This is a common challenge that you will need to navigate as you start improving your health. Here are some thoughts that I have found helpful for myself and clients. I hope this will give you new tools to find success on your health journey!
Q. How do I get my spouse/friend/roommate/loved one to start making health changes?
A. I hear your heart. Not only would it be helpful for YOU to have someone in the health battle with you, but you also love this person and want to see them live a full and vibrant life. It’s an awful experience to watch someone who you care about eat their way into headaches, exhaustion, poor sleep and worse. You’ve heard about the risk factors for disease and just want them to be safe and healthy with you! Trust me when I say… I have been there. This is a tough situation but not without hope. Here are some things to think about…
- Recognize that, although you can shine a bright and healthy light before them, you cannot violate their personal sovereignty. It has to be their choice to change. If it’s not, any change that they experience will likely not last.
- Commit to loving them even if they don’t make changes. (This can actually help them make changes!) This of course doesn’t mean that you support behavior that is not good, but it just means your love is not conditional.
- Along those same lines, DO shine bright. Be the change. Make the changes. Get healthy, strong, lean and full of energy. When you really do this, trust me, you don’t need to say a word. Everyone will see it! It’s inspiring.
- But … some will see it as condemning. To those who aren’t ready to change, your changes may not be welcomed with open arms. If your grandma used fresh baked goods to show her love to you and now you graciously decline, she may have a hard time understanding that it’s the ill health you are rejecting, not her love, efforts and affection. Communicate clearly and graciously. Be patient. I have found for the most part, if communication is loving and open, those who really care about you will not want to bring you down.
- Leave judgement out of the conversation. It never helps. If anything, it causes frustration, animosity and rebellion. Lead with grace, patience and caring concern.
- Have a loving but pointed conversation about your concerns so that there’s no misunderstandings … but have this conversation once. Doing it over and over again usually comes off as judgment and doesn’t inspire hope or change.
- If/when appropriate, just add more health to your lifestyle without making a big deal about it. As examples, a few times per week, walk the dog or play at the park with your family instead of watching TV in the evening, or add a salad or vegetable soup to whatever meals they’re already used to eating, always have fresh fruit available, etc.
- An even better question instead of “how can I get my friend/neighbor/spouse to change?” would be, “How can I live such a radiantly healthy life before this person that they are inspired to just take even one step in the right direction?”
- And whatever you do, don’t dim your light. Playing small is not the answer. Misery loves company and sometimes, with the best of intentions, your loved one wants to have you eat junk food with them (or whatever) so that they feel validated in their choices. That is their choice, not yours. Stay strong!
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Nothing said or implied in this post is intended to treat, cure, diagnose or prevent any disease. It does not take the place of a health care practitioner. It is for educational purposes only.