Be a weight loss helper, not a hinderer
Know someone trying to lose weight as one of their New Year’s resolutions? Probably yes, since weight loss is traditionally the most common resolution that people make.
While dropping a few pounds is clearly highly personal, if you have a spouse, family member, co-worker or friend aiming for a trimmer waistline, there are a number of ways you can support bringing their resolution to fruition.
A good starting point in being helpful is often not trying to be so helpful. Sometimes things we do or say may feel like they’re providing assistance when they actually are having a negative effect. Activities that you may want to avoid include:
• Acting as the food police;
• Buying exercise equipment or pointing out new diets;
• Citing health risks of being overweight, or constantly asking for weight loss updates;
• Depriving the person of favorite foods; and
• Saying things like “weight loss is easy and just a matter of willpower.”
Such actions can, in reality, be sending destructive messages which reinforce the person’s negative feelings that something is wrong with him or her unless they lose weight. Even more eating may occur as a way to temporarily overcome these negative feelings.
Instead, your goal is to practice positive behaviors that can assist the weight loss effort. You might start by encouraging the person trying to lose weight to express his or her feelings, especially negative ones that may be triggering eating. Allowing the person to talk about such things might help them focus on what may be the real problem that affects their eating habits. It might be relationship problems, a work situation, a family loss or other major concerns. Feeling stressed often leads to eating because food is a great way to temporarily feel better.
You also want to offer ongoing encouragement, not about weight loss, but about the person in general. Sending sincere, honest, positive messages is a good way to help combat negative feelings, such as low self-esteem, that often trigger eating.
It also helps to be a positive role model. You don’t have to diet yourself, but can set an example by making healthy, sensible food choices.
Being a person who understands the challenges of losing weight and is willing to listen and support, rather than lecture about weight, can go a long way in helping someone achieve their goal.
Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Comments and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit the ACA website at www.counseling.org.