You have decided to make some lifestyle changes. Maybe you want to lose a little weight or just try to eat healthier. So, you have a chat with your spouse about your new goals and they are not quite on board. Or maybe they say they want to help, then show up with a box of donuts or your cook your favorite meal later in the day. How frustrating is that? Is your spouse really sabotaging your diet? How can you get them on board?
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
A healthy marriage is about communication. No matter how much I wish my husband could read my mind (or how much I expect him to), unfortunately he can’t. Frequently, I am surprised when he is blindsided by one of my needs because I feel like he should have known. But, we can’t expect our spouses to know exactly what we need all the time, we have to tell them, sometimes multiple times.
Communication is necessary when it comes to diet and health as well. Be open with your spouse about your health-related plans. Talk about the types of foods that are being prepared or brought into the home. How can you change it so everyone is happy? Be honest with your expectations around grocery shopping, meal prep, eating out, and what types of foods are available. Be as specific as you can. Do you want them to cook something different? Or not eat certain treats in front of you? How can they best support you?
But, also don’t expect change over night. They also have the right to communicate their needs. Maybe they are not ready to make any lifestyle changes or already eat pretty healthy. Whatever agreement you come to should work for both of you.
When Your Spouse Isn’t on Board
In some situations, your spouse may not be on board. Or maybe you are going through a hard time in your marriage related to other issues. Research has found that marital problems can lead to poor food choices.1 Stress caused by marital disagreements boost ghrelin, a hormone that increases your appetite. I mean when you are sad or stressed, do you always make the healthiest choices? Probably not.
I am obviously not a marriage counselor, but when disagreements do come up you can make a healthier choice to help deal with the issues. Instead of reaching for a pint of ice cream, why not go for a walk, talk to a friend, or take a hot bath? We can make a choice to cope with stress in a healthier way instead of eating.
Sometimes no matter how much you communicate or how much you work on something, your spouse just isn’t going to be supportive in the way you need. It's ok to seek support elsewhere. Look for friends or family members who are interested in developing healthier habits. Create a group of healthy people around you, even if they don’t live in your house. Be a role model for your spouse for how to live a better lifestyle. Maybe if they start to see how amazing you look and feel, they might be more interested in making some changes themselves as well.
Yours in health-
Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD
IVL’s Community Registered Dietitian
- Jaremka LM, Belury MA, Andridge RR, et al. Novel Links Between Troubled Marriages and Appetite Regulation: Marital Distress, Ghrelin, and Diet Quality. Clinical Psychological Science. 2015;4(3):363-375.