I’m really compatible with my husband, except in one area: our eating habits. He says potato chips, and I say kale chips. I’m a vegetarian, and my husband is a meat-loving carnivore.
One thing they don’t tell you before you walk down the aisle and say “I do” is that your eating habits are affected by those closest to you, and nowhere will that be more apparent than with your spouse.
I thought I’d outsmart the experts when I took the reins in the kitchen. The person who prepares the food, controls the couple’s health. Or so I thought.
Let me preface everything by saying that I love to eat. I’m not some skinny bitch, measuring out my half cups of snow peas. I have a severe sweet tooth. But for the most part I enjoy eating and cooking a healthy blend of vegetables and whole grains.
Mostly, we eat on the healthy side of delicious, sit at the dining room table and make use of utensils.
The gray area comes into play with, what my brother likes to call “celebration eating.” This is the terminology for when you throw caution to the wind and feast (or pig out) around the holidays, or bagel brunches with dear friends, or dinner parties, or birthdays, or TGIF events at work, or a snowmaggedon day off, or the Superbowl, or to celebrate getting a Netflix in the mail.
This kind of social snacking includes foods that are easy and fun to share, and require less time to prepare, making them also especially easy to fall prey to in busy moments. Cheese and crackers, nachos, anything with dip, cannolis, heavily-buttered popcorn at the movies, pints of Adirondack ice cream, chocolate covered pretzels, trail mix, chips and salsa, or candy-covered sunflower seeds from Trader Joe’s are just a few examples.
Before I got married, eating treats was an occasional indulgence, but now “snacking” has become a fun shared activity.
Additionally, there is the “take out” conundrum. Sometimes, after a long day, I just want to have something in my stomach and don’t want to think too hard about it. In New York City, where I live, there is an entire industry devoted to filling that void: take-out restaurants, delivery services for restaurants that don’t deliver, prepared meals to go, and even recipe deliveries.
It’s hard for me to order a side salad with a side of dressing when I know my loved one is ordering up a pu pu platter. On my own, I’m happy to get a seaweed salad and sushi roll to go, but whatever my husband is getting just seems so much more exciting. I may have will power, but c’mon, I’m not Wonder Woman!
My final complaint is about my husband’s zest for eating. Occasionally, by the time I sit down to eat with him, I’ll notice that he is very nearly done with his meal. He has impeccable manners in most every way, but with food, it is like an apocalypse happened and an army of vagrants are pounding on the door looking for his last bite of stroganoff.
I’m all for “him doing him,” and he can eat however he feels fit, and I will love him anyways. The problem is that I find myself mirroring his speed in a very heartburn sort of way. Of course, I’ve talked to him about this issue, and he agrees that this quality is one he’d like to discontinue. But here we still are, still shoveling food in our faces, in between bits of lovely conversation.
What are you to do if you have a weak constitution and can’t prevent your husband’s bad eating habits from rubbing off on you? I would say that marriage is really about the coming together of two souls, and the give and take of personalities and habits. It’s an unfortunate fact, that you can’t just wipe away the bad traits of your loved ones.
My husband could just as easily write an article on how to get out of the clutch of your wife’s wannabe health nut vegetarian eating cycles, as he has gone through all fruit cleanses, no gluten, flirting with veganism, a South Beach craze a decade ago, Atkins (during a small window of time that I ate meat), and Gwyneth Paltrow-approved detoxes. [In my defense, I’ve always been blessed with stomach issues, which has recently been correctly diagnosed as IBS, so much of my eating is dietary, not dieting.]
The key to everything is probably moderation. But I’m also going to set a goal for myself for a new type of eating, called “vacation eating.” Where we slow down for our meals, giving ourselves time to prepare and choose foods that we actually want, and taking the time to sit down and chew consciously.
Habits take time to develop, and it takes a while to break bad ones and develop new good ones. I can make commitments to myself to put down the fork in between bites, and eat only when I’m hungry, and hopefully inspire my husband to do the same.
When I find myself engaging in an unhealthy activity, I can put down the artisanal chocolates, and make sure I’m aware of what I’m doing. And if I am, then I can go ahead and indulgently scarf down the rest.
I can’t change him, but I can change myself. Slowing down with my husband will probably result in happier eating habits, and has the added bonus of preventing the un-fun shared activity of cholesterol/ calorie counting in our future.