The easiest way to change your diet is to “clean out your kitchen” by getting rid of all the foods you don’t want to eat anymore. That way when you reach for a snack you won’t end up grabbing a granola bar. Unfortunately for many of us, getting rid of all the processed food in our houses is not an option. Some of us have roommates, spouses and/or family members who aren’t willing or ready to give up their sandwich bread. Does this mean that making changes in your diet is impossible? Not at all! My husband does not follow the paleo diet. This doesn’t mean he isn’t supportive of the changes I have made for my health, but he simply is not going to give up all his favorite foods just because I no longer eat them. He often arrives at home with fresh baked bread and donuts. He puts sugar on his already sweet papaya and feels like a meal is not a meal without beans and rice. While I often wish that he would “jump on the bandwagon” with me, he is an adult and free to make his own decisions.
As most of you know, I follow the autoimmune protocol because I am recovering from severe Crohn’s disease. While many people are able to reintroduce some of the foods that are restricted during the initial phase of the autoimmune protocol, I have not been able to do so thus far. I do not eat: grains of any kind, nuts or seeds, eggs, nightshades, dairy, sugar or sweeteners, legumes, alcohol, or caffeine. The list that I just made could be repeated as a list of my husband’s favorite foods.
When I first started to follow the autoimmune protocol my husband thought that I was A) CRAZY and B) going to starve to death. I kind of agreed, but I was in so much pain that I was willing to try anything. As my symptoms improved my husband started to become more supportive of my diet and began to avoid bringing home some of the items that were hardest for me to keep my mouth off (like cheese). I have to admit, my first months on the autoimmune protocol were full of slip-ups which I now know were greatly hindering my healing process. I would sometimes use a “little bit of butter” and eat aged sheep cheese. I also pretended that eggs were OK and frequently made these delicious plantain pancakes. When I finally fully committed to the autoimmune protocol I realized that these little slip-ups were making a big difference in my health. Now I don’t bend the rules, even for my birthday. My health is worth much more than the ten seconds of joy that an irritating food might give me! Plus just thinking about the days of bloating, pain and discomfort that would ensue is enough to keep me away.
As I have learned more about the value of eating a whole/real foods diet and the negative effects of eating processed food (especially gluten) I no longer see my diet as a means to an end (healing from my autoimmune disease) but rather something I enjoy doing to have a happier, healthier life in general. I have become so passionate about eating good food that I wish everyone would eat like I do! I truly believe that most of our problems (both physical and emotional) could be solved just by eating better. So what about my husband and his evil donuts? It is sometimes hard for me to watch him eat food that I know is unhealthy and damaging, but for the reasons outlined below I am not going to throw a tantrum about it.
My husband is an extremely healthy guy. He has never taken antibiotics (or any medication for that matter) and the only time he has seen the inside of a hospital was when I was staying there, and once when a dog bit his leg as a child. He is one of the lucky few who have naturally good digestion and meal etiquette (AKA he chews his food and therefore doesn’t need to do my July challenge). My husband was born and raised in a town in southern Brazil where food was not something that everyone had in abundance. He was taught to be grateful for the food he had and not picky about what he ate. Growing up he mostly ate rice, beans, and fruit from trees around the neighborhood. There was not a lot of extra money lying around to buy chips and pastries. I am willing to bet that his mostly “whole foods” diet and childhood spent playing soccer and marbles in the streets and chasing kites through the nearby fields, provided him with the strong constitution that allows him to get away with eating junk food as an adult (and not get sick or obese as a result).
The food I cook for him, while not “paleo” is as healthy as I can get away with. He usually eats whatever I eat + rice and beans (which I make weekly). The processed treats that he eats are purchased by him. As time goes by I have noticed that he is more likely to try my “weird” food and enjoy it. By slowly changing the food that we have available at mealtimes his habits have changed. I have no intention of forcing him to change his diet, but I hope that by providing the most delicious and nutrient dense food that I can he will feel satiated, happy and healthy. And you can bet your bottom dollar that on the rare occasion he catches a cold and only wants to eat top ramen… I sneak in some bone broth instead of the MSG flavor packet.
Having “off-limits” food around can be really hard. I have found that the best way to NOT eat it is by using a trick that I mentioned in my post about what to do when you can’t eat anything.… pretend that it is poison. Don’t give yourself the option of eating off-limits foods, but rather imagine that they are not food at all (in many ways they aren’t). I find this to work really well with packaged foods. It is trickier with rice and beans, which are a healthy choice for some people. Another thing that I have learned about myself with these situations is that having “just a bite” makes it much worse. The minute that Skittle touches your tongue it awakens the dormant demons of food cravings that you might have even forgotten about. This is not a lifestyle that you can halfway embrace, you have to decide to go all the way to fully reap its healing benefits…and I can guarantee, a Skittle is definitely not worth the potential setbacks it can cause.
Trying to force other people to agree with you (in the kitchen or out) is a sure fire way to make them lose interest and resist your suggestions. My plan is to continue to “lead by example.” This has already helped both of my parents, including my dad (who doesn’t like most vegetables) and my pizza loving teenaged sister change from a “healthy” American diet to a paleo/primal template (real, whole foods and no grains except white rice).I hope that my husband will continue to become more open to dietary changes and new foods. Meanwhile I will continue to make the most delicious, nutrient rich foods that I can so that we both stay healthy.
Many of my fellow autoimmune paleo bloggers have successfully switched their family over to paleo and noticed great results (even in their children’s behavior). To hear what their husbands think about both the diet and lifestyle changes, as well as living with someone who suffers from an autoimmune disease I recommend watching this fabulous video:
What about you? Does everyone in your household eat the same way that you do? How do you deal with having foods that you can’t eat in the cupboard? Have your families tried new foods because of your diet?
Want some more tips about how I deal with “off limits” foods in my refrigerator and cooking for myself and my non-paleo husband at the same time! You can read my FOLLOW UP POST here 🙂
Note: while my gluten sensitivity is such that having gluten containing foods in the house is not a problem, people with severe gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease may have to be more strict about keeping gluten containing foods out of the house.