How to Help an Out-of-Shape Friend
Do you have a friend or loved one that needs to get in shape? Are you worried about them but unsure how to bring the subject up? The way you deal with the problem can mean the difference between helping and being ignored. Here's how to start them on a healthier path while remaining friends.
The first thing you have to know is that you can't force anyone to lose weight or get in shape. If someone is going to change, they have to want it or they won't succeed. Your job is to forget about logic and common sense. Facts are forgotten and sound judgment is too easily dismissed. You need to find out what will emotionally motivate your friend.
Will getting in shape allow them to spend more time with kids or grandkids? Would it help them be more independent? Could it correct a health problem or make them feel more confident about their appearance? Those are the things you should help them focus on. If they show an interest, see what kind of exercise they want to try. When they get excited about something, they'll be more likely to stick with it.
If your friend isn't interested, don't push. Pestering somebody will cause them to ignore you or worse, think of you as a nag. Criticism is a waste of time. Instead, get them to start thinking healthy by setting a good example.
Choose moving over sitting, walking over driving and healthy food over junk. Take a class, hire a trainer, buy an exercise tape, sign up for a fitness newsletter (like this one) or read a diet book that teaches you how to take better care of yourself. It doesn't have to be complicated. Simple steps can produce dramatic changes. When your friend sees you making progress, they'll often want to join in.
Explain your goals to your friend and try asking THEM to help YOU. It's a bit of reverse psychology. Taking care of themselves might be a low priority, but your friend might be willing to exercise if they see it as a benefit for you.
If your friend does start exercising, focus on the actions. Instead of weighing in, chart how many times they've gone to the gym. Measure how far they've run. Put a star on the calendar every day they only eat healthy meals. You want them to stay motivated, so they continue to get results.
Keep things fresh by mixing it up. If you always walk, try inline skating. Take swimming lessons, learn to dance, rent a kayak or ride a bike. Don't be constrained by what you've always done or what others might expect exercise to be.
Always remember your role with friends. You should be a cheerleader, not a prison guard. Don't nitpick, make demands or micromanage every decision. You should encourage healthy meals and be enthusiastic about regular activities. Plan fun time together that revolves around a healthy activity.
Don't allow negative behavior to creep in. A bad attitude doesn't make anything better, but it can give someone a reason to quit. If your friend starts complaining, change the subject. If they keep complaining say, "I'll give you 60 seconds to vent, then you're done for today."
Stay focused when your friend has an off day. Everyone gets sick or has to take some time to recuperate. A mental health day away, even a break for a week while vacationing, doesn't mean certain doom. Your job is to be ready when the break is over and help ensure it doesn't turn into something permanent.
The most challenging thing to remember is that change takes time. It's not going to be like a TV show where everything gets fixed in just under an hour. It will be messy, difficult and filled with unforeseen obstacles. But the rewards are huge. Getting in shape with a friend greatly increases both of your chances for a longer, healthier life.
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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.