Spouse Not Paleo?

Converting to a Paleo lifestyle has many challenges.  You deal with the uneducated, the educated but skeptical, and the people who don't care about nutrition.  You'll get strange looks when you tell people how and why you eat the way you do.  People (and this is the weirdest part) will actually get mad or put-off by the fact that you have a special way of eating.

During your conversion, you'll have to order differently when eating out.  You have to learn what constitutes "paleo" and "non-paleo" types of foods.  There's the immense amount of information one must consume in order to understand the diet.  There's the challenge of understanding the science, because without the science, any doubters simply dismiss you as a quack.  And even WITH the science, many doubters will dismiss you as a quack.  You'll get eye rolls, and condescending smirks.  Waitresses will mess up your orders, and starbucks will INSIST that half & half is the same thing as heavy cream.
You'll read and read and read, and still not understand the biochemistry.  (Luckily, you don't HAVE to understand it to live it)

Then come your own doubts.  You'll ask: "Am I doing the right thing?"  "Am I eating the right thing?"  "How is my blood work?"  "Am I doing "Chronic Cardio"?"  "What will my doctor say?"  "What if the lipid hypothesis isn't a myth?"
Good Food / Bad Food

But the above challenges happen to those who are already firmly engrossed in to the lifestyle, aka "Practicing Paleo eaters" so to speak.  But what about about the beginning?  Transitioning to this way of eating happens (typically) with an overhaul of  the kitchen and the cupboards.  Most tutorials start by telling you to throw out all of your junk food.  ALL OF IT.  Because the first thing that will derail you in the beginning is temptation.  Giving-in to the foods that you've unwittingly become addicted to, is most often the first thing that causes a person to fall off the paleolithic wagon.  Trash the sodas, pretzels, Doritos, and the sourdough.  Donate the canned soups, peanut butter, and rice.  Just get the grains, legumes, dairy, and sugar all out of your house! 

But what if your spouse isn't convinced to start eating in this way?  Most couples go into the paleolithic way of eating as a team.  However, as in my case, this isn't always the case.  Not being on the same page presents some very unique challenges to a person starting out on a paleo diet.

First, from an economical standpoint, it's costly.  Buying paleo foods is more expensive to begin with, because of their whole food, grassfed, organic, non-gmo characteristics.  But because you're in a household that isn't quite converted, you're now having to buy yourself paleo foods and your family conventional foods.  

Also, because you and your spouse are not on the same page, you're stuck with preparing 2 separate meals, one paleo, and one conventional.  This is problematic from a time management standpoint, and a group dynamic standpoint as well.  In my case, I was always eating a separate and seemingly "Special" meal.  Our children were always asking me why I got to eat steak or salmon and they had to have spaghetti.  This caused a schism in the house which caused a lot of frustration for both myself and my wife.  

Next...there's the temptation.  Because I had others to consider, I couldn't exactly throw out the non-paleo food.  This was hard, as I was faced with seeing cookies and candy behind every cupboard, and pizza and noodles every time I opened the refrigerator.  

Also, my wife got to the point that she was sick and tired of hearing about paleo in general.  As a result, she became one of the folks who doubted and dismissed the lifestyle, and rolled her eyes every time I brought it up.  Admittedly, it was partly my doing, as I was perhaps overly excited about the new lifestyle.  

So, what to do if your spouse (and family) is not on board?  

Offer to cook meals, and if they don't wish to partake in what your eating THEN and only then do you cook a separate meal.  This will convey the message that you're offering the family to eat the same foods that you're eating, which emphasizes a culture of "inclusion."  No longer are your foods deemed "special" or "different."  Some folks just need to get exposed to whole foods to see just how good they really are.  

As for not being able to clean non-paleo foods out of the house, that's a tough one.  In my case, I couldn't force my lifestyle on my family.  With my wife not ready to commit to paleo eating, I had to allow the chips and noodles to stay in the house.  Again, I reiterate, THIS WAS HARD.  There's no way around it, you must show some resolve.  But you know what?  It was only hard in the beginning.  After the first 2 weeks, I was so satiated and so sugar controlled, that my cravings were a non-issue.  I was rarely hungry, and sometimes I would skip a meal and not realize it.  On a paleo diet, you simply make less trips to the kitchen!  As a result, saying no to cookies when I opened the cupboards was easy.  But you must get through the first few weeks as it's during this time that your body still isn't changed from a metabolic and genetic standpoint to not crave conventional foods.  Now, I'm so used to avoiding those types of foods, that I never feel like I HAVE to have any sweets.  On special occasions, I may indulge in some dessert, but often find sweets to be too sweet.

As for the ranting and crusading: STOP.  If your friends and family are not convinced, don't preach and try not to talk about paleo eating too often.  It's boring to anyone not as interested in nutrition (which is almost everybody) and it gets preachy.  If anything, it's counter productive to converting anyone to the paleo lifestyle.  They'll see you as judgmental or condescending, even when you're not trying to be.  The best approach is to lead by example and let your results speak for themselves.  If they ask for info, certainly offer up information, but until then, ZIP IT.  After awhile, you'll see that people will become interested and come to you.  Especially after you develop abs.

Now, my wife is a convert in the sense that she's willing to give it a go, but we've agreed to abstain from making her paleo until after the birth of our baby boy.  (Only because she's completely meat averse.)  For now, she is trying to eat whole foods whenever possible.   I'm excited to say that once my boy is born, he will be introduced to a level of nutrition, health, and fitness, I could have only dreamed of!  

Good luck to anyone having to endure a paleo transition like this, it's a doozy.


Ian, this is such a great post! Would you consider doing a geuest series on our blog as the transition happens? It's such a crucial topic I'm fortunate enough to know nothing about! PS if you follow is on Twitter you'll see we're not the only ones who think so :)

Stacy, I'd be honored! Let me know about the timing, and I'll start typing. I've got more drafted posts than actual posts sadly.

After a couple of false starts my husband and I came to an agreement about family meals. He agreed to not eating out (restaurants or other people's homes) for the first month and that he would cook any non-paleo sides while I cook paleo family meals. We keep his sides portioned out into single servings ready to cook so he can put in minimal effort and there are no leftovers to torment me.

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