A Healthy Diet Rooted in Better Communication Between Couples

Study suggests Black couples need to step away from gender roles and work together to plan meals.

Posted: 05/29/2012 02:18 PM EDT

For the most part, in many African-American households across the country the woman is the one in charge of the cooking and the planning of meals. And in many households, the woman takes care of the health of her kids and that of her husband.

But what happens when a wife wants to eat healthier and the husband does not?

Researchers from the University of Michigan wanted to explore this dynamic among Black couples. After interviewing 83 African-American couples whose diets were mandated by doctors, the report found that a majority of the men said their wives didn’t talk to them about changing their diets and they didn’t like the new food they were eating. Many of the men said they went along with the changes without complaining because they would rather have a happy home than fight about food.

Sounds good, right?

Not really. Going with the flow and not communicating likes and dislikes about important lifestyle changes such as incorporating a healthier diet can result in the diet backfiring and men regressing back to their unhealthy eating habits. A University of Michigan press statement reported:

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," said Derek Griffith, assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

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.

Studies like this one are important, especially when looking at the state of Black men's health in America. Black men live 7.5 years less than other racial groups and 40 percent of Black men die prematurely from cardiovascular disease compared with 22 percent of white men. Black men also are three times less likely to have routine medical checkups than Black women.
 
While women should definitely support and encourage their male partners to live healthier lives, this report speaks to the need for Black men to be more active in their own health.

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