You've watched the one you love take up channel surfing as a sport and set world records on eating the sport's official snack foods: Doritos and Ho Hos. You know it's unhealthy, but it's a sensitive issue and you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. "You can't make someone change if they're not ready to," says James Rosen, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Vermont, and the director of the university's Weight Control Program, "but you might be able to help motivate them." How do you drop the hint that it's time to drop some pounds? Rosen offers some advice for getting your loved one to shape up without shipping out:
Be a Good Role Model
"Make sure you're setting some good examples for eating healthy and having an interest in physical activity. Verbalize aloud your intentions to eat a healthy meal or go work out," says Rosen. "Don't pig out on ice cream one minute, then suggest your partner consider skipping the butter on his popcorn in the next."
Clean Out the Kitchen
Keep the right food choices in the fridge. "Don't fill the house with unhealthy foods that'll tempt your partner. That is half the battle," says Rosen.
Understand Your Partner's Point of View
"Everyone knows they're better off if they're not fat and they exercise, but people still have mixed feelings about it," says Rosen. "On one hand, your partner knows she'd feel better and probably like herself more and feel healthier if she could get into shape. But on the other hand, she feels overwhelmed, doesn't think she has the time, has failed before and doesn't believe she can do it."
Break It Gently
"This is the hard part," says Rosen. "Don't lecture, criticize, moralize, or try to frighten or guilt him into changing his behavior. Don't say, 'you need to change,' or 'you are going to die,' or 'I can't live with you unless you lose weight.' That will only put him on the defensive. Instead, you might ask in a nonjudgmental way, 'Have you given any thought lately to losing weight, eating more healthfully, and getting in shape?'"
Try to help her talk out the reasons she wants to lose weight and why she's procrastinating and doesn't think she can do it now. Helping her sort out mixed feelings can help clear things up. From talking it out, she may realize that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
Talk About the Benefits
"Your role could be to try to help her come up with concrete advantages. You can say something like, 'Exercising is supposed to improve your sleep and I know you've had insomnia lately' or 'Eating less-fatty food will give you more energy,'" says Rosen.
Take a Problem-Solving Approach
"You can make it easier for your partner to make his health a priority," says Rosen. "When he says,'I can't find the time for the gym,' you can jump in and help him get over that barrier. This means don't complain if he wants to get up and go for a walk after dinner instead of doing the dishes," says Rosen. In other words, if you really want to help, you have to suck it up and do more than your share around the house, without making your partner feel guilty about going to the gym.