they have changed drastically. Our family's food journey took baby steps for about ten years.***
So you married a manly man that has spent his entire life eating nothing but bologna, white bread, Doritos, and individually wrapped slices of processed cheese food product. Now that you’ve been married a few years, you’ve started to realize that no life form can live on “food” that is basically a molecule or two removed from existing as a Ziploc bag. Assuming you love this man, you thought it might be advantageous to keep him around a few more years, and thus the need arose to begin to introduce some real food into his life.
Where do you begin? How do you get this man to eat something that is green because it is supposed to be?
This is a complex question that requires some thinking. Not because men are complex, heaven knows most men are not much more complicated than a single celled amoeba, but because food is a complex issue with all kinds of emotions, memories and identities wrapped together like a tightly bound bean burrito.
Food is much more about identity than knowledge. You eat certain foods for a long list of reasons, (to feel good, because it reminds you of Grandpa, it tastes good, it’s easy, brings back memories of your childhood). Some motivations of which you may not even be aware. Food is also like religion and culture, in that if you assault either, you are also belittling the person’s family, history, and a part of their very essence.
You must tread carefully and respectfully or your man will feel attacked, rejected and possibly tune you out.
So since I’ve been accused of ‘eating like a girl’ by many men (some of whom have slowly seen the wisdom of such a diet), I’m uniquely qualified to speak into this issue with some authority, experience, and irreverence.
So here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Start by realizing that it’s not your job to change him.
The adage is old but true: most men marry thinking their wives will never change, and wives marry knowing that their man must. Thus when a woman starts to change and learn and become a better person, the man becomes confused. What happened? What went wrong? He asks. This is because when a man finally has something the way he likes it, he just wants it to stay the same. That’s why the concept of ‘wheel alignments’ has always been frustrating to most men. Why can’t they tires just stay aligned?
If you have as your goal in life to change the way your husband eats, you will be uptight, he will stay in a constant state of confusion, and everyone in the home will stay tensed and frustrated. Drop the goal and everyone will be happier. Ultimately, he is the only person that can change himself. Instead of trying to change him, keep your goal much simpler, which leads to number two.
2. Think one meal at a time.
If you try to launch an entire new regiment and master plan of eating, you’ll likely be met with much resistance. But if you introduce something new occasionally, without all the hoopla and guilt trips, then you’re much more likely to get some buy in.
Instead of saying “Honey, I’ve noticed that you have been putting on weight, and that your blood pressure has been going up, and that your cholesterol is through the roof - oh and you never exercise. If you want to live to see 40, we have to get rid of everything fried, sweetened and carbonated in this house today!”
Rather, try “Honey, I made something new tonight and wanted to see if you liked it.”
If he likes it, make it again. If not, tweak it. Over time you’ll have a staple of healthy meals that you know he likes. Remember, men are simple. If it tastes good, they will eat it, especially if they don’t have to cook it.
3. Speak his language.
Probably the main response women face with their men is the fact that good food costs more. So, many men think “we just can’t afford to eat that way.”
But this can be navigated carefully and winsomely. Help a man realize how eating healthy is not necessarily more expensive when everything is factored into the cost. Men understand this - but just not necessarily related to food.
Every man knows that not all the cars are the same. There is a good reason you would purchase one type of vehicle over another.
Let’s say a man wants to start a firewood delivery service. Is it cheaper to purchase a 1998 4-door Malibu sedan, or a 2002 Chevy pickup? Of course the Malibu is “cheaper,” but you will never get the work done with that fine piece of American ingenuity. In fact, you will probably lose money trying to deliver firewood in that car because of the extra trips needed to make all your runs in a day. When you compare apples to apples, men understand this, but you just have to speak their language. There is a reason front row tickets to a basketball game cost more than the top row tickets. They get this.
Now, how do you present this information to them? The first time they get sticker shock when they see that your farm-fresh chicken cost three times as much as Tyson’s teetering turkey sized cave dwelling fowl, you can simply say “You know, I realized that this whole bird was about the same price as these two little boneless/skinless chicken breasts… crazy, huh? So much more for so much less!” No need to unload all the fine details just yet. Just a little bit of info and comparison detail to help him compare apples to apples.
4. Dribble small bits of information his way...one bite at a time.
Instead of forwarding long emails to him on the horrors of GMO’s, pesticides, aluminum cookware, and vaccinated meat, just pass along little tidbits and zingers here and there.
At our home it works like this: some evenings my wife and I will sit in our chairs and read from various books of personal interest. Inevitably, I will be reading something about war, death, politics, history, or theology. She is likely reading a book that is somehow linked to food. Occasionally she’ll stop and say “Huh. Amazing. I just read that cows in most modern dairies only live 2 or 3 years while pastured cows live 15. Huh.” Now, if I’m listening (meaning, if she waited till she had my attention) I will respond with a “Huh - wow.” And move on.
If I found the factoid fascinating, then I might ask “hmmm… I wonder why that is?” And now you’ve started into a discussion, rather than a lecture, that might eventually lead to being able to talk more about the benefits of raw milk.
5. Provide a safe environment for him to learn and change.
If a man feels that he will be looked down upon if he does not change, he will likely get defensive or withdraw.
Don’t let your nightly meals together - your precious family time - don’t let that time turn into another Cold War. “Tear down that wall" and choose to make every meal a relaxing, fun environment where he feels safe to try new things without guilt.
You can do this by also offering him things you know he likes whenever you try something new. Keep the communication open so that he feels he has a say in what you are putting on the table. Maybe even give him the option to choose from a couple of new things you would like to try.
So these few tips are by no means exhaustive or complete. This is merely a starting point for women out there with manly men that like things to stay the way they are. Eventually, you’ll want to get to a place where you can pass on much more information to him, but doing so before he’s interested will be frustrating. Hopefully, as he begins to eat good food, he’ll want to know more about what he’s eating and start asking about it. Good luck!
Linked to Monday Mania and Real Food Wednesday.