Friday, August 17, 2012

Persistence Pays Off - Helping Your Family Eat Well

My husband has gone Paleo... finally.

I spent the majority of the winter experimenting with occasional grain-free cooking, reading Mark's Daily Apple and PHD (and Matt Stone's 180 Degree Health, just for balance, you know), and sneakily suggesting to my husband that white flour and sugar are the devil (he already knew, but has the type of personality that wants to rebel and eat a box of Twinkies for lunch if I bring it up).

Anyway, he decided a few weeks ago that he was just sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.  So he's finally outlawed the grains and sugar (except for Einstein's 4th birthday cake!).  He is still doing cultured dairy, which gives us a little more flexibility.  The first few days, he couldn't stop talking about how good he felt ("I haven't felt like this since college!") and how few naps he felt he needed on the weekends!  He's gradually settled in and gotten used to just feeling good and having extra energy.  His major vice right now is almond butter, which we are going through a lot faster than we used to.   But, phytates aside, that is SO much better than his past indulgences that I really can't complain.

I present my husband to you as an example of will power overcoming healthy-eating obstacles.  In my husband's line of work, part of his salary is getting free meals whenever we have guests.  So, basically, part of our salary is paid in really crappy, industrialized-type food (read: flour, sugar, and soybean oil).  And I can assure you, we serve our guests super SAD crud.  I don't like it, but it is just how things are done in this business.

We are generally pretty bad about compromising during the summer months (when we have daily free meals), and just eating as well as we can with what we are served.  Some meals are very customizable, like hamburgers (just take the bun off), or taco salad (just skip the chips and nasty nacho sauce).  But others are harder to satisfactorily tweak, like spaghetti (um, can I just have tomato sauce over green beans?) or breaded chicken (the breading does NOT scrape off well).

We've been working out some alternative solutions for meal replacements (sometimes he sits with a plain salad while everyone else eats dinner, then comes home ravenous and in need of meat), and compromising a little here and there (yes, we have in fact picked the pasta out of our lasagna... it is a lot of work).

As in so many areas of family life, his decision and commitment are making it SO much easier for me to be dedicated to keeping the junk out of our diets, too.

And I have never been SO excited for summer to be over, so we can get back in the routine of home-cooked meals.

Here are a few of the things I've learned while helping my reluctant husband change his ways:

  1. Persistence.  The old adage about offering new food to children up to 10 times before it is accepted applies to significant others, too.   But they are less trusting, so sometimes it helps to prepare it in totally different ways for repeat offerings so there is no "What?  Lentils again?  I hated lentils last time!"  Note: my husband has never said this.  He is fantastic about eating horrible kitchen mistakes and not complaining.  It's just an example.  :)
  2. Subtlety.  At least in our house, outright suggestions sometimes meet with increased resistance, while offhand comments can get us thinking in a non-judgmental, non-confrontational way.
  3. Support.  For my own eating, I do fine with eating maybe 95% how I should, and indulging the other 5% (Haagen Dazs!).  But my husband is all-or-nothing - if he cheats, he will consider the day wasted and just eat whatever he wants.  Realizing this helps me help him.  I can't just say "Oh, it's ok this once," or he'll fall off the bandwagon.  Supporting his super-enthusiastic approach instead of insisting on him conforming to my ways has been incredibly helpful.
  4. Encouragement.  I think you can figure this one out on your own.

Have you ever had resistance from your family when changing eating habits or introducing new foods?  What worked (or didn't work!) for you?

Posted at Simple Lives ThursdayFight Back FridayMonday Mania Fat Tuesday, and WFMW


  1. Good post! I too am working on the hubby's poor diet and health complaints. I gave up on putting out the food he was just too stubborn to try and now I eat it myself, while he continues to purchase processed stuff and eats it in his recliner. He is allergic to MSG, milk and bread, so it is very hard to watch him coughing and complaining after his "meals." I never thought he would change.
    Then I started reading labels to him in a spirit of discovery. It wasn't hard to be surprised as things have gotten worse and worse. Next thing I know, he is reading a label on some canned chile I purchased and I'm the one caught red handed! I laughed. A little investigation revealed there were NO canned meats in our grocery that were MSG free. Maybe WE will catch on yet!

    1. I love the "spirit of discovery!" Maybe the more he reads labels (or catches you buying something you shouldn't), the more interested he'll get in joining you.
      My husband has been similar, eating what I cook (so the kids will), but always getting fast food in town, or loading up on Coke at work. I kept telling him "I feel SO good now that I'm eating this way," but it's taken him a good year to give it a shot. Now that he has, he feels so good too! I hope your husband has the same epiphany.
      The best thing is, every positive change adds up, even if it takes a while to make it.
      Best of luck to you and your husband.

  2. How exciting for you guys. Will and I have talked about eating Paleo for a few months now (we have family and friends that do it). We are both fed up with feeling sick and tired, too. Will's completely on long as I do all the shopping/cooking! Ha! It just seems so expensive to me. I'm guessing that because your family was already eating so health/not buying many of the things I routinely buy...your grocery bill hasn't changed much? And you said you're still eating cultured dairy...can you elaborate on what that means? Finally, has he noticed any weight loss? Did he have any to lose?

    I find your blog really interesting, Danielle. You live and eat much differently than we do. Honestly, a lot of times I come away feeling discouraged...that I'm a horrible mother feeding my children horrible foods. This isn't your fault. I wouldn't come away feeling that way if I didn't already feel that way to a certain extent. Does that make sense? Anyway, keep up the good work. You're an inspiration.

    1. Hi, Stacia,
      I hope you saw my way-too-long Facebook reply. :) You're an inspiration, as well.
      I guess I forgot a few things - I don't know for sure how this will affect our grocery bill because we get so much food at camp right now. So we can eat the healthy things at camp, and then just supplement that with our own groceries. It may be a challenge once the summer is over, though. I'll try to keep you posted. We eat a lot of meat anyway, so it will mostly be trading out grains for vegetables, I think.

      Levi has been avoiding sweets (kind of) most of the summer, and he lost about 5 pounds that way. Since switching to Paleo, he has lost about another 15. Since he is so tall and big-boned, he hides it well, but he would like to lose about 40 more. We are trying to focus on how good he feels, and are hoping the number on the scale will go down as an added bonus. :)

  3. Thanks for the reply! It's so helpful to hear from "real" people making the same changes. Looking forward to hearing more :)


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