How to Motivate Friends, Team and Family

Do not offer foods (like this strawberry sundae!) that may sabotage his/her efforts.

Frustrated that a friend, teammate or family member really needs to lose weight, but just isn’t getting anywhere?  Motivating someone else is very tricky—some would say it’s impossible.  Pushing, prodding, nagging, begging, bartering, manipulating, criticizing and shaming will not work.  What can you do?

We’ve broken the process down into two simple steps:

Step One:  Be aggressively supportive, with no pressure.

It’s a delicate balance.  If you can walk this fine line, you just might succeed in motivating the dieter!

  1. Too much pressure will have the opposite effect that you intend.  You’re likely to make the dieter feel anxious and alone, which may lead to unhealthy eating!  Plus, the dieter may start avoiding you, which renders you powerless to help.
  1. Being a good listener is one of the most powerful weight loss weapons.  Ask the dieter what you can do to help him/her lose weight, but do not go any further unless asked.  Don’t express your specific worries (like “I’m nervous that you’re going to have a heart attack”) if your intention is to manipulate (see the previous bullet).  It’s often best to wait until the dieter has opened the door.
  1. Be a role model and active participant:
  • Eat some of their diet foods with them, have a salad with them at lunch, or at least taste the foods they make.
  • If the dieter joins a gym, join too (if you can)!
  • Make it easy for the dieter to join you as you eat healthfully, offering to provide meals or snacks that you are eating yourself.
  • Invite the dieter to help you walk the dog, or just go for a walk, a jog, a game of tennis or a swim—anything active.
  • Do not offer foods that may sabotage his/her efforts.

4. Be a cheerleader—not a coach!

  • Don’t find fault.  Look for ways to applaud the dieter them for reaching goals, or at least for trying.
  • When they’ve had a bad day, listen but don’t judge.
  • Help the dieter find a non-food-based incentive plan (like HealthyWage).

Step Two:  When the time is right, be prepared to give great advice.

  1. Help the dieter set a specific goal for weight loss, based on doctor recommendations.  Make sure the goal is specific and reachable within a realistic time frame.
  1. Help the dieter identify what it is in their life that triggered their weight gain or overeating and how to deal with it.  For example, some people overeat as a physical reaction to emotional trauma.  Be someone the dieter can turn to for support (see Step One, above).
  1. Reward good behavior and the accomplishments of goals and milestones, but not with food. Take your friend or loved one out for a movie, a shopping spree or a makeover when she meets a short-term weight-loss goal.
  1. Discuss diet options and methods for losing weight.  Help the dieter learn about and choose a diet—it helps to search Google or visit the bookstore’s health and wellness section.  These things may seem obvious (and you may know all about the various diet options), but you may be surprised by how little the dieter really knows.
  1. Help the dieter make a commitment to start.  Pick a date (how about tomorrow?).  Whatever day the dieter agrees to, call the dieter in the morning to offer support, and encourage him/her to call you or someone else to talk through any cravings.  He/she may be frightened by the commitment.  That’s where the love comes in (see, once again, Step One, above.

We’ll explore more great ideas for motivation in coming weeks!!

—Marty, the HealthyWage coach