When Your Husband Is On a Diet


What do you do when your husband goes on a diet?

On January 2nd, the day after his birthday, my husband started a diet right alongside what I’m guessing is like 90 percent of other Americans.

He insists it’s not a diet. “I know better than to do the D-word,” he smiled back at me when I asked him about it.

Cutting toast from breakfast and tortillas on taco night, passing on his beloved popcorn during a movie, vigilantly tapping away on his phone after every meal—which I can only assume is to log his food—and popping some new batteries in our dusty scale rings suspiciously familiar to me as dieting. So, whether it’s a “health kick” or midlife crisis, it’s pretty stark, pretty strict, and pretty reminiscent of a whole lotta big changes that add up to hoping some weight loss will happen. So for now, I\’m going to call it the d-word.

While less of them admit to doing it, men aren’t impervious to diet culture. Dieting for males though is a bit different though.

One study recently noted that while women who diet for weight loss experience a concurrent decrease in self-esteem, males who engaged in dieting felt a whole lot better about themselves—in other words, their self-esteem gets a boost when they started focusing on their eating..

Of course it does. (Insert some side eye here.) Regardless of whether it’s making him feel better about himself or not, I\’ve still be wrestling with a tough question: How am I going to handle this?

How do we collectively as mothers and partners and anti-dieters handle it when other adults in our children’s lives–grandparents, aunts, teachers, coaches, and the like–decide to do the d-word?

As an anti-diet dietitian, my first instinct was to educate him on the dangers of dieting, the futility, and the many other ways more effective ways he could be taking care of his body and his health.

The counselor and therapist in me is smarter than that though. My unsolicited “advice” would be just as futile as his dieting. No one wants to hear how horrible their new self-care routine is, especially when it’s giving them an ego-boost.

The anti-diet mother in me wants to tell him he’s setting a bad example for our girls. The problem here: Technically speaking, he isn’t. And trust me, I know because I’ve been paying brutally close attention.

He hasn’t said a word about his weight, the carb or calorie count of his food or ours nor has he made any requests or suggestions about the meals we’ve been eating. He’s being as subtle as subtle can be and my daughters don’t seem to have noticed a darn thing. While my spidey-sense for dieting sniffed him out just three meals in, the onlt thing that the two of them have been focused on at dinner is who will get the extra serving of sweet potato fries. They don’t seem to give a rat’s butt what daddy is or isn’t eating.

So while I’m on-guard and at-the-ready to charge, “That’s absolutely unacceptable to say or eat around our daughters!” So far, I’ve got zero reason to say it.

The recovered dieter is the one who is most uncomfortable. If my daughters are oblivious, I’m the opposite: hyper-aware. The reason, I realize, that I’m so damned mad that he hasn’t eaten piece of carb-containing bread in weeks is, well, because it’s making me feel self-conscious about my own eating.

Do I really need an extra helping of guac on my tacos? Is that after-dinner scoop of hazelnut gelato probably a little too much sugar on a day when I haven’t hit 10000 steps? Why didn’t I workout today?

Apparently, the dieter in him is reawakening the dieter in me—and I’m angry about it.

But here’s the thing. The moment when I finally resigned myself to telling him he MUST stop dieting, he must start eating bread, and stop doubling up on vegetables, and stop passing on ice cream and working out every.single.day, like EVERY dang day, I realized something else far more important.

What other people eat—and don’t eat—is none of my business.

That’s a rule in our family. “Don’t comment on other people’s food.” We don’t say “ew” when the person next to us puts ketchup on their eggs or three extra large spoonfuls of parmasean on their ravioli. We don’t say “are you really going to eat all that?” or “don’t you think you should at least try the asparagus?” What other people like to eat and not eat isn’t something we comment about.

And my daughter reminded me of that fact just the other night when I said a sarcastic “WOW!” when my husband put two giant cauliflower toaster rounds on either side of his burger.

So as long as he isn’t talking about his weight or his non-diet diet, and as long as he’s giving me and my girls full permission to enjoy the foods we like in the amounts we like to eat them (which he does an excellent job of, BTW), and as long as he seems perfectly at peace with his own eating, then I really don’t need to say a thing.

I just need to keep showing up to meals and letting him do his thing from whatever is on the table, just like I do with the kids. And I need to do my thing too, eating as little or as much as I need from the foods that I want without second-guessing myself or my appetite or body or weight.

Deep breaths, center, keep my comments to myself about what everyone else decides to put on their plate, and just eat.

What about YOU? How do you handle it when someone you love is on a diet?

This article is an excerpt from One Nourishing Idea, a weekly email that helps you and your kids stay in a positive place with food, body, and weight. Interested in joining us? I’d be super psyched to have you join us! You can read more about it here.

Scroll to Top