Weight loss can overwhelm and elude many of the smartest, strongest, most capable people on the planet. Being surrounded by people who say stupid things, even if their intentions are good, make it harder.
As somebody who’s spent a good deal struggling with my own weight as well as helping others who struggle, I learned a lot about how to support somebody who’s losing weight. I know what helped me and I’ve seen the difference support makes to others.
Some people in our inner circles (friends, family, co-workers) want to help us. They want to help us so much that they try to do the job for us. The truth is they can’t and treating us like children is not empowering. Sometimes they don’t know what to say. Sometimes they just say the wrong thing thinking it’s “for our own good.” It might be more help if they said nothing, but there are things people can say that can really make a positive difference.
Here is a list of ways to help. If you’re losing weight and you have people in your life who want to see you succeed, you can show them this list.
If you’re supporting somebody who’s losing weight and you’re not sure how to support her or him, here are 6 ways that really make a difference.
I’m going to call the person who’s getting support “fit finder” (ff). Loser is too negative and dieter sounds temporary. Fit Finder – ff - suggests a person is finding a way to live to achieve long-term fitness goals. Since both men and women benefit from support, I will switch use of both he and she pronouns to refer to ff, but keep in mind this support is applicable to either sex.
Successful weight management requires ff to take ownership of the process. We can’t expect anybody to do it for us. It just doesn’t work that way and the more we try to give somebody else responsibility for our success, we weaken our ability to reach goal and stay there.
1. Do not become the diet cop. Even if you are asked to be a cop don’t do it!
- You’re taking away responsibility from ff for making smart choices.
- If you’re not around to play cop, ff can make regrettable choices and blame you. It’s important that ff owns his own choices – good or bad. That’s how to learn. Ff has to develop self-discipline.
- You might end up be resented. You stopped ff from having something she wanted, or you didn’t stop her when you were supposed to!
2. Stay neutral. No judging. No disapproving looks, no congratulations for being “a good girl!”
- This is similar to being a diet cop. Ff doesn’t need your approval or disapproval. He needs your support. Judgment isn’t supportive.
- You are dealing with a capable adult. Just as you wouldn’t congratulate a slim person for what you consider a good choice in food or physical activity, it’s not appropriate to do that for ff either.
3. Know how and when to compliment.
- Compliments are tricky. Sometimes they come across as backhanded compliments or in other words, criticism in disguise.
- Some people are very uncomfortable with compliments and would prefer you keep your opinion to yourself. It’s not your job to teach somebody how to accept compliments. If ff doesn’t like them, don’t give them.
- Know where to end the compliment. For example, ff might ask, “how do I look?” You could respond with, “You look great!” and that would be the right place to stop. If you said, “You look great and you’ll look even better when you get to goal!” the compliment becomes criticism in disguise.
4. Support ff when having meals or snacks.
- Serve sauces and salad dressing on the side.
- Don’t force ff to eat on your schedule. Ff should be free to eat when he’s hungry and not be forced into eating if he isn’t.
- If you’re the cook, don’t cook more than is necessary forcing ff to take large servings or “finish up this bit so it doesn’t go to waste.” Let ff serve himself.
- Don’t push food.
- Agree on a restaurant that has food you both enjoy and where ff feels capable of controlling her meal.
- If you offer bread to ff, and he refuses, don’t go on about how fresh and delicious it is. Accept the “no” as a sign that he doesn’t want any bread. Same thing with dessert and if the restaurant happens to have the world’s best fried chicken, and ff says he’s getting the baked chicken, don’t try to make him change his order.
- Remember, don’t judge and keep your expression neutral. It doesn’t matter to you what the ff orders!
5. Don’t offer advice; offer an ear.
- If ff is having trouble, it’s not necessary to give advice or a pep talk. Just be available to listen.
- If you are asked for advice the best way to fulfill the request is:
(a) Ask what exactly is the problem. (b) Repeat the problem in the same words ff used to ensure you (and ff) understand the problem. (c) Ask “what would you like to have happen?” and give ff time to think before answering that question. (d) Ask, “what will you need to do or change to get that?”and give ff time. If she jokes, repeat the question. (e) Ask, “Is that possible?” If ff decides it’s not possible, you will need to go back to step (d) until ff finds a solution that is possible. The last step is to ask ff if he will do it. (f) Ask, “Will you?” You’re asking ff to make a commitment to herself, not to you!
6. Express your belief and confidence in ff to succeed.
- A simple, “I know you can do this!” is all you need to say.
- If ff is really down on himself because he’s lapsed, feeling discouraged or overwhelmed remind him that weight management is possible. He has all the resources to make it happen inside him. He’s accomplished remarkable things in his life and he can do this too. It takes intelligence, tenacity, creativity, and persistence – all qualities he has more than enough of to get this job done!