Make It Stop: “My Boyfriend Keeps Sabotaging My Diet!”

I’m trying to lose weight, but my boyfriend, who I’ll call Joey, keeps sabotaging me. Like, if I want a side salad, he’ll talk me into ordering the French fries as a reward because I’ve been so good with my diet all week. Or he’ll stock his freezer full of ice cream knowing full well that if ice cream is in the house, I will seek it out and destroy it with my mouth. He’s my partner-in-crime and drinking and eating guilty pleasures is a large part of how we have fun. And I feel like a buzzkill turning down pints of beers, gooey mozzarella sticks, and fudgy chocolate cake. But my waistline has been paying the price! I have to make a change. I want him to respect my decision about this without acting like I’m punishing him. Make it stop.

First of all congrats on taking steps to change your lifestyle. I know it’s not easy, especially when it can feel like everywhere you turn, a cookie, potato chip, or burrito is just waiting to pounce directly into your face.

And while it’s hard enough to have the self-control to reign in your own food indulgences, often the battle isn’t just with re-training yourself how to see food, because partners can influence our habits too, as you’re finding out. And so much of being in a couple is navigating food together:

“If I get chicken wings, will you have some?”

“I’m in the mood for cookies. Let’s make cookies.”

“Should we get bacon on the side? You’ll have a piece, right?”

“Two words: pizza party.”

So when that comfortable routine is disrupted, fear can kick in. He might feel like your desire to cut down on calories is a criticism of him and his food choices. And, for the record, I’m not mad at Joey for his behavior. Maybe he had a parent who constantly tried to put him on a diet as a kid, so just hearing the word “diet” gives him flashbacks to tasteless rice cakes and bland celery sticks. Or maybe he worked really hard to accept his food preferences and feels like by you wanting to re-examine your food choices, it’s an attack on him.

In a perfect world, he’d offer to stock his house full of organic kale and fresh-squeezed juices instead of Haagen Daaz with salted caramel swirl, but it isn’t. So it sounds like you need to ease into this lifestyle change while dating Joey. And just as you want him to respect your food choices, you have to respect his. His just happens to include armfuls of Pistachio Pistachio ice cream.

But Joey doesn’t have to feel deprived as you make these changes. In fact, your goal is to make it easy for him to support you. Recruit him to be your partner-in-health.

In the immediate short-term as you’re preparing to make this change, I would downplay your diet intentions. Hear me out. Don’t open up the giant menu at IHOP and ruminate loudly, “What’s the healthiest thing on here?” Just order what you want. Don’t offer additional commentary on the nutrition value. Don’t ask for his permission to eat lighter, just do it. Order that side salad. Order the lighter bowl of soup. If he gives you gruff, just say that you’re in the mood for a salad. Case closed.

Next, have a strategy for when temptation strikes. Keep healthy snacks at both of your houses. Popcorn, nuts, chips and salsa, things like that. Keep granola bars with you for when you crave something sweet. Instead of chocolate cake, nip into a high-quality dark chocolate bar. Instead of pounding beer after beer, alternate between beer and glasses of water while he has as many as he wants.

This also might be a good excuse to cook at home together. That way you can both control and customize your meals as you see fit. And by cooking at home, there’s less temptation to order onion rings or jalapeno poppers or anything other deep-fried calorie bombs.

Unfortunately, you can’t tell him what foods to have at his house. It sounds like he needs that ice cream as much as you don’t need it. Maybe it’d help if you tossed a pint of a sorbet up there with his Chubby Hubbys so you have something to nip into if temptation strikes.

I would also work to find other things to bond over that aren’t food-related. Maybe dive into movies or TV shows. Start a game night with your friends. Maybe go out to see bands play. Take the focus off whatever’s at the end of your fork.

Then, once you’re in a more health-minded groove, be open to compromising. See how you feel about having a cheat night with him once a month where you still get to have his favorites foods, but you monitor the portion size you eat. Look at that, everyone’s happy!

Lastly, recognize that health is a lifelong journey. Your challenge is to reassure him verbally–and nonverbally–that his emotional needs with food will still be met even though you’re being more mindful about your lifestyle. He’s not losing anything. If anything, by taking control of these issues, he’s gaining a closeness with you.