Challenge #1 Update: My Much Less Skeptical Husband

May 1, 2012 in Categories: , by

Print Friendly

This week is my 6 month blogiversary, which means that I have been working on transitioning my family to a paleo diet for half of a year!  But, all those small changes have really added up and we have made amazing progress.  So, I felt an update to my challenges (and my goals) is overdue.

In anticipation of writing this update, I asked my husband what he thought about “this whole paleo thing”.  He said (in a fairly nonchalant voice) “It’s fine”.  My initial dismay at this unenthusiastic reply was immediately tempered by what he said next:  You have made such innovative recipes in your pursuit of paleo perfection, that I don’t really miss anything.  Except beer.  Can you make paleo beer?”. 

It’s true that one of the most helpful parts in transitioning my family was to find or create recipes for paleo versions of their staples:  things like muffins, yeast-based paleo bread, granola bars, and even yogurt.  My husband doesn’t have an emotional attachment to food (like I do!).  So, as long as it’s easy for him, tastes okay, and doesn’t make him feel ill, he’s “fine”.  That’s what he meant.  And, my husband’s diet does qualify as paleo now!  He relies heavily on nuts and paleo baked goods, drinks heavy cream in his coffee, and has the occasional piece of cheese or serving of rice.  But, my husband doesn’t have health issues that would suggest he needs to be 100% compliant.  He is a man who can cheat on a paleo diet and get away with it.  However, I wanted to know whether my husband is paleo simply because I cook him paleo food.  Has he bought into the concepts behind the paleo diet?  We had a long discussion about this and the answer is “maybe not entirely”.  But, he has really changed his way of thinking about gluten and would no longer intentionally consume it.  When he travels or attends a catered function at work, he loosens the other aspects of his diet but remains steadfastly gluten-free.  While I think his level of buy-in still qualifies more as supporting me than supporting this way of life, I am pleased that he has accepted this key concept.

It helped to change gradually.  This allowed my family’s taste buds to adjust slowly and mitigated any adjustment period that they would have felt with a more cold-turkey-like transition (like the one I did for myself).  And if you don’t have obvious health issues that are compelling you to make a dramatic change, why not transition gradually?  Some people need to just jump in with both feet (I’m like this due to some sugar addiction issues), but others need to warm up to paleo more slowly.  And, I want this to be a lifelong way of eating and living for my whole family, so my focus is on sustainability rather than achieving the paleo dieter badge as quickly as possible.  I have addressed parts of my husband’s transition to paelo in these posts:

As an update on our attempt to get my husband to gain some weight, he has gained 4 pounds in the last 3 weeks with the increased food intake.  He feels terrible if he skips a meal or doesn’t eat enough protein at breakfast and his appetite definitely seems better.  I’d like to see him gain another 10-20 pounds, preferably mostly as muscle.  But that will require further changes to his lifestyle, especially his stress management. 

My husband is an assistant professor with his tenure review constantly looming over him in addition to the incessant pressure of getting grants in a very competitive funding environment.  He is under a great deal of stress, what we refer to as “Assistant Professor Syndrome”.  One of his colleagues recently joked that, due to the demands of assistant professorship, he was only “allowed” 4 hours of sleep.  When we started transitioning to a paleo diet, my husband didn’t have major health issues that needed improving.  And the continued issues he does have are likely caused by living with too much stress rather than deficiencies in his diet.  Changing his diet didn’t affect his seasonal allergies this spring (although he was eating alot more dairy at the time).  We did discover that he has a mild FODMAP sensitivity, which simply means we can’t eat quite as many cruciferous veggies as I would like (or else he gets a pretty bad stomach ache).  He still has issues sleeping and feels tired much of the time.  He knows that he needs to do better with carving out more time for exercise, but most days, it seems like an insurmountable task. 

So, what are my new goals for my husband?  I guess now, I want to work on the other tenets of the paleolithic lifestyle.  I want to find ways to help him manage his stress and get better quality sleep.  I want to help him find more time to exercise and get outdoors.  I’m not sure exactly how to do this, beyond being as supportive as I can.  I am hoping that the recent diet changes we’ve made will help regulate his stress and sleep hormones a little better (which usually takes a couple of months to really see).  But, he is making gradual progress in these areas too, and I want to emphasize how much positive change he has made these last 6 months.  And I truly appreciate his continued support of my venture to improve our family’s health and my desire to candidly share our story with you.  Maybe I’ll thank him by buying him some gluten-free beer.


What exercise is your husband doing? I’ve found heavy weights helps me deal with stress, and puts me in a better mood :). I managed to learn technique and the habit during uni break while there was no stress, might have been a different story had I tried learning during session. The thing I’ve found with weights though is that you need to include light weight boring prehab style exercises that correct muscle imbalances / posture, and most people aren’t willing to do that when they start.
Nothing like a set of heavy squats for a squirt of dopamine!

I try to lift every second day. I notice when I go without for 4 days my mood is muuuuch worse, and by that point it’s hard to drag myself back to the gym; but as soon as I do, mood improves drastically.
After I had learnt the technique and had the routine down-pat, between 45-70 minutes (That includes both warm up and working sets. About another 10 minutes for post exercise stretching.
I’ve tried getting people like my Dad into lifting, and the 2 things everyone ask are:
1. Why only 3 different lifts a day? Shouldn’t we be here for longer? What about cardio time?
2. How is -not- running for an hour and lifting weights instead going to help me lose fat?
Within a few week though they start to feel really good about themselves, regardless of any progress made.

(Scroll down to Practical Programming Novice Program)
This program I’ve found is a quick way to get people into the spirit of lifting; it has routine, and heavy weights. Though it is an unbalanced program, and I do not recommend doing it for more than 2-3 months. If he starts to like the idea of lifting and wants to continue, he should then change to a more balanced program for the long term. Hope this helps 🙂

My husband is also an assistant professor – preparing his tenure portfolio for this fall. He experiences the same stress and lack of sleep that your husband does. He is also reading over my shoulder right now, and claims to be “moderately and appropriately skeptical of the paleo diet, occasionally delving into snarkiness”. Such is my life.

I have been paleo since Dec 2011 – and have done a boatload of research (and really appreciate your site, since I’m a science mom too). My husband doesn’t share the same passion for nutrition that I do, so we don’t have nearly as many conversations about it as I’d like. I would say that my family is transitionally paleo right now – and I’d love to get my kids more on board, but said husband doesn’t think we need to ‘deprive them of crackers and such’. My daughter (who’s 8) has seasonal allergies, a chronic skin rash on the back of her legs, and as an infant – she barely kept anything down… and seemed to always have ear infections that were treated with antibiotics. She also prefers what we call ‘the beige food group’… anything pasta, bread, pretzels… Knowing what I know now… I’m guessing that some food sensitivity may be behind some of this, and certainly she’s in need of a more balanced community in her gut. Not too worried about my son (4) – he’s a rare breed that doesn’t like pasta… he’s mostly a paleo kid – preferring meat and fruit anyway.

I hope that as the year goes on, my husband will ask me more questions about the ‘why’ I’m doing this (he’s a scientist too). He’s also our primary chef – and has been very supportive of my diet, but just this morning he has requested that peanut butter be restored to our shelves. Ugh.

Regarding better sleep… I’m thinking about trying a magnesium supplement at night called “Natural Calm”… any experience with this? I would so much like to help him get some quality sleep…

Thanks again for all you do!


LOL! Thank you SO much for this comment. Your home sounds alot like mine, except that I’m the cook which means that I get to decide that almond butter will substitute for peanut butter in all recipes. 🙂 My husband has certainly come around alot in the last 6 months as I share what I am learning, researching and writing about with him. What branch of science is your husband in?

I take magnesium citrate in pill form (same stuff as Natural Calm, easier administration) as a sleep aid for myself. It, er, didn’t agree with my husband’s digestion. So, just a word of warning to start with a low dose. I also take low-dose melatonin, which does wonders for me. 🙂

We are both geologists… Having taught an Evolution and Extinction class or two in grad school… The ancestral diet really appeals to me… And makes good sense. Eric (the husband) also thinks it’s the most reasonable diet… Although he does not like to restrict himself for sure, whereas I happen to view grains as junk food now.

Thanks for the warning about magnesium supplements… I’m planning to go out tomorrow for them (the first wed of the month is 10percent off at my local coop)….. I’ll be sure to titrate us 🙂

“tenets” not “tenants”

Just a little drive-by editing. =) I make myself ignore most typos, but some get under my skin.

Great blog!! I just got here last night and have a lot more reading to do. You don’t need to post this–I just thought you may like to correct the mistake.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *