One of the questions I often get asked by friends since overhauling my nutrition and losing weight is some version of: “How do I get my husband to stop bringing junk food in the house?” or “How do I get my man to eat clean?” or “How do I get my husband to stop eating bread?” With this in mind, I decided to write this blog post about my husband and the autoimmune protocol (AIP).
There’s a Luke Bryan song, called “Games.” The chorus is:
“All of these games, we play
I can’t even keep ‘em all straight
Do we mean what we say?
We got lines crossed all over the place, yeah
I can’t tell if I’m winning or losing
Somebody tell me what are we doing
Nobody ever comes out on top
Tell me, are we ever gonna stop?
Playing these games.”
Without meaning to, I used to play games with my husband. Most of the games I never meant to start playing. However, some games I learned through the example of others and I started playing them with my own man because that’s all I knew. Other games I developed subconsciously to manipulate my husband’s behavior.
Before you start seeing me as the evil emperor in Star Wars, it was not like that. I did not mean to start playing games with my husband to change his behavior. Heck, I cannot even explain all of the games I did not mean to play. In fact, I do not even understand the ins and outs of them myself. However, I do recognize that I did play them and I take full responsibility.
I came to a point where I realized I need to stop trying to change my husband. As a result, I decided to start intentionally loving and accepting him exactly the way he is. No conditions. I do not withhold my “I love you”s or intimacy based on whatever game I decide to play on any given day. I also realized I am sick and tired of games. I do not want to play them anymore. I decided to pick up all the games and throw them out of our bedroom window, so to speak.
I am a grown woman. He is a grown man. I can be me. He can be him. I can do me. He can do him.
I do not need his behavior to change in order for me to change. I choose:
It is up to me. If I succeed in my efforts to find wellness through the autoimmune protocol, it is on me. Likewise, if I fail, it is on me.
You Do You
So, what is my answer when I am asked “How do I get my husband to stop eating bread?” As kindly as possible, I answer, “You don’t.” Sorry, girlfriend, you don’t. Your ability to succeed in your quest to find wellness through the autoimmune protocol is your responsibility.
Your husband is on his own journey, and you are on your own journey. You come together in a beautiful relationship and journey through life side by side. However, that does not mean you become identical twins, attached at the hip, having to eat all the same foods. Your ability to eat cleanly has nothing to do with whether or not your man eats cleanly.
I recommend giving your husband space to make his own choices. You do not walk in his shoes. You do not know what he is going through at work. Maybe at this point in his life, he needs junk food as a coping mechanism at the end of a long, hard day. Maybe he won’t always need it, but maybe he does right now. Therefore, if you harp on him or criticize him for it, it will drive a wedge so far between you that, if left unchecked, could grow to the size of the Grand Canyon.
When you finally step back and wonder what happened between you two, you will realize you are on one side of the canyon and he is on the other – with no bridge in between. Sure, you can start the painstaking process of building a bridge, but it will take time and incredible effort. Isn’t it easier to not put the wedge there in the first place?
So, you do you. Eat cleanly for yourself. You are worth it, and wellness is worth it. I found peace when I stopped trying to change my husband. I am happy to report I stopped playing games. I love and accept my husband for who he is. I respect his decisions. I encourage him to have a voice and stand up for himself – even if it means a disagreement with me.
Our trust has grown. Our love has grown. Our respect for each other has grown. Our passion has grown. As a result, wounds from years and years of game playing are being healed. Is the process perfect?
Of course not. Old habits die hard, and I occasionally find myself falling into old habits. However, my husband and I are working everyday to intentionally be straight with each other. He knows I am in charge of me, my health, my happiness, my dreams, and my goals. I know he is in charge of him, his health, his happiness, his dreams, and his goals.
So, I eat according to the autoimmune protocol. I do yoga. I mediate. I dry brush. I oil pull. I love all things organic. I wear natural deodorant (and sometimes stink). I take supplements.
What about my husband? He does not do most of those things. He sits back and watches it all. He offers encouragement and support. He has a front row seat as I transform my life and fight for my health while battling autoimmune disease.
My husband loves the new me. He asks how he can support me. He trusts me. He cheers me on. And he even eats clean now most of the time…and loves how he feels!
Learning to Communicate
What helped my husband and I ease the transition?
Communication. Open, honest, respectful communication.
I was the one trying to drastically regain my health and adapt to the autoimmune protocol, so I became very clear on what I needed from my husband. Similarly, I communicated what I was struggling with, and clearly asked him for ideas on how we could make my new lifestyle work for our marriage and our family.
For example, there was a period of months when I was at my worst and my energy levels were low. I had to be honest with myself and him with where I was at. I had to admit if I was going to heal and find wellness, I could no longer push my body past it’s limits. I communicated my limits because autoimmune disease is an invisible illness. My husband cannot tell how I feel by the way I look.
Asking for Help
Being honest about my limits flipped our lives upside down. For instance, one of the things I admitted was I was too sick to go grocery shopping for our family. Talk about a low point for me. I felt shame because I thrived on being seen as strong, independent, and able to push through anything. Yet I found myself at a point where my body refused to be pushed any further.
After telling my husband my truth, he brainstormed solutions and offered to take over the grocery shopping and regularly stop by our local Costco on the way home from work. So he did. In fact, he still does 90% of the time, even though I feel better. I give him a list, and he shops. And you know what? He is amazing at it! Unlike me, he stays focused, gets in and out quickly, saves us money, and allows me to save my energy to spend more time on other things.
Remembering His Feelings
It helps me to remember my husband wants me to feel better. Whether he communicates it or not, it hurts him to see me battle my invisible illnesses. I know it tears him apart. As a result, my husband wants to fix it, and to rescue me. He feels helpless when he realizes he cannot. Therefore, I communicate with him and ask him for his thoughts. Further, I share ways I would love for him to help me. Then, I thank him, and let him know he made a difference in my day.
Daring greatly means the courage to be vulnerable. It means to show up and be seen. To ask for what you need. To talk about how you’re feeling. To have the hard conversations.Brene Brown
There is an exception to everything I’ve shared. If your husband is purposely trying to sabotage your efforts to eat clean, or derail your wellness journey, you need to have an entirely different conversation with him.
Further, I am not advocating anyone stay in a toxic or abusive relationship of any sort. Everything I shared is based on my experience, and my husband respecting my new lifestyle.
As you navigate your new healthy lifestyle, remember to be patient with not only yourself, but your husband as well. Change is hard. As a result, you, and/or he may simply need to take things slowly. Be patient as he adjusts to this new, improved version of you. He may feel threatened by the changes you are making, and the weight you are losing. Remember to love him through it.
I am a completely different woman than the woman my husband married 18 years ago. Similarly, he is a different man. Our relationship is not perfect. However, our marriage is stronger than ever because of honest communication, mutual respect, unconditional love, continuous effort, weekly date nights, and making intimacy a priority.
Ironically, as time passed, and I changed, my husband began changing as well. He eats cleaner than he ever has before, without any badgering or manipulating on my part.