It may be that the best method to help married men adopt a healthier diet is to improve communication channels between the couple – particularly African-American couples.
Often a man will stay on a diet while at home to avoid conflict, then splurge or even binge on unhealthy food when away from home.
“The key to married men adopting a healthier diet is for couples to discuss and negotiate the new, healthier menu changes as a team,” said Derek Griffith, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
Although the finding seems obvious, 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.”
In the study, researchers held focus group meeting with 83 African-American men. The majority of men said their wives didn’t consult them when helping them to adopt a healthier diet.
In many cases the husbands disliked the food changes even though the healthier diet was ordered by a physician. However, rather than discussing this issue with their wife and coming to a common ground on what they would eat, men stayed silent and focused on maintaining a happy home.
In fact, the only examples found of couples negotiating healthy food choices came about to benefit the children in the home, Griffith said.
Researchers discovered the absence of communication often compromised significant dietary change. After tasteless ground turkey 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 dissatisfaction of not eating what they want by making unhealthier choices outside the home,” Griffith said.
Health care providers can improve dietary change compliance by recognizing that wives play a central role in what men eat at home, Griffith said.
Providers could instruct wife’s on communication and behavioral change strategies to encourage and support the new dietary behavior.
“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.
The study was published this month in the journal Health Psychology.
Source: University of Michigan