My spouse won't eat Real Food. Can you help me? How can I get him/her on board?
It's one of the most common questions we receive from our readers and members of Traditional Cooking School.
Wives (and husbands, too) are sad, mad, or frustrated because they're doing all they can to change their family's health through Real Food, yet their spouse is unsupportive, picky, or downright refuses to participate.
Maybe you're in the same boat as Todd S., who shared:
In general her [my wife's] health is not anywhere near as good as mine. I would like to have some recipes that she would like also. She wants to use only processed flour and sugar. … My wife and 2 kids have eczema (wife has it very bad). I am looking for a gentle push that … will help her with eczema and stomach issues without her noticing it — [t]hus pushing her to embrace cooking with better ingredients.
Do you have visions of the entire family sitting down together to a healthy, home-cooked meal — but that's not happening because your significant other won't eat what you've prepared? Perhaps you can identify with Jackie S.?
Most of what I now eat, my significant other will not eat. So it makes dealing with meal planning and meal-time togetherness a challenge.
You may even feel that the processed foods your spouse brings into the home are poisonous, like this anonymous TCS member:
My husband refuses to participate which means it's impossible to get my kids to eat healthy. I feel like they are eating poison everyday. I don't buy unhealthy food so my husband started buying it himself and started making dinner for himself and the boys. He's diabetic so eating healthier would greatly benefit him, but he thinks healthy food is gross.
I get it. Really, I do.
The power of food is unlike any other. For an adult who feels like their spouse is forbidding a favorite comfort or junk food, the thought of going without can conjure up dissatisfaction, deprivation, or defensiveness.
And yet, forbidding them or taking food away is exactly what you can't do because…
Your spouse is an adult.
You aren't his/her parent.
If your spouse won't eat Real Food, won't try fermented foods, and continues to eat junk food or drink soda… that's not on you.
What are you in control of? What can you change? What can you do?
#1 — Pray — and Rejoice, Anyway!
Every burden we carry must start at the same place. And that is: Laying it at the Lord's feet, thanking Him for His goodness and care in the midst of trials, asking for His help, and rejoicing in spite of the struggle.
Sound too simplistic? That's the beauty of it. Putting things in perspective is the only way we can prevent getting wrapped around the axle, stressing out too much, or placing too much importance on things outside of our control.
In Philippians 4:6-8, God tells us:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Please, if you do nothing else, take this one bit of advice to heart and let God help you navigate all your challenges — whether it's this particular struggle or a completely different one.
#2 — Recognize that you're responsible only for yourself.
You are not responsible for your spouse or their choices.
You can only work on and change yourself and hope that you are an inspiration for change in their life.
Allow yourself to release the burden of feeling responsible for your spouse's health, food choices, and lifestyle — because you're not.
Need tips to help you continue to stay on track with your healthy eating by yourself? Check out 5 Tips — Traditional Cooking For One (Or Two!) #AskWardee 115.
#3 — Have a loving conversation with your spouse.
Nagging won't work and isn't healthy for your relationship, so try not to do that.
Choose a calm, neutral time of day to have this conversation, perhaps after a quiet dinner date or after the kids have gone to bed.
(If you've just had an argument over paying bills, wait. That's not the time to have this discussion.) 😉
Calmly explain what you want (to eat healthier, exercise more, shop organically, etc.) and why you'd like to embark on this journey together.
You can also lovingly ask your spouse to support you and your efforts to eat Real Food in front of the children. Sure, they may drink sodas or indulge in processed foods away from home, but it's okay to ask that the two of you be united in front of the kids.
#4 — Strive to make healthy changes together, slowly, one step at a time.
If your spouse won't eat Real Food, maybe it's partially because you've been a bit pushy and your spouse has felt rushed? If so, endeavor to slow down.
Recognize that food or life changes don't really happen all at once. They take time. Your spouse may simply need more time than you.
Even those of us with the best of intentions and the knowledge to carry them out still need time to adjust to new foods, flavors, and routines.
Taking these changes at a healthy, slow, and steady pace will keep you (and your spouse) from overwhelm and burnout.
#5 — Find out what Real Foods your spouse DOES enjoy.
Ask your spouse what he DOES enjoy that you've made or tried — and make those things often.
#6 — Accept that your spouse may always reach for processed foods.
She may always crave soda or chips or candy more than she craves Real Food. You have to accept that and make peace with it.
Again, you cannot control his or her choices, and it's not good for your relationship for you to try.
Allow yourself to be at peace with whatever your spouse eats, even if you don't agree with her.
#7 — Love conquers all.
You don't love your spouse because of what he does or doesn't eat. You didn't fall in love because of food, and food shouldn't be allowed to cause division in your relationship.
You don't have to sacrifice your own health or goals. You should, however, be sensitive and accepting, even though it hurts to see him making poor choices.
Bottom line: your relationship has to take priority over the food on your plate. Love must win.
How do you put love first, even when your spouse won't eat Real Food? Do you have any other tips or experiences you can share?
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