Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Husband not supportive of your new healthy lifestyle and is belittling your choices? Not interested in spending the holidays with your family?

DEAR NATALIE: I have been recently inspired to start eating healthier because of a doctor’s visit that shed some light on some underlying health issues that I am starting to have. My husband, however, is not being supportive about this new lifestyle I am embarking on. I do all of the cooking in our home and now he is demanding that I make him separate meals because he eats “real food” and not that “healthy junk” that I am trying to eat more of. Meaning, he is not interested in fruits or vegetables (unless they are french fries). I am really disappointed that he isn’t being supportive. He could definitely stand to take better care of himself, as well. I am doing this because I want to live a longer, more active life, be there for our grandchildren and just feel better. Why can’t he understand that and how do I get him to stop belittling me? -- YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT DEAR YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT: It is time for you to reclaim your own power in your home. You are the one who does the cooking. You buy the groceries, prepare the food, cook the meals and I’m guessing that you serve him, as well. My husband has a running joke that he is willing to eat almost anything if someone else cooks, he’s just grateful for the meal! So with that in mind, if your husband doesn’t like what you are making, he can make something himself. I would not start down the path of making separate meals. This will cause you a lot of stress, it will take a lot of your time, and it may inhibit your willpower to eat well. If you make yourself lentil soup for dinner, for instance, and cook him up a burger and fries, you may waffle on your plan to eat healthier. He may be balking at the idea of different foods because he is set in his ways, doesn’t like change, or always expects you to do what he wants. Well, adaptation is what keeps us alive, so he needs to evolve or go hungry. Sound harsh? Not as harsh as the idea of him belittling you after a doctor told you to take better care of yourself. Take control of your kitchen, your body, your plate. Enjoy new recipes. Try to find ways to make the foods you love, but substitute healthier options so that you both can feel satisfied. If he likes burgers, perhaps you try vegetable patties and sweet potato fries. If you love pasta, swap regular for brown rice pasta and see how it goes. Want dessert? Try strawberries with coconut whipped cream and cacao nibs sprinkled on top. Just get creative and see what happens. And if he doesn’t like it, he can try cooking for himself. See how long that lasts. 

DEAR NATALIE: I know the holiday season is here, but I am not interested in spending any time with my family. I have been estranged from them for a long time for various reasons and my mom reached out to me last week about having Christmas together. She said that I needed to put the past behind me and move on. She then launched into a rant about why I am not a good son and how I have hurt the family. Part of this stems from when I came out several years ago and they weren’t accepting, but now it seems as though we just have nothing to say to one another. My boyfriend’s family has invited me to spend the holidays with them and they treat me so well. How do I tell my mom that I have no interest in spending time with her or my family? I know it sounds harsh, but it gives me anxiety thinking of walking through their front door. — NOT HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

DEAR NOT HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS: You are under no obligation to spend the holidays with your family. You can’t choose the people who raised you, but as an adult, you can choose how often and how deeply you want to engage with them. The idea that your mom called you to invite you to dinner sounds like a nice gesture on the surface, but then the fact that she ranted to you about how you aren’t a “good” son (whatever that means) after you came out to your family is cruel. But, instead of icing them out, I would think about writing your family a letter stating how you feel. Letters are great for these moments because they allow you to express yourself without being interrupted. It also allows you to be thoughtful in what you want to say and not reactive. Let your family know that while you would like to someday mend fences, you can’t begin to build a new foundation until you receive a sincere apology about the way you were treated and continue to be treated by them. Then let go. Embrace the people in your life who treat you with love and respect. And for you and for all of us, my holiday wish is that we can build a society where people can be loved just as they are. 

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Holiday cards are a great way to reconnect with your network. Send out real cards this year and spread a little holiday cheer!

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email, nbencivenga@post-gazette.com; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)