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When you are trying to reach your health goals, having a partner can either help or hinder you. Whether your partner is your spouse, your best friend, or a family member, it’s quite common to start a new health plan with someone else. It just makes it more fun to have someone to swap health tips with and exchange recipes. Just having someone to be accountable to can make it easier to stick to your new diet plan.
But let’s be honest, in most partnerships, you have a leader and a follower. One person who is super keen on making the change, and the other who gets dragged along for the ride. Unless both partners are equally motivated and keen on making a change, it can cause strife in the relationship. Words of encouragement and motivation can easily be perceived as nagging. So how do you motivate your partner to make changes to his/her health without the unintended nagging undertone? By applying the following principles, you may be able positively encourage that person in your life to want to be healthier.
1. Lead by Example, Quietly
When I first started studying nutrition, I was really excited to share what I learned with my friends and family. I would tell anyone who would listen what they should be eating. It was not well received (surprise, surprise). However, the more I learned, the less often I spoke up. Now, I’ll be at party or a family gathering and when the topic of health comes up, I keep my mouth shut until someone finally turns to me and says: “Oh you’re a nutritionist, what do you think”? Or I’ll wait for someone to make a comment like “You look good” or “you’ve lost weight?” “what are you doing?” and then I jump right in with my health spiel. Waiting until someone asks, means the information will be much better received.
Before you start worrying about others and their health, make sure yours is in check. At the end of the day, you are in charge of what goes into your body and you can’t let anyone else influence it. Is it hard to sit there and watch your family eating your favourite foods while you opt for something healthier? Sometimes, but it’s worth it in the end and it gets easier as you start feeling better.
Certain food or drinks may also be a central part of family traditions. When I first met my husband, he owned a Coffeehouse and we spent a lot of time in the beginning of our relationship drinking coffee together. Now, we will still enjoy a hot drink together, only I will opt for an herbal tea instead. Does that somehow change the time spent together? Another tradition we had was Friday night pizza. Now that we have kids, we make our own healthy pizza topped with lots of veggies. The kids get to participate in the preparation too, making it an even more fun tradition than just eating some greasy pizza from a box. Either way, it’s about the time spent together, not what everyone is eating.
2. Have that Hard Conversation
We all have that person in our life. That stubborn unhealthy person. That person whose health just doesn’t seem as important to them as it is to you. Whether it’s a spouse, or parent or friend, the hard truth is, you can’t force someone to change if they don’t want to. So, instead of just nagging and sighing at their food choices, try listening.
Sit them down and have that hard conversation. First, let them know you’re concerned and ask them if they feel the same way, and ask them if they want to change. If their answer is yes, ask what you can do to help. If they say they don’t want to change, then the best thing you can do for them and you,is to just let it go.
A recent study has shown that loneliness is more harmful to a person’s health than smoking. So, I like to think about it this way, by just being in this person’s life and loving them, you are helping their health and that’s all you really can do.
3. Have Back-up
For some reason, people seem more keen to take a stranger’s advice over a family member’s. It’s happened to me multiple times where I’ve given nutritional advice to a family member, and it’s been ignored. Then, weeks later they start telling me about some blog they read, which told them the exact same thing and so now they are making a change.
When someone close to us makes a suggestion, we ignore it, but if we hear it from an impartial stranger, especially a professional, we are more likely to listen. I’ve had other nutritionists say that they always send family members to their colleagues, instead of trying to advise themselves. So, if your family member isn’t taking your advice and they want to change, try getting back up from a professional.
Kirsten Colella is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist. As an 85% Veganite, she found her healthy food balance and enjoys creating and trying new plant-based recipes, especially to share with family and friends. And if they think her home-made, plant-based foods taste great (as they reach for seconds), well then that’s a bonus. You can find Kirsten’s recipes, colourful food pics and food ideas on our Instagram page at @essentialbalanceholistic. Kirsten is a strong believer in families supporting one another and coming together over good food!