I get this question a lot from people going paleo: “How can I get my spouse to eat paleo? He/she keeps bringing cookies into the house and it’s driving me crazy!”
The short answer is… you can’t.
For the sake of simplicity I will use “he” and “him” in this section although this could easily apply to a wife or girlfriend and often does.
If your husband thinks you’ve fallen gone off the deep end by going paleo as my husband did when I first started just know you’re not alone. You’ve got to admit, wouldn’t this have sounded insane to you a few years ago too? Sure, going paleo worked for your friend so-and-so but do we all have to give up our cereal in the morning?
Living with someone that now eats very differently to you is not easy. Food is a big part of daily life! We eat 3 times a day and attend social events that are heavily focused on food. But you obviously can’t force anyone to do anything they don’t want to do. So, what can you do to help get your spouse on board?
How to help your spouse embrace paleo
1- Lead by example
If acquaintances are coming up to you telling you how great you look, or how happy you look, or how much better you or your kids are performing you’d better believe he’s noticing as well. Give it a few weeks of simply letting him see how this lifestyle is changing your body, mood, life and let his interest pique.
2- Do the shopping and cooking
If you’ve always done the shopping and cooking, great! Just keep at it, with paleo ingredients. If he’s the one that’s always done it or you’ve shared the task, offer to take it over! Yes, it will be more work if you have a reluctant spouse but it’s just a few weeks during the transition that making it easier for him is really important. A few shifts will be easy and either go unnoticed or at the very least will likely not result in any resistance. For example swapping out the margarine for delicious grass fed butter or ghee or switching from grain fed to grass fed beef if it’s in the budget. If ditching all bread and pasta will cause a ruckus, perhaps switching to gluten free alternatives will be a good bridge towards paleo for him. No, they don’t taste the same at all but it is something you can experiment and see if it is helpful to him to still have these favorites occasionally. Ask him what he’d like to eat and paleoify his favorite foods. Pack his lunches! Also, if there’s ever a time for paleo treats it’s during the transition. I remember relying on treats then more than I do now because sometimes you just need a paleo muffin or brownie to keep from losing your mind.
3- Pick your battles
Does he absolutely live for corn chips and salsa on a Friday night? Let him have them! Going paleo is not about being perfect. You can still experience many benefits of paleo following it like a religion. Most people are paleo 80% of the time and as an adult he’ll ultimately have to decide what his 20% is if he even wants to do this.
4- Offer new things one at a time
Sometimes you think he’ll never give up this or that but it’s just because he doesn’t know there’s an alternative that’s healthier and also delicious. I’m not saying swap his potato chips for a carrot stick but perhaps you can upgrade his potato chips by stocking some that use avocado oil instead of rancid canola oil. Also, introducing new things, simply having them around for him to try sometimes ends up being an interesting experience. It happened to me by accident at work. I happened to have kale chips and just for the sake of being polite offered them to the person I was working with who I would have bet money would say no and/or hate them. Turns out he’s now a kale chip addict. Who knew?
5- Be patient
You likely didn’t hear about the paleo diet one day and jump in with both feet the next. Why would he? For some people cold turkey is just not the best approach to going paleo. Changing one thing at a time is easier for some people. Just keep doing your thing. For my husband I think one of the things that helped was hearing it from a guy. I’d show him the success stories from guys on Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson’s sites and those were much more relevant to him than female success stories. Ask him if he’ll go to a local paleo Meetup. It’s interesting to see how the once resistant spouse goes on to chat with all the other paleo dudes about how great they all feel. Mission accomplished 😉
If you haven’t already, read my husband Eric’s paleo success story.