Carolyn Hax: My husband insists the whole family go vegan


We asked readers to channel their inner Carolyn Hax and answer this question. Some of the best answers are below.

Dear Caroline: My husband has always been a yo-yo dieter and athlete. We have tons of gadgets around the house that he had to have and then never used. … I know that many have the same problem. He also cut X away and then ate it again a few weeks/months later. I sighed and dealt with it. I should say he went pescetarian/vegetarian/gluten free almost two years ago and after a rocky start we’ve all adapted to that change and we (me, kids) occasionally eat meat and bread at home.

He recently had a lipid test and has high enough cholesterol that his doctor put him on a statin drug. In a week now he’s done 180 and thrown out all dairy and meat and says we all need to go vegan. Going vegan is out of the question for us. After a rowdy match, I bought more dairy for the rest of us, and he actually opened up my milk and yogurt and shook it all out in our yard.

I have no idea what’s going on with him now. Has he lost his mind? I’ve been wondering if he’s responding to the statin, but he doesn’t want to talk about it. Children and I are on day 3 of the silent treatment. I tried calling his doctor but they wouldn’t speak to me because of HIPAA. Apparently my husband didn’t put me on the interview list. any advice?

Anonymous: The vegan thing and the fad diet/exercise thing are completely beside the point here. I’ve been an ethical vegetarian for 25 years, and it has never occurred to me to force my husband or children to become one. I cook and shop, I mostly cook vegetables and I answer honestly when my children ask about my eating habits. But I buy meat if they want it, my spouse cooks meat, we get meat to go, school lunches and restaurants are everyone’s choice, etc. This is just basic respect for owning your own body and mind.

Open and dump your food, giving you and your kids three! days! the silent treatment! …is emotional abuse and a million times more dangerous to your kids than cholesterol or saturated fat or whatever. I don’t want to alarm you, but honestly, pack up the kids, go to a friend’s house for a while. If he wants access to you, he can talk to a therapist or tell his doctor what’s going on. This is not about your right to eat cheese (although I will defend that right!). This is about your right and the right of your children to be treated as human beings and not as appendages.

Anonymous: Going vegan isn’t the issue here, it’s your husband’s behavior. Silence and throwing things away (twice) are abusive. Is this an escalation of previous behavior or the first time you’ve seen something like this? You need individual therapy and a lawyer. Your husband will likely need a full physical exam to determine if there are any underlying issues causing this behavior, but if he’s not even willing to talk about it, you need to protect yourself and the kids.

Anonymous: First and most importantly, controlling other people’s food to the point where he throws away your food is just plain abusive behavior. It’s not always easy to spot abuse in a relationship, but it’s clearly unacceptable. The question is what can be done about it. The nutritional problems are just a vector to control.

It sounds like he’s having a legitimate crisis of some sort if this behavior is new. If at all possible I would arrange accommodation where I can stay separate from him and then address him directly but gently about the behavior (not the diet) and ask him to seek psychological counseling and get you into his address medical needs. Until that happens, you don’t really have a relationship that you have anything to do with; and you have children to take care of. As bad as it may seem to have this rift with her father, moving on without confronting the issue would certainly be worse.

Anonymous: People with eating disorders, like your husband and I, tend to use food to exert control when we’re feeling powerless and anxious. This recent lifestyle change is just one of his restrictive phases, charged by a new sense of his own mortality. I was the partner who kept doing something new. We fool ourselves that everyone does, but even if they do, your husband’s actions (yelling and domestic fridge terror) show that this is no harmless quirk. He is clearly very scared and used his traditional coping mechanism of restrictive eating in response to 11.

So first he needs a wake-up call, which could come from his doctor or another medical professional he trusts, that this reaction is not medically necessary. Very few doctors recommend a strictly vegan diet.

Then he has to realize that his reaction wasn’t right and get curious as to why he’s giving food that kind of power. This is harder to induce, but his silent treatment might give him some mental space to wonder. In my experience, this change really needs to come from the person, although it might help if you both have a calm conversation about it once he’s calmed down. Reading the stories of other people with eating disorders online has really helped me; There are many resources out there.

You can make these steps easier, but otherwise I would do as you did. Feel free to replace the items in the fridge that he threw away. Ignore his tantrums. Carefully explain to your children that this is your husband’s coping mechanism for not being okay, and continue to have a healthy relationship with food. You may have to take over the shopping and cooking until things are less strained. I’m sorry you’re stuck in this situation of being the adult; it can be exhausting. Make sure you get the support you need from friends, family, or your own therapist.

Anonymous: I know it’s not very satisfying, but you can always share information with your doctor’s office, even if they can’t with you. So you can call the office and say, “I know you can’t tell me, but you need to know that this is happening and I’m concerned it might be related to his medication.”

Each week we ask readers to answer a question submitted via live chat or email by Carolyn Hax. Read the latest episode here. New questions are usually published on Fridays, with the submission deadline on Monday. Responses are anonymous unless you identify yourself and will be edited for length and clarity. Carolyn Hax: My husband insists the whole family go vegan

Chris Estrada

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