Gosh this blog post has been written and rewritten and is now taking an angle I hadn’t envisaged when I first started it. It’s been healing in fact – as writing can be…
It was going to address the fact that as a nutrition coach I struggle with my husband not following my passion for health and wellness himself. And my perception that how he chooses to live his life reflects negatively on my business.
But that is all about me. And I couldn’t stop this feeling that I was disrespecting my husband.
Then I was going to relate with others who also struggle with their partner not being as focused on health and wellness as them. You yourself are feeling the benefits of following a healthier lifestyle, you worry about your partner’s health in the future and you just want to confidently look forward to an active retirement together. Right?!
But over the last week I’ve been thinking about my priorities.
Now if you are reading this you know how important health and nutrition are to me. BUT, they are NOT more important than my husband or my marriage.
So… while I am still going to offer some tips I do hope you’ll find helpful, the biggest one is this.
I’m not sure how many of my followers are Christians but if it comes down to it, hand over your desire for your husband to understand the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and to act on that, to God and trust Him to meet your needs as you put your marriage first. You might need to just sit on your ideals and knowledge for a while, praying that your husband will come around, but trusting that God is ultimately in control of the situation and of your family’s health.
For my own emotional health – and for the sake of a happy marriage (18 years now) – I have learnt to accept that I cannot control my husband’s actions. When I’ve placed that burden on me I have found myself very unhappy, dwelling on the difference in priorities far too much, to the point of intense anger.
Instead of praying and trusting.
Now for those other tips…
Understand It’s Not Their Domain
Now I apologize if this comes across as a bit old-fashioned or even sexist. But it’s true – particularly if your partner was raised very traditionally with his father being the one who would provide for his family financially, while the mother managed the home and children.
It’s helpful to understand that diet and nutrition is traditionally not men’s domain. Of course there are exceptions in this modern day and age – but men are still far less common to be full-time homemakers. Most do not cook meals for the family. They probably don’t buy the groceries, at least not every week. It’s also unlikely that they spend the time that woman may spend reading books, or blogs, or articles, teaching us why and how to improve our nutrition.
So don’t set your expectations too high.
Bite Sized Information
Nagging is not effective! Telling someone they should do something feels like you’re judging them and they want to resist.
You CAN however give your spouse some good information in bite-sized pieces. Find a brief article (like one page) or a video (10 minutes or less) every so often and suggest they read it or watch it. You can make it even easier for them by underlining the really important bits. Tell him that it explains some things that you think are really important. If you can, discuss it together after.
Even cut out little health tips you have read and stick them on the fridge door – a reminder to yourself too!
Start slow and implement change little by little. We started by cutting out additives (artificial flavours, colours and preservatives), then reducing sugar, before looking into whole grains and are now introducing the occasional vegetarian meal and fermented foods/drinks.
It can take years and a lot of determination to learn to eat well and to overcome any strong dislike of some wholefoods (like brown bread and rice, and some veggies) as well as cope with less sugar; I have been lucky with my husband there! Whereas young children know no difference!! Be patient and diligent to help your partner change his tastebuds and learn to like what’s better for him.
You could try introducing a new meal or dish once a week (or once a month). Or you could take some of his favourites and see if there are small things you can do to make them just a little bit better without removing all the pleasure. Keep experimenting to find recipes the whole family likes.
Stock Your Home With Healthy Foods
Out of sight, out of mind? This is good tactic for unhealthy foods and one women can definitely support their spouses with.
I try to stock healthy options that my husband likes in highly visible places, such as bananas on the kitchen bench and low sugar yoghurt on an eye level shelf in the fridge; then I put the Coupland’s biscuits he insists on buying in a container up high in the pantry.
You can take things a step further, by stopping buying less healthy foods yourself (I refuse to buy him biscuits – sorry, not sorry) and buying them or going out for them only on special occasions.
Don’t Fight The No Compromise
If your partner is really opposed to something or you can tell it really bothers him, don’t do it! It just isn’t worth it to replace your conventional milk with raw milk if it requires you to undermine your man.
We got rid of white sugar in our house (until I then decided I needed it to make sugar water to feed the birds last winter, and for making kombucha). Coconut sugar was our immediate replacement but my husband didn’t like the floaty bits that would appear in his coffee – not that he would complain to me directly. So I found a low GI raw sugar instead. Not perfect but acceptable – to both of us.
My husband still has his own cereal (which I DO continue to buy for him) which has a little higher sugar content than I would like – although most mornings he has wholesome porridge.
Be a Good Example
Several studies have shown that influence from friends and family on eating and physical activity habits has a strong impact on your own health behaviors. Therefore, if I eat healthy and exercise, my husband is much more likely to follow suit! 🙂
I try to set a good example with what I choose to eat when we dine out, how I snack in front of him and with how I prioritise my time including fitting in exercise – even making the point of timing it when he will notice.
Eventually those things can rub off.
It’s been almost six years since my son’s ADHD diagnosis that bought about our family’s change in diet and a passion for health in me. Over that time I have learned to try to explain to my husband some of the things that I am learning, why I am making certain changes, why I’m preparing meals and snacks in a different manner, why I don’t want to buy such-and-such anymore etc. He still doesn’t “get it” to the same degree as me (because he’s not the one doing all the research), but he respects me and my opinions and he is generally amazing about allowing me to try out these things that I am learning as I seek to care for my family.
He doesn’t complain when I cook a vegetarian meal, when I no longer purchase fizzy drink and biscuits at the supermarket, or when I spend more on free range eggs and meat and spray free vegetables.
But it would be nice for him to initiate some health-focused activities, rather than me being the one who is always pushing the healthy lifestyle changes that we’ve been making. Or even try my homemade kombucha and take his supplements without having to be reminded.
SO I continue to pray and trust.