If I had a dollar for every time I had someone ask me “How can I talk to my spouse/partner/friend/child about getting healthy,” I’d have a really fat bank account right now! The subject of health (exercise, nutrition, weight) can be very touchy, and one that most tend to avoid. One of the hardest things to sit by and watch is someone you care about not taking care of themselves. I have witnessed it all, from drug, food and alcohol addictions, eating disorders, deaths and loss of limbs and eyesight from Type II Diabetes, cardiovascular disease… you name it. For someone who does take good care of themselves, it’s hard to understand why someone else wouldn’t want to do the same!
The most important thing I can say is that someone has to WANT to change. They can’t make that change because you want them to, or it will never last or be genuine. That doesn’t mean you can’t try, right? By “try,” I mean, be there for them and gently broach the subject. Sometimes all it takes is for someone to bring it up and let them know you care and notice.
How to bring up the subject of getting healthy:
Do just that, talk! But in a calm, gentle manner. Remember, this is a very sensitive subject for many people! If they seem guarded or uncomfortable in the conversation, don’t push it.
Share your own experiences with getting healthy and what got your started.
Actively listen to them if/when they are ready. Don’t be quick to talk or give advice, sometimes all a person needs is an ear.
Don’t offer too much advice, this can be overwhelming and threatening.
Don’t give up on them. If at first they don’t want to talk, let them know you are there for them when they are ready.
Don’t assume. Sometimes people seem fine on the outside, but on the inside, they have underlying concerns that they are too embarrassed to admit. This can be anywhere from a fear of stepping into a gym, to fear of failure.
Let them know that it’s OK to put themselves and their health FIRST, in fact, let them know it’s an absolute must! Often, people are afraid to put their own health and needs ahead of others out of shame, feelings of selfishness or judgement.
Most importantly, be open and honest! You never know whose life you can be saving!
Remember, health and weight are a very touchy subjects, be compassionate and supportive. Acknowledge their fears and insecurities, answer their questions and be a good listener. Help them to take responsibility for their own health. Don’t do the work for them, instead, guide them in the right direction. If something is going to stick, they have to do it for themselves, and have you as a support system to help them through their journey.