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10 Ways to Help a Loved One Lose Weight

How to be supportive without being a pain in the neck.
By
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

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 Baltimore.

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 distance.

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."

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