By Stepfanie Romine of SparkPeople
You want to change your life and improve your health. Reading this article and joining other ajc.com readers who started a healthy nutrition and fitness plan at SparkPeople.com are great first steps. Whether you’re looking to drop a few pounds, eat more vegetables, or get in shape, you’ll eventually want to share your goals with your friends and loved ones.
Yeah, yeah, we know. Talking to your family, roommates, and even your co-workers about tough subjects can be more uncomfortable than a colonoscopy. But your spouse or partner, children, and even your parents and siblings need to know what’s going on in your life. And you might find out that they’re very eager to help you reach your goals, too. But you’ll never know how they’ll react if you don’t talk to them!
If you’re nervous about sharing your goals with others, start by talking to a close friend. Is there someone in your life who has successfully lost weight or gotten in shape? Talk to her (or him) about your feelings. Ask her if she had similar feelings and how she shared her goals with others.
Here are some do’s and don’ts about sharing your health and weight-loss goals with your family.
* Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed. The decision to eat better and exercise more is a smart one. You should be proud of yourself for deciding to change your life. Ignore your son if he tells you that you’re “weird and gross” when you’re sweaty after running. Tell your husband to be quiet when he mocks you for eating broccoli instead of fries. Your family is going to make fun of you—in some households, it’s practically their jobs. (Chances are, you tease them about some things, too.) If you’re feeling especially brave, you might even be able to explain your goals and get them on board!
* Don’t get discouraged. You can keep exercising and choosing healthy foods, even if your family isn’t 100% keen on the idea. Show them you’re serious, and they’ll be more likely to support you (by learning to cook healthful food or budgeting to purchase some workout equipment). Just make sure you’re safe and reasonable in your exercise and nutrition plans.
* Don’t feel guilty. If you’re the only person in your family who’s trying to change, that’s OK. Maybe you’ll serve as a role model for them. Your commitment to exercise and healthy eating will positively influence those around you. Wanting to change your body and your life is not a judgment on your family’s eating or exercise habits. It’s about making your own life better. In this case, it’s OK to be selfish.
* Do drop hints. If you’re not ready to talk to your family about your weight-loss plan, then just start bringing up the idea of making small changes. Forgo the popcorn when you go the movies with your husband. If he asks, tell him you’re full from lunch or dinner. Ask your wife to buy low-fat yogurt, carrots or skim milk. If she asks why, say you just like those foods. Tell your teens you’re going for a walk, and if they ask, just say you need some air.
* Do start small. Skip the cheese and mayo on your burger, have fewer tater tots, and get a single scoop of ice cream instead of two. Grab an apple instead of chips; have water instead of soda. These small steps will make a big difference—and your family might soon notice how healthy you look and happy you are.
* Don’t keep it to yourself. You may feel embarrassed about exercising or choosing healthier foods, but there is no reason to be. In fact, you can be an example to others, or even enlist your friends and family to help you reach your goals. Soon enough, you’ll feel ready to share your goals with your family and friends.
* Don’t get carried away. As a parent, you have a responsibility to be a good role model to your children. If you are constantly on crash diets or relying on unhealthy methods to lose weight, your children will believe that’s the way to get healthy. When they see you give up on your “diet” and revert to your old habits, they’ll think losing weight is a hopeless cause. Tell them you want to be “sensible” and “responsible” about exercise and food. Then show them you can stick with a plan. (If your kids are 13-17, introduce them to SparkTeens.)
* Do show them your plan. You’re probably using the tools on SparkPeople to reach your goals. Show your family that you can track your foods and plan workouts using the site. When they see that the food and exercise plans are created by professionals, they’ll be more likely to believe that you’re serious. Show them the exercise videos and demos, the Fitness Maps, and the SparkTeams. Once they see how much fun you’re having, they might want to join in!
* Do write it down. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your family, try writing down your feelings. (Find a sample letter at the end of this article.) Whether it’s via e-mail, instant messenger or a handwritten letter, you can still communicate your goals to your family. If you want to face your family in person, try making an outline or jotting down a few notes. It will make it easier for you to stay on topic and deliver all your key points.
Once again, congratulations on your commitment to improving your life. Your family wants what’s best for you, and you’ll likely find out that they’re willing to help you reach your goals. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and go ask your family if they have a few minutes to chat.
Here’s a sample letter to show your family. Rewrite it in your own words if you wish, and deliver it however you’d like—via email, face-to-face, or through the mail (Sample Letter to Family and Friends):
I have committed to making some big changes. I’m trying to eat nutritious foods, exercise regularly, and live a healthy life. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m taking these commitments seriously, and I would appreciate any help you can offer.
Be honest with me. I am overweight, and I want to lose weight safely and slowly. Listen to me and offer me advice, but please don’t minimize the problem.
Stop lecturing me. Talk to me like you care about me, but please don’t yell at me, nag me, or criticize me for wanting to change for the better.
Let me be in control. It’s my choice. No one besides me can decide how much weight I’ll lose, how I’ll do it, or whether I want to lose it in the first place.
Don’t monitor my food. Don’t tell me I don’t need a second helping or such a large portion. It only makes me feel bad about myself, which sometimes leads me to overeat.
Be there for me. Support me, encourage me, and compliment me. I want your help finding affordable ways to exercise and I’d like more healthful foods in the house. Better yet, start eating better and exercising alongside me! I want us all to live long, healthy, happy lives.
Don’t exclude me. Don’t make me the black sheep because I’m eating differently. Instead of focusing on me, try to get the entire family to take small steps to eat better. Don’t make fun of me because I’m overweight or trying to lose weight.
Love me. Tell me that you love me regardless of what the scale says. Tell me I’m smart, beautiful/handsome, successful, loveable and talented at any weight. I need to hear it.
Be patient with me. Losing weight doesn’t happen overnight. I want to commit to good habits and that takes time, patience, and sometimes more than one try.
Be realistic. I might never be as skinny as you or others might want me to be. But I will be a happier, healthier—and yes, lighter—me.
Thanks for listening, and please take this advice to heart.