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How to Help Loved Ones Get Healthy

Even the best of intentions only do so much when it comes to inspiring change in a loved one who is not yet ready.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,

I frequently get emails from readers and listeners asking for advice on behalf of someone they care about. One young lady is worried about her brother's horrible eating habits. "How do I convince him to take better care of himself?" she wants to know. Another wrote for advice on how to help her husband, who needs to lose a lot of weight. Really, what she wanted to know is how to get her husband to take my advice instead of listening to his mother, who apparently espouses the kind of weight loss myths I debunk in my new book.

"I want a friend to get professional help for weight loss and related health issues," wrote a third. "Do you offer private consultations?"

The Truth About Change All of these folks have good intentions. They're motivated by a sincere concern and desire to help. And I am flattered (and humbled) that they place their trust in me. In fact, I do offer consultations but I almost never take on a client or give advice to someone who hasn't sought my help themselves. Because the truth is that there really isn't much I (or their loved ones) can do to change someone who is not yet ready.

In truth, even people who say they're ready to change often aren't: They'd like for things to be different, but not quite enough to do--or not do--what it would take to change them. And until they are ready, it doesn't matter how much information you make available, how many obstacles you remove, how easy you make it. Change requires powerful desire and ongoing commitment and will. It's not something you can do for someone else.

Once people have decided to make a change, trust me: They will find their own way to the information, tools, and resources they need. If they want your input or advice, they'll ask for it. And you can't worry about whether the information they find is "right" or not. If it doesn't work, they'll keep looking. Keep in mind that the things that motivate and work for them may be different than what works for you.

How to Support Someone Committed to Change Now, once someone you care about has made a commitment to a healthy lifestyle, there's a lot you can do to support them. Don't bring unhealthy foods into the house. Offer to watch the kids so that they can go to a regular exercise class. Think of ways to spend time together that don't revolve around snacking. Be understanding about bad moods--change is difficult. Don't second guess their methods or offer unsolicited advice or coaching. And don't be afraid to ask what they would find helpful.

In fact, let's ask them now! Are you truly committed to making healthy changes? Not quite to ready to take action but gathering your will? What could the people around you do to support you? What do we do that's not helpful?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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