How To Support Family Members With Making Healthy Changes

Supporting Healthy Choices
By Be Well Health Coach Jenny Sansouci

We all know how exciting it can feel when we find a new healthy lifestyle plan that really works for us, or when we learn something new that we think could help people we love. We want our enthusiasm to spread to everyone we know, and we often expect that people will be as quick to jump on the healthy bandwagon as we were. We suddenly want to motivate everyone to live a healthier lifestyle as soon as possible. 

Have you ever found yourself nitpicking at other people’s diets or lifestyle choices, constantly making comments about what other people “should” be doing, or acting like an authority figure around other people when it comes to healthy living? While your intentions are undoubtedly to help the people you love, sometimes the best way to truly support people in making healthy changes is a less aggressive approach.

Here are a few ways you can lovingly support people you care about with making healthy changes: 

Be a Power of Example for Others

Instead of always offering up your opinion about what other people are doing, focus on being a strong power of example and really walking the talk – for yourself. If something you’re doing is really working for you, radiate that happiness and vitality with the intent to inspire. Other people will see the changes and will be curious about what you’ve learned. If people want to know what’s going on with you, share what’s working for you without suggesting it’s the right way for everyone. If you show how pleasurable and rewarding it has been for you to make healthy changes, others will want to jump on board.

Make Sure They’re Actually Looking for the Advice You’re Dishing Out

People aren’t going to change their lifestyle or behavior until they’re really ready to. Make sure you’re not offering up your endless health wisdom all the time to unwilling ears — that could cause rebellion and resentment in close relationships. The desire and readiness for change has to come from the other person, so pay close attention to when people are actually asking for your help and when you’re just volunteering information.

Listen More, Talk Less

People are pretty impressive and intelligent about what they need if you give them the time to talk through it themselves without interruption. Most people who are behaving in ways that are damaging to their health already know – more or less – what they need to do. Once they share, relate to them and offer up suggestions where it’s relevant.

Send People Information You Think They Would Actually Be Interested In

If you and your dad always end up in conversations about sugar or exercise, send him some links you think he’d find interesting – without being pushy about what he should or shouldn’t do. People usually prefer to come to their own conclusions and generally appreciate being able to make informed decisions.

Connect Your Loved Ones With People Who Are Doing Work That You Trust and Respect

Sometimes the last suggestions we want to take are from the people closest to us. It’s a funny phenomenon, but often times people end up being more open to hearing advice from a third party. Is there a healthy recipe site you love, or a particular author you think someone you love would really connect with? Send along those suggestions and give them the power to choose.

Give Healthy Gifts

If you know your mom has been trying to drink less coffee or has mentioned being interested in yoga, get her a nice set of teas or a yoga DVD. Giving healthy gifts is supportive of your loved ones goals and will give people concrete tools to start right away. Even better is to give gifts that you personally love and use in your own life, so you’ll have something to bond over!

Be a Support System, Regardless of Their Progress

When it comes to lifestyle changes, people just want to feel supported and acknowledged. Nobody wants to feel like they’re scared to tell you what they really ate, or that you’ll be disappointed with them if they haven’t stuck to a certain health regime. Be loving and supportive either way. The most important thing is that they know you’re on their team!

Have you been successful at supporting your loved ones with healthy changes? What has worked for you?

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  • Elaine Springer

    Wise. Thank you.