How do you start a conversation with someone you love about their weight? Just deciding whether or not to open your mouth can be agonizing. When you finally do say something, it always seems to come out wrong, or at the wrong time. Even when you think you scored a perfect 10 at broaching the topic, your loved one ends up getting defensive, elusive, angry . . . or worse.
Perhaps the first mistake is in thinking that they need to be told they have a weight problem in the first place. If they have ever glanced in a mirror or went clothes shopping, trust me — they know. Let's face it: obesity itself is inescapable and those who suffer from it are acutely aware of the burden of the pounds they carry. Don't get me wrong; when I was over 400 pounds, I tried to remain as unaware as I could. I did a lot of work to hide my weight from myself. I would wear big clothes, avoid mirrors and I maintained a strict 500 foot safety radius from the scale. At the end of the day though, I always knew I was obese and nothing would shut down a conversation with me faster than being reminded of it.
When I coach clients, I don't worry about acquainting them with their excess weight. Instead, I help them to see how their weight is impacting their life. I may have been unable to avoid seeing the 4X's printed on label in my clothes, but that did not mean I had to believe that my need to wear those shirts was doing me harm. Because of my personal experience, I am aware of how to deal with others going through a similiar situation. Read on to learn the 8 rules of helping your loved ones with a weight issues.
1. Be A Patient Guide
To help them accept the reality of their problem, you need to be willing to let go of what you think and guide them to their own realizations. This requires patience. This "conversation" may take days or weeks to mature. You can't force this stuff on them. If you try to shock them into it, the only thing you are going to accomplish is an abrupt end to a potentially healing conversation. Once they accept that their weight is something they need to change, they will be ready to get down to business and begin to make changes. During this time, they will be in self-discovery mode and you will find them more open to discussion. The best role for you here is to help them along in this discovery process. Simply pointing out all the positive changes you have seen in them (no matter how small) can really get a conversation going.
2. Lead By Example
When you are close to someone, the impact you have on their life extends well beyond the words you speak. The lifestyle YOU lead creates an atmosphere all around you. That atmosphere permeates the lives of those you love and, just like the air they breathe, it can be clean and fresh or full of toxic second hand smoke.
3. Practice Empathy.
Although leading by example can unleash the awesome power of change in others, the thought of changing yourself can be pretty overwhelming. Guess what? Now you know how they feel. Empathy is the capacity to share and understand another's emotion and feelings. It joins patience as an essential ingredient of this process.
4. Don’t Be Perfect.
If I have left you with the impression that you need to be perfect to be effective, think again. It is actually MORE effective for your loved ones to see you as imperfect and navigating the process of change with them, one small step at a time.
5. Listen BEFORE you TALK
True, lasting change must come from within. If you are working on your life change, they will want to learn from you. As you improve, they will be interested. Listen for signs that they are willing to do what it takes to be better and then start the conversation. As you develop the discussion, listen for signs that they are ready. By listening, you will find plenty of opportunities to educate motivate and guide them. When they finally do start talking, listen as if your opinions didn't matter. The key is to allow the conversation to begin on their terms and grow into significance. Listening is truly a lost art. If you are thinking about the next thing you want to say while they are still talking, you're not listening. Remember, people are only ready to hear you when feel understood by you. Want your opinions to matter to them? Make their feelings important to you.
6. Ask Permission
Once you get them talking and you see an opportunity to share what you know. Don't be a bad used car salesman. High pressure selling them on your point of view will just blow out their spark of change. If they are not ready to hear it, no matter how true it is, it's all bull to them. If you push a point of view that they see as radical, they will shut you off and you're sunk.
Sometimes, all you need is a moment to consider whether or not they are ready to hear what you will say. This is a great time to simply ask them if it is a good time for you to offer advice. A simple request for their permission allows both of you to mentally prepare for what you need to say. If they say no, it just means it is not a good time for them or they are not ready. Go back to listening and quietly wait for another opportunity to speak.
7. Accept Every Effort As A Positive One
If you see them starting to make positive steps, get behind them. Celebrate every triumph no matter how small you think it is. Show them that you recognize their efforts. Ask questions and listen as they tell you about what they are doing. Every step they take represents a significant brushstroke on their new lifestyle masterpiece. Who cares if it is not exactly what you think they should do. Can you look at a work of art and pick out which brush strokes the artist could have left out? Let the artist work, all they need is a supportive patron. Be their patron. Keep reading...
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