Carolyn Hax is on leave. This column originally ran on Aug. 20, 2008.
Dear Carolyn: I am about to marry a man with a wonderful, smart, kind 13-year-old daughter. She is a strict vegan because her mother became one in the last year. Although it’s presented to her as a “choice” by her mother, it’s not much of one. The mother doesn’t allow any nonvegan foods.
I’m a lifelong vegetarian myself, but I intensely disagree with this diet. His daughter readily admits that she likes eating things like cheeses and cakes, but insists on restricting herself, even when she’s at her father’s house and away from her mother. On the rare instances she decides to bend from her diet, she calls her mother beforehand to ask if it’s OK. I believe she might be developing food-control issues.
I’ve tried talking to her about it but she is very sensitive and defensive about the issue. How do my fiance and I deal with this?
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By not becoming yet another foil in her quest for control. You’ve made your case for cheese, and it didn’t work. At this point, the more you resist her, the more resistance she will have to summon to oppose you; you become part of the problem.
Instead, become her ally in healthy eating. Have your fiance talk to his daughter’s pediatrician about her nutritional needs, stock the house with vegan foods, practice some recipes. When she consistently leaves your home both well fed and gently supported, she’ll walk away with a subtle education on having a healthy worldview as well.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.