Weight can be a difficult topic to discuss with someone you care about, be it a child, sibling, parent or partner. It can even be difficult for health practitioners to broach the subject with their patients.
You are concerned about their wellbeing and want the best for them, yet you do not want to offend or upset them. If not handled in a sensitive manner, you may find the discussion can even have the opposite effect to what you want and can encourage emotional eating if they feel hurt and have taken a hit to their self-esteem. There is a very good chance they already know their weight has been creeping up and their eating/exercise habits aren’t healthy.
The tips below can help when a discussion around healthy habits is required. Whilst some of the suggestions may seem obvious, they can sometimes be easily done without realising.
How to broach the issue of weight
You need to be careful with your words so they are not interpreted in the wrong way.
1. Do not shame
Ensure nothing you say can be interpreted as shaming. This will only make the person feel worse about themselves, which does not make weight loss any easier. They may change their habits in front of you by decreasing their portions or eating less take away etc., but they may be binging when you are not around. Either way, it won’t likely make for lasting changes, nor will it make them think very fondly of you!
Examples of the type of comments that can be damaging include:
- Making comments about not fitting clothing anymore or making out as if they are pregnant.
- Commenting on the person eating more than yourself or making remarks like ‘Wow, you must be hungry.’
- Indicating you are no longer attracted to them or pointing out/grabbing certain areas.
- Telling someone they should respect themselves more.
2. Do not use a scare tactic
This is another common technique used. Statements I have often heard include: ‘You will get diabetes if you don’t lose weight’, ‘You will end up in a wheel chair if you don’t lose weight’, ‘You will be dead in 5 years time’. These things sound horrific to say to someone but it happens, even to children. Whether they show it or not, this kind of talk results in the person feeling extremely upset and stressing about their wellbeing. Often the person will take comfort in food rather than changing their habits.
3. Don’t force the matter
Constantly pushing the subject probably won’t be helpful. The initial attempt might even be enough to get them thinking about it and wanting to make changes; regardless of whether they seemed responsive to what you were saying, they have likely taken it on board.
4. Emphasise health and fitness rather than weight
The conversation should be centered on achieving good health and fitness and how this will improve quality of life as well. If changes are made to diet and fitness levels, it is likely the weight will naturally come down anyway. If you focus on weight and food, the person may become defensive. At the end of the day, it is about health anyway and they will feel a lot better for it whilst also being able to prevent/manage lifestyle related disease better.
5. Do not watch over them
Keeping an eye on their food intake and exercise habits will not make for effective changes. Being watched all the time will not be well received, particularly if accompanied with negative comments. Once again, this will probably lead to them becoming defensive and even wanting to do the opposite of what you suggest. Let them do it themselves and offer support along the way.
6. Do not judge
There is no need for judgment. There’s a good chance that they are already being hard on themselves, probably much harder than anyone else could be; so make sure nothing you are saying sounds as if you are making judgments. No one knows what people are experiencing, so we are in no place to judge anyway.
What to do
- Be supportive – let them know you are there if they need to talk or need help.
- Make changes with them. No one is perfect and most people will likely be able to make some changes so do it as a team and discuss obstacles together.
- Use praise and positive reinforcement when they are doing well, and don’t make them feel bad when they have not met their goals.
- Focus on the positive outcomes and come up with goals together.
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Nutritionist. If you have questions about nutrition, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today!