Family and friend support is crucial for a successful life change. Can I say that again? Family and friend support is CRUCIAL for a successful life change.
Doesn’t that sound easy? Doesn’t that sound like it would be a non-issue? Unfortunately, it isn’t always a given in any relationship. What we think is support may actually be subtle sabotage. Fear and resentment can cause friction and derail progress. In fact, I have seen clients end up stopping their efforts of weightloss because their partner or friends encourage unhealthy celebratory eating or discourage exercise.
Even though I don’t typically prefer to write from the negative, it only seemed appropriate to make suggestions of what not to do. Here’s my list of “Don’t’s” for ideal support.
1. Guilt about time: When your loved one begins a new life change, this naturally takes away extra time. Never make comments or insinuate that this is a bother. Even though it can seem inconvenient to schedule workouts or new dietary changes, please try to make these changes with a view of the big picture. As he/she becomes more accustomed to healthy choices, the changes will become routine.
2. Guilt about diet: Don’t “YOLO” a loved one to eat unhealthy foods. Don’t prepare mountains of sugary cookies or deep fried foods in a passive-aggressive effort to sabotage their progress. If an entire family is willing to eat more healthy, your loved one will too. If not, be supportive and/or help them as they prepare their own meals.
3. Overwhelm them with contradictory information: As a new healthy person, they know they don’t know it all. Health and nutrition information is ever-changing and effectiveness is highly subjective for each individual. If your loved one is following a program recommended by a qualified professional, don’t contradict this information. They need to know that you support them, regardless of the plan.
4. Compete with them: With the invention of fit bits and personal dietary monitors, many people have begun competitive programs in an effort to motivate one another. Does it work? Maybe. Some people thrive on competition. Others actually become discouraged and quit. Be supportive of your loved ones, even if they don’t want to enter into a competition.
With that in mind, it is important to stay supportive and to never “One Up” a person who is trying to lose weight or get in shape. I have found that “fit” people often feel that they are exercise and nutritional experts, unafraid of telling others how they became the way they are. This isn’t motivational. In fact, this can be unknowingly patronizing and demeaning. Please be respectful of your loved one and their own unique journey. What worked for you will probably not work for anybody else.
5. Judge them: Along the same idea of competition, please follow a respectful and non-judgemental attitude. We all make poor choices. If a friend or family member slips a doughnut instead of a carrot, please say NOTHING. Allow them to make choices, good or bad, and make better choices over time. If they want to quit, please encourage them to allow themselves a small treat. Remind them that they can plan a healthy dinner later or go for a walk. I often like to refer to Dr. Oz, who says “We can all make a U-turn” at any time. A slip is not the end; it is just a bend in the road.
Even though this is a “What not to do” list, I feel that I need to end with one “What to do” if you want your loved one to succeed. Here it is: practice unconditional acceptance and love. That’s it! Just be loving, no matter how successful they are.
Wishing you and your loved ones the best of success!