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4 Tips To Encourage The Unfit (Without Being Annoying)

Posted by Kelsea Fowler on

What’s the nice way to say “hey fam, put down the milkshake and start exercising because I love you and want you to live a long, happy life”?

Most of us have a friend, family member, or significant other who needs a lifestyle makeover. As you’ve probably learned, there are good and bad ways to encourage them to adopt healthier habits. Inspiring the unfit to get motivated is tricky business, though. There’s no easy way to address these sensitive topics without coming off as harsh. But if you’re delicate, you can be the pillar of support they need to really embrace the switch.

Whether their health is already on the brink of medical risk or they just need to kick their couch potato habits, these 4 tips are guaranteed to give a positive response:

1. Keep it simple.

There’s a lot of information for a newbie to know, so make the cornerstones of diet and exercise as clear as possible. Most likely, they already associate a healthier diet with bland egg whites and tasteless chicken. Show them the ropes of all the nutrient-rich deliciousness you eat in a day and help them find quick and easy recipes that align with their favorite flavors. Ask: what are they most dreading giving up? Is there a healthier substitute they can try? For exercise, understand that going to the gym might be intimidating at first, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get their heart pumping. Inquire what type of exercise they prefer (walking, hiking, yoga, lifting, pilates, running, swimming, biking, kayaking, paddleboarding, etc.). By getting them interested in exercise they find enjoyable, they’ll feel much more inclined to participate!

Key conversation points:

- What a healthy plate looks like (portion size)

- How much water should they drink a day?

- How much exercise should they get a day?

2. Team up.

If you’ve tried expressing your concerns and were met with push-back, your teammate is most likely fearing failure. Try shifting the conversation to be about your current fitness struggles. Ask them to be your support system and express that you need their help and support to get there. You can ask them to hit the gym/exercise together, have a daily food log (like MyFitnessPal) that you both can see, and introduce them to some of your swole-mates, so they’re surrounded by motivation.

Key conversation points:

- Your biggest fitness struggles

- What’s holding them back from just doing it?

- How can you keep each other accountable?

3. Speak caringly.

Instead of making this transformation about weight loss, make it speak to their personal values. Don’t shine the light on their current mistakes or unhealthy behaviors- they’re already well aware. Instead, express how empowered, confident, and happy they’ll feel once they commit to minor (or major) changes in their diet and lifestyle. Let them know how much better they’ll feel in real world ways: in playtime with their kids, fun with friends, more confidence in public, buying that new dress, living longer and in less pain. You can help them appreciate the benefits of exercising and eating healthy by pointing out the positives. Even if you think they’re obvious, they probably aren’t to them.

Key conversation points:

- Real-world scenarios that benefit from changing

- Your concern for their wellness, longevity, and self-esteem

- If they stick to it, they’ll feel better in just a couple of weeks

4. Be real.

Is your loved one extremely stubborn and argumentative? You may have to get more honest than planned. In a caring way, paint them the big picture of how their unhealthy choices affect themselves, you, and the whole family now and down the road. While this might feel awkward or mean, it will have a positive effect. Studies show that the more we perceive our behavior as destructive to our personal health, the more likely we are to change.

Key conversation points:

- What are the biggest offenders?

- How would they best envision themselves in a year from now?

- If not for themselves, who would they care to make this change for?

Pro tip: Making someone feel bad for how they’re falling short will only result in a stand-still. Instead of saying “you should really stop eating fast food”, try saying “you said you’ve felt really tired recently. If you’d like, I’d definitely be down for doing meal prep together. That will help keep me on track, too”.

The Payoff

Ever heard the phrase, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”. The same goes for your loved ones. No matter how hard you try to make someone eat better, exercise, or change their habits , it could have no effect, or even impair your relationship with that person. All you can do is encourage, join in, and have patience.

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