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Fairness in family dieting

By Andrea Bonior
Andrea Bonior
Andrea Bonior (that's BONN-yer!) is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor, and writer. She completed her M.A. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology focusing on individual and group psychotherapy for young adults and specializing in the treatment of anxiety disorders and depression.

Q: My wife has recently gone on the Paleo diet and expects all of us (including our two preteen children) to go along with it. We have always alternated cooking, but she even objects to my cooking separate non-Paleo things for myself or our kids because she feels it is “not supportive” of her. Is this fair?

I’m no expert on the Paleo diet – any diet that outlaws lentils makes me hyperventilate – but if it’s limiting enough that a significant amount of you and your children’s staple foods are verboten, then yes, it’s unfair of her. But that doesn’t mean that adjusting and compromising should be off the table.

Ground rules: If there are a few foods that are overly tempting to her, you can agree to not eat those in her presence. And you can agree that on nights she cooks, it’s Paleo-mania. But for the nights that you cook, you should be allowed to have a couple of additional dishes that you and your kids can eat in peace, and non-Paleo snacks they can consume as well. The best solution? Sit down as a family and come up with a dozen new recipes that are agreeable to both Paleo embracers and Paleo skeptics alike.

Q: What do you do when you don’t like your parents as people? I’m a college student on scholarship, I don’t come home during the summers and I have tried to keep my contact minimal. My parents are bigoted, verbally abusive (to others and each other) jerks that I honestly wouldn’t choose to spend time with. My friends think it’s weird that I have virtually no relationship with them, but I’ve been considering cutting ties altogether once I graduate. Is this too stark?

Friends can think many things are weird – our families, our money habits, the fact that we can eat an entire jar of dilly green beans in one sitting – but that shouldn’t always play a role in our decision-making.

You’ve thought this through and sound very self-sufficient. However, things might happen later in your life to make you crave a reconnection. So, yes, cutting ties at the ripe old age of 20-ish might be a bit stark. Instead, draw boundaries within the relationship you have without obliterating it. Calmly let them know why you’re leaving when they’re being abusive. Continue to build a life that’s true to your own ideals, which may help set an example.

Andrea Bonior is a psychologist and author of “The Friendship Fix.”
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