Doreen Lerner, PhD

It’s hard to see a loved one not taking care of themselves – especially if their health is suffering. It’s natural to want them to get with the program, but as much as you love each other, your needs may be different. You may simply be at different places in life, and in your wellness journeys. Quite honestly, the more you try to push them, the more likely they are to dig in their heels and take themselves in the opposite direction. As hard as it might be, don’t judge them or preach to them!

Try these tips instead:

  • Don’t try to persuade – practice acceptance

There are many things in life that we can’t change or control, and many problems that simply don’t have a solution, at least not one that we can figure out at the present time. The longer we fight the things we can’t change  (even in our own minds)  the farther we’re going to be from finding a way to deal with them. The sooner we accept a tough reality, the closer we’re going to be to figuring out the best way of dealing with it. Accept what is – you’ll be more at peace. When there’s no way to change something, the best we can do is change our reaction to it.

  • Don’t give in to persuasion – stand your ground

Don’t allow anyone, especially your significant other, talk you into abandoning your healthy lifestyle goals. After all, making healthy choices isn’t just about weight or appearance – it’s literally about your life and your quality of life. Don’t let anyone take these things away from you! Learn how to stand up for your own needs by speaking in an assertive way: look the other person in the eye with your head held high and say exactly what it is that you need. Using a sentence like this helps: “I notice that you like to eat chocolate chip cookies (or whatever your trigger foods are) right in front of me. Please could you eat these out of the house, or at least not right in front of me?”

  • Don’t let this be your excuse

It would be easy to allow your significant other’s non-readiness for change to become your reason not to change your own lifestyle habits, wouldn’t it? After all, this just makes it harder when it’s already hard. This is where the need for self-love really comes into play. Love yourself enough to make these hard changes no matter what. Focus on yourself and your needs. Be proud of yourself for being a role model of healthy living for your family. Eventually, your sweetie may decide to join you, since we often copy the behavior of those around us.

  • Make it easy on yourself, if you’re preparing the meals

Create basic meals that each of you can fix the way you want. For example, if you start with ground turkey, you can have yours with salsa, a low-calorie whole wheat tortilla and a healthy side salad, and they can have theirs smothered in cheese and accompanied by white rice, if they so choose. Get the idea?

  • Take turns picking the restaurants

If it’s not your turn and there’s nothing on the menu you can eat, eat before you go and plan on eating again later. Enjoy a refreshing glass of water with lemon, a side salad if available (hold the cheese, dressing on the side), and focus on just being with your honey. Gaze into their eyes, not at their plate!

  • Find ways to build a support system outside of your home

Here are some ideas. Think about the other people in your life:

  • Who believes in you?
  • Who do you go to for support when you need someone to talk to?
  • Who can you rely on no matter what?
  • Who do you look up to?
  • Who’s not afraid to be honest with you?
  • Find new ways to be active together – Suggest that you take up a fun new hobby that will get you both moving. Dance lessons anyone? Have you been thinking about getting a dog? After all, it has to be walked. Interested in romantic walks on the beach, in the park or by starlight? What about playing Frisbee in the backyard? There are countless possibilities!
  • Give compliments for healthy choices

When your love picks the grilled chicken over the double cheeseburger, notice and say something like “great choice!” Doing this can increase the likelihood of them making similar choices in the future.

About the Author:
Doreen Lerner, PhD, is the Psychologist/Director for the Institute for Lifelong Weight Management.