10 Ways to Help a Loved One Lose Weight
How to be supportive without being a pain in the neck.
Is someone you love battling the bulge, and you feel helpless to help them?
Or maybe you're the dieter, with a partner, best friend, sibling, or parent who
just can't seem to understand what you need to succeed?
Either way, it's a big club, experts say.
"It is always a difficult situation when one person in a family or
relationship is attempting to change the status quo by … changing the way they
always did something in the past," says Barrie Wolfe-Radbill, RD, a
nutritionist with the New York University Surgical Weight Loss Program.
Whenever someone changes their behavior, she says, the dynamic of a
relationship can change. That, she says, "can make it hard to know what the
other person wants or needs in the way of support."
But getting -- and staying -- on a dieter's good side doesn't have to be
hard. In fact, experts say, the best way to know whether you're doing the right
thing is simple: Just ask.
"It sounds like such a simple concept, but everyone has different needs
when they go on a diet -- some people want you to stay on their case, others
need the opposite -- and you won't know that unless you ask," says Jennifer
Waugh, RD, LDN, clinical nutrition manager at Mercy Medical Center in
It's also important to realize that a dieter's needs can change as his or
her weight loss plan progresses.
"As a person begins to assert more control over their eating habits,
many people need and want less input from others, so be sensitive to the signs
that they want to assume more control," says Wolfe-Radbill.
Top 10 Ways to Help a Dieter Succeed
There are also some general rules of support that can help any dieter go the
Nutritionists Waugh and Wolfe-Radbill, and Fordham University motivational
psychologist Paul P. Baard, PhD, helped WebMD come up with a list of the top 10
ways you can help. (If you're the one trying to lose weight, you can help your
support person help you by emailing them this list along with a note that says
"Thank you for caring!")
1. Be a cheerleader, not a coach. "You don't want to find faults
with what the dieter is doing," says Wolfe-Radbill. "Instead, you want
to encourage and cheer on the things they are doing right." That means
applauding them for reaching goals, or even for trying. And don't dwell on
goals they haven't met, particularly if they don't bring them up.
2. Become an active part of their program. "Volunteer to eat some
of their diet foods with them, or at least taste the dishes they prepare,"
says Waugh. "If they are joining a gym and you can afford a membership,
join it as well. Be an active participant in their healthy behaviors."