This is in response to the post Obese Man Needs Help! Is it possible to help those who don't want to help themselves? Well, the answer is Yes! A very simple answer to a very difficult process. When I say difficult, this is as hard as it gets and you want to anchor down for the long haul.
I sense a lot of love in the post above from the brother in law which is the single most important ingredient for this journey. For example, you don't want to change someone because they embarrass you or because it will end up being convenient for you. This often backfires and the person you are changing will end up disliking you and your relationship might be badly damaged. You want them to change course because you truly care for and love them. With the limited space I have, let me give you my experience and some suggestions to help.
Without knowing all the fine details about the Brother-in-Law, from the brief post above, I suspect he is lonely. He probably lives alone and does not have many close relationships. I also suspect he has reached a state of what is called learned helplessness. Please refer to the Wikipedia definition for details, but this is the summary. It's a psychological condition in which the person believes that they have no control over their situation or the outcome, and absolutely nothing can help them. Folks this is as gloomy as it gets and in fact depression and learned helplessness go hand in hand. The person in a state of learned helplessness is in such pain they have to result to ways of easing of numbing themselves, often with emotional eating excessive alcohol consumption and other destructive behaviors.
So how do you help such a person? First make sure you are doing it for the right reasons (true love and caring) because this dictates how you will handle the ups and downs of the journey like taking two steps forward and one step backwards.
For specific techniques, I usually don't recommend "fat farms" they are a good for quick short term weight loss but people often gain the weight back when they get back home. They find they cannot uphold the strict regimen of fitness and diet because of a lot of conflicts with their day to day life. A Time magazine article focused on the NBC show biggest loser found many of the contestants gained the weight back. You have to remember, this is not just about weight loss; it's about creating a new life with a new lifestyle.
This would be my recommendation. Keep beating the drum (I care for you and I want to help) sometimes softly sometimes loudly, but be persistent. Studies have shown it takes roughly about 50 times before someone yields to an outside suggestion. This gives you a rough idea of the resistance you will get. This is not a one time conversation.
One technique that I use that is very powerful was used in the story "A Christmas Carol" where Ebenezer Scrooge was visited by 3 ghosts, past, present and future. Remember the story, he did not want to change his lifestyle until he saw the past, present and future consequences of his actions in clear and vivid detail.
For example using Peter as the person we want to help, I would follow this 5 step process.
[1. Look Back Into The PAST] "Peter, remember years ago when you were so full of life? I remember you danced all night at my wedding and how everyone loved to be around you. I imagined us getting old together and sharing stories of our past.
[2. Bring It Back to the PRESENT] Right now Peter your life is in danger and I'm so sad because I cannot begin to imagine life without you, you don't exercise, eat and drink too much and this is what is happening as a result (_____state the details here be specific, leave nothing)
[3. Now Take Them To a Bleak FUTURE] If you don't change now, can you imagine what would happen a year from now or even 5 years from now? (go through the possible consequences here, don't spare any details, make this very explicit, have them close their eyes and imagine the vivid details of a painful future that waits if they don't change)
[4. Now Bring Them Back To The Present] But Peter this has not happened and you can prevent that future from happening. I care and love you so much and we can turn things around. If we get you started on a healthy lifestyle right this moment, you will have a very different future awaiting for you.
[5. Now Take Them To a Hopeful more compelling FUTURE] Imagine yourself a year from now with your brand new body and life, you have more energy than you ever imagined, your diabetes is gone, you are dating, traveling, dancing and enjoying life to its fullest. You look yourself in the mirror and love what you see" (use your imagination to get them excited about a new future)
This process is not just about diet and exercise it's more about changing the thinking and psychology which will ensure long term success. I strongly suggest you see a physician to be cleared for any physical activity. This is especially necessary for inactive people with medical conditions. Also you can easily use the money you were going to spend on the fat farm and use it to hire a good trainer and a nutritionist. These are professionals who will personalize their nutrition and exercise regimen. Make them part of the team which will result in long term success. My prayers and best wishes to you.
Move Your Body, Move Your Life
Published On: November 29, 2007