I asked the other day on the Facebook page what you all want to read about and more than a few people said they would like to see tips on how to motivate their spouses/partners/family/friends to living the fat loss lifestyle. Great idea! Here is my take on it.
How do you get your loved ones to eat better, exercise more and generally increase their healthy behaviors? You don’t.
Now before we all get too depressed about that, let me tell you why I think it is fairly impossible for YOU to motivate ANYONE ELSE to do ANYTHING really: because true change comes from within. :) Which, of course you know. You have heard this before, and even though this is the case with motivation to do anything in its most basic form, there are still things that you can certainly do to help inspire them to motivate themselves :) Remember, it needs to be their idea, not your pressuring them, in order for it to be lasting change.
Me with my momma–I got her eating more protein and lifting more weights!
Here are some tips that can help:
1) Allow them to be them, without judgment. They are not you. Big revelation, right? But honestly, you love the fat loss lifestyle. You have found the formula, it works for you, makes you feel great and you can’t believe anyone else wouldn’t want it too. Unfortunately, not everyone is there yet and though you can’t imagine going back to old ways or can’t fathom eating the crap that other people do, it is not up to you how they eat. It is up to them, so as a loving friend or family member, your only job is to allow them to be them, without judgement. Ask yourself, would you want someone pointing out all the things you were doing wrong with exercise and diet? I know I wouldn’t, so be gentle on them. In fact, they are probably more likely to be open if they don’t feel judged. And remember, another person’s journey is on their own time line, not yours.
2) Set the example, but don’t have any expectations. This is a great place to start–you eating clean and exercising regularly. Your example offers an alternative for what they are currently doing–they can SEE the alternative which is better than having nothing to go on. BUT the key to this is not to have expectations–they can only get you in trouble. See #1 above–they are on their own time table so they may begin dabbling in some pieces of your example, but might not be ready to make the big jump. That is fine, your example is consistent, and there for them for whatever piece, small or large, they might want to explore.
3) Realize you are the one living the fat loss lifestyle, not them. We see this a lot with competitors–they assume that since they are on a contest diet, that everyone around them will bend to their lifestyle. Sorry, doesn’t work like that. I have sat across from Jade while he indulged in whatever, and ate out of my tupperware like a good little dieter (crying. just kidding!). Other people’s lives still go on, even when you are in the vortex of dieting. Don’t expect that anything outside of you will change. If it does, great, but if you expect everyone to cater to your diet, you are in for a surprise. Let them be them and you worry about you :)
4) Genuinely reinforce any healthy behaviors in a way that encourages but is not over the top. If you catch your husband getting up early for a workout or replacing his usual lunch sandwich with a salad, congratulate it. But don’t be over the top about it. As soon as he feels like you are on to him or expecting that kind of behavior around the clock now, he may stop. Some might continue because they want to make you proud and like the affirmation, but ultimately it will not last because they need to want it for themselves. Think about the rebellious teenager. You tell them to do something and what do they do? The exact opposite. It is similar with healthy behaviors–sometimes people get rebellious. If they feel like someone is telling them they are unhealthy or using fear to motivate them (“If you don’t clean up your diet, you will DIE!!”), they will dig their heels even deeper into their unhealthy habits to prove the point that they don’t need to change. Fear-based motivation does not work. Instead, use gentle affirmation when you catch them engaging in healthy behavior, but don’t be too obvious and attentive. Let them move forward at their own pace.
5) Tell them they already eat well. This is one of my favorites :) Using a little bit of reverse psychology might be helpful here. If you have the opportunity to, make a remark about how they already ARE what you want them to be. For example, if you are talking about nutrition in a group, casually say to your husband, “Well, you eat pretty healthy most of the time” even if he doesn’t most of the time. Chances are he or she has eaten healthy at some point, so you can always pull those examples, but the key here is to subtly suggest an alternative identity–one of a clean eater. You most likely already identify yourself as a healthy, fit person. If you can find a way to subtly impart pieces of that identity using positive reinforcement, they can learn to take on that identity themselves over time. If they begin identifying themselves as a healthy person, they will be more likely to make healthy choices.
6) Use positive feedback only. This is a good reminder for us all. It is easy to get “fed up” or “disgusted” or “concerned” for someone who we love who eats crap or is sedentary. Our value system is a fit, healthy lifestyle and if you are dealing with someone who does not have that same value system, it can create turmoil. Remember, negative feedback like calling names, speaking condescendingly or making rude remarks about someone else’s habits is not only unloving, but NOT helpful to their potential for change. Think about it this way–have you felt more or less motivated when the number on the scale goes up? Less, right? That is the exact same feedback you are giving someone when you “motivate” them by telling them they suck. They become even more unmotivated. Positive feedback is key here. Congratulating healthy behaviors but not expecting them, but also being mindful not to talk down to or act superior to someone who is not there yet. Self-righteousness when it comes to nutrition or exercise (or anything else for that matter) is just ugly, unkind and unmotivating to anyone else IMHO.
“But Jill, it’s sooo frustrating!! They are killing themselves!” Yes, it is. But no amount of kicking, screaming, stomping of feet, pouting, whining, crying, yelling or ultimatums will get them to change. Anyone who has had a loved one with a substance abuse problem knows this–the desire for change has to come from within, no amount of outside pressure makes a difference. And isnt addiction to sugary, fatty, salty foods similar in some ways? Do you best to use positive feedback as often as possible, no judging, no expectations, just consistent example.
7) Get the crap out of the house. If you are in charge of the food shopping, you are the one with the power! If you feel like your spouse/kids/loved ones will not appreciate you not bringing home their favorite goodies, find healthier alternatives to introduce and at the very least, decrease the volume of crap you bring home. Instead of 3 gallons of ice cream and 5 bags of chips, bring home one of each so that when they run out by Tuesday, they may have to survive the rest of the week without them. Yes, you have my permission to be sneaky :)
If you have successfully recruited your family and friends into living the Fat Loss Lifestyle, I would love to hear what has worked for you! Good luck! ox Jill
Related: Part 1–Lovers, Haters and the Fat Loss Lifestyle: Is it really all about me?