Many individuals start their weight loss program after being motivated to do so by a loved one. Although a loved one can be a very real and important factor in deciding to lose weight, ultimately, you are most likely to be successful on your diet plan if you find a way to lose weight for your own health. This is not to say that your loved one’s input is not important. On the contrary, what your loved one says and the way in which he or she encourages or impairs your plan can be very impactful. Unfortunately, however, even loved ones with the very best of intentions can do or say things that harm your chance of success. Below is a general list of guidelines of appropriate ways in which to encourage a loved one that is trying to lose weight. Send the list to people who are participating in your weight loss journey or use it to start a conversation about what type of encouragement you do and do not need.
Be a Comrade, Not a Drill Sargent
As a loved one, you should provide support and positive reinforcement to the individual who is trying to live a healthier lifestyle. Celebrate accomplished goals and successes, and let the individuals know that you recognize their hard work. Focusing on missed goals or failures is not going to be particularly helpful. If you constantly point out areas in need of improvement, the individual may start to see you more as an inspector than as a support.
Advocate for Health, Not Just for Weight Loss
Most likely, the reason you encouraged your loved one to lose weight to start with was because you had concerns about his or her health. Supporting your loved one in all healthy behaviors, not just weight loss related activities, helps your loved one to remember that you care about them as a person rather than just caring about weight loss success.
Participate in the Healthy Lifestyle Changes
Telling your loved one that he or she should consider increasing their level of exercise or decreasing their caloric intake is going to be a much stronger suggestion when you are engaging in these activities as well. If you are living a healthy lifestyle, encourage your loved one to come on outings with you or eat a healthy meal with you. Participating in your loved ones’ health plan lets them know that healthy habits are important for everyone, and in this you are not asking them to change themselves to please you. Rather, together, you are living a lifestyle that benefits each of you.
Celebrate Victories with Non-Food Rewards
Celebrating weight loss or commitment to one’s diet with a trip to the ice cream parlor is obviously counterproductive and reinforces the concept that sweets are more desirable than healthy foods – these are the “rewards” you get for enduring healthy food. This is not a helpful message. Help your loved one discover ways to reward success that do not include food. Getting manicures together, seeing a movie, or shopping together are all good ways to celebrate because they de-emphasized food and increase feelings of social support.
There Is More to Weight Loss than Willpower
Each individual’s body is different, and so not everyone is going to get the same results from the same diet. Willpower and commitment are very important for sticking to a diet, but they not everything. Also, the extent to which willpower needs to be exerted differs greatly between individuals. Food can be used as a way to psychologically and physically regulate the body. If food is now an outlet for stress, a new outlet needs to be found. Finding this new coping mechanism can be a difficult and complex process. Oftentimes when loved ones deviate from their diets, it is because they are at their most stressed. During these times, a word of support is going to go a lot further than a lecture on willpower or commitment.