Like any journey in life, the first step can often be the hardest. Perhaps a friend or loved one has recently put on weight – it happens. Babies, stress, falling off the wagon, too much time at work – there are lots of reasons that we let our healthy lifestyle take the back burner. Helping your loved ones get back on track is one of the best gifts you can give, but it can be tricky. Here is a list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to motivating your friends and partners to start eating right, working out and putting their healthy lifestyle back as a priority.
- DON’T try to shame them into working out! Telling someone they have ‘really let themselves go’ or they would‘look a lot better if they lost 20 pounds’is not only mean, but it is counter productive. This is way more common that you may realize. A spouse gains weight and it is causing an issue in the marriage. Or your golfing buddy packed on a few extra pounds over the winter. Telling someone they are fat is not helping – in fact, it will most likely hinder their progress because their self-esteem will be lower, and they won’t think they are worth it. STOP the shaming!
DO talk honestly about your feelings regarding their health. Your concern for the ones you love should not be about how much they weigh or their waistline measurement. Rather it should be about how healthy they are, and how you want them to be the healthiest and best version of themselves. Remind them of how much more energy they will have, how they will sleep better, how they truly will feel better in their own skin. Ensure the focus is on their HEALTH and not their appearance.
- DON’T nag. Having someone nagging in your ear ‘you really should go for a run’or ‘are you sure you should be eating that’is rude, annoying and counter productive to their healthy lifestyle motivation. Even if your intentions are really good, teasing someone doesn’t work.
DO give positive feedback when they make a healthy choice. If they reach for a bottle of water instead of pop, they start eating a salad with chicken for lunch instead of a burger and fries, they hit the gym after work three times this week. Praise them for it in an honest and real way, and avoid sounding condescending or preachy. Tell them you are proud of them and notice when they have more energy or have lost a few pounds. Positive feedback is something we all crave.
- DON’T compare your loved ones to others. ‘Your sister doesn’t have a weight problem’ or‘your friends all go to the gym’are definitely ones to avoid. It may seem innocent enough – you are trying to show that people in their circle are living a healthy lifestyle, but believe me, this will not work. The focus needs to be on this person – their needs, their wants, and their desires. Comparing them to others will simply not work.
DO give positive reinforcement when they do healthy things with their friends or family. If your husband typically goes for pizza and beers on the weekend with his friends, and instead this weekend they go hiking – praise this! Healthy habits with the people in your life really make a huge difference. On a personal note, a huge part as to why I have such a healthy lifestyle is due to those I surround myself with. My family and best friends are all very health conscious, and it motivates me to continue to be so, and to constantly learn more on my healthy journey.
- DON’T preach ‘do as I say, don’t do as I do’. ‘Hey sweetie – you should really go work out. I’m going to sit here and scarf down a bag of chips and binge watch some TV’. So not fair! Be the example that you want to see and walk the talk. Who wants to be barked at on any level, moreover by someone who isn’t living it himself or herself. Don’t tell someone to do something that you yourself wouldn’t do. It’s like the dad telling their son to quit smoking while he lights another cigarette. It just doesn’t work.
DO be on this journey with them. Get a membership at the same gym, go grocery shopping together, take them around to a few classes or facilities you think they may like. They need to find their own spark for a healthy lifestyle. That is not something you can ignite, but you can show them options to hopefully spark their health passion. Two huge suggestions I would have on this would be to first, go grocery shopping together and teach them what to look for and why. My second suggestion would be to do drop-in classes together to find what he or she enjoys most. Most Winnipeg fitness facilities have either a drop-in rate or will let you try the gym for free your first time. Try kickboxing, cross fit, yoga, and weights together. This way it will be less intimidating, and feeling like they have a partner in this healthy journey is really helpful.
- DON’T give up. I know this can be a struggle. The person you love most isn’t putting their health as a priority. You feel you’ve tried everything. Don’t give up on that person – you might just be one motivating day away from helping them bounce back.
DO congratulate yourself when you hear that you inspire someone to live a healthy lifestyle. To be inspired is one thing, but to be the inspiration to others is another. Feel good about your successes and celebrate them. If you are the reason someone is eating healthier, working out again, or putting their health to the forefront – you have given them the best gift imaginable. Well done!
It is really important to note that before any of these do’s and don’ts begin, your loved ones need to come to you first. Allow them to start the conversation. Perhaps they are complaining about how their summer clothes don’t quite fit anymore, or their energy is constantly feeling depleted, or maybe they ask you for help. Wait for them to come to you to start this journey of health with them.