Food fight or romantic dinner? Communication between couples is key to improving men's diets

Married men will eat their peas to keep the peace, but many aren't happy about it, and may even binge on unhealthy foods away from home.

"The key to adopting a healthier diet is for couples to discuss and negotiate the new, healthier menu changes as a team," said Derek Griffith, assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

This seems obvious, but most times it doesn't happen, according to a new study called "'She looks out for the meals, period.' African-American men's perceptions of how their wives influence their eating behavior and dietary health."

Researchers conducted focus groups with 83 African-American men. The majority of men said their wives didn't consult them when helping them to adopt a healthier diet. Even though the healthier diet was often ordered by a physician, the husbands often disliked the food changes, but to avoid conflict, they didn't object. Men focused more on maintaining a happy home than having a say in what they ate.

In fact, the only examples found of couples negotiating came about to benefit the children in the home, Griffith said.

However, without that communication, those good intentions and changes often backfired, the study found. After tasteless for the fifth night in a row, some men would head to the all-you-can-eat buffet for "a landslide of food."

"I think at dinner a lot of men are eating healthier, but they compensate for the of not eating what they want by making unhealthier choices outside the home," Griffith said.

Physicians can help by recognizing that wives play a central role in what men eat at home, Griffith said.

"Doctors could suggest that men have a tactful conversation with their wives in a way that ensures the husbands aren't sleeping on the couch that night," Griffith said.

More information: Study abstract in Health Psychology: psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2012-12108-001

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Black men place family and community above their own health

Jul 11, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Black men place a higher priority on fulfilling social roles such as family provider, father, husband and community member than they do on physical activity—and their health suffers because they don't ...

Stress levels for couples examined in study

Jun 03, 2011

A new study found that it isn’t enough for couples to relax together for their stress levels to fall at the end of the day. Men find it easier to chill if their wives are still busy. Women prefer hands-on help: Their ...

Long work hours widen the gender gap

Aug 01, 2008

Working overtime has a disproportionate impact on women in dual-earner households, exacerbating gender inequality and supporting the "separate sphere" phenomenon in which men are the breadwinners while women tend to the home, ...

Recommended for you

Smoking's toll on mentally ill analyzed

1 hour ago

Those in the United States with a mental illness diagnosis are much more likely to smoke cigarettes and smoke more heavily, and are less likely to quit smoking than those without mental illness, regardless ...

User comments