I frequently hear “I just can’t get my husband/mom/sister/brother/coworker to get in shape or start exercising and eating better”.
Your intentions are most likely good, and you most likely genuinely want them to be healthier and happier, but you’re probably like me, approaching it all wrong.
So here’s 5 ways to help better:
1. Connect with what THEY want
We all know we should eat less junk and exercise more, so why is it so hard? We see it as giving up things we like for things we don’t like. Instead try to make some connections to what they like to do and how improved health will make it even better. If your husband likes to golf, he’d more then likely appreciate the fact that he’d have more energy for those 36 hole days if he ate a little better. Or he’d be able to hit the ball further if he improved his mobility and strength
2. Don’t make a big deal of it
I remember when my parents used to go on “diets” back in the 90’s when people did that sort of thing. They would announce it, and all us kids would know dinner was going to be terrible for the next few weeks. The seed was already planted in our mind. Make a good dinner, or treat them to a healthy lunch. Make it something you’re pretty sure they’ll love. When all is said and done, ask how it was, and then let them know it’s a “healthy meal”. They’ve already admitted they liked, or loved it and they won’t immediately strike up negative thoughts when you say you’re preparing a healthy meal again, they’ll at least give a shot and maybe even look forward to it. And if they hate it, don’t mention anything and try again with something else 🙂
3. Give them a taste of success
It’s hard for them to join you, or even compare themselves to you, because they see you as having a head start. You’ve already got momentum. I see it pretty frequently, people bring a friend or significant other to the gym and beat their brains out. It’s hard not to let them know either. I know what you’re thinking, “they’ll realize how out of shape they are and be motivated to get on track”. This usually backfires. It demotivates them, and makes it even harder to start. Find ways to let them succeed, maybe even beat you. Make it easy if you have to. Then give them the “wow, you’re good at that, you should do it more!” Or “I wonder else you’re capable of!”. The key here is, it has to be sincere. People know when you’re flattering them, so find something they’re good at to remind them that they might have a little momentum too. They aren’t starting from scratch.
4. Don’t nag
When you nag it becomes a battle, you vs them. Even if your nagging is in their best interest, giving in requires them to submit to your will, or admit defeat. Invite, encourage, recommend, but never nag. Things like “hey you’d probably like this” or “I bet you’d be good at that” is way better then “you need to do this” or “you need to stop doing that”.
5. Ask questions
Listen to their answers. This is most important. Don’t look for opportunities to correct or show your intelligence, just listen. Be generally interested in how they feel. You don’t need a solution to everything, but just showing you genuinely care you’ll find ways to do all of the above. And they’ll be more open to it because they know you’ve listened to them and their problems. This is probably the easiest and most important way to help. Barging in and showing them how awesome you are, and how strong your will and work ethic is, how far you’ve come, and how you have none of their problems doesn’t help them or you and creates more push back when you make recommendations.
People don’t change overnight, it takes little improvements over time. Connect their wants, keep it low key, show them success, don’t nag, and listen. You’ll find ways to slowly help them out.