When your spouse or anyone you love needs to shed some pounds, it's tempting to try anything to get them to do it. You may be tempted to try begging, enticing, threatening, or nagging them into it. Especially if you really care about them.
It's normal to want to try all the ways you know how to motivate your loved one to action.
But you've probably already discovered that it doesn't work very well, and can sometimes really blow up in your face.
If your loved one isn't ready, then they won't be open to listening to any convincing. They just aren't prepared for it. It takes patience to wait for the right opportunity to tell them that you would support them in making a positive change.
As much as we would love to, we simply cannot motivate someone else to lose weight. People motivate themselves - it doesn't come from an outside source. It belongs to them. For anyone who has ever had a stubborn sibling or child, you know it can be extremely difficult to get someone to do something they don't want to do, and sometimes it doesn't happen without a fight. It's like trying to train a cat. Especially with adults, it's nearly impossible to get someone to do something without a lot of pleading and nagging, or worse - manipulation. Instead of resorting to this annoyance for both of you, there is a different strategy to try.
The best and most effective start to any change is to allow the person time to come to their own conclusions about what they need to do. Yes. That's the answer. Time. Wait for the opportunity to arise, and when it does, you need to be ready. Even though you can't motivate them, you absolutely have the power to create an environment where they feel motivated and supported.
Things to Try and Actions to Avoid to Help Your Loved One Lose
Try to Understand What's Keeping Them from Making Changes.
Your loved one's weight may not really be an issue to him. This is in keeping with current research that suggests men don't identify themselves as overweight as quickly as women do, and they are also much less likely to do something about it. It's also possible for the opposite to be true, and he may be ashamed of making an effort to openly begin losing weight. Fear of failure is real, and it needs to be ok to admit that.
Lead by Example.
When we are making positive changes in our own lives, it makes it easier for someone join in for the ride. Seeing someone else succeeding and making progress can be motivation without a single word being spoken! Your loved one may be more likely to give it a try because they see you feeling so good. The reward becomes even greater when it's shared.
Avoid Being Cruel.
If you are not on a weight loss journey, don't eat your sister's favorite red velvet cake in front of her, and especially not the week after she starts following a weight-loss plan. The sacrifice that you make will empower her, and help keep her from caving.
Reward Good Behaviors, Don't Criticizing Bad Ones.
This is especially true when working with kids. Making the positives bigger than the negatives can really change your loved one's focus and yours as well. Instead of pointing out the wrong choices, point out the right ones. Let your loved one critique any negatives of the meal themselves. If they do, this enables you to suggest other things that could work in place of that choice, or a way to order or prepare it differently next time. Supporting them in this way can really encourage healthier behaviors by highlighting things that are WORKING.
But be Subtle.
If your loved one thinks you are watching them from outside the fishbowl, it can feel belittling and could be interpreted as disrespectful, not helpful. If your loved one ever has a week where they have gained weight, they may feel like they can't talk to you about it. Instead, choose comments like "I see you've got more energy," or "Those clothes fit really well."
Avoid Manipulation by Withholding Affection.
This will have the opposite effect that you are working toward. Instead of motiving your loved one, it can drive a wedge between you, and make them feel unsupported in yet another area of your life together. This can cause them to want to turn to food for comfort, and creates the exact opposite behavior from the one you are trying to encourage.
When we become frustrated with our loved one, we can be tempted to try this. Unfortunately, it can really de-motivate someone because if they feel you are going to lay the hammer down at some point - why even begin trying? Threats can really polarize the other person, and make them feel like they are 'in trouble' instead of loved and supported.
Take Time to Just Listen.
When your friend needs to tell you about the problems she's having with weight loss, lend a patient ear, and let her know that you understand. Validate her by saying that you can see how it's really tough for her. Encourage her by telling her she is a smart woman and that you really think she can do it.
Two Is Better Than One, So Go For It Together.
When you have a buddy, you have reinforcement. If you are feeling weak, they have the opportunity to be strong for you. If you are both really driven to support each other, you can pick each other up and share the trials and struggles together. This is especially important when things are going great, you have someone to help you celebrate with a new outfit or a vacation getaway.
But Don't Compete.
If you and your sister are losing weight together, and one of you loses weight faster than the other, one of you may feel pressured and insecure. It's important to keep your journeys separate, even though you're doing it together. Don't let jealousy cloud your encouragement either, and be happy for your friend. Never taunt someone who is on a journey and not making progress as fast as you are. That's the best way to make them quit.
Allow it to Bring You Closer.
Your relationship will become stronger the longer you stay the course. Be ready for speedbumps. Be ready for roadblocks. If you are both on the same page, you can get through them better, and become closer through the success. People who have weathered the same storms share a bond that unites them deeply. Sharing the experiences and bearing each others burdens can bring you and your loved one closer.
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