Help! My Significant Other Doesn’t Want to Get Healthy!

We have a lot of rebels in committed relationships in the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

Unfortunately, we also have a lot of rebels in relationships struggling to live healthier lives while their significant other isn’t on the same page quite yet…making living a leveled up life all that more difficult.

I tend to get a handful of emails with similar situations every week: from husbands worried about wives, wives worried about husbands, girlfriends worried about girlfriends, children worried about their parents, robots worried about their robots, and so forth.

[note: This article has been edited. Explanation at the end!]

Here’s the gist of most emails: 

Hey Steve!

Being healthy and living right has been very challenging to say the least.  I’m currently struggling with making dietary adjustments: I tried creating my own grocery list separate from my family, but found out very quickly that I truly cannot afford it.

I’ve not quit working towards my goal of a healthier lifestyle.  On the contrary, I am trying to bring my wife on board too so we’re in this together, but it’s an uphill battle.  She’s not ready to make the changes I am, and it’s making it difficult for me to stick with my plan.

I have a hunch there are plenty of readers out there who are financially obligated to eat what the rest of the family is eating and want to change, but may be meeting resistance from a significant other.  Too often I have been a quitter in the things I start, but I am so sick of the way I look and feel that it just disgusts me to even consider giving up now.  I want to be able to see my grandkids one day (my children are 3 and 7) and I want my wife to see them as well. 

I know there are people out there like me who may be considering giving up because the push back from someone so close makes it feel impossible. 

How to turn things around…

Slanted Hallway

This is a crappy situation, one that I’m sure a HUGE portion of the Nerd Fitness community is dealing with right now.

You are with somebody who you love unconditionally, yet they enable your unhealthy behavior and push back when you say you want to make changes.  In fact, when you tell your loved one that you want to lose weight or start eating better, they say something like “but I like you just the way you are.”

There are other (even more difficult) situations in which rebels have loved ones who have let themselves go physically and are scarily unhealthy…let’s be honest, there is NO good way to tell from somebody you love things like “you need to lose weight” or “you really should start exercising.”  If you are worried about this person, I bet they already feel incredibly self-conscious and will get immediately defensive if you open up a discussion with them about their health or appearance.

If you can relate to these struggles, it’s time to use a bit of Inception to get your uncooperative significant other on your side!

Plant the seed

Seedling emerges from rocks

As we’ve learned from Dom Cobb in Christopher Nolan’s Inception:

“What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea. Resilient… highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed – fully understood – that sticks; right in there somewhere.”

If you have a significant other who is out of shape, not interested in getting healthy, and you find yourself worried about him/her, you can’t FORCE them to exercise or make healthier food choices.  Nagging them to exercise, or telling them they should exercise will NOT work. If it’s not your significant other’s own idea, he/she will reject it or quickly give up at the first sign of resistance.

You CAN, however, plant an idea deep in their subconscious that life is better when leveling up, inception style!  Note: We’re not advocating manipulation of your significant other – we saw how that worked out for Cobb’s wife in the movie!  Instead, we’re merely suggesting that you align the pieces in the right place so that when your significant other IS ready to change, they’re lined up for success.

REMEMBER: it took you years and years before you made the decision to get healthy; your significant other might be on a different timetable than you, so please be patient.  Here are some tips to make sure you are ready to help when they are interested in changing.

1) Just get the conversation started (thanks to Ramit for inspiration on this one).  Here are some examples: “Hey, I’ve been trying to lose some weight lately…what do you think about the Paleo Diet?” or “I’ve been reading this kickass website called Nerd Fitness lately and it has me thinking about how I want to make better habits.  Are there any bad habits of mine you’d like me to change?”  Yup, this is you throwing yourself under the bus, but at least it gets the conversation started!

2) Constantly ask for their advice and support on being healthier.  The goal is to get them talking about making healthier decisions, and make it more and more comfortable to bring up the conversation in the future.  When you find interesting articles about healthier living, share it with them and ask for their opinion.

3) Use me as the bad guy.  “Hey I read about this idea for habit change on Nerd Fitness…seems like it’s a little ridiculous, but what do you think?”

4) Try something together.  “____ Seems like a cool experiment, but I’m worried that I can’t follow through with it by myself.  Can we try this 30-day challenge together? I know you can help me stay on track.”

5) To borrow another quote from Inception: “Positive emotion trumps negative emotion every time.”  If they start making changes and you can notice a change (no matter how small), comments like, “Did you lose weight? You look great! Whatever you’re doing, keep it up!” will go a LONG way.  Become your significant other’s biggest cheerleader and supporter.

If you are constantly having an open discussion about health and wellness, sharing tips, asking for opinions and advice, HOPEFULLY you’ll get to the point where one day your significant other comes to you with an idea of their own that they’re “gonna try to lose a few pounds and try this ‘getting healthy’ thing.”

Build your team

Inception Team Sleeping

Once you’ve explained that you are working on improving YOUR life, you may still face pushback. Getting your significant other on your team is essential. If you are constantly trying to eat new types of food, to cook instead of getting fast food, or doing more active things and spending less time with your significant other, it can lead to hurt feelings and poor results…and we don’t want that.

Instead, you need to get your loved one on your team! You have a few options here:

Set a reward – Explain that you’re in a weight loss competition at work, and the winner gets $500 (this would be a good time to start a competition at work), and if you WIN, you’ll be spending that money on a romantic getaway for the two of you.  Suddenly, they’re working WITH you to win that getaway rather than sabotaging you with hurt feelings, a puss n boots face, Pizza Hut, and ice cream.

Find ways to be active together – Explain that you really need help staying on track, so you’d like to exercise together. Find activities that you both can do together, but don’t limit it to working out. Try hikes in the woods or park, a salsa dancing class, karate class, a yoga class, and so on.

Create a reward system with each other – If you have a significant other that is already interested in getting healthier, spend an hour with each other creating a fun spreadsheet of rewards for each other, keeping it as innocent or not innocent as you want – your call 🙂

  • Every time either of you loses a few pounds, you get a 30 minute massage or foot rub.
  • When you collectively lose a certain amount of weight, you get a special date night at your favorite restaurant.
  • Think of it like turning your life into a video game, except with way cooler, joint rewards.

Be a role model, not a dreamer

Chair tips over

While you’re trying to better yourself, until your significant other has fully jumped on board with the idea, you’ll face a barrage of well-intentioned but incredibly destructive comments like:

“Skip your run this morning, and sleep in!”
“Want to sit on the couch and watch TV tonight?”
“Why are you trying to change? I like you just the way you are!”

Your response needs to be something along the lines of: “Honey/Pumpkin/Muffin/Moonpie, I’m not doing this for you; I need to do this for me.  And I need your support.”

You need to become Captain Americathe inspirational and motivational person that will inspire THEM to want to change.

Here’s how you can get started:

  • Volunteer to do the shopping and cooking.  Cook meals as often as possible, and do what you can to make them healthy.
  • Politely (but firmly) decline invitations for sweets, desserts, and other unhealthy snacks.  Don’t judge if he/she eats desert, but you do not have to eat poorly just because they do.
  • Become a super hero that always picks healthy options over unhealthy ones, with a loving smile.

Remember, you’re not doing this for him/her, you’re doing it for YOU (and your friends and family).  

Having a loving saboteur in your house will make this a challenge every day, which is WHY a Support Team, either offline or online, is so vitally important.  

How would you help?

Inception City

This is just one humble nerd’s opinion.

If you happen to be in a similar situation as our rebels who aren’t on the same page as their significant others, or if you WERE in a similar situation and found a great way to get healthy together, how did you do it? PLEASE share your successes and struggles with your fellow rebels in the comments below.

Let’s help build an army of nerdy superhero couples.



PS – I’ve made a few significant changes to today’s article.  After reading your comments, I realized that I didn’t do a good job with properly conveying the real issue at hand in today’s article – what to do when you and your spouse aren’t on the same page.  I have the utmost respect for the hard-working super moms and super dads of the Nerd Fitness community; I’ve edited “Sam’s” letter to be more encompassing of the dozens and dozens of emails that I’ve received from concerned folks about their significant others, boyfriends, and girlfriends.

I’m hoping we can continue our discussion on how to handle this situation of rebels who are struggling to get healthy while their well-intentioned loved ones are unknowingly sabotaging their efforts.

photo source: spinning top, seedling, chair fall, city, sleeping team, hallway

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  • Katelin

    CAN YOU DO AN ARTICLE ON YOU FITNESS ROUTINE (UPDATED)… oh wow i just noticed my caps were on…im not screen yelling 🙂

  • Taylor

    Have you seen our free workouts? Take a look here:

    If that’s not what you meant, let me know here or at !

  • RS

    Your wife works full time, mothers full time, and is in school. Here is an idea. Tell her she works too hard to be in charge of getting groceries and preparing make ahead meals (because she is), and take charge of it yourself. If she still wants to fill the roll of the ‘cooking mother’,then why don’t you do the leg work and have already prepped the veggies, prepared healthy snacks, etc. It will make it a LOT easier for her to make healthier choices. Coming from a mother of a toddler, who works full time, and is currently pregnant, my husband is constantly helping with groceries and housework. If he makes me dinner, I don’t care what it is… I’m going to eat it because I’m so thankful I don’t have to slave in the kitchen.

  • Katelin

    i would ask them why they dont want to get healthy/happy with me and work from there with all my nerd fitness knowledge

  • This is a difficult subject to address because relationships are involved. Having lost 110 pounds I went through this with a boyfriend. He did not support me and actively tried to sabotage my efforts. (I describe it in more detail here: Guess what? He didn’t stay my boyfriend very long.

    It’s important to be with a partner who will support your journey in achieving health. If they don’t, maybe they aren’t the right person for you? The same goes for if it’s the other person who is unhealthy and doesn’t want to take care of themselves.

  • Teresa

    RS is right but maybe I can add a bit to what she says. There is nothing preventing you from being the cook in the family. If you take over the kitchen duties then you can make the meals. If your wife has issues with that then she is being disingenuous when she says she doesn’t have the time to fix real meals. (sorry but it is a fact that some women don’t want to do the extra work of making good meals, but also don’t want to had over the work to anyone else – that’s tough one to work with).

    If you take over the cooking, create your paleo meals then allow the rest of the family to add extra carbs to that meal. Paleo meals are excellent by themselves, but lend themselves to allowing easy additions by others not wanting to go full paleo. So you can (for instance) cook a lovely meal of Chicken and frozen artichoke hearts – a recipe I picked up from the Practical Paleo cookbook – then fix some rice to go with it. I bet the family will eat it up! You, of course, would eat the meal without the rice – problem solved and no cooking separate meals. Nearly every paleo recipe I’ve seen can be done this way. Then without extra muss and fuss, everyone will get a bit healthier.

    Oh and do allow them the weekly pizza night or whatever – don’t get so strict you make everyone mad at you. Gently nudge them to better habits. On nights when they eat “bad food” try to make sure you have leftovers to finish up. Good Luck!

  • i agree. if she doesn’t have time, and honestly it sounds like she doesn’t, sam needs to take on more responsibilities on grocery shopping and cooking. My wife and i both work full time and go to grad school. We help each other in those aspects.

  • Teresa

    You know what is a busy person’s best friend? A slow cooker!!! I love dumping all of my healthy foods into a slow cooker and then coming home after a long day to a house that smells delicious! You can do chicken breasts, turkey chili, chicken tortilla soup, etc.

    My boyfriend doesn’t always want to eat healthy either, but I have found that if I already have healthy food prepared and at the ready when his stomach starts rumbling, he’ll dive in.

    Befriend your slow cooker, your wife will thank you!

  • kaaatie

    I had this problem with my husband, too. We used to eat tons of pasta and bread because it was quick and easy, and every night it was “Hey, let’s just have sandwiches for dinner tonight.” “no… I told you I don’t want to eat bread anymore” “THIS IS SO ANNOYING” … aaaaaaand cue marital strife.

    This is when I decided I had to learn how to cook. I literally had never even boiled water on the stove before and I just decided that I was going to have to take matters into my own hands. After showing hubby how many awesome things there are to eat on the paleo diet, he started to come around. Then, after he sadly realized I wasn’t going to stop eating like this any time soon, he started to read up on the paleo diet. Now, he is on it, too! And I overhear him telling people how awesome it is when he thinks I can’t overhear him. 🙂 (on the phone with his mother– “your body starts to use FAT instead of carbs as fuel!!”)

    He still gets angry when he sees how much money I spend on health foods and grass-fed meat, but most guys get mad about how much their wives spend on shoes, so he’s just going to have to deal with that. Plus, he will still have a hot wife 50 years from now so, ya know. 😀

    Also, I am an amazing cook now– I never thought I could manage it, but once you get in the routine of grocery shopping, keeping the pantry stocked, meal planning (super important), and preparing healthy foods, you’ll never look back. And no significant other could possibly deny how much better your life is once you make that commitment.

    I’m not going to lie, though– those first couple of months where he was resisting me the whole time were pretty crappy. But just like Steve’s post says– you have to let them come around themselves. But if you are a good example then they DEFINITELY will! Good luck!

  • This is a tough topic, but you are giving some solid advice here, Steve! Really great job with this article. 🙂

    If I were to add anything, it would just be to make working out/getting healthy look like the best thing you’ve ever personally done. Say out loud the benefits you’re seeing from adopting healthier habits. You don’t have to gloat or make it seem like they’re the bad guy. Just subtle things like:

    “I don’t know if it’s my new diet or what, but I’m feeling so much more energetic all day!”

    “If I’d known that working out at night would help me sleep better, I would have tried it a lot sooner.”

    “After losing 10 lbs, I am running so much more easily! I never thought I’d be doing a 5k!”

    Don’t say these things in order to make them jealous, but they might feel a little envious hearing that you’re achieving such awesomeness without them. Hopefully, they’ll jump on board so they can tout their results along with you!

  • Justin Chaloupka

    @Teresa – Where have you found your favorite healthy slow cooker recipes?

    It’s been my experience that most of the proteins that do well with slow-low heat tend to be fattier and collagen rich, like pork shoulder, chuck roast, or dark meat poultry. And veggies (agriculturally speaking) that do well tend to be higher in sugars (potatoes, carrots, corn). Lean proteins like chicken breast and fish get gummy and overcooked, respectively, as do good green leafies and other healthy veggies.

    If you or anyone else can point out good recipes and/or techniques that will allow me to utilize my CrockPot more, then I and many others will be in your debt.

  • Samantha

    I’ve been there, as the spouse who didn’t want to eat healthy/exercise. My husband wanted to get in shape, eat right, and I didn’t want any part of it. He first tried too hard to ‘sway’ me, pushing things at me too fast and I rebelled against everything. I’m very much a bread person and he wanted us to go strict paleo, and I got angry & resentful at not being allowed grains, I’d eat it when he wasn’t around and finally said screw this and brought it back into the house. He wanted me to crossfit with him and within the first workout I was dead and never wanted to do it again. And so again I rebelled against all working out then.

    Finally I sat him down and explained that yes I’d like to start eating healthier and start exercising but this is a tortoise race for me not a hare race. I wasn’t going to be able to magically change overnight and I needed to take it one step at a time, baby steps even. And trust me it’s been hard, I still have days where my old self creeps back in but the difference is I know that my husband is there to support me through this lifestyle change, not dictate/force me into it.

    We’re both nerds & love this site so taking Steves advice from an article about trying one goal at a time has been such a help for me, we set a fitness goal & a nutrition goal every month. My fitness goal this month is just to go walking 3 times a week, distance/time doesn’t matter, just go out & do it. I find myself enjoying it and walking for 30-40 minutes, but if I only do 10 at least I went out and did it instead of sitting on the couch. Baby step for most but huge step for me. Nutrition has always been my biggest challenge area so the goal for this month is to just cook at home, with each week allowing one night out. Nothing is ‘off limits’ in the house, we just have to cook at home. This has really helped me cause I hate cooking but knowing I can still have my grains just have to make it has really started me to cook more. And since my husband still wants to eat more paleo like I just double the vegetable amount on his plate with his meat and he’s happy. Plus more times than not I don’t even think about cooking a grain side because since I hate cooking I don’t want to go through all that extra work just for me, but the fact that I know I can have it if I want it keeps me satisfied. And knowing we have one night out each week also keeps me from running to the fast-food joint, don’t want to blow my one special meal on a cheeseburger. I may not be paleo like my husband would like but it’s one step closer, I’m going to the right direction.

    So try slow changes with your wife, if you push her too far too fast she will rebel, trust me. And as the wife who’s been there done that I can say that it may take a couple tries but if she sees you getting healthy it’ll probably motivate her to start thinking healthier too.

    Wow I didn’t mean to write this much lol, guess this article just hit a little close to home.

  • Victoria

    I’m in a very similar situation; however, it’s with my parents.
    One day, my mom said she needed help coming up with ideas for meals, so I was all over it = ) and we definitely have more healthy meals now than we used to.

  • Trabb’s Boy

    I can’t disagree more about the planting the seeds idea. It IS manipulative. The best thing you can do in a relationship is to respect the other’s choices for how they want to live their lives. Dropping hints or asking them for “advice” is really just judging them in a roundabout way.
    In my house, my husband wound up taking over the family cooking because he and the kids like high starch and fat meals. I cook myself a pot of veggies separately. It’s a time waster of a solution, but we respect each other, so we worked things out in a way that allowed each of us to follow our own priorities.
    If someone is sabotaging you by pushing food, you just say “No, thank-you” and point out that you are trying to adopt different habits.

  • Chaze

    I have this exact problem and have been going through it for years with my wife. We’ve got two young kids and both work full time on opposite shifts so we can watch the kids while the other is working, so we are understandably busy.

    I’ve made huge gains (I’m a hard gainer) through exercise and supplements, but my diet suffers whenever I eat with the family because she is not interested in getting in shape, stating we have too much on our plates.

    I’ve tried every idea in this post but to make things worse, on top of being disinterested in losing weight herself, she counters my efforts by saying that I’m too vain.

    All that being said, I’ve been able to negotiate an excellent work out routine for myself by quitting martial arts. It’s all about give and take I guess.

  • allirep

    as a mom w/kids – i gave up on pleasing everyone at the table a long time ago. my household eating habits are still a work-in-progress. you can maintain a loving relationship and serve healthy food at the table. I am not making pizza every night 🙂

    You may have to compromise here and there. I still make tacos, pasta and pizza a few times a month. but – i swap out sugar-filled store bought condiments for homemade BBQ sauce. sweet potatoes or rutabagas for regular potatoes, etc. i do buy treats – and i will bake cookies or brownies for the kids. but overall – their sugar consumption is way down.

    Since I am not eating grains, I will sub something else on my plate when I have grains in the family meal (scrambled eggs or cauliflower for pasta, etc.). Just try to make sure there is at least one item on the table that is well-liked by each member of my family.

    It can be done. I do have a wonderful husband who is supportive (but not participatory). But, I think he is supportive because he sees genuine effort to make sure there are still parts of the meal he enjoys.

    As far as the kids go – I actively encourage them to help me grocery shop. They are much more excited about trying a food when they helped pick it. Although I am still struggling to get my family to eat veggies.

    Just remember, even if all you do is remove the HFCS from the pantry, you have made progress. My wonderful husband is losing weight and he isn’t following any diet. he controls his breakfast and lunch. i (usually) make the dinner. and even just 1 healthy meal has made a difference he can see and feel.

  • Dave C

    Thanks Steve! This is the article I have been waiting for. When I began becoming Paleo and getting back into the workout routine, the wife was against the Paleo movement, but with me on the workouts. I have tried time and time and again to explain the the diet is key to getting the results we both desire. My other half is a hardcore bread/pasta fanatic. I was too, prior to switching Paleo. One thing I’ve done to compromise is for some of our easier meals I will have pasta or bread (but very small quantities) so that we don’t have run into a fuss of “if we keep doing this we will have to each cook our own meals seperately”. I’m starting to slowly sway her along, usually when it’s time for a snack and I make a delicious smoothie or grab a nice piece of fruit; i get the “oooooooo, ahhhhh”. Also she is noticing my progress

  • Agent

    It is an uphill battle with her: she works full-time, is in school,
    and also works full-time as a mom for our two children. She THINKS she
    has no time to prepare food ahead of time,

    She thinks? Sounds like she knows. Learn to cook and take over the groceries. And tbh, with this taken off her already full schedule her stress levels might come down enough to stop her heading right to the carbs for a pick me up.

  • Mike B

    I’m the cook in the house so its really not all that bad. I’m still learing tricks to make the buget go farther. I have found some very simple things to do that don’t take a lot of time and are really easy to used to doing.
    First buy eggs at least 18 at a time. As soon as you get home boil a dozen or so and put them in a bowl in the fridge. Breakfast on the go. Grab a couple and your golden. I buy meat in bulk and separate it into meal size containers and freeze it. Saves money. Take out what you want to eat the next night and thaw it in the fridge. Frozen veggies are a great way to keep around and with a steamer and seasoning they are ready in a flash. I will cut on the grill when I get in. Start the water in the steamer and put the frozen veggies in, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabage, asapargus, nearly as good as fresh and cheaper. Take what ever meat Im cooking to the grill and 15 minutes later dinner is served. Expanding the menu tends to be a challenge but its workable. Left overs go for lunch the next day. Fruit and nuts are around for snacks and tuna is available when there isn’t anything else around. Get creative with the spices and see what turns up. Try poaching tilapia fillet in coconut oil and red wine vinager with some garlic. Super easy and fancy sounding.
    Work toward making simple things really well and you’ll be suprized how much your menu will expand.

  • NJ Paleo

    Wow, this is a great post! I have always been the “health and workout nut” in my family. My husband is definitely NOT! Occasionally, he’ll think he’s “fat” and will work out for a few weeks, but it always ends in an “injury” and he quits. He LOVES his junk food and carbs. I was a carb-a-holic too — and as a distance runner, I thought grains/beans/rice were critical for performance (they’re NOT as I’ve learned since going paleo). I read a couple of paleo books (Robb Wolf’s, Mark Sisson’s, and Loren Cordain’s) and I cannot argue against the science. 7 months ago I switched to paleo and am never going back for a variety of reasons (and I can still do my distance running without a problem, better in fact).
    Since I’m in charge of the grocery shopping and meal preparation, I control what I put on the table (and in the kids’ lunches). I asked my 12-year-old daughter if she wanted to give paleo a try to help with her eczema, and she found that it helped a lot. Mostly with the kids I’ve gone gluten-free as they weren’t ready to give up everything. But over the summer when dad was in charge of lunches, they were eating pizza, tons of bread, etc. And guess whose eczema came back worse than ever? When school started, my daughter is gluten-free again and her eczema is better. Now, in fact, out on her own, she tells people she’s allergic to bagels, cupcakes, etc., and will find another option. I NEVER thought that my little carb queen would say that! So I’d say that 80-90% of what the kids eat is paleo. Outside home, they have to make their own choices (which is part of growing up), and at least in the case of my daughter, she knows what foods will make her feel crappy.
    My husband, on the other hand, still eats whatever he wants. I’m able to give him paleo dinner and usually leftovers for paleo lunch. For his breakfast, he still eats awful frozen Eggo waffles….but I guess small steps are key. In the beginning, I thought I was doing a good thing by never buying his junk foods but that led to fights so I reluctantly buy them for him. Also, we were arguing about the price of organic vegetables, eggs, meats, etc…… Now he is used to it, though I cannot send him out to purchase anything, I have to do it myself.
    Will he ever work out? I don’t know. But it has to be his choice. I have offered to help, I have workout equipment all over the house, but ultimately, it’s up to him. At least he walks the dogs….. Yet he tells all his friends about his hot wife and how she has a great metabolism and works out and can deadlift his body weight….. Perhaps in time he’ll come around. At least it’s working with the kids.

  • Diotima73

    “Inception” is not the best model to use for this. Things don’t end well for Leonardo DiCaprio and Marion Cotillard, if memory serves.

  • angietarrant

    That’s tough when you’re not on the same page with your spouse.

    I’ll tell you what does work for me… 1) Menu planning(and i post the menu on the fridge). When I get home from work the last thing I want to think about is what’s for dinner. I can look at the fridge and know I have X items within to make one of X meals. Doesn’t matter if you make Thursday’s dinner on Monday. 2) Prepping fruits and veggies. Sunday is grocery day for me. Once I get home, I cut/chop up and store my fruits and veggies. Then when I want a snack or it’s time for dinner, I just eliminated a ton of time. All you need to do is measure out how much you need. 3) Consider cooking your protein in advance. Occaisionally, we’ll cook enough chicken for multiple days. You can throw it on spinach for a salad, toss it in with your pre-chopped veggies for a stir fry, or just whip up some steamed broccoli and you’re done!

    And I agree with what someone else mentioned earlier, it’s hard to complain when someone just took the time to cook you a nice meal. She’ll feel appreciated and pretty soon she may want to return the favor. 🙂

  • Joules

    Wow. Sam is lazy and not only fails to understand how marriage works but wants to blame his wife for his failures in general. He can cook and shop just as easily as she can but he chooses to make her the scapegoat of his failed diet. This article should be about lack of motivation,.not support.

  • PallasAthena

    I totally agree with RS and Agent. Your wife needs your help with her current schedule and responsibilities, and your support with the daily household activities, meals being a great place to start. And don’t forget, with cooking come cleanup–every single meal. You won’t be helping with the meals if you leave an enormous mess in the kitchen.

    Taking care of a house, meals, and kids used to be considered a full time job all by itself (and it is). Now for many households a full time job outside the home has been added to those tasks. Add school on top of that (which also approaches a full time job) and you’ve got the makings for physical and emotional collapse (and/or relationship collapse) unless partners do their share of household tasks from which everyone in the family benefits.

    My suggestion is to do nothing to make your wife’s life more complicated and instead start helping relieve some of the burdens. I’d guess she’d be delighted to be eating more healthy if there was a way she could without adding to her responsibilities. Change takes energy and time to think plan, and I’d be amazed if she has any of either to spare.

    How old are your kids? If they’re old enough, perhaps they can help with cleanup, but you’ll probably need to be the one who makes sure they get it done. That takes time and effort, too.

  • “Wow, honey, you’re doing so much. Why don’t you add putting homecooked meals on the table every night and packing my lunch?”

    I hate to be judgmental, but putting together your own grocery list is NOT helping your wife get healthier. You’re just adding to her stress by demanding that she adjust her shopping, add to her cooking chores, and make sure she’s the one the kids go after when the food changes.

    Even without that miscommunication, if you want something done you HAVE to do it yourself. My fiance and mother both gave up trying to understand my diet and just roll with it. I shop, I cook, we all eat, and no one argues about why there isn’t rice or pasta or potatoes with every meal. I say, if you had enough time to complain about it, you had enough time to fix it.

    Don’t decide to make a life change and then put all the responsibility on someone else. That’s like me not working out at home because my mother doesn’t dust my dumbbells.

  • gavin

    Wow Steve, and all other Nerds. What a fab topic!! Guess what – health behavior is CONTAGIOUS. Stick at it long enough and it spreads. But it’s important to know the fundamentals – women are not easily influenced by their “significant others” (men are more so). Women are far more influenced by their friends; so perhaps the best conversation you can have if you’re trying to change your female partner is a conversation with her closest friends. If she’s got any friends who are changing, then try to get her to spend time with them – DO NOT BE OBVIOUS ABOUT THIS!!!
    Also, accept that if you say “black”, the natural inclination of people is to say “white”. What you’re all getting into here is trying to guide your partners into a process of change and there’s some great books on this stuff, one of my favorites is A Toolkit of Motivational Skills
    So much I could write on this, but here’s a few tips…
    It’s fine to talk about yourself, but better to use others as an example “Fred at work had a heart attack at the weekend – he was just saying last week how great he was feeling too”
    Always allow them to express their point of view and repeat it back to them to demonstrate that you understand it “So what you’re saying is you’re feeling great in yourself and can’t see any benefit in changing… That’s great. I wish I felt that way, but I feel fat and I’m worried about my future health” ABSOLUTELY avoid irony or ridicule!
    Must go and feed my wife… 😉

  • ScurvySpider

    What a great topic for a blog. So timeless, so tricky.

    Relationships are a major challenge
    * a mother who rarely cooks but will fix your favorite fried food at every meal, if she notices you’re losing weight;
    * offspring who say “yuck” to all vegetables;
    * a spouse who offers help in the form of “you never stuck with it before, why do you think you can do it this time?”

    But my attention went straight to the part about nagging because of the role (I believe) it really plays.

    Worse than not working, and worse than making [whatever topic] a hated subject — nagging is a terrible trap because when we nag, we are:
    a) Deflecting attention and energy, from our problems onto theirs, thereby
    b) Avoiding responsibility for our own behavior.

    It stings a bit when those closest to us, offer the least in the way of support.
    On some level, and in some way — they’re testing us.
    I’m thinking of Garth from his hammering scene with Rob Lowe in “Wayne’s World” — “WE FEAR CHANGE.”
    The family fears change; and we fear change ourselves;I’m resolved to put the same inventive creativity into finding ways to get around obstacles, as I used to find for squirming out of making the changes.

  • Joia

    My god, Sam! Sorry to be so blunt, guy, but you’ve completely misframed the problem.

    “Your wife is a full-time mom, full-time breadwinner, and part-time -> she doesn’t want to get healthy.” Nope. Anyone who’s doing that much is going to feel emotionally and physically tapped out. Changing habits is hard under the best circumstances, as NerdFitness has often discussed. She might even be resentful (I would) that you’ve not only found the “me time” right now to pursue self-improvement, but pushing her to join your program. She’s already juggling a bunch of balls, and you just threw in a chainsaw.

    Echoing previous posts: if you want her to join you, take some of the child-rearing/housekeeping jobs off her back. Figure out if it’s possible for her to work part-time while finishing school. Take on the cooking yourself and cook Paleo if you want. And make sure she gets as much “me time” as you do, to spend however she wants. It’s only fair.

    Steve, great topic, but I think you picked a poor example for the point you wanted to make.

  • Courtnie Marie

    Wow, this article and the comments make me feel so privileged to have a girlfriend who not only supports me but is also making better decisions herself! Although, I wouldn’t mind if she slowed down and waiting for me to catch up! 😉

    I do agree that it has to be their choice though. I know it did for me. Once that clicks and you/they start grabbing the fruit instead of the chips it does get easier to make healthy decisions.

  • irishdancer

    I was glad to see this article pop up today. I got in a fight with my fiance just yesterday about this sort of thing because I just let my frustration boil over instead of finding a constructive way to get us both on board about it (my fiance is the cook in the family – he loves to cook and is great at it, and I think it hurts his feelings if I don’t eat what he cooks for me). It can be really tough getting two people on board with something as personal as eating choices, and I hope that I can jump on board with this approach and work harder at being inclusive and encouraging than I was yesterday.

    And to be fair to Sam… I don’t think there’s nearly enough information in that quick email to get everyone jumping down his throat about how he’s conducting his personal life. Hopefully they can both find a happy medium, but play nice, folks.

  • pan

    I had a similar situation. My g/f is a die hard for conventional wisdom. “Everything is moderation” she said. She was very busy with work and had a long transit like me. I offered to pick up her 2 girls and feed them. I suggested Paleo a few times and read some articles to her. After 3-4 days she decided she wanted to go back to feeding her kids frozen waffles and chicken nuggets because her kids complained to her. She said it was better that she didn’t have to fight with her kids. I had asthma at the time and was quickly able to stop my medication after going Paleo. Her 2 daughter’s allergies were getting worse every week. We fought a lot about me not wanting to eat fast food and pizza every other day. I got tired of fighting and broke it off. Yes I miss her but I don’t have to go to the doctor every week for allergy shots or rescue inhalers anymore. The cost of good health is sometimes not easy to pay. I hope things don’t get this bad for other couples. You have to put your health first though.

  • I’ve had the same response as a number of other commenters. It very much sounds like your wife is already carrying far more than a full load. Nothing you’ve said indicates that you are carrying the same amount of household/family/work/study chores. You may be – but that doesn’t change the fact that at the moment this is your project and your priority and you can certainly do more to progress it than give your wife a shopping list and imply that you don’t think she’s working hard enough or organised enough.
    Perhaps if you take full responsibility for this aspect of your project and the constellation of connected family jobs – planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning up – your wife might have enough time/energy/breath to actually think about whether or not she wants to join you. It is far easier to make a healthy meal with carb / no-carb options than it is to make entirely separate meals.
    At the moment you’re just adding another pressure to someone who is more than fully loaded. I would be kicking back against you too, regardless of whether or not the changes you want to make are good.
    You can be an awesome partner and Dad by stepping up and taking up some of the load of caring for your family. Take over the kitchen. Help your wife achieve her goals while you’re achieving yours. Win-win-win.

  • I could not believe how offensive that email was.

    Seriously?! If she is doing all of that, what the hell are you doing? And who are you to add another thing to that list? It sounds like she’s got her priorities in the order they have to be for the time being.
    If you want to eat healthier, take all of that off of your wife’s plate. Handle the grocery shopping, the cooking, and hey, while you’re at it, stop passing the blame to your wife since she’s clearly busy.

  • Jen

    I’m struck with the fact that this family is trying to have everything without realizing that’s simply impossible. His wife IS overworked. I don’t know the exact numbers here, but let’s assume some.
    Hours per week= 168
    Full-time job= 30
    Part-time student= 15
    Primary caregiver responsibilities= 14 (2 per day; obviously not full time, but surely she’s not doing 30! That seems IMPOSSIBLE.)
    Sleep= 42

    That leaves 67 hours to do everything else: shopping, cooking, driving, self-care, relationships,volunteering, etc. This girl is overworked, just like most of us. Something has to give… Will it be health? Relationships? Work? We have to learn better to prioritize both long term and short term. We’re killing ourselves.

  • Oddly enough, I’m currently self-employed putting in a good 10 hours a day. I was in school as well. Not to mention mom, launderer, mopper, etc. My husband picked up on the “health” venture before I did, and he makes the meals. I eat them.

    But to criticize her for “thinking” she doesn’t have time and resorting to fast food? Wow. I can’t even EXPLAIN the exhaustion I feel most nights. In fact, half the time the idea of driving through a drive thru seems like too much.

    I agree, the topic is important. (as my husband started before I did, as previously mentioned, and I pushed back. Now I’ve accepted we have totally different goals, and I’m certainly healthier, but I have no plans of becoming completely ripped like my husband does.) However, the example is poor, as Joia mentioned. If you make it easy for her, she will do it.

  • I love this post, too. My husband cuts and bulks, trying to change his body as quickly as possible. I’m cool with slow and steady. It took a while to realize that, but once I did, and explained it to him, things have been better since.

  • Liz

    At the risk of joining the chorus… three words for you Sam. Learn. to. Cook.

    more words: Yeah, you’re right, it’s an uphill battle. But you yourself said it was worth it. Just remember that.

    If you really can’t cope with cooking 7 nights a week, don’t start with that! Start with just one or two dinners a week. Learn what works. You’ll make mistakes, just be prepared to laugh them off and fall back on takeout once in a while. Try a rotisserie chicken from the store and a bag of salad greens for starters. No cooking required there, right? Try doctoring storebought soups with chopped veggies and homecooked meat. Try adding extra veggies to that frozen pizza, then try storebought pizza dough and make the rest yourself. Make rice and curry. Make casseroles. Easy stuff.

    You can also try starting a dinner rotation with your neighbors. They feed you, you feed them, take turns. Increasing quantity is easy if you’re already in the kitchen, so the work is cut nearly in half.

  • @google-4e93962236e022d2694682e181dee1c6:disqus, there are some good recipes for slow cooker meals on And there’s a great collection on Pinterest– check these out:

  • steve ward

    where to begin, hard to say so many targets that this artical hit i suppose the best part of the artical for me was the reward system. Now currently for any challenge i have i come up with a set of rewards. Iets say my goal is too loose 50 pounds, my rewards could be a trip to see a person i want to meet. Or it could be to add a new device or way of thinking about living healther.

  • MomOfWildeThings

    I’m in your boat, NJ! My hubs compliments me on how well I’m keeping fit, but teases me about all the modifcations I make at mealtime. Refuses to acknowledge any research or consider any alternate to his 55 yr old thinking. He thinks chocolate is its own food group and our boys have inherited his genes! I am trying to ease out the carbs from the boys’ meals-very difficult with an 11 yr old with Aspergers! So I am adopting the good role model job and gently phasing out the toxins. And planting seeds. Fight On Nerds!

  • MomOfWildeThings

    AND A PRESSURE COOKER-or better yet-an electric pressure cooker that also slow cooks. Bring it on!

  • BruteSquad

    It hasn’t been easy, as I have lost 80 lbs since my Max Density point, and 60 of those have been since January. The Significant other was not actively sabotaging, but it would happen. She would want to go out for Chinese food or to Cold Stone etc. So I did what I could. I cooked. I exercised. I went to Chinese and asked if they could make me something “diet style” as they called it, and they would.
    When she saw it wasn’t a fad, I wasn’t doing it for a month and quitting, that I did my workouts even when I had excuses not to do them, she started asking if I planned to work out and when. Then she started asking me to buy single serving of chips (like the box of single servings for lunches) and then baked single servings, and then not to buy them…she started working out in her own time after seeing that I was both dedicated, and seeing results. At the age of 33 she is 6 lbs heavier than she was at the age of 17. I still have 50 lbs or so to go. She has now made it part of her lifestyle just as I have. We are both happier and healthier.
    Nagging would not have worked. I just took control of cooking and grocery shopping and made sure I got my workouts in. It was worth the fight.

  • Petite Diva

    Dear Sam,
    You wrote to Nerdfitness because you recognized that there was a problem and you needed suggestions. You felt like something had to give. You have brought up a subject that touches many households and because I think your plea for help was in earnest, I will try my best to address your issue and not rake you over the coals. Neither the readers nor I know your entire situation so we are working on assumptions, hoping not to be too far off the mark.

    Your spouse may make being a mother/worker/wife/student look effortless, but deep down we both know that it really is not effortless. If it was, you would easily be shouldering all her chores. Hard work requires hard work. The truth is, even just one of those activities would be enough to drain the energy out of the best of us. The reality is, even if your wife had ALL the time in the world (which it does not sound like she does), you are the one asking for change, so you are the one who has to be willing to make an adjustment.

    I don’t think your cause is lost. Here are some things to consider:There are two reasons why most people/women who are swamped with work decline to ask for help:

    1. Your wife may be drowning with trying to achieve a work life balance (tell it to the clean pile of laundry that has been sitting on my couch for the past few weeks).

    2. She may not want to delegate some duties because she fears that the work will not be done right (imagine metal forks scrapping teflon coated pans, half-assed housework, dry clean clothes in washing machine). I only mention this because sometimes it may be easier to do something than ask someone who won’t do a great job. I am not saying that this is the case, she may just be tired of having to ask, so she takes it upon herself to do the work.

    Here are a couple suggestions that may help make the adjustment easier for her (notice I said her).Taking 1&2 into consideration,

    1.Really communicate with your wife. Many times people tell their spouse what they want but offer no plan and show no follow through. I complain to my spouse that I need to lose weight and we need to eat better every day, but in reality it is just talk. I may cook a healthy meal once or twice, but in the end, I go back to the same routine. My husband patiently listens but knows that by the end of the week I would be back to my old antics. Communicate with your words and with your actions. SHOW her that this time is different than the other times.

    2. observe how she does things and then step up and do it. Let me break it down for you. If she is folding laundry (observe how she loads the wash, folds & and stores them). Observe how she stores the dishes, how she conducts the bedtime and homework routine for the children Then DO IT without being prompted/ asked or hinted to.Why observe? Because if you do it and screw it up, you just add to her stress and she will work harder to compensate so that she does not have to rely on you. Why do it? Because if you take away the barriers, it will be harder for her to resist the change.

    3. You want the change, so you have to take charge. Completely immerse yourself in the task, (no one foot in and one foot out). Help the children with homework, take them for a walk while your wife is cooking or studying. This gets you quality time with the children, gives you a little exercise and gives your wife time to accomplish somethings. If she sees you trying then she will be less likely to be resentful and will actually try.

    4. If you are working hard, you will have to work harder. It goes beyond just making a grocery list. Make the list, buy the groceries and make the food.You will get tired and you will want to quit, but don’t quit. You will be stressed, but because you are committed to making the change easier for her, she will have no excuse but to join. People often get resentful when you add to their work, put stipulations or require them to do things without just compensation.
    Allow me to explain:
    Scenario 1: Imagine her asking you to prepare a meal for your friends on a short notice while the house is dirty and you already have plans, and then also being expected to entertain and clean up afterwards. You would be angry, annoyed and resentful.

    Scenario 2: Imagine coming home to a clean house, clean kids and a house that smells delicious from the food that is already cooking AND her telling you that her friends are coming over and even though you already have plans, she expects you to entertain them and clean up afterwards. You may be mildly annoyed, but you would be ok with entertaining and possibly helping clean up afterwards.

    My dear Sam, you are asking for Scenario 1 and expecting results from Scenario 2. Simply offer her the entire second scenario and both of you will be happy- even though it will require action and work on your part.

    5. Realize this is for YOU, not her. No matter what you want to think, you are the one who wants this, not her. Just like you can’t force people to love you, you can’t force someone to want to change (think of a chain smoker on oxygen who has had a lung transplant). Once she sees the transformation, then she may be inspired to change.

    6. Don’t be condescending. Be helpful, be sweet, but by all means don’t nit pick at her. If she decides to start eating healthy and then one day goes to the drive thru, let it slide. No snide comments, no “you won’t lose weight by eating that” That will be the fastest way to get her back to old, comfortable habits.

    7. Take responsibility. You are unhealthy because of you and your eating habits, not because of your spouse. She did not pry your mouth open and insert a cheese burger. Since you got yourself into the unhealthy category with your eating habits, ONLY YOU can get yourself out. Don’t let her derail you. Prepare the meal prior to her arrival ( I don’t think she will turn down a meal). Offer to cook meals with her (do it for real, don’t just suggest with no follow through), pre-cook meals on the weekend and freeze what you can. Notice I am telling you to do it, not her.

    If you try this (I mean really try), I am sure it will work. Just do it!

  • Megan

    This is exactly how I handle eating Paleo, with a family that doesn’t – but little by little I am nudging them towards healthier dinners. Easy to serve primarily Paleo meal, with an extra side of carbs that I simply don’t eat. And I do exactly that with leftovers – try to make sure I have plenty on hand, so it’s no stress if Dad wants to make his world-famous mac & cheese dinner one night.

  • Unikarm

    HA like any of that will work!!! my man simply likes his diet the way it is. all his calories are consumed in mountin dew and junk and meat. that’s it he doesn’t care at all. he’s the kind of guy who hates change he will stay the way he is a expects me do everything by myself. IT WON’T WORK!!!!

  • Janna Kepley

    Husband and I swap these rolls all the time! We both gained a significant amount of weight after he left the full-time military. We both started university, got sit down jobs, and learned it’s a lot harder to wake up at 5am to go run three times a week if you’re not being made to do it.

    We’ve been trying to get on track, but it’s so backwards sometimes! When I’m trying to be good I’ll come home and Husband will have wanted to spoil me for my grades/longday/etc with my favorite ice cream or cheese, or he make dinner and serves me up a him-size portion.

    When he’s on track and buys me spoiley stuff, he ends up eating most of it because I just can’t eat as much as he can! So by sabotaging me (in the sweetest way possible) and me allowing him to do so, we sabotage him.


    Right now we’re doing alright. I spent a whole precious day pre-cooking squashes and vegetarian chili (because it’s low cal but fulling) so we’re eating that instead of picking up quick crap from the grocery on the way home. We’re being better about packing our lunches instead of buying them (for big bucks and calories) but then we do stuff like buy delicious bread for the sandwiches (and today I came home and he ate the whole loaf. Not kidding).

    My time on the elliptical is easily erased by ice cream. His elliptical/running is demolished by a loaf of bread and cheese spread.

    /soak. rinse. repeat.

  • LR

    Sometimes leading by example is the way to go…in April, I picked up an iPad, and when I was browsing the app store, I came across a free calorie counter. I didn’t know if I would stick with it, but I decided to give it a try. I said nothing to my girlfriend. Within a week, we both began to notice small changes, and she asked what was going on. I showed her the calorie counter, no attempt at a sales pitch or anything, and left it at that. The next day, she proudly announced that she had found the same calorie counter on Blackberry App world and was giving it a try.

    We’ve both gone on to have a good amount of success with it, although there are days that I wish I’d never brought it up…its hard to have a discussion without hearing her say the word calorie at least 3-4 times!

  • Great article! This is SO common in many relationships. It’s so difficult to try to convince someone to change their lifestyle, even if you want them to do it because you love them.

  • Teresa

    I typically find recipes from which has a great recipe for turkey chili in the slow cooker and chicken taco soup. But I have found that if you freeze your chicken breasts first and leave them in the crockpot for 8 hours on low in chicken broth or some sort of low/no sugar marinade, they come out easy to shred and use on sandwiches, in a stir fry, or on top of brown rice!

  • FaceAK

    A good way to “plant the seed” and then even cultivate it a bit is to say something like this:

    Hey honey bear, so I’ve been thinking a lot about us and our life together. It’s weird to think about the future (aside from the impending zombie apocalypse), but I want you to know that I really want us to have a long happy life together. I’ve been reading NerdFitness/MarskDailyApple/Other source of awesome Paleo info and I think it could really help us start to make the little changes we need to be happier and healthier. I’m ready for a change and I’d love it if we could do this together. If your not ready today, or tomorrow, or even next week or month or year, that’s okay. I completely understand. But I really do think this will make our lives so much better; not just in the far away distant future but right here, right now.

    Or something like that. If you put it in the perspective of “I need you to be here for me as long as humanly possible,” then making those changes seems less like a challenge and more like something you’re doing out of love for one another. If you have a good, strong relationship, this is a great way to talk to your significant other about making changes. Maybe even giving them a copy of the Rebel Fitness Guide or the Primal Blueprint, emphasizing that it’s for whenever they are ready.