When a loved one embarks on a weight loss journey, your role as a source of support becomes incredibly vital. This journey is more than just a physical transformation; it involves mental resilience, lifestyle changes, and a long-term commitment.
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The American psychologist Carl Rogers once said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” This quote rings especially true when supporting someone on a weight loss journey. Let’s delve into the different ways we can offer this kind of acceptance and support.
1. The Art of Listening
When a person decides to lose weight, they are opening up a new chapter in their life, filled with unique goals, motivations, and potential struggles. As their supporter, the first thing to do is to listen and understand. Understand their reason for wanting this change, their specific goals, their fears, and their hopes. Allowing them to express these feelings without interruption or judgment creates a safe space for them, which can contribute to their motivation and commitment to their goal.
2. Power of Encouragement
Everyone needs a cheerleader, especially when embarking on a journey as challenging as weight loss. Encouragement fuels their determination and helps them to continue moving forward. According to a study published in The Journal of Behavioral Medicine, social support significantly predicts weight loss success (1). Remember to celebrate even the small victories they achieve; each step brings them closer to their goal. But also, in times of setback, remind them of how far they’ve come and help them to understand that occasional slip-ups are normal.
3. Providing Healthy Alternatives
Nutrition plays a crucial role in weight loss. A person trying to lose weight is likely to alter their diet, often shifting to healthier food choices. You can support them by suggesting or even preparing healthy meals. A study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health states that home-cooked meals promote a healthier diet (2). If you share the same living space, strive to make your shared environment conducive to their new diet by keeping healthy snacks readily available.
4. Be a Workout Buddy
Exercise is a critical component of weight loss. Having someone to exercise with can make the process more fun and less daunting. As a supporter, offer to join them for workouts, if they’re comfortable with it. According to research by the Department of Kinesiology at Indiana University, people who worked out with a partner were more likely to stick to their exercise regimen (3).
5. Respecting Boundaries
While it’s important to provide support, it’s equally critical to respect their boundaries. Conversations about weight loss or comments about their progress should only happen when they feel comfortable discussing it. Some people might view constant reminders or talks about their weight loss goals as pressure rather than support.
6. Staying Informed
By educating yourself about nutrition and fitness, you can provide better support and advice. However, it’s crucial to remember that you’re a supporter, not a professional dietitian or trainer. Ensure that they reach out to professionals for detailed advice, as they can provide scientifically-backed strategies tailored to individual needs.
7. Avoiding Body Shaming
In a society where physical appearance is often overemphasized, it’s paramount to show them love and acceptance as they are. British actor and comedian James Corden once said, “If we’re mocking people for their weight, we are no longer a society that strives to help each other; we become a society that strives to hurt each other” (4). Always remember, body shaming can be incredibly harmful, both physically and emotionally.
8. Leading by Example
Your lifestyle can significantly influence those around you. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be a powerful motivation for the person you are supporting. Practice eating balanced meals, exercising regularly, and managing stress in healthy ways. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Your positive lifestyle habits might inspire them to persist in their journey.
9. Patience is Key
Weight loss isn’t an overnight process; it takes time and involves numerous ups and downs. Having patience and providing consistent support can help them navigate this journey more easily. As the American author Robert H. Schuller rightly said, “Tough times never last, but tough people do.” It’s essential to stand by them during challenging times and remind them that persistence pays off.
10. Supporting Mental Health
Finally, the mental health aspect of weight loss is often overlooked, yet it is equally important. Weight loss is tied closely to mental health; feelings of frustration, anxiety, or inadequacy can sometimes surface during this journey. As a supporter, encourage them to express their feelings and struggles openly. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology stated that emotional well-being could significantly influence weight loss outcomes (5).
Consider suggesting professional help if they seem overwhelmed. Therapists and psychologists can provide tools and strategies to manage stress and improve overall mental well-being during their weight loss journey.
Remember, when it comes to supporting a loved one in their weight loss journey, your role is more than just being a cheerleader or a workout buddy. You become a pillar of strength and resilience for them. By showing empathy, understanding, and love, you can make a significant difference in their journey.
Always recall the words of English writer Samuel Johnson: “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” Your support for their weight loss journey, where you may not have anything to gain, showcases the strength of your bond and the depth of your compassion.
(1) Gorin, A., Phelan, S., Wing, R., & Hill, J. (2004). Promoting long-term weight control: does dieting consistency matter?. International Journal of Obesity, 28(2), 278-281.
(2) Tiwari, A., Aggarwal, A., Tang, W., & Drewnowski, A. (2017). Cooking at Home: A Strategy to Comply With U.S. Dietary Guidelines at No Extra Cost. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 52(5), 616-624.
(3) Plante, T. G., Rodin, J., DeGood, D., & Harlow, L. L. (1989). Lifestyle factors predict the adoption and maintenance of an exercise program during pregnancy. Preventive Medicine, 18(2), 241-253.
(4) James Corden’s Response to Fat-Shaming | The Late Late Show with James Corden, YouTube, Published Sep 12, 2019.
(5) Fabricatore, A. N., Wadden, T. A., Higginbotham, A. J., Faulconbridge, L. F., Nguyen, A. M., Heymsfield, S. B., & Faith, M. S. (2011). Intentional weight loss and changes in symptoms of depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International journal of obesity, 35(11), 1363-1376