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Drawn Like Moths to a Flame

How do you help your overweight/obese relatives and friends to make healthy changes?

I have had numerous people contact me and say,

"My (insert relative here) is very overweight and could definitely use your inspiration and help.  It is a matter of life and death.  Please contact them at (insert email address or phone number here)."

Admittedly, they are not all that dramatic, but a few have been.

The first thing that I do is thank them for contacting me and explain that I do not contact people unless they ask for my help first.  I tell them to have the relative contact me and then I will be more than happy to help them in any way that I can.  As far as I know, I have not been contacted by any of the aforementioned relatives.

I know what you are thinking..."Why do you do that???  You could be helping all of those people.  How RUDE!!!"

Well, here is the thing.  I spent most of my life overweight, obese, and morbidly obese.  Lots of people in my life- parents, relatives, friends, boyfriends- have all "suggested" at one time or another that I "don't eat that, lose weight, eat less, stop eating this, start eating that, start doing this exercise, join a gym, do this diet, do that diet, sprinkle this on your food, drink three of these shakes a day, take these pills, .....just do SOMETHING so that you are not FAT!....  People will like you better and you might get a date if you are smaller."

Any of that sound familiar to my fellow overweighters?

What do you think my reaction was to those sweet and loving suggestions?  (Yes, I truly believe that those people had nothing but the best intentions when they made them.)   I, on the other hand, was hurt and embarrassed.  What do overweight people do when they are hurt and embarrassed, besides cry?? They EAT!  They sit around and eat anything and everything that will make them feel better- which is usually the MOST unhealthy things in the world.

In other words, when you approach someone who is overweight and suggest that they lose weight for whatever reason, 9 out of 10 times your suggest will cause that person to GAIN about 10 additional pounds.

So, you ask, "Well, how do you get someone that you love to decide to work on themselves and get healthier?"

I will answer your question with a story from yesterday about my 4 year old son. When he was an infant and went off of formula, we put his vitamins and DHA supplement in his juice.  As a toddler, he wouldn't chew the vitamin so we would crush it and dissolve it into his juice and we added a powdered form of DHA to his juice.  As a 3 year old, we tried to buy the gummy vitamins and gummy DHA.  He said they tasted awful and refused to chew them.  This past weekend I was grocery shopping and discovered a (rather expensive for my taste) gummy vitamin that contained the DHA supplement.  After much thought, I decided to buy it, knowing that it would likely be a complete waste of my $14.  I brought it home and sat it on the kitchen counter.

When my son got home from church yesterday, he noticed the bottle on the counter and the word "gummies."  (He loves gummy bears!)  He immediately asked, "Can I have some??"  To which, I immediately replied, "SURE!"  I opened the bottle and gave him one fully expecting him to spit it out and I stared in amazement when he ate it and asked what it was.  I explained that it was a gummy that was designed to help his eyes and brain.  (Ok, I might have said something about it giving him Super Hero sight, but you do what you have to do, right??)  He asked for another one!!!  Today, I asked him if he had eaten his gummies and he said, "No, can I get them myself?"  I opened the bottle and he took out three and gobbled them up.

So, how does this apply to weight loss, you are wondering.  Here it is:

There are two possible approaches to help someone who desperately needs to lose weight.  There is the passive approach and the aggressive approach.

The passive approach involves you doing either nothing or next to nothing and waiting for the relative or friend to mention that they are interested in losing weight.  At that point, you can offer whatever advise you have for them, as long as it is helpful.  Under this same approach, you can also leave my card and website information strategically placed around the house for the overweight person to find and explore on their own.

The aggressive approach involves YOU making some probably very needed changes in your own life.  Without mentioning a word to the overweight people in your life, you begin to make changes in your nutrition plan.  You begin to bring healthier foods into the house.  You begin making healthier choices at restaurants.  You begin to MOVE YOUR BODY more.  You take walks.  You use that piece of exercise equipment that has served as a dust collector and clothes rack in your home all of these years.  You might join a gym or join a sports team.

Then, you continue on your new plan and wait.  A miraculous thing will happen next.  The overweight person will watch you...silently from the shadows at first.  Then they will begin to ask you questions.  They will begin to try the healthy food that you are cooking.  One day, you will notice that they will order the same thing or something very similar to what you order at a restaurant.  They will begin to join you on your walk.  They will find some inspiration to be more active everyday.  Finally, they will ask you what program you are doing and what information you may have that will help them.

The moral of the story is: When it is someone else's idea, they will find every excuse in the book to NOT do it.   When it is their idea, like moths to a flame, they are all in.  Find a way to make it their idea.  The result will last longer and will be much more effective.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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