I dare you to find a single individual on this planet who enjoys being told that they should lose weight. When that news comes from a stranger it’s bad enough, but hearing it from someone who you really care about makes it that much worse. Believe me, I know. I have been on the receiving end of both kinds of “concern”. It doesn’t matter how gently, how kindly, how thoughtfully those words are said, they hurt. So, knowing what I know, I want to share with you a few ways you can encourage a loved one to lose weight so that they will feel supported, rather than judged.
1. Learn about their weight loss program: This implies that they have already made the all-important decision to make a change in their lives. Once they have, you can support them by learning as much about their diet plan as possible. Learn the kind of foods they’re eating, how the plan works, and what it involves. Do they have to attend meetings? Do they have to spend time in online support groups? Respect the time they have to spend taking care of their weight loss activities. The more you learn about their plan, the more sense their choices and behaviors will make to you.
2. Encourage an overall healthy lifestyle, not just weight loss. Participate! Walk with them, cook with them, don’t just tell them they need to do these things, jump in and do it with them.
3. Show them that you care about them as a person, not their diet. Let them see that you care about them overall, not just about their weight problems. Let them know they can count on your participation and caring, no matter what size they are.
4. Be aggressively supportive. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Let them know that you are there and want to help. If they are a friend or family member that you don’t see every day, call or email them frequently. Let them know you are thinking about them, not their weight. You don’t even have to mention dieting or food, just ask how they are. This kind of support is powerful and rare, your friend will be lucky to have you.
5. Listen, don’t judge when they’ve had a bad day. If they do mention that they’ve faltered, just listen. Be there when life gets hard. Get them to turn to you instead of food so they can talk it out of their system, not eat it out.
6. Be a cheerleader, not a coach. Don’t find faults with what they are doing, encourage and brag on the things they are doing right. Sing their praises for trying to reach goals, even if they don’t actually reach them. Don’t dwell on goals they haven’t met, applaud them for the goals they have.
7. Become an active part of their program. Volunteer to try some of their new foods. Join in on their workout routine. Join their gym, take up their new sport. Become an active participant in their health behavior.
8. Help develop healthy incentives. If they met a goal for the week or month, plan a celebration that doesn’t focus on food. Do something that reinforces spending time together, encourage their goals further by creating healthy activities you can share.
9. Find non-food ways to celebrate the small goals along the way. Don’t just celebrate the big goals, celebrate the little things too. Did they fit into a smaller size? Did they turn down the office birthday cake? Pay for a pedicure, bring them flowers, treat them to a movie or sporting event.
10. Be POSITIVE. Nothing beats the feeling of knowing that someone believes in your ability to defeat an obstacle. If they stumble, remind them of their other accomplishments. Don’t quit with them, no matter how discouraged they may seem in the moment.
Before I leave you, I have to take a few moments to talk about what NOT to do. Any and all of these tactics have thrown huge boulders onto my weight loss path, please don’t use them on the person you love:
1. Don’t overdo it. They don’t need a pile of weight loss books, and subscriptions to all the best fitness magazines, and links to the biggest weight loss groups on facebook. Try and temper your enthusiasm and remember “moderation in all things”.
2. Don’t become the food police. Seriously. Don’t. Neither of you wants you to be in that role.
3. Don’t say anything to them you wouldn’t want to be said to you. This includes things like:
There you have it. All the ways I can think of to help your best friend or significant another move down the path to a healthy lifestyle, while still keeping your relationship intact. Actually, do some of these things and you will be closer than ever! Namaste.