“I call my partner ‘my dealer.’ Just as soon as I followed the Eat-Clean Diet books for a few weeks and lost several pounds my little sweetie would come along with a steaming hot pizza for dinner. In no time I had three slices down and all my hard work was for nothing. Aagghhh!”
– Wendi Gardner, Boise, Idaho
Eating clean is a piece of cake until you look at a piece of cake (I love a good metaphor). Oh how easy it is to weaken at the mere sight of a chocolate dessert confection! And how much more maddening is it when it arrives at the hands of someone you love? I can relate all too well to scenarios like these. As my own tide was turning against mindless, uninformed eating and I was making deals with myself to stick to the regimen of six meals a day comprised of protein and complex carbs, I ran straight into the arms of the saboteurs.
Spotting the enemy
I didn’t recognize them as saboteurs at first because they were disguised as my family and friends. I was blinded by their subtle attack. “Come on Mom, you can have ice cream just this once.” They were my kids, but you parents out there know how it is. We love them and can’t say no to them. We have to on more than one occasion and not just where food is concerned. But how much harder is it when your partner for life deals you temptation on your best china? It stings like being dealt a hand of 22 in a game of blackjack. Being sabotaged by the one you love can feel like the ultimate betrayal and eating clean may just be the final nail in the coffin if you are already dealing with an unsupportive spouse. One frustrated wife discovered this when she asked her already unsupportive hubby to come along on the eat-clean ride. It proved to be the tipping point. She prepared what in her mind was the ideal feast of grilled salmon, roasted sweet potato and steamed veggies. He launched the plate into the garbage, declaring angrily, “This is it! I can’t eat this good-for-you stuff anymore!” The frustrated wife kicked her hubby out the door, ultimately finding a much more supportive partner who relished being cared for with wonderful food. I would hope eating clean is not the final straw in all marriages!
Easing into It
Change is often too much to bear, even for the most mature among us. The slightest deviation from the norm can throw a person into a tailspin. One woman wrote to me telling me she has secretly been serving up organic eat clean chicken to her family for months. The chicken was so delicious her teenaged boys often went back for seconds. She had to do it in secret because her husband was against all those “funky, granola, Birkenstock-wearing nut jobs who ate right from the dirt.” He had to eat humble pie when one day he brought home a fully prepared, precooked chicken (at least it wasn’t bacon) for dinner. The family hardly touched the roasted bird. When the woman asked why, her sons replied, “Because it tastes bad.” This was too much for the husband! His pride was bruised but they all went on to eat clean and organically.
It’s best to handle change carefully, letting your family or your partner know things will be a little different in the kitchen going forward. The food will be delicious but not swimming in grease, gravy and sauce. Emphasize that it’s going to benefit everyone. I did not hit my family over the head with my new eat-clean principles. Instead I prepared food according to the principles, and served it up. If they didn’t eat it I didn’t get angry with them. I just kept trying until we found the foods we liked and soon enough this way of eating became second nature.
In one scenario a woman complains that she is fighting not only against her negative husband, but his brother too! She wonders how to deal with the constant stream of “Papa John’s, cookies and doughnuts, toaster strudel, muffins, Krispy Kremes, chips, Panda Express and all things fast food!”
Having to deal with the constant temptation when you are trying to clean up is stressful. There will always be people who will be quite happy to take you down. One of my favorite sayings is, “Your friends and loved ones want you to be successful but not more than they are.” In my experience you have to anticipate the negatives. Placing the idea in your mind that there will be resistance, sometimes from the people who love you the most, prepares you for the situation. Otherwise you will be blind-sided.
There is no doubt a sabotage effort dealt to you by a loved one will hurt. It’s hard to believe anyone would be against you when you are trying to do something good for yourself. You will have to work out how to handle the negativity. It’s best to take a deep breath before you start spouting off in your own defense. Try to find a calm place and then have a ready answer. President Obama uses just such a tactic from time to time when he is giving a press conference. When a tough question comes his way he stops talking, listens carefully and says, “Try to think of it this way . . . ” It’s a way of defraying the negative without accelerating the moment into a heated frenzy. Find your emergency escape answer for just this situation and you will be fine. I always say, “Look, you can think of eating clean as deprivation, but I really like it because I get to eat more, feel full and look better.” Then I leave it there, letting the saboteur deal with the answer.
There are loads of ways to successfully navigate the unsupportive spouse waters. You will have to work around your own situation a little and try not to make a big fuss out of things. The more heated the scenario gets for you the bigger a problem it will become. Besides, redemption will come if you are persistent and tactful enough. One reader recently wrote about her own unsupportive boyfriend. “It’s been difficult for me to convince my boyfriend to eat clean. It caused us to have our first fight and I have been with him for four years. He didn’t like that I was making the kids eat all these clean foods because when they went to their mother’s for the rest of the time, which was three weeks out of every month, they ate junk all the time. Well it wasn’t long before he came back to me and said he was tired of eating garbage and he was ready to trade the garbage food for good food so he could lose weight with me.” I think it would be difficult not to say “I told you so,” but the point is he saw the light.
Those who are already eating clean are best to keep paving the way. Be patient and steadfast. The time will come when you will experience redemption and your loved ones will be joining you for oatmeal in the morning and minestrone soup at night. Those who are not yet following the lifestyle will come around when they find their own reasons that are right for them. You may not be able to change someone’s attitude towards food, but you will be the architect of your own body renovation.
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