The Psychology of Eating Podcast: Episode #223 – When 2 Partners Have a Different Approach to Food

Claudia, 34, opens up toMarc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, about her current inner conflict with food. There is the ideal she has about what to eat when it’s in her control, and how she would like her and her partner to eat, especially since they are trying to conceive. Then, there is the never-ending confrontation of environments that don’t include this way of ‘healthy’ eating. Marc relates to her with his own experience of raising his kid with the intention of instilling healthy eating habits, and also realizing everyone around us eats differently. Claudia begins to see how she can focus more on the positive with herself and with those around her, and learn to empower and trust, instead of being in a state of stress, control and force.


Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:

Marc: Welcome, everyone. I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. And we are in the Psychology of Eating podcast, and I’m with Claudia today. Welcome, Claudia.
Claudia: Thank you. Hi.

Marc: Yeah, I’m glad you’re here. Let me just say a few quick words to viewers and listeners. If you are a returnee to this podcast, thank you, thank you, thank you so much for following us, for being part of our tribe. I really appreciate it. If you’re new to the podcast, here’s how it works. Claudia and I are meeting for the first time officially, and we’re going to spend about 45 minutes to an hour together and see if we can move things forward in a good way for what you want to work on, Ms. Claudia.
So if you could wave your magic wand and get whatever you wanted from our time together, what would that look like for you?

Claudia: So for me, while food is one of the major sources of pleasure and nourishment and all that, it’s also one of the major sources of stress and conflict in my life. So I guess what I’m looking for is some guidance and insight around this topic. And I can give you some concrete examples, but in general, that’s what it’s about.

Marc: Got it. Okay. So let’s get into the concrete. Tell me the problematic parts where food can be a sort of stress and such.

Claudia: Yeah. So on the one hand, there’s the practical side to it, so basically, resulting from trying to nourish myself and the ones close to me. My partner, in this case, trying to optimize nutrition and sustainability and money which often means time gets an issue because there’s lots of work, and we have to do a lot but as a practical side which kind of can create some major stress.

Then, on the other hand, there’s also the conflict and stress resulting from the difference, let’s say—or trying to accept and respect other people’s values and ideas and standards while still staying true to my own which can result in conflicts whenever there’s situations when either there is family gatherings or other sorts of gatherings.

Or now, concretely, we are in the process where we want to start a family, and I have some very concrete ideas of the importance about preconception and all that, also diet-wise, where usually I would not care too much about what now my partner eats. Here, I want to really have it in a certain way. And so there is a conflict because I feel affected as well by what he chooses to do. So there’s the issues. And so this can create some conflict from time to time.

Marc: Understood. Okay. So let me see if I’ve got this straight. The concrete ways that food can be a source of stress for you is, let’s say, in just social situations, family situations where everybody eats what they eat, and you have what you want to eat to feel good and to feel healthy about yourself.
Claudia: That’s okay. But the problem is when I go somewhere where food is determined for me.
Marc: Ah. Of course. Of course.

Claudia: So when I can choose, then it’s fine. It’s not really a problem. When I feel like other people impose their values and standards on me, then I have to kind of either be the weird person or just go with it. Sometimes for me that’s difficult especially if the meeting is maybe not so important to me or the people there. So it’s then more an internal conflict. I’m not going to start a big discussion when it’s more for myself. Yeah, that’s in this case.

Depending on people who are there, if it’s really close family then it can really get into external discussions and not just internal conflicts.

Marc: Got it. Got it. Got it. It’s when the rules of what we’re eating is kind of imposed on you and you don’t have a choice. That sort of becomes problematic. And then with your partner, talking about having kids, and you have your ideas about how to create a healthy child. It sounds like your partner has not the same rules and guidelines.

Claudia: Well, he follows me quite a lot I have to say, so it’s really I think for a man I can be really happy how far he follows me. But then, not to the extent that sometimes I would like it. And it’s not so much that I want him to just do what I want for pleasing me, but I would really want him to have the same sense of responsibility in a way and wanting to do it for himself and not just because of me. So there’s often a kind of a basic discussion. And he gets the idea. He’s just always like, “Okay, I need some time. It cannot all change so quickly.” Then for me, time is like, okay, it’s not like you have endless time in these kinds of situations. So that’s kind of where we turn in circles sometimes.

Marc: Got it. Are there any specifics that he moves too slow for you when it comes to food and diet and health? Can you even be more specific? Here’s the places where we really tend to get kind of caught up or we get in conflict.

Claudia: It’s basically been around sugar and alcohol. He really does his best. And so we try to kind of negotiate what’s good for me, what’s good for him, still manageable. And then he follows it, but sometimes then he might break the rules. And so then, yeah. In general, it’s around these topics.

Marc: Okay, so it tends to be around sugar and alcohol. In your ideal world, what would it look like for him?

Claudia: In my ideal world, right now in the few months or weeks where I said, “Okay,” ideally that it’s completely out. But then we negotiated, “Okay, we have two consumptions of alcohol per week, and we have once in awhile that there can be some kind of…” And I’m talking about processed sugar. You can have treats of all kinds which are natural sugars and stuff, so I’m not depriving myself completely. I love my sweet treats as well, but, for me, it’s also about quality. For him, he cares a lot when he is at home, but he doesn’t care so much when he’s like outside the house. Much more relaxed.

Marc: And are these changes things you want him to do while you’re trying to conceive a child or just like long term?

Claudia: It’s more important now. Ideally, of course, I would want him to take good care of himself always. It’s even more important for me right now where I feel this is a decisive moment, and it’s not going to be for all your life. And let’s just do an effort right now and do the best we can basically. And then afterwards, okay, you can decide again for yourself.

Marc: But I still want to get clear. Are you especially concerned? Like, I know, obviously, you want him to eat healthy for the rest of his life because you care about him. But I’m just saying for the sugar, alcohol, the immediate concern is that because you want to conceive a child, and you want him eating the healthiest food while you’re conceiving.

Claudia: Yeah.

Marc: Okay. Understood. Makes perfect sense. That’s very helpful. How long have you guys been together?

Claudia: Six years now with some ups and downs and one break in between, a major one. But it’s been a while.

Marc: Can I ask how old you are?

Claudia: 34.

Marc: And how old is he?

Claudia: 41.

Marc: Before you met him, was he into health, nutrition?

Claudia: A little bit but not so much. So he has come a long way since.

Marc: Mmhmm. How many kids do you want to have?

Claudia: Maybe two.

Marc: Mmhmm.

Claudia: Not more probably.

Marc: And it sounds to me, based on what you’re saying, that even though he’s not living up to exactly how you would want it, it sounds like he’s trying.

Claudia: Yes.

Marc: It sounds like he’s making efforts. Yeah.

Claudia: Yes.

Marc: And the challenge for you is, okay, you’re making efforts, but it needs to be a little better for me.

Claudia: The thing is it’s now, the whole topic, I think it’s not going to end when we conceive because then there’s going to be the thing with other people once you have the kids. I also have certain ideas how to raise then the children, food-wise. And how then, for example, the grandparents. For me, it’s more about really how to find the balance between respecting what others feel and also that they respect what I want.

And so, we will now solve eventually our conflict, but then there might be new ones because I still have the same kind of basic problem. Do you know what I mean?

Marc: Yes.

Claudia: It’s probably going to repeat in different ways and maybe the kids is now just one way that I project a general… Yeah.

Marc: Yeah. I understand. I really do because I’ve raised a child with, I would like to think, a relatively healthy lifestyle and healthy food. So I know what that’s like because I’ve been through it. So actually, let’s kind of dive in here. And I just want to give you some of my thoughts, start with some big-picture thoughts first. And we’ll slowly kind of get more specific.
I truly believe that the concern that you’re discussing here is super important, and it’s very universal, meaning so many people go through this. So many parents or parents to-be go through this, i.e., “Here’s me. Here’s how I eat. Here’s how I want my kids to eat, and here’s what the world does.” And there are more people out in the world eating not-so-healthy foods than there are eating healthy foods as far as I can tell. So the odds are against you.

Whatever party you go to, dinner you go to, event you go to, person’s house you go to, chances are they’re not going to be serving the kind of food that you approve of for you, your husband, or your family.

Claudia: Yeah.

Marc: So I get it. And I also get the challenge of it’s no fun. It’s not fun to have to constantly be the weird person. It’s no fun to be the one who sticks out and says, “Oh, no. I can’t eat this. I can’t eat that. Or my kid can’t eat this. My kid can’t eat that.” Especially, initially you also mentioned just for you personally being out and somehow the food is chosen for you. You don’t have a choice, and I don’t eat this. This is not what I do.

Claudia: Yeah. I can make compromises, right? So I’ve also been traveling and eating not ideally. And it’s not always an issue. But in general, I tend to then always I have some sort of inner fight. Of course, it’s priorities. Also sometimes for you the conviviality of people getting together is more important than your own criteria, but sometimes it’s not.

Marc: I think you’re describing it very well. Yeah. Sometimes for me personally, it’s a little more important for me to kind of join in what everybody’s doing in terms of eating. And I look at the food, and I think to myself, “Okay. I can manage this. Not my first choice. And in fact, I’m just going to eat a little bit. I’m not going to eat a lot.”

So it looks like I’m part of this and I’m not sticking out like a sore thumb. I’m not different from everybody because it’s important for me to fit in.

Other times, like you’re saying, sometimes it might be the food is so not what works for you and you don’t care that much about the people. Honestly, you might never see them again. So I think it’s a constant negotiation. So I think what you’re experiencing now in large part is what you will keep experiencing into the future. And there’s no way that I’m aware of to make this conflict disappear. However, there is a way to constantly work with it better and better, so it causes you less and less stress.

Even though the conflict is still there, even though there will be moments of stress, anxiety, frustration, I wish this wasn’t happening. I wish I could just go somewhere and have the food that I like and I don’t have to deal with this nonsense. So what I’m saying is I would prepare yourself that in a weird way this is for the rest of your life. And the sooner you can get comfortable with this kind of challenge and the sooner you can relax into it, the sooner you can relieve some of the extra stress that’s caused by stressing out about the situation.

So there’s the stress of the situation and there’s the extra stress that you even have to deal with it and the extra stress of, “Well, I wish this wasn’t happening. I wish this would go away. I wish there was something easy here.” So the reality is, if you’re following a healthy lifestyle, you’re always going to be dealing with this whenever you travel, whenever you’re at relatives, whenever you’re at friends, whenever you are with anyone who has a different lifestyle and it’s their house, their food, whatever it is. You will always be dealing with this.

So for me, I’ll tell you some of how I did it. I made up in my mind, first and foremost, that I’m totally okay with what I eat. I’m not going to apologize to anyone for what and how I eat. I’m not going to apologize to anyone for how I feed my child. No apologies. No explanations. I don’t even get into arguments about it. If somebody says, “Oh, I can’t believe you’re giving your kid that or I can’t believe you’re not letting your kid drink soda. You’re depriving your child.” So I usually don’t get into arguments because most people who start an argument like that, they’re in that argument to win. They’re not in it to be in a dialogue with you where they can educate themselves.

So I think it’s about learning to pick and choose your fights well, learning to use the least amount of energy to get what you want.

Claudia: And how would you deal with then a situation where it’s not just theoretical anymore, but where maybe you leave your kids with the grandparents and they do something against your will? Because I’ve observed that happening with my partner’s brother’s children, happening right now. And I even talk to the grandparents then like, “You’re not respecting the wish of the parents.”

And so I’m always saying with us it’s going to give you some trouble. This is like… Yeah. And also I don’t want to raise kids that have the idea that I’m controlling with food and that then grow up with a certain strange problems.

Marc: Sure. I understand.

Claudia: This is my boyfriend’s concern actually that because it’s so important for me that then this will somehow affect the children.

Marc: So when it comes to how you communicate to your child, eventually what I have found works best is to be very clear with children—and children will understand this even from a small age—that we have a certain way that we eat in the house. And we have slightly different rules when we eat outside the house. So everybody eats differently. This is how I explained it to my child, and this is what I recommend to parents. Everyone eats differently.

We eat the way we eat because it’s good for you, because it’s healthy, because this is what mommy and daddy understand about the world. And we want you to grow up to be big and strong and healthy and beautiful and all that sort of thing. So when we’re in the house, we eat a certain way. Now, sometimes when we’re outside the house, we might stretch those rules just because we want to be part of what other people do.

So then your child understands, oh, different sets of rules. Inside the house. Outside the house. That’s actually a simple concept. Children understand that. So from that place, you then look to negotiate the best that you can with the outside world. So with grandparents, “Hey, grandparents. Here’s the rule. I don’t want my kid eating sugar. I don’t want my kid eating this, that, and the other thing.” Then what I will do is I will give them food. I will give them the

snacks. I will bring it with me and say, “Please, can you choose from these things?”
So you’ve already done the work for them. You’ve given them the snacks. You’ve given them the goodies. You’ve asked them some simple rules. “Can you please respect this?” And they will either respect it, or they will break the rules. And then you have to decide even if they break the rules, which oftentimes people will do as soon as you’re away, is it going to kill your child? No. Is it going to irreparably harm them? I don’t think so. No.

It’s a negotiation with the world, and you do the best you can. And I really appreciate and honor that you’re trying to consider all the aspects of this, meaning you don’t want your kids growing up thinking, “Oh, Mommy’s so controlling. She’s crazy. Why do we have to live by all these crazy rules?” So that’s why you’re demonstrating to them, “Hey, we have two sets of rules. Here’s how we do it inside the house. Here’s how we do it outside the house.” And you make it like it’s no big deal. It’s just how it is. Here’s the rule. When the light is red, you stop. When the light is green, the car goes. No discussion. That’s just the rule. That’s how it works.

So you make sure to not give them more conversation than they need to have. You make it matter of fact. It’s like you put on your shoes and you tie them. That’s how we do it. You don’t have to explain to them, “Well, we tie our shoes because if you don’t tie your shoes you can trip and fall and then your head could bleed.” You don’t have to go there. No. You tie your shoes.

So you’re communicating to them that this is no big deal. This is just how we do it. Now, you have to develop a stronger, I think, tolerance for the fact that people will not always respect your wishes, even though you’ve stated them clear. Even though you’ve given them the snack foods that you want your kids to eat, especially when you leave them for a sleepover. So you do the best you can, because that’s what the world is. We do the best we can with everything.

And when you’re at home, you speak to your kids in a certain way. And then as soon as your kids are in school, somebody’s going to be yelling at them or screaming at them or bullying them. That’s not how you do it in the house, but that’s the world. So this is life. It’s not just around food. So you do the best you can at home, and when you do it that way, you child—I promise you—will grow up with a healthier understanding that, yeah, we are a little different. That’s okay. We’re different in a lot of ways. We come from a different country than you do. We eat in a different way. We watch different TV. Whatever it is, everybody’s different.

So your child will understand growing up when you have two sets of rules, when you do the best you can with it and when you’re also clear with them. And I always used to tell my kid this whenever he complained, “Well, these kids eat this and they get to do that at their house. Their mommy gives them ice cream every night from the supermarket. It’s not that health food stuff that you buy or that you make.” And I’d tell my kid, I said, “I totally understand.”

I never fight. I never make a big deal. “I totally understand. I’m the parent. I’m the adult. As long as you live in my house, we do it by my rules. Why? I’m bigger than you. I made this house appear. I pay for everything. I buy your clothes. I take you to school. I drive you around. That’s my job. So as long as I’m your parent and you’re living in my house and I take care of you, I’m going to take care of you the best way that I know how. And when you grow up and you’re a big boy or a big girl and you live on your own, you could do whatever you want.” Kids understand that because it’s true.

Claudia: It sounds so easy when you say it. Yeah, it makes sense.

Marc: So what I’m trying to tell you is that is the truth. That is the simple truth. Most often, when you communicate simple truths to a child—and you could start to tell them this at 2-years-old. They’re not going to understand it fully at two, but they’re going to keep hearing it. By the time they’re four and five especially, they understand these concepts. They really do. It makes sense to them. “Oh, when I’m big, I could do whatever I want. How do I know that? Because I see all the adults doing whatever they seem to want to do.”

So you’ve made a simple explanation and that’s it. And it’s not a big deal. You don’t make an issue of it. And whenever they complain, you’re very nonchalant about it. You remind them the same thing. You tell them the exact same thing. You might have to repeat that 150 times. It doesn’t matter. It’s the simple truth. I’m not asking you to say something that’s not true.

You’re the parent. You’re bringing them up. You’re raising them. My house. My rules. Why are these my rules? Because I love you. Because I care about you. I’m older than you. I’m smarter than you. I know more about these things. I know that that sugar tastes good that you had at your friend’s house. They have that every day. We have that once in awhile.

So the trick is if you give your kids occasionally—this is what I have found. So not every parent chooses to do this, but I’m telling you how I did it. I decided I didn’t want to make most things completely “you can never touch this; you can never have it,” in terms of a food. I’ll let them taste it. I’ll let them try it once. And I’ll let him have that experience, so he can feel like, “Oh, I’m like all the other kids. I’m not this weirdo. Bummer, I just can’t have those donuts every day. I wish I could.”

In a way, you’re teaching your kid how to delay gratification. Because kids want what they want when they want it. They don’t care about the future. When you tell your child, “No, I don’t want you eating this because when you grow up you’re going to be unhealthy,” they don’t hear that. That means nothing to them. All they know is “I want sugar now because it makes me feel good now.”

So humans want immediate gratification. Children want immediate gratification. You’re teaching them how to hold off immediate gratification. That’s a beautiful lesson. Will they fight you? Chances are they will. That’s okay. If they want to fight you, let them fight you. It’s not going to be a perfect relationship where your kids necessarily go, “Oh, thank you, Mommy. That’s so good. I’m so glad you care about my health. I love you so much. Thank you for giving me these rules.” They’re not going to say that necessarily. But that’s okay.

That’s totally okay. They can kick and scream and cry. That’s fine. It’s your rules because it’s not just about food. There’s going to be other rules that have nothing to do with food that you make the rule. They want something different. No, I’m sorry. I’m the parent. When you’re old enough and you live on your own and you’re taking care of yourself, do whatever you want. But for now. So I’m telling you that that’s a great philosophy. Worked for me. Works for the parents that I know practice it.

Let’s talk about your husband for a minute or your partner. So, honestly, it sounds to me like he’s very cooperative. It sounds to me like he’s very open and it sounds to me like he cares. And it sounds to me like he has his limits because he’s different from you. He’s different from me. So I think it’s best that you keep acknowledging him for what he does. Make sure you give him kudos, props, love, hugs, kisses for when he is following your wishes, for when he is making strides in the direction that you want to see him go instead of, “Well, that’s not far enough, honey. That’s not good enough, honey.”

And I’m not saying that you’re doing this, but I’m just saying just in case, you want to make sure you give him way more positive regard for the efforts he is making than negative regard for the progress he’s not making. Do you follow me? He’s going to be more apt to do what you want him to do as you acknowledge his successes and you acknowledge the places where he’s trying to meet you and doing his best. “Honey, I’ve been thinking about it. I so appreciate how much you have been willing to make shifts and make changes relative to how I feel about food and how I feel about having a kid. That’s so great.”

Claudia: Yeah, in general, that’s something I should be doing more, like focusing on the positive rather than the negative.

Marc: Tons of it. Tons of it, Claudia. And I really, really mean that. I really mean that because not only is that going to be good for him, it’s going to be good for you. And the reason why I think it’s going to be good for you is I think I get where you’re coming from. To me, where you’re coming from is you’re so aware. And you’ve done so much study and research, and you’ve observed your own body. And you’ve come to certain conclusions, and you’re doing this because you care.

You’re not doing this because you’re fanatic. You’re not doing this because there’s something crazy about you. You’re doing this because you care. You want to be a great mother, and you know how important health is for children. I’m with you. I am 100% with you. I was fanatic, fanatic about everything that went into my son’s body, his environment because I know how important it is. What went on his skin, what we wash our laundry with. Perfumes in the house. Chemicals in the house.

So I was a fanatic about that, so I understand. So I know you’re coming from a good place, and you have to remember that you can’t let this part of you stress you out too much. So one of the ways you not let it stress you out so much is you acknowledge when the good things are happening. Like with your partner, you constantly acknowledge the strides that he’s making. You focus on the good. You focus on the good. You focus on the good. You focus on the good, because you can’t push a person too much when it comes to food.

It’ll start to get in the way of the relationship.

Claudia: Yeah, that makes sense. That’s been happening. Yeah.

Marc: Yeah. So what I would suggest is experiment a little bit, just a little, where you make an inner change. And the inner change is this: you still want what you want. Get clear about what you want, what you want in the big picture. “I want to raise healthy children. While we’re conceiving, I want to have healthy habits and healthy lifestyle and healthy food, so we’re giving our child a healthy start.” That makes sense to me.

So if you focus on the good of that and how wonderful that is and in yourself you see that as this great thing as opposed to, ‘[Gasp] I’ve got to convince him of this. I’ve got to convince everybody of this.” Because right now, you’re stressing into it a little too much as opposed to relaxing into it.
Claudia: It’s also because then coming back to the first point which is the practical implications that since I’m the major one pulling the train, let’s say. I don’t know if I can say that, but taking the lead. I also take care a lot about making it happen on the practical side. So, okay, he also does a lot, really. But sometimes it just gets overwhelming, the amount of…

And so this makes me more irritable or easily irritable, and so then we, again, get into… And it’s always around food. He then also gets pissed with me because it’s always about food, and so there we are. Yeah. So I think, as you say, since the majority of the world is just doing it differently, it’s not making it easy for you if you want to do it differently. It’s not that at every corner you can get the food in the way that you would want it. So you have to invest a lot of your time and effort.

Marc: Yeah.

Claudia: On top of everything.

Marc: Yeah, so this is a place in relationship where you’re going to be working harder than him in a certain way. He’s working hard too. In fact, my guess is he’s working in a strange way as hard as you are but in a different direction. He’s trying to manage something that’s difficult for him. He’s going like, “Oh, my God, it’s the food again.” That’s hard for him. Granted, you just want him to be on the same page as you. I understand that.

But what I’m trying to tell you is that in his world—I’m not justifying his position. I’m just telling you in his world he’s working hard.

Claudia: Yeah. No, I know he is.

Marc: What I want to say is you need to be in greater alignment with him. I know that’s what you want. One of the things that you say to yourself in order for me and my partner to be in better alignment, “He needs to be more in alignment with me.” I understand.

Claudia: Just do it my way.

Marc: Yeah, yeah. That makes perfect sense to me. That makes perfect sense. And what I want to say to you is for the future health of your relationship, there will be places where you need to have less resistance. And you will need to loosen up a little more and trust. Just loosen up and trust. Trust that if he had alcohol twice that week, it’s going to be okay. It’s truly going to be okay. It’ll be okay.
The body metabolizes alcohol pretty quickly. He’s still young. I’m going to assume he’s kind of healthy. That’s the good news. And he’s a good person. I’m going to guess that he loves you. I’m going to guess that he’s going to love his kid. That’s very important. It is shocking, Claudia, the things that we feed our children, the things that I was fed on growing up, up until I was 18 years old. I don’t know how I’m still alive.

So the human body is phenomenal. The human body is absolutely phenomenal in terms of how it can grow and how it can recover from some of the worst offenses, from some of the worst food and drugs. I meet people who were drug addicts on the street for 30 years and like at death’s door for so long. And they’ve turned their health around. It’s amazing.

So all I’m saying to you is there’s a place where you have to trust a little more. That even though my kid might end up with the grandparents and they feed my kid the sugar and the three things I asked them not to feed my kid, the reality is until the next time they have a sleepover at grandparents they’re not going to have that again. And the reality is when they’re back in your house, they’re going to be eating healthy. And the body’s amazing, and the body will recover. And thank God they have wonderful grandparents that love them and want to be with them. And they’ll benefit that way.

So what I’m suggesting to you, and I know this is not ideal for you. I get it because I’m the same as you. So I’m in your court. If this was my child, I want my child eating exactly what I want my kid to eat, and I don’t want anybody feeding my kid different. That’s it. That’s my rule. And I know I’ve had to loosen that rule so many times, otherwise life becomes crazy. It becomes absolutely crazy, and it’s one of those places in life where for me personally I had to take a deep breath and let go and surrender a little bit.

And the reality is your kids will grow up and they’ll be healthy based on the fact that 95% of what they’re exposed to is healthy in terms of food and diet. And the other 5 or 10%, when they’re at school, when they’re here, when they’re there, you do your best. You do your best as a parent.
Claudia: That’s why it’s right now so important for me to at least at the time that I kind of have the control.

Marc: Mmhmm.

Claudia: So to speak control. Of course, there’s always factors you don’t control.

Marc: So I would say that there’s a place where I keep thinking for you that there’s a place where it’s just about you trusting more, trusting in this whole process. Trusting in the whole big picture of this, because you’re getting caught in the moment and the details.

And, yeah, I hear what you say when you say, “Now’s the time when I could potentially have more say in this, a little more control in this.” That’s true. And still, I want you to trust a little more and respect that you’ve requested certain things of your partner and he’s doing the best that he can. He’s doing the best that he can, and that’s a beautiful thing. And it’s more important at the end of the day to have the healthiest relationship that you can with your partner because that’s what’s going to create healthy children.

Yes, you want to feed them a healthy diet. But I would much rather their diet be 92% healthy, than have the relationship be 50% unhealthy because of food, because of that other 8%.

Claudia: Yeah.

Marc: Do you follow me?

Claudia: I don’t know why I tend to really emphasize so much the food aspect. It’s also like now when I traveled here, just looking at how my suitcase was made up. Food just takes such a big part of everything. It’s like, yeah, a priority that’s still also linked to my past where food was more an unhealthy issue for me. Now, as you were saying, it’s really out of care. But it wasn’t always like that. It still somehow takes up a lot of space in my life now.

Marc: Yes. So what I’m saying—that’s a good observation. And it’s fine for food to be important for you. I think that’s wise. I think that’s smart, and it’s just a matter of there’s a difference between food being extremely important to you and it stressing you out so much that all of a sudden the importance becomes a burden.

Claudia: Yeah.

Marc: So make it important. Food’s important to you. Healthy food is important to you. That’s a good thing. Healthy communication is important to you. I don’t know. Being warm when it’s cold is important to you. That’s fine. You could have things that are important to you, but then it’s learning how to gauge your degree of importance such that it doesn’t stress you out so the stress becomes more important than the importance.

Claudia: I see. Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. And that’s why we sometimes turn into circles when it’s weekend time and we always need to make time for the food preparation for the next week and all that. So then sometimes you feel a little bit, or I feel a little bit, in a trip when it comes to that because, yes, it’s important. Okay, I could choose to make it less important and to do something else instead. But then in the week, the stress comes in another form.

But I guess that’s a process that most people that are into this, for whom this kind of lifestyle is important, that we need to find a way to make it work and to balance it all.

Marc: Yeah, and to understand that this is going to be one place where you cannot expect your husband to be as fanatic as you are. And when I say fanatic, I say that in an affectionate way. There are certain things I’m fanatic about. And certain things are going to be more important to him that he’s going to push for.

So all I’m saying is this is a part of your life together where you’re going to be the one driving the car. Get used to that. Don’t make that demand on him that he be like you, because if he was like you he would be a lot more stressed. You would probably both be really stressed out. It’s probably a good thing that he’s the way he is because he’s helping you loosen up a little.

Claudia: Definitely. Yeah. Definitely.

Marc: So in part, it’s trusting the relationship. It’s trusting the wisdom of the relationship. It’s understanding that there’s going to be certain things he focuses on. There’s going to be certain things when you have a kid that you might not want to do with the kid. If you have a boy and the boy wants to play football or soccer all the time and you don’t care about that and your husband’s into it, okay. Fine. So he’s going to take the kid to football practice.

Claudia: Yeah, I think sometimes for me what gives me frustration is when, as you were saying, I realized that since it’s more important to me that I have to invest more there. And sometimes this becomes the stressor because then I feel like, okay, now I have to spend so much time basically not doing other things. If I was by myself, it would cost me less time.

So in a way, I feel like I have to now work double because I’m in a relationship. And of course, that’s a trade-in. He does it in other areas. But then it’s not that this is the only area of importance in my life. I also want the professional side and so many, so that’s a little bit where I’m at that I feel there’s just not enough time to do it all and stay healthy and balance yourself without burning out and all that.

Marc: Yeah. So you have to find that balance. That’s your task in life is to find that balance because you know something? There might be times, days, weeks where you don’t have the energy to do a lot of cooking from scratch. And you might decide to buy things at the supermarket, or you might decide to create meals that you could do really quickly that might not be as good as the fresh soups that you make. But it’s good enough. So you’re not always going to be able to do it perfectly when it comes to food.
If you watch most animals in nature, they go through cycles. Animals don’t get a meal every time they want it. They go hungry. They look. They can go for sometimes days, weeks, without water, certain creatures. So we are designed to metabolize all different kinds of foods. We are designed to deal with all different kinds of stressors in our environment. And I’m going to tell you something I don’t usually say because it sounds like a difficult concept, and it sounds anti-health.

But in a strange way, when I was raising my son, I was very clear that I wanted to feed him the best food possible. But when we would go to a birthday party and I would let him eat a piece of junk birthday cake that had nothing real in it, do you know what I would do? I would tell him, “Okay, have this piece of cake. I know you really want it. Have the piece of cake. We’re going to start out with this much. And then I just want you to notice how you feel afterwards. That’s all.”

Claudia: Experiment. Yeah.

Marc: Yeah. But at the same time, what I wanted to say was in a strange way your kids have to develop their immune system to handle difficult toxins in the environment. So you have to expose your kids to the environment. Kids Get exposed to dirt, to the soil. You’re immunizing them because they’re learning how to navigate the world. Because even in the natural world, there are toxins and there are poisons and there are viruses and bacteria and organisms that are extremely harmful to the body. The only way the body learns how to deal with them is exposure. Exposure, build up immune system. Yes, eat the right diet, all the right conditions.

So whenever my kid was eating something not healthy for him, I look at it as this is immunizing your system. Your system has to learn how to deal with an intense amount of sugar for a little bit because it’s not natural. And you’re going to inevitably be doing this.

So there’s a little bit of strength building and immune building when you challenge the body. Because otherwise what happens is, believe it or not, if you raise a human too purely, as soon as you’ve sent him to school, they’re going to get sick. As soon as you put them in an environment where there’s a lot of stress and a lot of electromagnetic energy and a lot of nonsense, their system’s going to collapse. So they have to be equipped to deal with the world.

Claudia: That makes a lot of sense. I hadn’t considered it like that before, so I think that will help me a lot.

Marc: Yeah. And I was always saying to my son, “Okay, you ate that. How do you feel now?” “Oh, I feel great.” Two hours later, “I’ve got a headache.” Whatever it is. And I’ll try to make the connection. But it’s always in a gentle way. It’s always in an educational way. I never make the food bad or wrong. I always frame it as there are certain foods that are healthier for your body than others. When you make it bad and wrong, they want it. You immediately magnetize them towards it, and you start a fight. Because they’re like, “There’s nothing bad about that. It tastes so good. All the other kids eat it. That’s not bad. They advertise it on television. How could that be bad?”

So when you frame it as healthy and unhealthy, even though they don’t fully understand that concept, the concept is true. So when you’re delivering truth, your child will eventually hear it as they get older. They will eventually start to get it. In the meantime, you cannot fully explain certain things to a 2, 3, or 4-year-old; however, you could lay down simple rules and simple laws and give them very simple explanations. Two sets of rules. One inside the house; one outside the house.

It’s fine when we go to parties, when we go to Grandma’s house, whoever, we might change the rules a little bit. And then when we’re in the house, here’s how we do it. Big smile. No argument. There’s nothing else to say about it, really. And whatever their objections are you always come back to the same conversation. And this way it’s not just about food. It’s teaching your child how to be with the world because you know something? There’s going to be people that have different beliefs about the world than you have and that what you’ve taught your child.

You might teach your child certain things about life, about the universe, about how to deal with people. And they’re going to hear differing opinions. That’s what the world is. It’s not just food that they’re going to hear different things from different people. So, yeah, okay, that’s the religion that they follow. And in our house, we follow a different religion. We go to a different church. Whatever it is.
And we’re teaching our children how to understand differences. We’re teaching our children here’s how we do it. And when you get older, you will then have the opportunity to make different choices for yourself if you don’t like the choices I give you as your parent. I understand. As soon as you move out and you’re supporting yourself, you’re on your own. You could do your own rules.

Claudia: Yeah.

Marc: And in the meantime, you are loosening your rules a little bit because the world is going to constantly ask that of us. Your child needs good skills to navigate the world. If your child is going to navigate the world with “it has to be like this. I can only eat this,” it ain’t going to work. Not going to work. My mother said, “We don’t eat this. I’m sorry.” That’s not going to go over too well. It’s not going to get your kid the job he or she wants.

So we need to learn how to be a little stealth. Okay, I’m going to sit here and eat a little bit of this food. There are situations where I choose to stick out like a sore thumb. I don’t care what anybody things about what I’m eating. I don’t care if everybody’s eating the same thing and I eat something different. I don’t care. I literally don’t care. No, no. That’s not even true. I’m happy to be eating what I’m eating. I am happy to be taking care of myself. I’m also not judging anybody else. I’m letting them have their choice. I don’t need them to change.

So because I don’t need them to change, I don’t need me to change. I do what I do. You do what you do. So there’s no contention. There’s no fight.

Claudia: I guess I’m still in the judging phase because I can do this, but I would feel very tense while I’m doing it still because I wouldn’t feel at ease doing it. So I guess that there’s also still learning not to judge others so that then I can be more relaxed with what I’m doing as well.

Marc: Yeah. This is your lesson to learn. This is your lesson to learn. The more you can let go of judging other people the more you can relax. And the more you can learn to let other people judge you—if they want to judge you for what you eat. Certain people, I’ve been judged my whole life for what I eat. At some point, I stopped caring. I stopped caring because I thought to myself, “That’s so silly. You’re harming your body with what you’re eating. I’m eating healthy food and you’re judging me for eating health food? That’s so silly.”

Claudia: Yeah.

Marc: I don’t even engage in that. I don’t even go there, it’s so silly.

Claudia: For me, that’s still a difficult one like to not care what other people think. In general, it’s a challenge, but I’m working on it.

Marc: That’s life. That’s life. It’s not just with food.

Claudia: Yeah, exactly.

Marc: Yeah.

Claudia: Now with everything.

Marc: Yeah. So, Claudia, I think we’ve covered some good pieces for you today.

Claudia: Yeah, I think so.

Marc: Yeah.

Claudia: Thank you.

Marc: You look a little more relaxed about this whole topic.

Claudia: Yeah. Yeah, you’ve given me some things to think about. So thank you very much. Already now, I’m more relaxed, so I hope I will maintain that.

Marc: Yeah. And you won’t necessarily maintain it, but you could always come back to it. So you could always come back to it. It’s not going to be perfect, so expect that you will get your buttons pushed. You will be activated. You might get stressed. That’s okay. Always want you to think to yourself, “I’m coming from a place of love and care. That’s why I get stressed. And I’m learning how to relax more.” And as you relax more around this, you’re teaching your children to relax more around this. Because when they’re able to relax around the world, around food, around negotiating, the world is a lot to navigate, not just for me and you but for our little kids.

So when we are showing them that we are navigating these things with grace, with ease, and we’re relaxing into it and you’re not freaking out about Grandma’s going to eat this or that’s going to be at the party and we’re just presenting it in very relaxed, simple, understandable ways, it’s easier. And then they start to see, “Oh, this is not a big deal. This is just how I do it.” That message gradually lands in their system. It doesn’t mean your kids are not going to fight you and complain. It doesn’t matter. They’re going to fight and complain about all kinds of things including food.
Claudia: Yeah.

Marc: I’m so glad for you that you’re so committed to being a good mother and committed to raising healthy children, and that’s a beautiful thing and enjoy it. And raise them not just with healthy food but a healthy attitude towards food and a healthy attitude towards the world so that they’re not completely isolated from it, that they can still participate in it while having the rules that they have in the house.

Claudia: Okay. Let’s see how this turns out.

Marc: Yes, absolutely.

Claudia: Thank you very much.

Marc: Thank you as well, Claudia. I’m so glad we had this conversation. And I’m so glad for you out there for tuning in and being part of the Psychology of Eating podcast. Always lots more to come, my friends. You take care.

I hope this was helpful. Thanks for listening to the Psychology of Eating podcast. To learn more about the breakthrough body of work we teach here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, please sign up for our free video series at IPE.tips. That’s I for Institute, P for Psychology, E for Eating.tips. T-i-p-s. You’ll learn about the cutting-edge principles of dynamic eating psychology and mind/body nutrition that have helped millions of people forever transform their relationship with food, body, and health.

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About The Author
Marc David
Founder

Marc David is the Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, a leading visionary, teacher and consultant in Nutritional Psychology, and the author of the classic and best-selling works Nourishing Wisdom and The Slow Down Diet. His work has been featured on CNN, NBC and numerous media outlets. His books have been translated into over 10 languages, and his approach appeals to a wide audience of eaters who are looking for fresh, inspiring and innovative messages about food, body and soul. He lectures internationally, and has held senior consulting positions at Canyon Ranch Resorts, the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, the Johnson & Johnson Corporation, and the Disney Company. Marc is also the co-founder of the Institute for Conscious Sexuality and Relationship.