Why Being a Food Cop Can Make Your Partner Fat

When I first met my hubby Jack he weighed 50 pounds more than he does now. Most people assume I “forced” him to eat healthy and shed the pounds, but I was already an RD when we met and had worked with couples in my private practice, so I knew better than to trick, bribe, or guilt him into laying off the tacos.

Policing your partner is actually one of the worst things you can do for your relationship, and it often creates the exact opposite effect. Check out this sadly hilarious and true to life clip from my favorite Lucky Louie episode where the wife of Louis C.K.’s character becomes a food cop. The episode is called “Control” (warning: contains profanity).

This kind of food cop blowback isn’t fiction. A new University of Michigan School of Public Health study found that in focus groups of over 80 married men, most say their wives didn’t consult them when they tried to help their hubbies adopt a healthier diet. And while most of the husbands disliked the food changes, they didn’t object to avoid conflict; and some of the men admitted to secretly bingeing on unhealthy foods away from home.

This is one of my favorite topics because back in 2004 I co-wrote a book with my friend Denise Maher about couples’ food fights. Each of the 17 chapters in the book tackled a specific food/relationship conflict, from food pushing to food policing and everything in between (like disagreeing about how to feed pets or children, when one half of a couple is on a strict diet, when one has a weight issue and the other doesn’t, cultural food differences, and managing out of sync eating schedules). But when I went on tour to promote the book, living with a food cop was the topic that drew the greatest response. Men called into radio shows to tell me stories about how resentful they felt towards their wives for monitoring and criticizing everything they ate (and many admitted that they lied about what they consumed on their own). And many women called in seeking vindication for trying to save their husbands’ lives.

While it’s often a wife policing a husband, it can be the other way around too, and policing can also be an issue in same sex relationships. If you’re on either end of this battle here are some strategies that can help you and your partner find some common ground:

For the Food Cop:

Try to see things from your partner’s point of view

You’ve probably had a teacher, boss, coach, or even a family member who constantly looked over your shoulder, and even if well meaning, made you feel continually scrutinized. As adults, it’s in our nature to crave autonomy, and food is very personal. Even if it feels like you’re trying to take care of your better half, your actions may be smothering rather than motivating.

Explain where you’re coming from

As well as we know our partners, it’s not always obvious what each person’s motivations or feelings are. If you’re worried about your partner’s health, express that. In other words, don’t assume he or she knows that’s why you’re policing. But do it in a way that expresses care and concern, not judgment. Saying, “I want to grow old with you and I want us to be healthy together” sounds a lot different than “you should know better than to eat a bacon cheeseburger.”

Let go a little

The most important thing you can do if you’re in this battle is understand that your partner is responsible for his or her own behavior, and there is nothing you can do to force your companion to alter his or her eating habits. He or she may not be ready to change, may not want to change, or may not be taking the risks of not changing very seriously right now. I know it can be very difficult to ease up, but the more you push the more resistance you’ll likely receive. And softening your approach can be good for your health. It’s a big burden for one individual to be responsible for two people’s actions.

Don’t exclude your partner from decisions

Before you throw away all the junk in the house, or even decide what you’re both having for dinner, talk it out. Or add new good-for-you options before taking away the less healthy staples. I’ve had men tell me that they were angry that their wives switched to whole wheat pasta or brown rice without asking. That may seem like a simple decision, and a healthy one, but one client told me he ate fast food for lunch the next day out of spite.

Change your language

When talking about this issue, try to avoid judgmental or negative words, like “good” or “bad” “shouldn’t” or “don’t” and using a critical tone of voice. One of the things I’ve seen over and over again in my health care career is how strongly people resist being forced to do anything. When someone is scolded or aggressively told what to do (or not to do), they tend to tune out.

Focus on your health

If you want brown rice and your partner will only eat white, make both. I know it may be more work for you, but you shouldn’t sacrifice your nutrition and health goals. And when your significant other sees what you eat and how great you feel, he or she may just come around. When I look back I would have to say that the number one thing that led my husband changing his eating habits was just spending time together. I offered (but didn’t push) my healthy meals and snacks, and eventually he tried new things like hummus and quinoa. Over time, he went from not eating breakfast or grabbing fast food, to eating whole grain cereal or making smoothies in the morning. As he started experiencing more energy and shedding pounds he made more changes. Fifty pounds later he eats pretty healthy most of the time, even when I’m out of town.

For the Partner Being Policed:

Try to see things from your partner’s point of view

Most food cops really believe they’re protecting you and acting out of love. It can be hard for them to understand why their actions are backfiring because they’re typically coming from a desire to help you rather than control you. Explain how you feelInstead of holding it in, venting to someone else, or carrying on unhealthy habits in secret, explain how you feel and be specific. Your partner may be truly surprised to hear you say “you make me feel like I’m always doing something wrong.”

Tell your partner what you’re willing to do

Would you like your significant other to back off altogether or are you ready to make some changes? Make it clear where you stand, and if you would like his or her support, explain exactly what you’d like that help to look like.

Be open minded

If you’re not feeling pushed into change, you may be more willing to give new things a try, but all it takes it trying. You may be really surprised how great some healthy foods taste, or how different you feel after making just a few small changes. You don’t have to commit to doing something forever, but try things, like ordering a naked burrito (no tortilla), mixing a little brown rice into the white, or tasting a fruit you’ve never had before.

This messy issue can actually turn into a real opportunity, both for your relationship, and the health of each partner, but communication and compromise are the keys.

Have you ever been a food cop or on the receiving end of food bullying? Please tweet your thoughts to @cynthiasass and @Shape_Magazine.

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Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.

  • By Cynthia Sass

It all started with a single tweet:

Emma Maier (@emma_maier)

@EverydaySexism was picking out chips at the store and a man told me “Don’t do it! You’re so beautiful.” Let me buy my food in peace, dude.

July 23, 2014

After I retweeted the story, sent to the Everyday Sexism Twitter handle, I received reply after reply from other women, all detailing the same strange encounter. In each instance, a woman, about to consume some item of food, was suddenly and inexplicably confronted with unsolicited advice, usually from a male stranger, about the impact said morsel might have on her looks.

Sarah Brown (@auntysarah)

[email protected] Getting breakfast at a hotel, a man I don’t know sees me getting bacon and says, “going for the diet option are we?”

July 23, 2014 J B (@SCSilk)

@EverydaySexism Strangers telling me “Don’t eat that, you’ll get fat”. Fries, ice cream.

July 23, 2014 Jo (@jonanamary)

@EverydaySexism sitting & eating outside a restaurant in Rouen, loitering man made continual comments eg “look at her stuffing herself” 🙁

July 23, 2014 Jo (@jonanamary)

@EverydaySexism He said nothing to my male dinner companion, of course! But every mouthful of bread – “regarde comme elle bouffe du pain” 🙁

July 23, 2014 Kirsty (@Safetyfox)

@EverydaySexism bought chocolate from station vending machine, bloke said ‘moment on the lips, lifetime on the hips’.

July 23, 2014

The instances vary, but only slightly. In most cases, the exchange is strikingly uniform. The message, in almost every case, is crystal clear: as a woman, your body is public property and fair game for comment, instruction and policing.

This was so blatant, in fact, that in some cases the men even cited specific societal “requirements” and assumptions about women’s bodies in their comments:

Mari Fflur (@Mari_Fflur)

@EverydaySexism Months before my wedding, I fill my plate at a salad bar. Male colleague says “Don’t you have a wedding dress to fit into?”

July 23, 2014 Melissa Flora (@spunkyblah)

@EverydaySexism I get told I “don’t need to drink diet soda”, as if being skinny is the only reason to drink it.

July 23, 2014

Others quite openly made it clear that they felt a woman’s food consumption should be based entirely around how it might impact on her attractiveness to men:

Chiara Venturini (@chiara84)

@EverydaySexism Have been told several times I should eat more ’cause I’m too thin, and men like to have “something to squeeze”

July 23, 2014 not quite ashley (@THATissooAshley)

@EverydaySexism was told to “tone down” concerning my taking plates full of food at a buffet because “boys won’t like me”. MANY TIMES.

July 23, 2014

This, really is the key. That so many women have reported this frankly quite incredibly patronising experience, is testament to the strength of the myth that a woman’s physical form exists, above all else, to titillate men. It’s the same mistaken assumption that lies behind the command to “give us a smile”, or the belief that a woman in a low-cut top must be looking for male attention.

As incredible as it seems, some women actually experience moments in their lives when their entire sentient being isn’t focused exclusively on providing men pleasure. They might wear a strappy top because they are hot, for example; eat a burger because they are hungry; or drink a diet soda because they quite like the taste. Explosive revelations, I know.

You might laugh, but for some, the belief that a man has an automatic “right” over the body of any woman he encounters in a public space is worryingly ingrained. Take, for example, this woman’s account:

Cerys (@Molotovchicken)

@EverydaySexism I was eating pasta salad on train. Guy walks over, grabs my food and throws it into bin. “You shouldn’t be eating that.” 1/2

July 23, 2014

This issue may not sound like a big one, but in fact it is closely interwoven with deeply damaging societal norms about women’s bodies. The unrealistic and objectified images of women we are bombarded with daily already have a huge impact on women’s body image and self-esteem. We know that girls as young as five are worrying about their size, and that a quarter of seven-year-old girls have tried to lose weight (PDF). In a world in which many women experience near-constant anxiety about their bodies, having somebody you have never met before make a loaded comment about your weight just as you are on the point of eating something can be horribly unsettling. Several people tweeted that such encounters can trigger people who have had eating disorders. Others said it left them feeling too judged and uncomfortable about eating in public.

Even when the comment doesn’t directly reference weight, there is a heavily implied sort of disgust or shock at the idea of a woman eating:

Charlotte Worthing (@chazma85)

@EverydaySexism all the time, eating chips recently and a man said ‘bloody hell, you can’t get them down you quick enough can you?’

July 23, 2014

And, of course, as with so many other impossible standards, women simply can’t win:

Flumpmistress (@flumpmistress)

@EverydaySexism Yes! Vending machines – so often a random male stranger around to ask: “Should you be eating that?” #EverydaySexism

July 23, 2014 Nicola Armstrong (@nicnaclala)

@SCSilk @EverydaySexism And sometimes the opposite if I’m eating a salad – you need more than that, have a cake!

July 23, 2014

The normalisation of this bizarre belief that a woman’s choice of lunch is a public matter is exacerbated by its reflection in the media. “Not a model meal” crowed one Daily Mail headline, after Helena Christensen had been caught in the shocking act of eating a sandwich. “Pregnant Kim Kardashian succumbs to cravings and gorges on burger and chips” shrieked another headline, after the then-pregnant reality star stopped the press by having lunch. And of course, the words drip with the implicit greed of the women – Christensen “feasts”, Kardashian “gorges”. The close connections with body shaming are there too – the Mail solemnly warns that Christensen “had better be careful with her eating habits in the future” in case she ruins her model figure (reminder: she ate a sandwich). And in case we weren’t all completely clear that attracting men is a woman’s sole function, and that it’s only our bodies men are interested in, it even continues: “She could end up losing the famous 35-24-35 measurements that have made her the toast of men everywhere, including her current partner, Interpol frontman Paul Banks.” Summary: woman eats sandwich, may get dumped by husband for getting fat.

One can only hope that the world will eventually come to terms with the shocking revelation that women do, in fact, eat meals, so that such vital headlines may one day become a thing of the past. In the meantime, I’d suggest following the excellent example of these tweeters:

Claire M Benson (@PyroClaire)

@EverydaySexism A colleague criticized my food for a couple of months. I asked him if was because I’m office junior or a woman. He stopped

July 23, 2014 Lindsay Gordon (@LinziSue)

@EverydaySexism Bloke: I find women who drink pints unattractive. Me: Great, I didn’t want to attract you. *buys another pint*

July 12, 2014

The Spaghetti My Boyfriend Didn’t Want Me to Make

I hadn’t seen my boyfriend all day. Something about him having an essay due Monday, or maybe lunch with a friend. Whatever it was, it had gotten him out of my bed early that morning and out the door. I’d made him an espresso and given him a banana for the subway ride.

A few hours and a text or two later, we decided to meet for dinner. “Meeting for dinner,” in our parlance, meant I prepared a meal for the two of us at one of our apartments. The son of a restaurateur and chef, I’m partial to the kind of home cooking I grew up on. In fact, I spend most of our nights together preparing our evening meal. Occasionally, he helps. Or rather, occasionally I let him help.

Ours is a relationship in which we both assert our individuality: he prefers horror flicks, me something a bit lighter. He’ll choose the subway, me a slow stroll. There’s comfort in keeping these boundaries intact. But when it comes to cooking, I blur that line. I enter the kitchen—his, mine, and even that of his childhood home—with confidence.

Photo by Paige Mehrer

Holding a wooden spoon and a bunch of chard (which he once told me he hated—not for long, pal!), I dance across his taste buds. I prepare dishes as I see fit, over-salting and under-saucing with little consideration for his input. If he tells me he doesn’t like something, I prepare it for him in a way he hasn’t yet tried. This is how things should taste: pasta should have a little bite, eggs don’t always need ketchup, fish really isn’t that bad. Of course, being his bedfellow grants me considerable leeway. (His mom once asked me, baffled, how I had finally gotten him to eat mayonnaise.)

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When he cooks, which isn’t often, I watch anxiously from across the room. I feign distraction and bite my tongue as I watch him slice carrots too thick or burn onions. When I cook, I banish him to the couch with a kiss and a glass of wine.

I refuse help in the kitchen: It’s my sanctuary and my stage, my studio. And while I don’t brag much, it’s in the kitchen where I become my best self. I approach cooking and feeding my partner from the most affectionate place. I find food to be the purest incarnation of intimacy, a crystallization of those feelings we conveniently deem love. Besides, what better way to prevent a boy from straying than feeding him a pasta sauce that rivals his grandmother’s?

This is all, of course, learned behavior. My dad, an Italian immigrant from the island of Sardinia, is a man of few words. Not for lack of them, but for lack of desire to use them. He is introspective and reserved, expressing love not through talk but through taste. Though a non-practicing Catholic, he continues to ascribe a certain sacred significance to his Sundays. On the seventh day of the week, he abstains from work at his restaurant, turns off his phone, and does not leave the house, save for a trip to the Korean supermarket to pick up fresh fish.

On those days, I awake to poached eggs, laid soft on rounds of crispy flatbread rendered pliable by a spread of bright tomato sauce. In the afternoon, we watch a game of soccer and he brings me paper-thin slices of salsiccia and wedges of pecorino. My sister, my mom, and I go to bed at night, stomachs swollen with pasta and spring artichokes, lamb stewed in fennel broth, sea bream scorched in the oven under a thick crust of salt. My dad’s cooking is an ode to home and to love, however nebulous and malleable those notions may be. He cooks for the family and the island he left behind, and he cooks for the family and the island he created on a quiet suburban street in Texas.

Learning to love on my own, outside my childhood home, I find myself returning to the pantry, turning on the stove. And while I have yet to introduce my partner to my family, I introduce myself with the recipes of my childhood, the tastes of my father’s kitchen on a sweet, slow Sunday. I cut slices of persimmons copped from a Chinatown street vendor as a tender offering of my appreciation, or spoon an extra clove of garlic onto my boyfriend’s plate. After a few days of particularly nice behavior, I prepare him a hearty carbonara because I know he loves bacon.

We all hope to imprint ourselves onto those we deem worthy. I had a previous boyfriend who tried to shape my taste in music. He made me listen to hours of garage and lo-fi rock. We traveled the coast of California without leaving his dorm room, listening to the sounds of his West Coast adolescence. My current partner prefers to recommend me books. He leaves James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room on my bedside table or a Jennifer Egan article in my backpack, cultivating within me thoughts I might not otherwise have had. Often I think he’s sending me implicit messages: this character reminds me of you, doesn’t this scene make you think of that time? Other times I think he just wants me to be more well-read.

We all try to shape the tastes of our lovers, conform them to a vision of a lifestyle we think we have—or want to have. We mold together and ease each other into new places. To introduce and expose is a partner’s duty; to carve and construct is, for many, a tacit desire. A far as tastes go, the taste I wish to share is taste itself.

I entered his apartment that night after a day apart, closing the front door on a late-autumn gust. I needed a culinary reminder that summer nights once existed, so I planned to cook a pasta dish my uncle used to make at the end of each July. It was spaghetti with onions, tomatoes, garlic, and Italian sausage. I knew my boyfriend didn’t like Italian sausage (he said it reminded him of all the Italian-American picnics his family forced him to on Long Island) and that it was the one food he wouldn’t budge on.

But I made it anyway.

I made it because I needed the challenge, and because he hadn’t seen me all day, and because he had never tasted my uncle’s pasta. I made it because I wanted to share that taste with him, and I wanted to be responsible for some type of cognitive shift that would rewire his memory to like Italian sausage because maybe, just maybe, if I made it he could learn to like it.

He sat in the other room while I cooked. He read something for class; I chopped the onions and peeled the garlic. I stewed the tomatoes in their own juices and let them bubble the smallest bit. In a separate pan I cooked the sausage that I had crumbled between my fingers. I dropped the spaghetti into rolling water and then combined the meat with the tomatoes to let them sit in each other’s oils, to absorb each other’s flavors.

As we sat to eat, I took a bite and let out an exaggerated mmmm, a vocalization of approval that I hoped he wouldn’t counteract. He took one taste, dropped his fork, and looked right at me. I pretended not to notice, carrying on about how much this tasted just like Zio Giulio’s.

“I told you I don’t like Italian sausage. You know that’s the one thing I don’t like.” He was hangry and I had kept him waiting.

“I know, I know,” I stammered, looking for footing. “But I just thought, maybe, you would like it like this, like the way I make it.” Weak argument.

He sensed my hopefulness. I sensed his frustration. I’d ventured into territory that he’d warned me not to enter, inserting myself where I shouldn’t have. It was just a plate of pasta, a $10 home-cooked meal for two, but he could tell what I was playing at. I wanted to be the one to rescue him from his sausage aversion. I had taken it upon myself to deliver him from distaste and promise him a future laden with foods he had otherwise disavowed. And he would be all the better for it. He would thank me.

But his tastebuds are his own, and regardless of how intensely I meddle, I cannot control how he understands flavor. Maybe he’s not there yet, maybe he never will be. It’s not for me to will.

We sat in silence. Before I could look up to apologize he slid his bowl in my direction, completely empty…save for a pile of Italian sausage sitting at the bottom.

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An essay posted on the sex blog How To Make Me Come has given some very, very specific and expert tips to those heading south with their mouth and wanting to know how to lick a woman or person with a vagina out. So naturally, we thought it important to flag up for anyone who might need a little hint.

PSA: these magical tips are relevant for anyone with a vulva, not just women as the post’s title implies. So fill your boots!

How to eat a woman out

Step 1: Make your way south of the border. You may guide this path with small kisses from their neck down to their pelvic region.

Step 2: You’re at the vulva/vagina! You made it! Wow, what a trip.

TIP: DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH THEM WHILE YOU’RE DOWN THERE. YOU WILL TURN INTO STONE. Just kidding, eye contact is fine. It’s an intense move, but depending on who you’re going down on, it could be very creepy or very hot. You feel it out.

Step 2 continued: Before you pucker up, try some sensual kissing up and down their inner thighs. Not totally necessary, but I’m just saying they probably wouldn’t not be into that. Now get in there. Don’t tiptoe around it— go in and find that clitoris. In case you’re unsure of what that is, it’s that thing that feels like a bean on the top of the vertical roast beef sandwich.

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TIP: That bean isn’t just any bean. That’s a fucking magical bean. If you know what you’re doing (which you should have a good or better idea of by the end of reading this), you can make someone convulse with pleasure like a demon is being exorcised out of them. Start off this exorcism right by DJing (using your fingers to rub the clitoris) and then stuffing your face in between their thighs.

Step 3: Use your tongue to lick the magical bean. Lick it up, down, and all around, but remain focused on the pressure of your tongue on the clitoris. The receiver wants to feel something going on down there. It’s kind of like a hard tonguing you do to get something that’s stuck in your teeth in the back of your mouth. Play with the shape of your tongue on the clitoris and mix it up.

(Steps 4 and 5 are interchangeable)

Step 4: Ask if they like it. Not only does this add a good intro to dirty talk, but also, not all vulvas are created equal. Vulvas come in all shapes, sizes, colours, makes, models, etc, so you’re going to run into some different preferences. More pressure or a certain tonguing may be better for one person versus another. If you’re already passing this with flying colours (in which case, bravo, pal, bravo), asking how they like it is a 100 per cent turn on anyway.

Step 5: The same way some guys and people with penises like to have their balls played with during a blow job, you should stimulate other parts of the vulva while you’re lapping it up like a dog drinking water. Run your fingers down their thighs, grab their hips, or reach for their breasts (more on how to do that like a total boss here) and massage those babies because they need some love, too. There are of plenty of options. Put some fingers in their cheese box (if they give enthusiastic consent, obviously). Lots of multi-tasking can be done in this position, but remain concentrated on that clitoris.

Getty Images

Step 6: Back to switching it up. The clitoris is very sensitive and if you play with it too hard for too long, you’re not going to get anywhere. Throw some light kisses on that magic bean.

Step 7: The beauty of multiple orgasms is that you can have BILLIONS OF THEM. Well, no, not billions, but a lot. Like, a lot. Let me walk you through how a vulval orgasm feels. It’s like taking the first slice of pizza from the cheesiest pie and watching the gooey cheese stretch like a waterfall. It’s like unicorns eating ice cream and galloping around the rings of Saturn. It’s like bacon. It’s an intense and concentrated feeling that no one wants just one of. So if or when your partner orgasms, don’t dust off your hands and move on – give them another. You got that engine purring, so, you know, insert other vehicle related metaphor. Amirite?!

Side note/very helpful oral sex tip

Using a sex toy while going down on someone could give you a golden ticket to cums-ville. If they’re okay with it (ALWAYS, ALWAYS CHECK), you could use a bullet, wand vibrator or clit vibrator on their clitoris while fingering them.

Cosmopolitan UK recommends

Rocks Off Bamboo 10 Function Bullet Vibrator Rocks Off lovehoney.co.uk £16.99 Rabbit Ears annsummers.com £50.00 Doxy Extra Powerful Massage Wand Vibrator DOXY lovehoney.co.uk £89.99 Screaming O Screamin Demon Extra Quiet Clitoral Vibrator Screaming O lovehoney.co.uk £16.99

Step 8: Give some time between orgasms. I have no science to back this up, like all of the other scientific evidence I’ve provided, but it’s easier to achieve another orgasm with a short resting period. I mean, don’t check your phone or anything, but maybe throw in some of those soft kisses. Just give that magic bean a breather for a few seconds and then get back in the game, champ. Sports references!

Step 9: At some point, you two can agree when to move on to boning or Netflix or however you people choose to continue your time, but that’s none of my business.

Step 10: High five. Eating someone out is not complete without a high five!

Some IRL people weigh in on how they like to be eaten out

In case you needed any further guidance, the wonderful, oversharing humans of Reddit have explained how to lick someone out really well. Remember, all bodies are different and like to be stimulated in different ways. But these nuggets of info are super helpful.

  1. “If they start biting on a labia or pulling on it with their mouth. it hurts please stop taking notes from porn.”
  2. “Clitoral every single time with occasional fingering. Having someone try to get their tongue in there feels like someone is mushing mashed potatoes into me (I really don’t know how else to describe it). It’s awful and turns me off.”
  3. “Mouth stays outside, fingers can venture inside.”
  4. “I like clitoral stimulation, but I also really love vaginal stimulation, so a tongue in my vagina is great. I also like when my partner kinds of makes out with my vagina. Feels amazing.”
  5. “I can orgasm from penetration in general, but tongue penetration doesn’t really feel like anything except wetness. Fingering while doing clitoral stimulation is great though.”
  6. “Mouth should be outside, one or two fingers in.”
  7. “I prefer penetration although I can’t orgasm from that but I also enjoy oral very much since that’s the only way for me to orgasm most times.
    I sometimes feel bad if it takes too long.”
  8. “What works for me all the time is stimulation of the G-spot, anterior/front wall of the vaginal canal, two inches in, with two fingers. Either move your arm with your fingers crooked, or your fingers (like come here), and oral (or other) stimulation of the clit. Get a rhythm going, and don’t change it when she gets more excited, unless she specifically asks.”

Looking for your next favourite podcast? Listen to Cosmopolitan’s All The Way With… on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Acast and all the usual podcast apps.

Related Story Related Story

My wife has an eating disorder but i dont know how to help!

I feel for you brother, you are in a tough spot. I too am in a situation like yours, a few months ahead of you though. We have six kids and I found out last fall that my wife has struggled with a eating disorder for the entire 14 years of our marriage and all through high school before that. It was a shock and it has been the hardest six months of my life. My biggest recommendation for you would to get her into a medical doctor weekly for weigh ins. Find a doctor who deals with ED’s and will hold your wife accountable. I would also find a good marriage counselor, you have to have someone that can listen to both of you, marriage is hard enough without a ED to deal with. Your wife needs a good therapist. GET INSURANCE AS FAST AS YOU CAN IF YOU DON’T HAVE ANY!!!! I cannot emphasize that enough, we have spent over a $100,000 in the last six months, I thankfully got insurance turned on right before my wife went into inpatient. It saved me financially and probably saved her life. Reach out to a friend, brother, dad, or anyone and talk, talk, talk….. you need to have support just like your wife does. Good luck my friend, this a tough road to walk. Here is a blog that I started writing… could not find any good husband blogs out there, so I thought I would start documenting mine in hopes that it may help another husband somewhere not feel lost and lonely.

I am a married man of almost 10 years. My wife has a poor relationship with food and regularly yo-yos in size. We have been discussing having another child and the truth is that due to her eating problems, I find her less attractive and the thought of sex with her unpleasant. She previously dallied with another man because – in her own words – she was seeking reassurance a confidence booster. I have never raised these issues with her for fear of hurting her feelings and am afraid that I’ll simply be pushing her towards infidelity again.

• If you would like to respond to this week’s problem, please post your comment below.

• When leaving a message on this page, please be sensitive to the fact that you are responding to a real person in the grip of a real-life dilemma, who wrote to Private Lives asking for help, and may well view your comments here. Please consider especially how your words or the tone of your message could be perceived by someone in this situation, and be aware that comments which appear to be disruptive or disrespectful to the individual concerned will be removed.

• If you would like fellow readers to respond to a dilemma of yours, send us an outline of the situation of around 150 words. For advice from Pamela Stephenson Connolly on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns. All correspondence should reach us by Wednesday morning. Email: [email protected] (please don’t send attachments).

Your spouse’s health is very important to you, so of course you’re going to worry when they start overeating. Or maybe the problem isn’t their health, but they’re becoming greedy ? Is it causing relationship problems ?

This article will focus on how to help your spouse eat less, when they need to eat less. But do realize that you can’t make anyone do anything unless they want to.

So this will require your spouse’s consent, and you to bring some good reasons for why they should stop eating so much.

Table of Contents

So what can you do when your spouse eats too much ?

As we said above, overeating can’t be solved just because you want it to. Your spouse must want to stop overeating as well. But if they’re overeating, how are they going to know they need to lay off the burgers ?

Well, there are several things you can try, and we’ll get into them right now.

1. Figure out why it’s bothering you

Maybe their overeating habit is a legitimate reason for a fight – they always eat all the food, so you’re stuck with continuously cooking.

The kids are made at your spouse for not leaving any candy for them as well. And you’re making more trips to the grocery store than your wallet would like.

Or, maybe it’s a health concern. Your spouse has gained a significant amount of weight in a short time and you’re very worried.

The thing is that it will be fairly hard to talk to your spouse about their eating habits if you don’t know what the problem is.

So make your introspection ans figure out what the reason is. Even if it ends up being an aesthetic reason, own up to it and accept it, since it bothers you.

If it bothers you how your spouse looks when they let loose and devour that meal and eye some more food, that’s your thing and you need to own up to it.

Just know exactly what the problem is, so you don’t scramble for words when you start that talk with your loved one.

2. Is it you or is it them ?

Keep in mind that some things will be very subjective to you. Maybe your spouse eating too much is just you opinion. Let us explain.

There might be differences between your plates usually, but think about whether you’re not the one undereating a bit. And if this overlaps with your spouse overeating a bit, then it will look like a big difference. Do you get where we’re going with this ?

Be reasonable and try looking at things from a distance. Ask your friends and family to give their opinion on this as well, see what they have to say.

Another thing to remember, there are clear differences between how much food a man and a woman need. Accounting for differences in weight, height, build, daily activity, and metabolic rate. The differences can even get to double, in the more contrasting cases.

For example a fairly short woman, with a low impact job and sedentary lifestyle will need much less food than a tall man who trains every day, aside from being a firefighter.

These are extreme examples, but they’re meant just to paint a very clear picture.

3. Talk to your spouse about it, reach a commitment together

Now that you know for sure what the problem is with your spouse overeating, let’s sit down for a talk. Tell your spouse in very clear and plain words what is bothering you, and why.

Keep in mind that this is not an easy talk, and your partner might not see your point of view. If they’ve always had their meals with extra servings, and you’ve never said a word about it until now, it will sound odd.

So make sure that you put everything into clear context – why it bothers, how it came to bother, and how you still love them but would like to work on this together.

Bring your spouse benefits for eating less than they currently do, like possibly health benefits, or relationship improvement if this is something you’ve argued over.

Do expect your spouse to be a bit hostile and unhappy with this topic. After all, you’re asking them to eat less of what they like. Who would like that ?

Be gentle but clear in this talk, and don’t expect it to go completely your way. After all, this is something you’ve thought about before. But it might be something your spouse never thought of before, so they might not reach your conclusion as easily.

They might agree to eating less just to not cause a fight, but make sure to check up with them regularly after the first talk, see how they’re feeling.

4. Have patience, this will take time

Remember that what you’re asking your partner to do must have some deep roots. If they’ve always been used to eating a lot, and were greedy as kids, unlearning that as an adult will take time.

It will not be easy. Some fights might come your way, until they see for themselves why what you’ve asked them is to their benefit.

During this time, be considerate of them. Offer support, talk to them about it when you catch them eyeing a second helping. Always thank them when you notice them doing something that helps unlearn this habit.

Have patience with yourself as well, since you will be under some stress as well. Your relationship might get a bit rocky, but that’s where the support and talks come in, to pinpoint what is wrong and how to fix it.

Even after your spouse manages to eat normal quantities of food, continue focusing on a healthy lifestyle and eating habits.

5. Visit a doctor to rule out anything medical

Often times drastic changes in our eating patterns point to a possible medical problem.

Talk to your spouse, telling them that you’re concerned for their health, and want to know that there’s nothing wrong on the inside.

If it does turn out to be a medical problem, then your doctor will be able to help you in that direction. Along with the medicine and diet they would prescribe, it would lead to your spouse not overeating anymore.

However if it’s not a medical problem, and the tests come out alright, then this means it’s time to look at what can lead to overeating, and how you can help your partner with that.

6. Take a look at your spouse’s habits to find the trigger

Everything has a reason, and a trigger. Even if your spouse has been overeating as a child and is now overweight, there is still a trigger for this.

For example your spouse could be eating too much when they come from work, because they keep skipping meals there because of a harsh work schedule. SO at work they eat just snacks and much on something, and home binge on the cooked meals.

Maybe your spouse has a tendency to overeat especially when there’s dessert involved ? Then try mixing up the desserts, alternate between fruits and sweets, find the combination that seems to make them want more food.

Then, remove said trigger. Or, tinker with the recipe or quantity, so your spouse will still like it but have less chances of asking for more.

Another thing to try, is offering something else they like. For example “honey please don’t put so much on your plate, put that turkey leg back.” doesn’t sound very friendly, even if it’s something they should definitely do.

Try aiming for something more like “honey I know you love that food, and I’m glad you do. But if you put that turkey leg back, we could watch that movie you wanted and cuddled for a bit.”. The whole point of it is that you’re offering something they like in trade of something they like.

You’re making it sound much friendlier and to their benefit when phrased like this. Your spouse might insist on keeping the food on their plate.

That’s when you need to be firm and remind them of the health problems they’re headed for, or how their relationship to food is ruining the one your two have.

7. Keep in mind that it might be emotional eating

Some people get very very attached to food. Either as a coping mechanism, or as an escape method, people can abuse food like they do alcohol.

This usually happens with junk food and sweets, which are the tastiest things for our brains. We need glucose for our brains to function properly – we get that from carbs and sugar. But we tend to eat way too much of it.

So if your spouse is overeating when they’re feeling sad, or when they’re celebrating, when help them out. Be there with them, take the food out of their hands, and talk to them about it.

Remind them of what overeating can do to the body, and how it’s affected them so far. Have some very clear examples, otherwise your ideas might get brushed off.

(If you like this article so far, you can pin it to your Pinterest board by clicking the image below. The article continues after the image.)

8. Take a close look at what your partner is eating

It might be that your partner is not eating enough of the right nutrients.

This is because most of the time the food we eat does not ‘last’ us very long. For this we need food right in fibers, good fats, and lean protein.

The fibers in our food help the stomach digest better, and the guts do their job properly. Fibers can be found in whole grains, vegetables, fruits.

We can find lean protein in chicken breast and thighs, and fish. Other meats are alright too, but they are a bit harder to digest.

And finally, the good fats. Many people shy away from fats for fear of gaining weight, but there good types of fat help us keep our weight in check actually.

That’s the Omega 3 and 9 fats that we find in fish, avocado, nuts and seeds, and they all lower cholesterol levels.

So a few examples of meals that will keep your partner well fed and not need a lot of extra food could be:

  • porridge (oatmeal) for breakfast, with whatever toppings they like
  • steak with broccoli and garlic
  • beans/legumes with rice and chicken – something mexican if your like
  • wholegrain pasta with legumes and protein
  • mashed sweet potato with string beans and turkey
  • risotto with grilled mushrooms and steak, with a side of salad
  • creamed pumpkin soup with croutons

Once your partner starts eating whole foods, they will have less need for more quantities of food. The main benefit of whole foods is that they retain their macronutrients (protein, carbs, fibers, fats) so they are more filling and better for the body in general.

Your spouse might even have the added benefit of a bit of weight loss if they eat more whole foods.

9. Stock the house with healthy foods

We’ve never seen anyone binge on whole broccoli heads, or banana chips. Whole foods keep you fed much longer, yes, but why is that ?

In short, heavily processed foods, pre-made foods, frozen meals, they all have a lot of fibers stripped from them to preserve them better. The downside is that there’s also added carbohydrates and sugars, which can get addictive for humans.

So if you bring only alternative foods for your spouse, they will have a harder time overeating. This can go south, so be prepared for this.

Your spouse must agree to this, otherwise it will seem rude and intrusive to them. Slowly start changing the snacks around the house, to give them time to adjust to the idea. It might take a few weeks, or a few months, but they will get used to it.

A large part of their initial discontent is that they’re used to the unhealthy yet tasty food. But they can unlearn that, and your must give them time.

10. You must follow these tips and rules as well

No point in asking your spouse to lay off the fries if you’re on your second helping as well. Even if you don’t need to lose weight, or are in any health danger, you need to be an example for your spouse.

This is because they will always compare themselves to you, even if they’re not aware of it. So do you.

So if you’re asking them to eat less and take better care of themselves, but you’re not doing that, then how will they take into account what you ask ?

Another important part is that the habits of one partner rub off on the other as well. So if you take care or yourself then your partner will have a higher chance of taking care of themselves as well.

This will benefit your relationship as well since you’re both keeping yourselves healthy.

Final words

Changing anything about your spouse is not easy, and probably not the best idea anyway. Your spouse must always agree to whatever change that happens. After all, if you work together in that direction then it will be much easier for both of you.

So we hope this article was helpful to you, and you’ll find a lot of useful information on what to do when your spouse eats too much. Stay healthy !

5 Ways To Help Your Spouse Eat Healthier—No Nagging Required!

Watch: How to Build a Social Support System

Keep your relationship, and your sweetie, healthy with these tips for helping couples eat healthier together.

My husband and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary this year. Our love of good food brought us together, but it’s also taken a toll on our waistlines. And we’re not alone. According to a 2007 study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, marriage goes hand in hand with weight gain. “In the first five years of marriage, women gained an average of 24 pounds and men gained 30 pounds,” says Penny Gordon-Larsen, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at UNC and author of the study.

So we vowed to be healthier, together. But my efforts to lead us down a path filled with fruits, veggies and running came off as nagging. My husband had a point: telling someone they should do something feels like you’re judging them and they want to resist. As a dietitian, I realized I needed him to want to eat healthier. And as a wife I didn’t want to nag either-especially about weight, food or exercise (he has to do the laundry sometimes!). The secret: I can’t make him do anything but I can change my actions.

Here are five tips that will help you and your spouse eat and live healthier together.

-Breana Lai, Associate Food Editor

1. Be Part of a Healthy Solution

Figure out if there is anything you are doing or can do to help your spouse eat healthier. For example, if your spouse often eats fast food at lunch and you typically pack your lunch, offer to start packing him or her a healthy lunch too. (If you’re at a loss for ideas try these: 25 Quick, Low-Cal Packable Lunches. )

2. Stock Your House with Healthy Foods

Out of sight, out of mind? This may be a good tactic for unhealthy foods. A study led by Brian Wansink, Ph.D., director of Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab, found that people wolf down more than twice as many chocolates when they’re right in front of them compared to when they’re farther away – around 6 feet – and covered. I try to stock healthy options that my husband likes in highly visible places, such as bananas on the counter and yogurt on an eyelevel shelf in the fridge, and keep the sweets tucked away in the cabinets. If temptation still outweighs these extra barriers for your spouse, skip buying foods that trigger cravings and buy them or go out for them only on special occasions.

Related: What Are Your Eating Triggers?

Pictured Recipe: Grilled Salmon Soft Tacos

3. Cook Healthy Meals for Each Other

I love cooking foods that my husband loves. Watching his face light up when I make spaghetti Bolognese makes my day. But unfortunately, I also know how many calories are in my rich dish, so I reserve this heavy cooking for special occasions. Instead, I make healthier options like grilled salmon soft tacos.

Related: Healthy Low-Calorie Dinners for Two
Low-Calorie Comfort Food Recipes

4. Lead by Example

How can I get my husband to eat a healthy breakfast if I don’t? I try to live the healthy life I want us both to enjoy by adopting my own healthy habits. Making a batch of Maple-Nut Granola once a week means I have a quick nutritious breakfast or snack always available for me, and my husband now eats it too. Several studies have shown that influence from friends and family on eating and physical activity habits has a strong impact on your own health behaviors. Therefore, if I eat healthy and exercise, my husband is much more likely to follow suit.

Related: 3 Essential Ingredients of a Healthy Breakfast

5. Foster Healthy “Together” Time Activities

Instead of just eating together, we also try to exercise together. After dinner, instead of plopping down on the couch to watch TV, we take a walk around the neighborhood. It’s a small change but during our walk we talk about our days and go further than we would if we were walking alone. Social support can be a big factor in weight loss and maintenance. In a study published this year in the Journal of Obesity, researchers reported that among participants in a 6-month weight-loss program, those who joined with a friend lost significantly more weight (an average of 13 pounds vs. 8 pounds).

Related: 6 Ways to Exercise Without Even Knowing It

Related Links

  • Quick Dinner Recipes for Two
  • 10 Bad Cooking Habits You Should Break
  • 7 Simple Ways to Save 100 Calories
  • Is Fiber Good for Weight Loss?
  • How to Eat Healthy and Make Your Plate Look Like MyPlate

The question

I’ve been together with my wife for nine years, married just over three. She was a soccer player, very fit, and exactly what I wanted from a wife so I stuck with her. But she gained 80 pounds about two years into our relationship. I always saw her working it out and getting back to her old self. Instead, she has regressed further, both physically and personality-wise, whereas I am very driven and active and want to experience all I can in life. I’m at the point where if she doesn’t take things seriously soon, I’ll want a divorce. Is this wrong of me to want a deeper connection and attraction? I’ve given so much time to waiting without result.

The answer

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It’s funny: We live in a culture where this is a taboo topic. It’s “fat shaming,” we should all be happy with our bodies the way they are, and so on.

And to be honest, I’d feel a lot more comfortable with this question if the sexes were reversed and it was a wife complaining about a husband.

Also, I’d love to drop bromides like: These considerations shouldn’t matter, it’s the love and spiritual connection that counts, the main thing is communication and whether you’re soulmates.

But I just can’t. Time and experience and everyone I talk to and everything I’ve read indicate otherwise.

Google “my spouse got fat.” Hundreds of online forums pop up. You tend to hear more from the women, and the common thread is along the lines of: “I love my husband, he has a great personality, but he’s become a tubby hubby and refuses to do anything about it. Now I’m finding I’m not attracted to him and thinking of leaving him. What do I do?”

It’s been a problem for me, too, I won’t lie. My wife loves me, we’re soulmates, but I’ve always wrestled with my weight. And I know my wife has wrestled with it (my weight) too.

Time passes and wrinkles and grey hair happen to everyone, but she has the right to a reasonable facsimile of the hot guy she married.

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Or at least someone who’s trying. And I do: I go to the gym (I live across the street from one, so I really have no excuse), watch what I eat. I fight the fight. If I decided just to pull the ripcord and let myself go, I think you’d have to stick a fork in her, because she’d be done.

(Cyril Connolly famously said: “Imprisoned in every fat man, a thin one is wildly signalling to be let out.” But Kingsley Amis was truer and funnier, I think: “Outside every fat man is an even fatter one trying to close in.”)

Which leads me to your question. Two words jump out: “regressed” and “divorced.”

Are you sure it’s not a medical or psychological issue? If so, she should see a shrink or a doctor prontissimo.

If not – well, it’s unclear if you’re communicating your concerns, or the gravity of your concerns, but if you aren’t you should start to do so immediately.

But you have to do it gently, tactfully. Gaining weight can be a vicious cycle: you get fatter, you get depressed about it, gain more weight, etc.

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You have to help her, not hurt her. It’s a fine line between insulting and “fat shaming” a person and making them even more depressed and self-conscious, and encouraging and praising them into getting their old self/mojo back. It takes delicacy and diplomacy. Show her you care.

Meanwhile: Have you taken a long look at the man in the mirror and asked if he really loves his wife? It was interesting, I thought, you mentioned she was fit and a soccer player and “everything you wanted in a wife,” but not one word about her personality or loving her or being soulmates. Could you have gotten married for the wrong reasons? If so, the sooner you open the Yellow Pages to “Lawyers – Divorce” the better, so she’s still got time to find someone who really loves her.

If you can honestly say you love her, then realize: These things go in cycles. According to my calculations, in your eyes she’s been overweight for seven years – a long time, but not that long, really. If you love her, give her more time to get her old self/mojo back.

Encourage her. Praise her efforts. Maybe keep healthier food around the house, and suggest you exercise together – even if it’s just something mellow, especially at first, like going for a walk together.

But ultimately motivation has to come from within. She has to want it herself. No amount of hassling or browbeating or encouragement or praise is going to change that.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to [email protected] Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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My wife eats too much

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