There’s nothing more important than your health, and part of being a healthy person is maintaining a healthy weight. Reaching a healthy weight can lower the risk of diabetes, stroke, heart disease, many different forms of cancer, and high blood pressure.
But not everyone is great at taking care of themselves. What can you do to help your loved one? For such a sensitive topic, it’s best to go in with a game plan. A health intervention doesn’t have to be an assault on someone’s character. It’s a demonstration of caring and concern.
When Do I Know if Someone Needs Help?
Aside from some obvious physical signs that someone has gained what appears to be an unhealthy amount of weight, there are some more subtle signs to look for. If you notice one or more of the following things affecting your loved one, it may be time to step in and offer help.
1. Their joints hurt. Aching knees, hips, and backs often have a root cause – excess weight. Those extra pounds put added pressure on joints and can wear down the surrounding tissue, making movement more difficult.
2. Simple activities seem impossible. If walking up stairs or reaching for a glass in a kitchen cabinet seems strenuous, it may be time for a weight loss intervention. Respiratory capacity decreases as weight increases, so routine breathlessness might be a sign that the heart and lungs aren’t getting enough work to function as they should.
3. They snore at night. If you share a bed with your loved one and notice that they’re snoring, a health intervention may be appropriate. Excess weight can lead to sleep apnea, where a person stops breathing for 10 seconds or more while sleeping. The result is loud, gasping snoring that is at best an annoyance and at worst highly dangerous.
4. Exercise is a chore. If your loved one who used to find working out to be a welcome stress reliever and a healthy habit now isn’t going to the gym, extra weight could be the culprit. Exercise can seem like an obstacle to someone who is overweight, and even stepping foot inside the gym can be an anxiety-ridden experience.
5. They say their clothes don’t fit. If a loved one repeatedly tells you they can no longer wear clothing that was once a staple, it might not just be a random complaint. It might be an indirect admission that they would like to lose some weight.
How to Have a Successful Conversation About Weight Loss
Even if your loved one comes to you and says they want to lose weight, it’s important to choose your words carefully. You may have many ideas on how to help, but overwhelming them with advice could lead to defensiveness or resistance. Follow these steps to give them the right amount of support.
1. Listen; don’t lecture. Don’t go worst-case scenario. Bringing up sleep apnea, diabetes, and heart disease at the beginning of a conversation is catastrophizing, and it may turn them off to your advice. Listen to what they say and try to get a feel for their mental or emotional state. Ask about their weight loss goals. A health intervention doesn’t need to be a webmd.com rabbit hole. It should be a back-and-forth about what’s realistic and what’s achievable.
2. Let them know you care. A lot of people who struggle with their weight tend to have low self-esteem. Make sure you let your loved one know that you care about them and accept them for who they are. Make their increased focus on weight loss about them, not you.
3. Offer specific support. Once you’re done talking about things in broad strokes, narrow it down. Ask them to go for a walk after dinner instead of sitting down and watching Netflix. Plot out healthier meals, and then go shopping for ingredients. Plan a weekend hike instead of trying the new burger place in town. If it’s a friend you’re helping, tell them to call or text you whenever they’re struggling. If it’s a significant other, set aside time specifically to check in.
4. Help identify their triggers. You probably have a good idea of what might be a complicating factor for your loved one on this weight loss journey. Whether it’s a specific food, a smell, or a place, different things can set off different people. Suggest an outlet for when these come up, whether it’s walking the dog, watching a funny video, or writing about it.
5. Make sure judgment is off the table. It’s important to remind your loved one that you are not in the business of judging them. You’re there to offer support that has nothing to do with preconceived notions of body image. You’re there to help them in whichever way they choose to feel better about themselves.
How to Help Them Find the Right Weight Loss Program
Losing weight, and the journey that comes with it, is an extremely personal experience. When you’re helping your loved one look for a weight loss program, a few key things you’ll want to consider include:
• Staff makeup (are there qualified health professionals such as registered dietitians, licensed therapists, nurses, and exercise specialists?)
• Who sets your loved one’s weight loss goal
• Potential barriers
• Maintenance program to keep weight off upon program completion
• Total cost
• What others who have participated in the program have to say
What you want to help your loved one avoid is a program that promotes fad dieting or other trendy weight loss schemes, which focus on short-term results and can actually be detrimental to a person’s health.
It’s also important that a weight loss program focuses on more than just the physical aspects of health. The mental health component is vital in achieving and maintaining successful weight loss over the long term.
At Structure House, your loved one’s health intervention is anything but a quick fix. With all-inclusive, evidence-based treatment that features behavioral therapy, nutritional guidance, fitness coaching, and medical support, the person you’re looking to help will be in the best possible hands. We’ll work with you every step of the way to make sure your loved one learns the fundamental principles of weight loss that will allow them to develop the confidence and skills to live a happier, healthier life.