How long have you had that shirt?

Point Of View Image Of Man Choosing Clothes From Wardrobe

“How long have you had that shirt?” I tried to ask casually, but he saw through me.

“I don’t know but it’s still in good shape. Good enough to wear.” My husband’s shirt had to be at least about 1990. He had it before we met, of that much I was certain. Why couldn’t I remember to purge those old shirts when I was doing laundry?

As I considered various strategies to get him to change clothes, our daughter walked in. “Uhm… Dad, what are you wearing?”

“This nice shirt. I’m wearing THIS nice shirt.” He folded his arms.

I knew that tone. I worried that he might have to be buried in THAT shirt because there was no getting him to change out of it now.

“Mom, are you going to let him wear that?” asked our daughter. My children obviously overestimate me if they think I let him wear any particular clothing. Trying to be diplomatic, I said, “Well… I was just wondering whether that was a good choice for him.”

He was not hearing my feigned diplomacy. “This is a GREAT choice, and I’m wearing THIS shirt, and you two can just get over it.” Yep, I might never get to wash and hide it.

My husband is one of those people who believes that clothing lasts as long as it comfortably fits. His criteria for discarding clothing is vague. If it is threadbare or has holes, then he saves it for yard work. If it has paint, then he shall save it for the next painting project. Grease stains? It will do for puttering about the house. If he has one pair of pants for every day of the week, then he has plenty of pants. He is a creature of habit.

Creating low-carb habits

Many of us are also creatures of habit, and those habits serve us well to do things quickly and efficiently. When parts of our lives become automatic, then we can focus on other things that do require more attention, like that project due at work or the leaking toilet. Many of us have developed food habits over the years. We eat at a certain time of the day or we eat certain foods for specific meals or we tend to eat certain foods with certain people or certain foods for certain occasions. Certainly, those habits are not all good.

When we switch to a low-carb lifestyle, many of those habits are challenged directly. Because high-fat foods are satiating, we find ourselves not hungry, but faced with the custom of breakfast before work or school or dinner with others in the evening. We might even eat lunch mid-day because that is simply what we do, but should we eat just because the clock? Nearly every low-carb physician I’ve read or spoken to seems to agree that we should eat to hunger. It is a habit that still catches me at times, especially because I look forward to sitting down to dinner with my family most evenings.

Another habit that folks new to low carb often struggle with is the habit of associating high-carb foods with some meals. For example, a standard breakfast is often a bagel, cereal, oatmeal, muffin, or toast. None of those is low carb, but each is quick. Often folks will tell me that they don’t have time to fix breakfast, and they will look for a low-carb “protein bar” or smoothie or some other quick fix that typically isn’t ideal in terms of ingredients or doesn’t offer high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrates.

When we first began eating a ketogenic diet, I spent Sunday evenings making frittatas for the week. Using whole eggs and various proteins, vegetables, and cheeses, I baked them in 9″ by 13″ dishes and then sliced them into servings. Those could be warmed faster than a bagel and kept us on plan. We also began eating pre-cooked bacon that we prepared on the weekend and then just warmed as we headed out the door to work. The key to not falling into “easy” and “quick” habits of eating high-carb foods was in replacing those foods with “easy” and “quick” keto-friendly foods.

A third habit to kick is that of social habits. I used to have that favorite shopping buddy who always wanted to take a break at the mall food court so that we could share a cinnamon roll. Those rolls were the size of a dinner plate! The first time that we went shopping together after I started eating low carb, I worried about hurting her feelings when I chose to not eat the cinnamon roll. The situation became awkward when she really wanted a cinnamon roll, and she really wanted me to have one too.

Somehow my not eating that roll became her guilt. Moreover, it became me rejecting her. That shared cinnamon roll somehow bonded us. I did not want to reject her, but I knew that I could not enjoy the cinnamon roll. Unfortunately, she could not enjoy it without me. We decided that coffee was a better option and then got distracted by a shoe sale. Shoe shopping is a much better way to bond! While it took time, I had to think about who those “eating friends” were, and I had to be intentional about suggesting things that we could do that did not involve high-carb foods.

Like comfortable old clothing, we tend to hold on to habits, especially when we are stressed or when we don’t know what else to do. When there’s nothing else in our closet, then we wear the old shirt with the bright stripes that fell out of fashion a few decades ago.

To be successful in exchanging those habits that didn’t serve us well for new habits that do, we must be intentional. We must clean out the closet and the dresser drawers, and then we replace those items with pieces that match the new lifestyle. We need comfortable clothing that slips on easily, like a meal well-prepped that keeps us out of the drive-thru. We need satisfying meals that keep us from diving face-first in a sugary treat.

I’ve heard it said that most people can build a wardrobe on a few essential pieces. Similarly, most people can build a ketogenic lifestyle on a few “essential” meals. Start with identifying five of your favorite keto meals. Next week, add one or two more favorites.

Keep adding week after week and a month later you will have a dozen or more new favorite meals to keep you on plan and to keep you feeling great. Before long, you won’t even consider what to eat because your new habits become old habits. The good news is that unlike my husband’s wardrobe, delicious low-carb meals never go out of style!

Kristie Sullivan

Do you want to read more by Kristie Sullivan? Here are her three most popular posts:

  • The ultimate guide to low-carb or keto kitchen essentials
  • Festive low carb and keto Christmas cookies
  • The ultimate low carb and keto cookie collection


A keto diet for beginners


Low-carb basics

Weight loss


  1. Kerry
    What an excellent analogy.. we are such creatures of habit. Changing one's that don't give us the outcomes we want is a big step in the right direction.
    Reply: #2
  2. Kristie Sullivan
    Yes!! This new lifestyle becomes easier when you make it routine. You do that day by day. I'm so glad you understand that!
  3. Devon
    Thank you... I really needed to read this today. Dietary changes have been going pretty consistently, but it IS closet purge time as well! The food habit analogies are great though.
  4. Diana
    This is SO true! The hardest thing for us was remembering that not every day needed to be a complicated recipe. We had our tried and true "go to" meals before Keto and once we started to find those same types of meals that were Keto we actually started to adopt it as a WOE instead of a diet.

    Life changing!

  5. Lisa
    I bet he still fits in that shirt because of his keto life style
  6. Stoo
    Crawl off his back and let him wear what he wants. Use your energy to create some new keto friendly recipes.
  7. LowCarb Finn
    What an extremely DYSFUNCTIONAL analogy.
    In balanced relationships people respect the free will of their spouses. The dysfunction is also contagious: If you allow your spouse to interfere with your free will, you will catch the same dysfunction.

    Pick a spouse you do not want to change in any way, you have absolutely no right to try to change your spouse. My motto: If you had the right to choose your company, you have no right to complain about your company.

    People jump into relationships with spouses the do not totally accept. Possible reason for this can be a self-esteem problem causing belief you don't deserve better or causing a belief that you are not okay if you don't have a relationship - ANY relationship... After their own choice they thenthink they have the right to then change their spouses. Wrong.

    Don't start a relationship unless you accept all aspects of the other person. Better to be a lone than in dysfunctional relationship.

  8. Justin
    If I found out that someone I was with ever secretly threw away anything of mine, the relationship would be over. Trust is essential to me.
  9. Denise
    For heavens sake low carb Finn would you lighten up!!!
    Reply: #13
  10. scott
    Kristie, your writing is consistently thoughtful and intelligent and your voice on this site is very helpful. I read your contributions carefully and always find value in your observations as you are further along in the journey and reaching out to help me. Thank you.

    And on your hubby's clothing preferences and habits, every spouse pressures their partner to grow and that's a good thing. If he's open to influence, he can see and consider your point of view and grow/change. If not, it's his loss (and choice).

    Reply: #12
  11. 1 comment removed
  12. LowCarb Finn
    Congrats on Orwellian newspeak!
    You call attempt at dysfunctional interference with the free will of another adult 'pressure to grow/change'. So interfering with your spouses clothing choices or ILLEGAL destroying of their property ( the old shirt) is pressure to grow?!

    My whole point is this: Why do people think that being in a relationship gives them the same rights towards their spouse as they have as legal guardians of their underage children?
    This never ceases to amaze me. Children are dressed by parents, adults decide themselves how they dress. I do not know where your're from, but stealing your spouses shirt and throwing it away is not legal in Finland.

    And did you notice, that you managed to define obeying other persons pressure on how to dress as 'growth'? That's really devious of you: You define submission to another adults wishes 'growth'.

    Maybe wearing old threadbare clothing is a RESULT of growth? For example a decision to not care about outward appearances, but instead on the inner life? Maybe it is a result of finally being able to decide how you want to live your life after being previously ordered around inappropriately?

  13. LowCarb Finn
    Attempt at controlling another adult is dysfunctional behaviour. Also power over another adult corrupts everyone: The one who is being ordered around also gets corrupted, because they have to then start hiding things (like the old shirt) or lying to keep their free will. This is no joking matter. I am a woman and I am totally amazed at how other women think they earn some kind of right to start ordering their spouses around the instant they get married.

    My whole point is this: Why do people think that being in a relationship gives them the same rights towards their spouse as they have as legal guardians of their underage children?
    This never ceases to amaze me. Children are dressed by parents, adults decide themselves how they dress. I do not know where your're from, but stealing your spouses shirt and throwing it away is not legal in Finland.

  14. Scott
    You’re spinning this pretty hard Finn, invoking rights, free will, legality, obedience, submission, and calling me devious. Hubby here is merely resisting his wife and daughter’s positive influence and you want to dress it up as something virtuous. It’s not. He just looks like a schmuck instead of a grown up. No one has trampled his rights.

    The appropriate Orwellian reference here is not 1984, it’s “Down and Out in Paris and London”. If Hubby wants to look like a bum, well he certainly can, but not without his wife and daughter noticing.

    But let’s up the stakes here. Let’s say hubby’s eating three Krispy Kreme’s a day and washing them down with an ice cold Coke. Or maybe he’s got a two pack a day smoking habit. Should his wife keep her mouth shut? If she protests do you think she’s trampling his rights? Is his free will at stake? No, she CARES about him . . .

    Reply: #15
  15. LowCarb Finn
    Okay Scott, lets look at this in more detail:

    So your opinion is, that it is okay to steal he hubbys shirt?
    What other ILLEGAL things it is okay to do to your spouse?
    What about slapping them a bit, if they dont "grow" (=obey) in the correct way?

    This is a slippery slope issue: If getting married gives you the right to do illegal things to your spouse, where do you draw the line?

    Wearing threadbare clothing is not hazardous to health and I was criticizing the SHIRT issue only.
    Thus forcing your spouse to change their attire to your wishes is not caring, but it can be several other very selfish things:
    - boosting your own ego/self-esteem by dressing your spouse so that others admire it
    - boosting your own feeling of security by controlling your spouse

    But everyone also has the right to ruin their health with e.g. Krispy Kremes. That is also free will and self determination issue. She cares about him in a dysfunctional and controlling way. Caring about another persons health does not give anyone the right to force them into anything. And neither does caring about someone give a right to break laws, e.g stealing.

    We DON'T have the right to try to force other adults into changing their lifestyle.
    We ONLY have the right to choose our company. If it hurts you to see someone you care about doing something you think is bad for them your only choice is consensus discussion - IF you respect their being an adult with a free will. If no consensus is achieved then your choices are accepting things as they are either continuing the relationship, or if it is too anxiety generating for you to see them do it, without continuing the relationship.

    The stakes here being health doesn't change anything. Either you respect the free will of your spouse or you don't. No gray area here, no possibility to be "just a little bit pregnant" - you either are or aren't. I've seen too many women treat their spouses as one of their children. That is just plain dysfunctional and it does not become less dysfunctional if you explain it a way as "caring."

  16. scott
    Did we read the same article? I’m not so sure. I am sure that your allusions to Kristie being controlling, dysfunctional, selfish, a thief, and impinging on the free will of her husband are complete distortions and very unkind.

    Hubby here is missing an opportunity to connect with his daughter and wife by being open to their influence. What matters is the marriage, not the shirt, and "the wives of men who accept their influence are far less likely to be harsh with their husbands when broaching a difficult marital topic.” – John Gottman

    More on this here:

    I’m am going to let this question rest now Finn. Kristie, rock on with your bad self . . .

  17. Valerie
    "the wives of men who accept their influence are far less likely to be harsh with their husbands when broaching a difficult marital topic.” – John Gottman

    Let's change the sexes in this quote and see how it sits:

    "the husbands of women who accept their influence are far less likely to be harsh with their wives when broaching a difficult marital topic.” – John Gottman

    Hmmmm . . . sounds a little different that way.

    By the way, influencing your husband (like I did the other day when I took a picture of him in a pair of not-so-flattering pants he was considering) is way different than secretly getting rid of his belongings.

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