do find you want to try a middle ground.

Could you eat independently some days of the week, share some meals, and limit the pizza in the house to 1-2 days a week? You'd have to count calories, though. If he buys small, single servings of KD and cheddar, it's maybe doable. More expensive and more waste, it's true (though some can be recycled), but portion control at the point of purchase can really help minimize willpower issues. (E.g. - instead of a huge brick of chocolate, you buy two squares, which means you can only have the two squares.)

Chips, honestly, he could and should probably just save for outside of the house; that stuff's like crack and tops at least one list of things that help people gain weight.

Is there any overlap? Grilled, barbecued, or roast beef or pork maybe, with a baked potato for him? Salads are easy enough to manage independently, but you could also try to mix up half iceberg and half baby spinach or something (could you?), with dressing on the side.

He could do with more veg (fruit, eh). Does he like any vegetables at all? Eggplant, mushrooms, tomatoes? Putting them in casseroles, stews and soups can work with picky eaters who are young, and some veg benefits from heat. At least he'd be getting something in.

You could try to convert him to sharp cheddar, which isn't easy to eat in volume. Gradually bring in older and older cheese, until he needs it to be ancient.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:52 PM on May 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was fat, sloppy and depressed. I lost 60 pounds by not keeping junk food (or much food at all) in my place. I starved myself thin, but it feel really good. I looked better, I felt better, I was proud of what I'd achieved. When I was feeling like a total loser, I could at least say, Hey, I lost 60 freaking pounds. For years after that I kept as much food as I needed around, and no more than that. And I actually kept the weight off.

Then I moved in with my girlfriend, who refused to get on board with my empty cupboards thing. I quickly re-gained 40 pounds, and have been struggling to lose them ever since. I feel gross and I'm disappointed with myself pretty much every day.

Good luck.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 12:52 AM on May 4, 2014 [9 favorites]

Best answer: This is not bout your diet, this is about your anxiety and this is not just your problem, once you move in together it is gonna be a problem for the two of you to solve.

Imagine that instead of your food problem, you are extremely afraid of or allergic to dogs and your boyfriend is a dog lover and owner. If your two would move in together, this would be a problem and even though you're the one with the fear/allergy, this is not just your problem to solve, it would have to be a team effort. He cannot expect you to just get rid of your fear or 'cure' your allergies, that would be insane. Instead, you would have to talk about it and compromize, find a solution. I'm not saying your boyfriend should give up his dog for you, but you would have to make rules to make it work.

Your food problem is the same thing. If you want one day to move in , you should talk to him about it and make compromizes. Just tell him what you did here, that it's about your struggle with junk food and wanting your home to be a safe haven. You could come up with solutions like a seperate fridge with a lock or him only ordering food in. Just like it would be insane for the boyfriend with a dog to force his girlfriend to live with his dog without finding a solution or having some rules to accomodate for her fear/allergies, it would be insane if you move in with your boyfriend and not have talked about/found solutions for your food related problems.

This is a hard conversation to have, especially because it's easy for it to be misunderstood for criticism or you trying to force him to change his diet. (Especially for people who are aware their diet is not really good for them, they tend to feel judged a lot.) On the other hand, you should not feel guilty about your issues and try to accomodate him too much. If he dismisses your problems and is not willing to compromize, this would have to be a red flag for you.
posted by leopard-skin pill-box hat at 1:40 AM on May 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

Mr. Tristeza here,

The people who think you two can eat separately are being silly. Sharing meals is a fundamental part of human relationships. The answer is not to re-invent the human relationship. This is a problem people have had - and solved - since the invention of people.

Someday you may have children. Do you want to be in a family or a bunch of people who eat their separate foods in front of their individual TVs? Living together is about living TOGETHER. Living together is not a matter of shopping for the right set of habits, it's a LEARNED skill you master and re-master.

There is nothing intrinsic in him that makes him like these foods. Red Baron pizza is not fundamental to his inner being and neither will a little gluten hurt you. You will LEARN to eat together and enjoy it because if you think this is a big deal, you are in for some very unpleasant surprises down the road.

For my own part, I LOVE very hot, spicy food. Tristeza orders her (and therefore our) Thai with zero stars.

You know how much I miss hot food when I'm holding our little girl??? Do I really have to tell you?

You're young (I assume). Learn to make
pizza together and have lots of sex. Do the grocery shopping and "forget" to buy chips. Always have a salad with meals. Make his lunch. Have a chip. Gain five pounds. This is what people do.
posted by tristeza at 1:47 AM on May 4, 2014 [17 favorites]

Your boyfriend's diet sounds like my husband's used to, and my husband is in fact a supertaster (as confirmed by 23andme). I'm pretty sure I'm a non taster. It's really difficult and we haven't found a perfect solution - there has been compromise on both sides.

The difference with your situation, though, is that my husband has had weight problems and really did want to change his diet. We tried a lot of experimentation and found the foods we both like which, strangely enough, tend towards middle eastern things. He loves hummus now, and olives, pita bread, halloumi, dates, etc. He also like strawberries, melon, and grapes. And he still has iceberg salad which won't kill him. We do make pizza from scratch now, too, and each have things we like on our sides (cheese and mushrooms for him, and a shocking combination of goats cheese, anchovies, and jalapeños for me). You can google lists of foods that supertasters tend to like and see if he's interested in trying them.

I completely understand what you're saying about wanting to stay healthy and not keep temptation in the house and I think any poster who downplays the importance of that is wrong. It must have taken a huge amount of effort to lose the weight and get healthy and it's very understandable you're concerned about backtracking. You've got to talk this through with him and just maybe, hopefully, he'll be willing to change for health reasons, too.
posted by hazyjane at 2:07 AM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think you're kidding yourself if you think he can eat the same kind of diet you can eat while he works a highly demanding physical job. You're not going to get by on vegetables and salads while burning 4000 calories a day or whatever. He probably eats carbs because he needs carbs to do the work he needs to do.

Yeah, it's weird that he dislikes all the things he apparently dislikes. He should probably work on that. But someone with a sedentary lifestyle and someone with a demanding physical job simply cannot eat the same diet and both be healthy.
posted by Justinian at 3:10 AM on May 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

Even if you get your boyfriend to 'behave', you will have carbs in your house once you have kids. Your safe space diet is not sustainable. My take is that if you're strongly craving carbs/junk, then you're not getting enough of the good stuff - fat, protein, green vegetables. At least that's what happens to me. Try to tweak your nutrition so you feel actually satiated - not just full. For me, having a too high carb level (even from healthy stuff like dates) means constant craving. If I'm eating fewer carbs, and more fat/protein, I have zero trouble walking past the cookie jar.
posted by The Toad at 4:20 AM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think that the people telling you to deal with it and learn to compromise and conveniently forget to buy chips when you go grocery shopping read a different question than I read. OP these are fundamental differences that you need to decide are dealbreakers or not, before you start talking about moving in together. It sounds like this relationship is relatively new still, and this may be your first challenge. It's not just about food - it's about partnership.

Whatever changes you hope to see - make sure they're in place (not just talked about) before you cohabitate. The last thing you want is for food-stress/arguments to become a central part of your relationship. And you don't want to have him start to feel food-shame and be sneaking doritos in the dark because they're not on the approved list.
posted by headnsouth at 4:34 AM on May 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: This isn't about food. It's about how a person chooses to care for themselves. It's about having a healthy lifestyle and making choices where you can have a long life.

Your boyfriend does not see the validity in eating a healthy diet. Unless he's been living under a rock, he knows he's choosing to eat things that could give him diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease and all sorts of health issues down the line. People know about good nutrition and he is choosing to ignore this knowledge and instead eat crap, crap that possibly will shorten his life.

Replace the food with smoking or being a couch potato. It's the same thing. People know that overly processed foods aren't good for health, and he consistently chooses to eat incredibly processed crap.

I don't see this question being about your anxiety at all. I see that you're with someone who is engaged in self-destructive (or wildly immature and ignorant) behavior and I think he needs some type of wake up call with perhaps a doctor or a screening of "Fast Food Nation."

I think your larger issue is about being with someone who engages in self destructive behaviors. That's where my head would be; that the food he chooses as fuel is just not healthy, and you don't want to be with someone who willfully damages their health.

I think it's fine to support him and learn to cook and eat healthily together. I also think it's okay, after talking with him, to recognize that someone who chooses to eat crap is making a choice and it's fine for you to not be okay with that choice.
posted by kinetic at 4:59 AM on May 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: His diet is like so many busy single (not living with SO) people I know in the sense that he's not cooking/preparing good healthy meals for himself, whether he doesn't have the interest or the time. Not everyone is into cooking and preparing food. After a long day at work, mac and cheese, frozen pizza, or cereal are staples for the person who doesn't "cook" - they are quick and easy to make, require very little time for clean up, and provide all those comfort carbs. And if you're going to make (and eat) a whole box of mac and cheese, why bother with a side veggie or salad? That is going to be more time cooking and cleaning. He buys foods that have long shelf lives - dry in the cupboard or frozen in the freezer, forget the fresh fruits/veggies that will go bad. Even how to chose and prepare ripe/fresh foods is like a mystery to him. Sound familiar?

You said he liked the granola with almond milk - you were on the right track - taking the foods he likes (and finds convenient) and modifying them to be more healthy. Can you make him pizza but with healthier ingredients? I've seen many friends with these eating habits change once they are living with someone who is either making their meals or they are cooking together. Try having some "in the kitchen" date nights where you plan, go shopping, and prepare a meal together.
posted by NoraCharles at 5:25 AM on May 4, 2014 [10 favorites]

This is probably going to sound dumb and self help-y (and it is self help-y), but I'm going to recommend a book that was genuinely helpful to me: How to Have Your Cake and Your Skinny Jeans Too. I see myself in large sections of your question - the terror of keeping 'unapproved' foods in the house, the certainty that going off-plan will lead to weight gain - and while many of the suggestions upthread might be helpful for getting your boyfriend onboard, this particular book was really useful for me in tackling my own fears of food.

Good luck!
posted by littlegreen at 5:37 AM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: These differences could be a deal breaker and you need to talk to him about it. Seriously, no joke, no pussy footing around, you need to bring this up much sooner than later. 'Cause now he thinks things are ok, when they're not.

Could you go to therapy and have this issue become less of important to you. Probably, but why should you? You've found a way of living that makes you happy (right?) and is healthier for you. Why should have to give that up or alter your ways for him? He isn't doing the same for you.

I don't expect him to have special food for me at his place.

Why not? You do it for him, he should definitely do it for you if he wants this to work.

Talk to him, before things get more serious. It's an issue that needs to be resolved way before you two even consider moving in together.

Otherwise, this is going to be a constant source of tension and it'll end with you two breaking up and you finally feeling a sense of relief as you clear all the junk food out your apartment and go back to what works for you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:50 AM on May 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

First let me say that I don't keep certain foods (like cereal!) in the house either, so I understanding where you are coming from. With that in mind, two things stand out to me.

1) You say in a follow-up "I can see that this is about my not being assertive about a need. [...] But this is going to be really hard for me to bring up"

It sounds like your anxiety may be causing you to put the cart before the horse. You seem to be... projecting? Catastrophizing? Something, because you haven't talked to him at all about this yet. (It's not even clear to me if you have had the moving-in talk yet, either.) There's nothing you've said so far that indicates he won't or can't work with you on this:
- I absolutely dread the idea of having to deal with chips, bread, frozen pizza, cereal, etc in the house.
- I'm just afraid that if we start living together I am going to have temptation everywhere
- If/when we start living together
- I did not say a thing to him because I am trying to be..well, not a Food Nazi. I don't expect him to have special food for me at his place.
- I need to work on some ways to discuss this with him down the road.
Before you do anything else you need to talk to him about your concerns! If it's premature to have the "how will things work when/if we live together?" talk, it may be premature to worry about it just yet. Some of the other points are just how people live when they live alone (or without their SO). Living with someone requires sacrifices and compromises from both parties on a host of issues, always. And just because he lives one way on his own it doesn't mean that's the way he will, can, even want to live with an SO.

I don't think I have a food addiction problem, this is just like all those askmes where the answer is "don't keep stuff in the house you don't want to eat”

Interestingly, you frame your problem as one of willpower, and someone upthread pointed out that your boyfriend may have an actual eating disorder. If that was the case, I'd say it would actually be on you to make the extra effort regarding food compromises (or vice-versa, of course.) That leads me to the other thing that stood out to me:

2) Your question is focused on your boyfriend's diet and how that affects you, but the truth is your diet is also very strict. In fact, someone could have really posted a similar question, wondering how they were going to deal with possibly not being able to keep any of the foods they eat in their new, shared home. I know you listed some of his very specific likes and dislikes to determine a pattern, but I think it's a distraction. I don't like 2/3 of the things on his list, either, and I have a very broad palate and don't eat a ton of junk. All that junk food can easily be stashed in a locked drawer. And it's certainly possible to have bad eating habits while consuming healthy foods. I’m not at all saying there’s anything wrong with what or how you eat but your question is about dealing with having the junk food around. Convincing your boyfriend to not want it around either is not the solution to this particular problem.

Finally, the good news!

3) You’ve already been making this work!
It's just that he subsists on the things that have been personal battles for me to overcome. [..] I’ve eaten at his place, but other than breakfast (eggs and bacon! yum!), the iceberg lettuce salad with chunks of yellow cheese and Wishbone italian dressing made me feel kind of sick
He does not subsist on those just those things! He eats meat and eggs and you eat paleo! When you live together, you can have 100 different kinds of salad dressings!* And he can have his yellow chunks of cheese and you don’t have to have any cheese! For "brevity’"s sake I won’t reproduce the list here, but his list of dislikes is pretty specific [shredded mexican blend sargento (tastes weird)**]; it’s not like he’s ruling out entire food groups or anything. Really, except for the physical presence of certain foods you two have it easier than a lot of vegetarian/carnivore couples I know.

OP, you are obviously distressed about this and I wish I could just give you a hug. My advice to you is to try to find a distraction for the next seven days and then post another question asking for advice on how to talk your boyfriend about this.

*Do you have a toothbrush at his house? If you do, you can have a bottle of salad dressing, too.
**He's right! Those pre-shredded bags of cheese contain different additives like anti-caking agents to make it shelf stable. On the health front, maybe you can begin to expose him to healthier versions of foods he likes rather than on foods you like. Sharing a meal is not the same as sharing an dish.

posted by Room 641-A at 6:09 AM on May 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Neither of you sound very healthy about food. He has a very limited, almost-entirely-unhealthy palate, and you have a lot of anxiety about even being around junk food. I have a feeling that eating as a shared, social activity can be stressful for both of you - not just with each other, but with anyone else. Both of you would benefit from moving a little more towards the middle of the spectrum, whether you stay together or not.

The hardest part is that there's almost zero overlap between you, so there's no identifiable middle for you to meet in. It'll be easier for you to change: you eat healthily already, and for the most part all you need to do is learn to be comfortable with a bag of chips in the pantry (and it is a fantastic feeling to see a bag of chips in the pantry and shrug, or to forget you had a quart of ice cream in the freezer, so I enthusiastically recommend getting to this point). It'll be harder for him to change, since he likes so few foods that are any good for him, but he's the one who really needs to change. It'd be a struggle for him no matter what your eating habits were.

So far, your approach has been good: introduce him to new foods, but don't push. It might be a good idea for you guys to eat at restaurants more often, if you can afford it - not all the time, but once or twice a week. It'll sidestep the issue of "his food" and "your food" while letting you both choose your level of healthiness and get exposed to what the other person's eating. Somewhere like a create-your-own stir-fry place might be good: he can load up on meat and noodles, and you can have something filled with veggies (and hopefully he'll be curious to try some of yours). Or buffets, so he can try a bunch of different things but go back to comfort food, and you can practice choosing the right amount of food in the face of unlimited junk. Alternate between restaurants you pick and ones he picks.

As an aside: how old are you guys? People in their early to mid-twenties can often get away with eating nothing but processed crap; their metabolisms can handle it and they don't notice any ill effects on their digestion, mood, energy levels, etc. And if you're not very good at cooking for yourself, or don't see any benefit to it, you'll choose the junk. If he's young, he may start to feel the effect of all that junk in five or ten years, but after that many more years of eating the same crap, it'll be even harder for him to change.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:58 AM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Everyone here is pretty focused on your needs but what about his needs? Why should he have to do XYZ just because you do? Relationships require compromise. I think you should learn to live with having some things in the house you don't eat.

While my brother doesn't eat much sweets anymore, he eats a ton. He can eat 3/4 pound of pasta in one sitting, or most of a large pizza, or several hamburgers. He's also extremely fit and muscular. It is extremely difficult to have a physically demanding job without carbs. If you need to lock up certain foods, or hide them in the back of the freezer/fridge, that's okay but there lies no happiness if you try to get him to eat how you do. And you know what? The data on what leads to health issues is not as clearcut as you believe. Even the maligned satuarated fat isn't as straightforward as we've been lead to believe.

After my own experiences, I don't think food policing works well and can often lead to resentment. You both need to be comfortable if you live together. If you can't live with his eating habits, than maybe this is a dealbreaker for you. That's a fine conclusion to come to, because working manual labor is a physically active job so obviously you need more than just active if it comes to that.
posted by Aranquis at 7:05 AM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

It sort of sounds like you would be happier not cohabitating, but if you want to give it a try-- how about you do the shopping and cooking as you always have and he can supplement it with his own foods? Then you can experiment with how much of the problem foods you can deal with in your house. It's possible he could bring in whatever he wants on the day, and throw away any leftovers or take them to work. This is the kind of solution people come up with on diet support boards (Weight Watchers etc). I think saying, "Look, I'm finding it hard to have those potato chips in the cupboard calling out to me" is better, relationship-wise, than telling him he can never have potato chips in the house from the get go. That's if you make an honest effort to adapt, of course.
posted by BibiRose at 7:12 AM on May 4, 2014

Best answer: "the iceberg lettuce salad with chunks of yellow cheese and Wishbone italian dressing made me feel kind of sick"

You know what, it's possible that you won't even like the taste of Doritos/Kraft mac and cheese/Red Baron deep dish pizzas/sweet cereal/ice cream sandwiches anymore, now that you've discovered how tasty veggies and healthy meals are!
I could not stomach that crap because it tastes fake, overly salty/sweet and very fatty. Your taste buds may have adapted to your "new normal" diet.
posted by travelwithcats at 7:17 AM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

There are really two separate issue here: how you can eat together with such different tastes, and how you can avoid snacking on his junk food if it's in the house.

My husband and I had pretty different tastes when we moved in - for one thing I'm vegetarian and he isn't. I also ate a lot of rice with thai curries, indian curries, spicy rice, pilaf, etc, while he ate mostly pasta.

You need to talk to him now before you move in to find some middle ground (in our case it is vegetarian pasta, but my husband's tastes have also changed over the past 15yrs and he now likes spicier food anyway). We have also found new food neither of us ate before (turkish, korean) which suits both of us. Literally open some paleo cookbooks and ask if he likes the sound of various things until you have four or five recipes he's willing to try.

I have a lot of control over the food because I do the food shopping and cook most of the time - you may find that if your boyfriend is coming home from work hungry he'll happily eat whatever's put in front of him. Another thing we do is food with different components - so if we're eating mezze he might have some meat while I'll skip that. He often adds chorizo to pasta once my portion is on my plate. We make breakfast burritos and his will have meat in while mine won't. So we're still cooking together and eating the same meal, but with some substitutions. Maybe in your case you could eat ratatouille with a green salad, he could mix in into pasta and cover it in cheese. I make an amazing roast veggies with halloumi and pesto that I eat with rice - you could give that to him, you could skip the rice and add salad. You get the idea.

Because I have planned the meals in advance, there's much less 'oh lets just buy a takeaway' - if we do that it messes my plan up and food gets wasted. That might work for you too. When I'm back late from work or class and he's eating on his own, he can make whatever he wants so he still gets his meaty food once or twice a week. Do you do a gym class or some other hobby that finishes late? Your boyfriend could pick up a box of macaroni cheese on his way home that night if he's really missing it (then it will be eaten and in the bin by the time you get home). He can also buy his own lunches, so really it's only five or six meals a week that are your choice. There will be some way of adapting your diet so that he can eat it and be happy and you don't have to eat food that makes you unwell - you just need to discuss it. Somebody mentioned above that his diet is all long-life low-prep food - you may be seriously surprised at what he will eat if it's all done for him. What will he eat in restaurants? Does he eat curries or chinese food, because those can certainly be made healthy and paleo-friendly if you're cooking at home. Most people would not turn down a nice steak with a few veggies and potatoes on the side - I really think of that kind of thing as super-inoffensive. If he's fine with that, see what he thinks to a tuna steak next.

For the snack food, you may just find that labelling the snack food as 'his' is enough - you wouldn't eat a co-worker's lunch out of the work fridge no matter how delicious it looked, and you probably won't eat your boyfriend's special biscuits out of his special box in the fridge. As long as you can think of them as 'not yours to eat' you will probably be fine. Make sure in advance that he doesn't offer you any.

The bigger issue honestly is likely to be portion size - it's really hard to serve yourself half what you are giving him, but if he's doing a manual job that is probably how much he needs to eat. I have definitely struggled with that - I eat much less on my own than I do with my husband. I actually find having a half potion but filling the gap on the plate with some salad works quite well and I don't feel deprived then, so maybe the fact your boyfriend doesn't like salad will work in your favour.
posted by tinkletown at 7:33 AM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think you need to keep separate food for the most part, if he isn't gaining weight right now then he at least needs this quantity of calories to sustain his current weight and he's not going to get it on the food that you need to maintain YOUR current weight. So, you cook separately for most meals, and you keep his food in a particular place that you absolutely know that it is not your food to eat. You can't just have a soda because it's his soda. You can't just throw that frozen pizza in the oven because it's not your pizza. It is a more roommate way of doing things, but imagine if you were lactose-intolerant, it would not be at all weird to have two things of milk in the fridge and the understanding that he's not supposed to drink your almond milk because then you might run out of almond milk, and he's got his own.

It just being in the house is not the cause of the temptation. If you had a friend come visit and bring a Coke in, you wouldn't just start drinking their soda, because it's not yours, right? Just draw the line and make it sacrosanct. The place where he needs to be supportive on this is knowing that it's not okay to offer you his food, that he needs to be a hard liner about it even if he doesn't really feel that strongly, for your sake.

I am not a vegetarian and lived for several years with someone who was and we had a lot of separate food, and while I'm perfectly capable of eating veggie burgers, knowing they Weren't For Me was enough to keep hands off. In a way, it was actually kind of a relationship positive, because it required us to both be in the kitchen for dinner prep, it wasn't something that could just get foisted off on one person. We'd be cooking together, just different things, and then sit down to eat together, just different things.
posted by Sequence at 7:57 AM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Right now your food issues are screaming OMG PANIC at me through the Internet. I honestly don't think you two should move in together. Possibly not at all ever, but certainly not any time soon. You really don't sound like you are in a mental place right now to be able to cope with him having anything he wants to eat in the house. It'd probably be a good idea to talk to your old therapist and maybe some nutritionist about How Not To Lose Control Over The Doritos, if you have to. Maybe you can adjust to it with time, but right now it sounds like it'd doom your relationship to take this step when you are clearly freaked out and miserable at the idea. You're not ready yet to share food and cope with temptation. This is something that's going to have to evolve with you, not just be jumped into at one go.

I really have to commend you for not wanting to dictate what he eats and not trying to nag the shit out of him to eat healthy. That's something most folks in your position would not do (you've got the moral right of Healthy on your side, it makes things much easier for you to convert him, etc.), so as a person who hates cooking and probably eats similarly to your dude enough to freak you out, I appreciate it.

The only reasonable options I can think of for you right now are:
(a) you keep your house, he moves into an apartment closer to where you live and just visits a lot. Remember, there are married couples out there who live apart and it works great for them (Robert and Joan Parker, for example).
(b) he gets his own cabinets and fridge at your place and puts locks on them.

Actually, the latter one isn't a bad idea to try out as a test run. Get one locking cabinet at your house for his Doritos stash and see how well you can deal with it when he visits.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:17 AM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: There's quite a variety of responses. I want to address some things:

- I'm not sure where the idea that I have a strict diet comes from. I eat a wide variety of things, including a large amount of protein - chicken, beef, eggs. His list of things he likes is much stricter. Cheeseburger - no lettuce, tomato, onion, mustard or ketchup. Tacos - just meat and cheese. Kraft mac & cheese, not anything else.

- We are in our 30s.

- Portion control is not the issue. If we have tacos, he does eat about twice as much as me. That's fine. I have no trouble with that.

- I own my home, he rents, so that's why it would be him moving in with me.

- The idea of just cooking and him eating it is something I could try. Maybe he just hasn't had spaghetti squash prepared in a good way. Or I could make that butternut squash mac & cheese (but with rice pasta) and see how that goes.

I had a conversation with him this morning about food. Turns out he doesn't like my smoothies very much because there are bits of stuff in it and they should be smoother. Also, could I put sugar in it? He likes the kind made with ice cream and the processed smoothie mix. I told him I could try adding rice or almond ice cream or some yogurt. He made a face and laughed and said maybe.

I told him, as was suggested above, that it was hard for me to lose the weight that I did and that I did that by not keeping pizza and mac & cheese in the house. I do indulge sometimes when dining out, but I keep the stuff out of my house. He understood that and said to not keep things here for him then and he was ok with that. I told him I was concerned about his long-term health since he doesn't really eat any vegetables. He said he does, I asked which ones...corn, broccoli, green beans, carrot. I ran down the list of things I will be getting in my CSA box and he didn't like any of them except for those. (This convo was all fine actually. He finds it amusing that I would rather make stuff from scratch than buy it or that I can turn down Kraft Dinner.)

I do appreciate all the suggestions and observations here. It is a bit of panic because the last time I lived with someone, they repeatedly did not care about my attempts to lose weight while at the same time giving me a bunch of shit about how I looked. I was really unhappy with my weight then and was borderline obese. I am not super skinny now (150 lbs at 5'5", i used to be 185), but I am MUCH happier now for many reasons.

Also, something that I picked up on in this thread. Maybe it's because I'm not around those foods anymore that I think it will be hard. But whoever said it is probably correct...I'm not going to like the taste of doritos or sour cream & onion chips as much anymore. Microwave pizzas are a little harder, but I think once I'm used to the idea that they are here, I could have one anytime I want, but I am choosing not is the way to go. That maybe years ago it was hard because I wanted those things so much, but maybe it won't be as hard now because I know that while they will have that familiar taste, they don't make me feel good later.

Again, I really do appreciate everything everyone has said here. It has made me less fearful and allowed me to start a dialogue with him that I was really afraid to do. This has also made me realize I've probably conquered my demons with food more fully than I had realized...that I will be able to see a pizza at home and rather than pine away for it and think I'm being denied, enjoy making my own almond crust pizza that I know tastes so much better and won't put into a carb coma later.
posted by McSockerson The Great at 8:52 AM on May 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

I've eaten at his place, but other than breakfast (eggs and bacon! yum!), the iceberg lettuce salad with chunks of yellow cheese and Wishbone italian dressing made me feel kind of sick. I did not say a thing to him because I am trying to be..well, not a Food Nazi. I don't expect him to have special food for me at his place.

This is the part that raised my eyebrow. I don't expect the people I'm dating to have special food at their place for me either, but they always do. Hell, when I was a vegetarian the guy I was seeing cut all meat out of his diet for a month "just to see what it was like" so he'd know better where we could eat and what we'd both enjoy having. (With zero encouragement or input from me I assure you, he told me he started eating meat again since I didn't seem to care either way, but the gesture really was sweet.)

Now I'm on a diet similar to yours for similar reasons, and every guy I've dated has bought special food for me to keep at their house (one guy got up an hour before me to run to the store so I'd have breakfast. And he was not a morning person.) and send me lists of places to eat asking where I'd like to try, then ordered meals I can eat "in case I wanted to share." And this isn't just one nice dude, it's been all the dudes! And some of them could be real jerks! I also know people who have severe peanut allergies, and they have spouses and relatives who completely stop bringing peanuts and related foods into their houses, even if they don't live together.

I know it's just the "I want to impress you stage", but the fact that your boyfriend never went through that stage isn't stellar. Especially since, with your not refusing food that makes you feel sick at his house or asking for something different, you are trying to impress him and massage his ego. (I would stop that by the way. You're going to be giving him some real twisted mixed messages if you say you don't want to live like that, but then happily lap up his gross salads.)

I just wanted to point out that his staunch "nothing I do will change" behaviour isn't normal or standard. I agree with Onthelastcastle, this sounds like something much deeper.

Honestly, the food habits would probably be a deal breaker for me, not because I'd have a problem not eating the food (my reaction is severe enough that it's very easy for me to avoid), but since I'd only consider moving in with him if I was thinking we would spend the rest of our lives together, and spending the rest of my life with someone who eats like that, and stocks the fridge like that (and potentially expects me to grocery shop like that) just makes me feel very very tired.
posted by Dynex at 8:56 AM on May 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

Couple of notes:
Some friends, a married couple with two kids, have a similar to yours, where he only eats "steaks and potatoes". He'll eat other things, but hates the texture of vegatables and just generally eats more just found. He's a welder and more much active than her. She compensates by cooking full dinners with veggies and stuff, while he just eats the meat.

Other friends, a married couple with three kids, are vegetarian because the guy is a vegetarian. She was ok with that, mostly, while things were going well. But now that they're close to separating, all she does is dream of being an apartment by her herself and being able to eat a cheeseburger anytime she wants and not anymore goodamn pasta.

Our daughter hated vegatables when she under 10 or so. To get veggies in her, we'd just mix them in spaghetti or omelettes and not say mention there were vegetables in them. She ate'em just fine. Perhaps similar techniques might work with him. Just though in some of the stuff you like and serve it, don't mention the stuff and see if he likes ok.

Also, one of the key things is being honest about stuff. If he doesn't like something you've cooked, he should say so and offer an alternative that would work for him, one that's still fairly close to what the dish is. In turn, you should take his suggestions into consideration and not take his dislike as a personal thing.

Or sometimes, you two could cook your separate dishes together. For example, his stuff sounds simple to make, so he can toss some hamburger on the grill and cook it the way he likes, while you're off doing your dish or making hamburgers the way you like, right next to him.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:32 AM on May 4, 2014

For the love of God, please do not manage his diet. He's an adult, it isn't your job to manage his cardiac health, his sleep or his nutrition. Plenty of men in their 20s and a fair percentage in their 30s eat this way, except your boyfriend also eats vegetables (corn, broccoli, green beans, and carrots are vegetables) and salad.

If you want to live together, then make a list of meals he will eat. Try low-carb versions like cauliflower crust pizza and see if he'll eat them. If you can come up with at least five meals, then you are in business. You make a mutually acceptable dinner 5 nights a week, and the other two nights people cook for themselves. He makes mac and cheese or microwaves a pizza while you make a burger and slaw or whatever. You can easily keep two bags of salad in the fridge, one for each of you, and everyone consumes their preferred dressing with dinner.

He can keep his food in a single cupboard, preferably one with a lock on it, and you can just commit to staying out of the freezer.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:27 AM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

OK, so on a practical level, buying him a mini fridge and/or a cabinet and putting a combo lock on it that you don't know the code to will keep you from eating his junk food.

There is a whole lot of food-choice judging up in this thread so all I will say about that is that you should definitely discuss how you will cook/eat together long term. If neither of you are willing to compromise, that's a problem. Compromise doesn't mean you have to start eating cheeseburgers, but figuring out whether you two are ABLE to talk it out and make a plan and respect each other's food choices is the important part.
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:31 AM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Random thoughts:

- Food, and how we choose, prepare, and eat it, is one of the crowning achievements of human culture. Heck, food traditions kind of are human culture. This is not to say that one person's native or adopted food culture is superior to another's (I have my biases, but that's not the point). It is, however, to say that differences in gustatory preferences can be a much bigger deal in a relationship than they might appear to be, on the surface. I don't want to encourage problems/drama where they don't exist, BUT: Upon reflection, can you see elements of your boyfriend's bland, limited, out-of-a-box eating style in other aspects of his personality or his approach to life? If so, do they also fundamentally clash with yours? Is he "apolitical," where you are passionate? Is he uninterested in compromise, where you are open to it (honestly, I'm getting that vibe from your followup)? If these sorts of differences exist, how important are they to you, and your longer-term hopes for the relationship?

- There's no rule that couples have to live together. My ideal would be to have separate apartments in the same building, personally. My girlfriend and I spent the last couple of years living a couple of blocks apart, and the arrangement worked great... For me. She wanted to live together, and we're about half-way moved in to a shared place, now. I saw how important this idea was to her, and how honoring it was a gift to our relationship. I was also able to firmly express the idea of having a legitimately separate space available -- for my mandatory "alone" time -- and include that on our apartment-hunting checklist. Once that was out of the way, I was able to start getting excited about various advantages, myself. Hopefully, your boyfriend can have a similar revelation about your worries/needs surrounding food.

- If the above doesn't happen, differences about food aren't necessarily a death-knell for a relationship. My mom has switched to a gluten-free diet, to improve her chances in dealing with a more serious health issue. My dad has no particular sensitivity, but he's happy to eat "her" food, most of the time. He's also started doing more of the cooking, in part to supply himself with "his" food, when he needs that. They eat "separately" during the day, then share the evening meal (always "her" stuff) every night. They both get the tastes/ingredients that they need, while expressing the shared-meal values that are inherent to both from their upbringing (i.e. food culture). On the other end of the spectrum, I backed out of an otherwise promising relationship opportunity due to food issues; I really vibed off this person, but could tell that her dietary choices were going to clash too strongly with mine (dedicated Vegan vs. passionate Omnivore). Cooking for a partner, and sharing meals, is extremely important to my core concept of a relationship and I didn't think I was up for that level of constant self-denial. Or, if not denial, exactly, then cooking two completely separate things every time (as a former professional cook, the idea of "just adding the meat in later" really rankles). The question for you, I think, would be whether you can envision living side-by-side/"separately" in terms of food; is a detached food thing something you could live with, or does it fly in the face of what "being together" means to you?

- Just to join in on the utterly, completely, unnecessary food-judging and moralizing on this thread (I mean, c'mon guys. Sheesh.)... He's a "cilantro-tastes-like-soap" person? DTMFA.
posted by credible hulk at 10:55 AM on May 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

- I'm not sure where the idea that I have a strict diet comes from.

It's coming from the anxiety you're expressing about having non-approved foods in the house, and the terror that you're expressing that if those foods are in the house, you will not be able to keep yourself from eating them, and the panic that you're expressing that if you eat even a little bit of those foods, you will immediately start gaining weight again.

You said that you're feeling more confident now that you will be able to choose not to eat junk food (because you know it will make you feel physically bad) rather than having to anxiously avoid it, which is a positive step and one that should lessen your anxiety. You might want to read about intuitive eating -- it's basically what you're talking about, and it might give you a much more flexible and calm foundation for interacting with your boyfriend and his food choices.
posted by jaguar at 11:22 AM on May 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

Other people are addressing the larger food issues here, so I'll address a smaller one: My husband is the type of person who is able to eat, say, one Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and leave the rest of the bag behind. I eat the entire bag. What we've done is compromise: anything we buy that's a trigger for me goes into the closet in his office. He has instructions to give it to me without questions if I ask for it, but the mere fact that I have to ask for it keeps me--most of the time--from eating more than a small portion. I've also found that just it being in his space and not my space or our space keeps me from raiding his closet when he's not here. Most of the time.

For the stuff that comes in different flavors (ice cream, M&Ms, chips), we just buy the flavors he likes that I don't and they stay in the kitchen pantry with no problem.
posted by telophase at 12:19 PM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm not concerned about having one bite and gaining weight. I do sometimes eat stuff that is not that healthy, like when we eat out or if there's an office function or I'm at a party.

I think telephase has's more along the lines of I will have mac and cheese tonight. Oh look I didn't gain 10 pounds. I'll have some more. Next thing you know I'm 10 pounds heavier.

I think he will be open to some sort of compromise on stuff. Especially if I'm doing all the cooking :-)
posted by McSockerson The Great at 12:27 PM on May 4, 2014

This is a really hard problem. Like somebody said upthread, food is important. It's how we express togetherness, love, ceremony, values. I think it will be really difficult for the two of you to make this work.

There are a lot of gender traps here that you may or may not care about. Personally I'd be super-unhappy about policing a partner's food intake, or framing this as about him wanting me to look hot, and I also wouldn't want to take total responsibility for figuring this out and making it work. (By, like, doing all the cooking.) I would feel stuffed into a gender role that would make me squirm. YMMV.

A couple of things that might help.

1) I think you need to find the overlap between your tastes, which means doing some experimentation. Tomato-based meals often work okay for people with a limited palate: you could try making gluten-free pizza, or chicken with a tomato-based sauce, or chili. You could try substantial meals in which you skip the carbs and he skips the vegetables. You could try eating the same things, except he adds bread and dessert.

2) I used to know a woman who had trouble not snacking, in a family that snacked a lot. She designated a hallway cupboard for stuff like chips and jarred salsa and cookies. It wasn't locked, but having that food segregated from everything else seemed to help her.

3) I do think you need to be careful not to judge him. It sounds like his nutritional requirements (because his work is physically demanding) are legitimately different from yours. Even if they weren't though, it sounds like he's pretty entrenched in wanting what he wants. You don't want to get in a negative loop of pressuring/hassling/reminding: that would probably end up with both of you hardening your positions and feeling bad.

I would say: talk about this a lot. Figure out whether both your needs can be met. Experiment.
posted by Susan PG at 2:12 PM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hmmmm I think the real question is whether you think you can keep the weight off that you recently lost if you live together and he likes those things that you have avoided by just not having it around.

I think you are realistic in that question. Some of us are addicts when it comes to food. This will be a very tough choice and one of you will have to give a bit. And if neither of you are willing to do this for your relationship then the hard choices will have to come....
posted by OhSusannah at 5:43 PM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

So I didn't read all of these answers (there are so many!) but I read quite a few. I disagree with a lot of the people who are dismissive of your worries about being around junk food. The fast-and-processed-food industry in the U.S. have done a crackerjack (pun intended) job of making their products literally addictive. Add to that the stresses of everyday life AND added pressure as a woman to maintain a certain weight and you have a recipe for diving headfirst into the nearest bag of chips x10. It's not something worth losing sleep over (and you might consider talking with a therapist about it) but it's a justifiable worry.

I personally have lots of issues with food. Luckily my partner is very health conscious and we both agree to not have junk food in the house. If we want ice cream, we'll go out and get it together - same with cookies, cake, and other junk food - but we don't keep it in the house. It would be really hard for me to be with someone who insisted on keeping triggering food in the house.

I don't have any answers for you but I just wanted to say, this is a legitimately tough situation. If you've worked really hard to change your eating patterns permanently, saying "Just eat pizza, gain weight, you'll be fine" is patronizing. Take your needs into account. Would he be able to compromise by keeping his main-dish food on hand (burgers, cheese, etc.) but having Doritos as a only-at-work/in-the-car type of food?
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 8:47 PM on May 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

You lost me when you shuddered at the thought of eating iceburg lettuce and Wishbone Italian dressing. To me, those are a long way from pizza and ice cream and they just don't qualify as junk food. But - I wouldn't even consider moving in with my sweetheart if our food tastes were so far apart because I'd be very afraid that it would become a daily issue that would leave one or the other of us stressed out, which would spoil his enjoyment of his mac and cheese and would be detrimental to the good you're trying to do with your healthy diet - so you'd both lose.

What it comes down to is the old problem of trying to change someone. You could maybe change the way he dresses or the way he gets his hair cut or change his habit of saying "y'know" at the end of every sentence, but when you mess with his food, he's not going to be happy; he'll try, because he cares about you, but his food is his food, as is your own.

As for the DSM-V or the idea that he's eating himself into a heart attack - not necessarily; he's a hard-working man who eats high-energy foods and lots of 'em (remember that it wasn't very long ago that eggs, red meat, and coffee were forbidden fruits, but artificial sweetners were just fine). Your temptation to consume foods that have hurt you in the past puts you in the position of eating healthy whether you want to or not. I'm sorry, but it's pretty well incompatible at the dinner table in my mind. I hope you can figure out a way to be happy with him that doesn't involve sharing meals; I wish you the best.
posted by aryma at 10:40 PM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

OnTheLastCastle has it right. I am 27 and have a diet that is practically identical to the one that your boyfriend has, down to the preferred macaroni brand and the required minimalism of cheeseburgers. (I envy his ability to eat some vegetables.) I recognize that it is unhealthy, and I want to change it, but my body really does reject most vegetables (triggered by certain textures/tastes/smells) as "not food", with gagging and nausea and such. I really think that if I were on a desert island with nothing but broccoli and the like, I would end up starving before I overcame that reflex. There are many other foods (the sort that "taste weird") that I could in theory make myself eat, but only at the cost of feeling miserable and expending an extreme amount of willpower, for no real practical gain, aside from perhaps the hypothetical avoiding-starvation situation. The smoothie thing makes total sense to me - turning fruit into a smoothie reduces the texture issues, which is the primary obstacle for me when it comes to fruit. And similarly, the "still has bits of stuff in it" is a problem with smoothies for me. I haven't used one personally, but I think a VitaMix blender might be able to reduce fruits to the necessary level of homogeneity (I know that the brand is touted for its ability to do so; perhaps some other Mefite can offer a firsthand review). Rather than adding sugar, try sweetening it with (pulp-free!) orange juice. If he's up for experimenting on this front, go for it.

I'm glad that he's more willing to try new things than I am -- I face trying any new thing with a great deal of trepidation, because on average it likely to result in a significantly unpleasant experience. (And then there's the guilt about someone having bought/made this food for me that I can't make myself eat, etc. And the people who don't get it and tell me I need to act more like an adult...)

If living together is important to you, and you don't want to deal with the willpower cost of not eating his food, then a locking cabinet for the his-and-not-yours stuff seems like a really solid idea to me. Additionally, there are a few things in my own diet that might meet your not-junk criteria, and which I'd recommend as things to try for him if he hasn't:

V8 vegetable juice -- I dislike the low-sodium variety.
Cottage cheese -- I personally like it with garlic croutons or pita chips, though it's perfectly palatable if bland on its own. I usually get the 4%/large curd kind, though that's a matter of minor preference rather than edibility.
Sliced and skinned apples -- If you make sure to cut out the casing-thing around the seeds, they have the same inoffensive texture all the way through, and they're tasty. Note that this prep is more effort than I usually bother with in terms of preparing food for myself, so this might be a sharing-food for you. Good with peanut butter.
Less-sugary/more-fibery breakfast cereal -- Favorites: Cheerios (regular or Honey Nut), Quaker Oat Squares, Cracklin' Oat Bran, all of which are good either dry or with milk.
Oatmeal -- I like putting chocolate chips in mine.
Toasted bagels -- I go with Thomas's Whole Grain (bonus: no HFCS), or cheese bagels from the grocery store bakery, and add sliced lunchmeat, or a fried egg if I want to make something especially nice for myself.
Granola bars -- Nature Valley is my usual brand.
Unsweetened applesauce and graham crackers -- sweetened actually tastes worse to me.
Whole-grain spaghetti -- I've grown to prefer it over the plain kind. (My ultimate comfort food is Too Much Spaghetti, with too much browned butter and too much grated asiago cheese. Not at all healthy, of course, but enough deliciousness to reassure me that there is still some good in the world even in the darkest of times.)

(Picky eating as disorder, previously on the Blue.)
posted by NMcCoy at 1:24 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm in a similar situation, I'm a pescatarian who tries to eat low carb (I have to, for health reasons) and my partner is a very picky eater who seems to be able to eat a ton of junk and not gain weight. We've lived together for five years.

Food that only he eats, such as pasta and cereal go in a cabinet over the fridge that I can't reach easily. He's taller, so it makes sense anyway, but then I also don't have to look through a cabinet of food I would like to eat but shouldn't when I want to eat something.

I disagree that you have to eat the same foods when you live together, especially since it seems that you have drastically different caloric and nutritional needs. When I make tacos, he will eat tortillas, meat, cheese, shredded lettuce, maybe some rice. I'll put the taco filling in a salad with some beans and a lot of veggies. Very often I put together meals by making some kind of protein like buffalo wings, tempeh bacon, chicken tacos (vegetarian in my house, but you could do meat eater versions) and throwing it into a salad, but my partner could just as easily take the same protein and put it on a sandwich or in a tortilla or something like that.

At the end of the day, you're both adults and it's no more your job to manage his diet than it is his to manage yours. It is however, both of your jobs to make compromises and support each other. I think you will have to figure out specifically what you need from him to be supportive for you.
posted by inertia at 10:48 AM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: An update for posterity:

I ended the relationship a few months after this.

Then a few months after that I stopped drinking and boy howdy did I feel better about just about everything in my life.

Me and this guy are still friendly tho, so it all worked out. I see now that there were other problems in my life and mind and this was just a surface thing letting me avoid the real issues (like drinking way too much, too often).

Thanks for all the advice and support tho. It is appreciated.
posted by McSockerson The Great at 6:12 AM on February 13, 2015 [7 favorites]

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