Get Family On Board with Your Lifestyle Change

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • When I wrote my book, The Four Habits of Healthy Families, I was forced to reflect on how the dynamics between someone trying to lose weight and their friends and families can either help or hinder progress.  Someone trying to lose weight may have to contend with a home environment that simply does not support dramatic dietary changes.  Just because you’ve decided to drop pounds and get healthier, doesn’t mean that your friends or family are on board with you.  On the contrary, the fact that you are shifting habits and targeting weight loss may be a direct “hit” on their own issues and failings – at least from their perspective.  They may feel downright uncomfortable in your presence.  And prepare yourself, because well-intentioned individuals from your circle of family and friends may be ready to pounce the second you have a setback – and their good intentions (and pressure) to help get you immediately back on track, may actually send you spiraling down the road of a major food binge.  So how do you get support without it turning it into a constant food fight, with judgments and finger-pointing making you feel absolutely miserable?

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    You start by setting the rules of engagement ahead of time.  Let your family and friends know that this journey is really important to you and that you need their help.  Define the terms of help specifically.  You might use the following as a guideline of comments to start a conversation:

     

    • Please don’t push me to eat more during celebratory meals. I am having a good time but I am also trying to watch my weight......
    • Please don’t make my diet or lifestyle change a public discussion with others.  I want your support but I don't want my efforts to be the main topic of conversation....
    • Please don’t buy me food presents anymore.  Make a donation in my name or let's go to the spa together, but food presents right now are just too tempting...
    • Please do let me know when you think I look healthier or more fit.  I really appreaciate positive messages.....
    • Please try not to buy the very foods that instigate my binging.  Maybe we can create some new salads and healthier entrees together....
    • Please be my buddy when I ask for support.  I know with your help I can manage my challenging moments....
    • Please don't criticize me when I have a weak food moment or drop an exercise day – find a way to gently make your point without indicting me....
    • Please be willing to offer help when I ask for it...But try not to be judgemental......

    You can find your own way to phrase these and other requests.  The point is that you do have to somehow engage with family and friends so you establish some template of interaction that is comfortable and supportive.  Remember you can also turn this lifestyle journey into a fun event for others.  Invite members from your circle to a “light cooking night” at your home.  Plan a menu with new, fun recipes and involve everyone in the execution.  Or challenge family members to contribute to a holiday pot luck evening, and hand out the list of do’s and don’ts or specific ingredient swap outs, challenging them to come up with a modified version of a favorite dish.  Ask if anyone wants to be your exercise buddy, partnering up especially on cold winter days, so you don’t skip your workout.  Or ask if someone is willing to be your phone or online “support person,” so you can reach out and talk (or text, email) through a low moment, or simply get a pep talk when you feel especially challenged.

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    Prepare yourself for the reality that some people simply don’t want to help or be supportive.  They may be struggling with their own issues, or they may be threatened by your strength and willpower, or they may even define themselves through their cooking expertise and be unwilling to relinquish those feel good opportunities, even for the sake of your health and well-being.  Others may simply feel that you’ve been down this road so many times, they just don’t believe it’s a good fit for them to help with another go around. 

     

    In most cases, if you can frame the discussion of “please support me” in a way that makes family members and friends feel valued and important, they will easily climb into the role of supporters.  They may also have concerns about their own health and weight issues and find this an easy way to help you out, while also addressing their own less optimal habits and lifestyle.  And holiday time may be the perfect time to institute a support system. 

     

Published On: October 31, 2012