Dr. Mike,

My husband has gone on an insane health kick that is causing us a lot of problems as a couple and as a family, and I don’t know what to do.  Basically, he’s lost his mind with diet and exercise, and it started in April and right after he started working from home because of COVID-19.  He’s lost 65 pounds on the Keto Diet and he exercises all the time; I guess I should be happy for him but the problem is that we don’t see him anymore.  He won’t eat meals with us because of his diet, and we hardly see him on the weekends or in the evenings because of his elaborate exercise routines.  Our children miss their dad and I miss my husband.  I’ve told him how I feel, but he puts it back on me and tells me that I’m the one with the problem and that it’s “absurd” that I’m “punishing him for being healthy.”  He’s now training for an Iron Man and he’s trying to get to a 10 percent body fat content…I don’t even think Olympic swimmers have 10 percent body fat!  Two questions.  First, how does someone change all at once like this, and second, what do I do?  We could sure use a solution or two, and thank you.

Help in Loudoun

Dear Help,

It’s one thing to prioritize wellness, but it’s entirely another thing to have diet and exercise dominate your life; extremes usually aren’t good, and in my opinion, extreme behaviors or changes oftentimes have an underlying cause.  You haven’t provided any background information, so it’s impossible for me to fully analyze the possible contributing factors to your husband’s sudden and drastic commitment toward health.  Briefly, COVID-19 has been challenging, and it’s possible that he’s compensating with diet and exercise to cushion the associated stresses.  Vaping and alcohol consumption is way up in response to COVID-19, and like people who are engaging in these behaviors excessively to feel better, your husband could be doing the same with diet and exercise.  The inability to do normal things, the lack of personal space and too much togetherness, are some of the factors that have strained couple’s during COVID-19, so COVID-19 may be the main culprit here.  Of course, there is a myriad of other possibilities, and I would need more information to understand his motivations.

Regarding the solution, I think you should sit down with your husband again to let him know that you’re happy about the healthy changes he’s made in his life and that you wholly support his pursuing a healthier lifestyle but that you have some concerns.  Rather than sharing that his behaviors are excessive (because he might simply hear that he’s the problem with that approach), I would focus instead on your feelings and needs.  Let him know that family meals are important and that it would mean a lot to you and the children for him to be more present for them; he can certainly prepare his own food if he’d like but you’d like to eat as a family again.  Likewise, you could let him know that his presence during family activities in the evening and on weekends is also missed and wanted.  If he’s not receptive to your thoughts and feelings on the topic, I recommend scheduling a consultation with a couple’s therapist to help the two of you bridge your communication and respective expectations and needs better.


Michael Oberschneider, Psy.D. “Dr. Mike” is a clinical psychologist in private practice.
He can be reached at 703-723-2999, and is located at 44095 Pipeline Plaza, Suite 240, Ashburn