Dear Lifehacker, I have been trying to help a few friends of mine that are severely obese but no matter what I do I can’t get them to make healthy lifestyle changes. I’ve completed fitness training, know my nutritional guidelines and have read numerous obesity text books but whenever I make suggestions I encounter the usual excuses: “no time to cook”, “too tired to exercise” and “I’ll start properly after [insert irrelevant life event] happens”. The last one is the worst because a new event is always used as the next excuse.
I can’t seem to help them get motivated or make them understand that their current lifestyle is killing them. I’ve tried to convince them to see me as a trainer or visit a doctor or nutritionist, but they don’t see any benefit and don’t want to spend money. I’ve even written up home exercise plans and explained how to increase incidental fitness but comfort and work seems to be their first priorities. I can’t stand just sitting hopelessly while the ones I care about slowly die. Any suggestions? Thanks, Fat Fighter
Ultimately, no-one is going to lose weight unless they decide to do so themselves. It requires a significant amount of motivation, sacrifice and willpower — especially for people that have been morbidly obese all their lives.
If you try to push them into it, the only thing you are likely to achieve is to make them feel bad about themselves. You also run the risk of alienating yourself from your portly buddies. (Nobody wants to be constantly reminded about areas of their life that need improving.)
There’s also the pertinent fact that you’re in a position to make money from the situation. When you tried to convince your friends to see you as a trainer, were you offering your services free of charge? Or would signing up cost them money?
If it was the latter, your apparent concern for their welfare could be called into question. (Think about it: if a friend who worked in health insurance kept pressuring you to get comprehensive cover, wouldn’t you be a teensy bit leery of his motives? It’s exactly the same scenario here.) Ironically, your fitness credentials could actually be working against you; particularly among your more cynical friends.
That said, it should still be possible to gently coax them towards a healthier lifestyle — instead of trying to completely transform their lives, start off with something small. Offering to go walking once a week to “catch up” could be a good way to get the ball rolling. When you go out to the movies or a restaurant, suggest a diet soft drink which don’t taste nearly as rubbish as they used to. It might not be much, but it’s a start.
On a final note, it’s worth noting that just because you value fitness and exercise doesn’t make it the only valid point of view. It’s possible to pick holes in almost any lifestyle choice. For example, your portly buddies might think that all the time you “waste” in the gym would be better off spent with your partner and/or kids. We all value different things in life which is what makes everybody different!
As always, we’re keen to hear any additional suggestions from our readers — have you ever successfully convinced somebody to lose weight, or vice versa? What tactics did you/they use? Share your stories in the comments section below.
See also: Which Online Weight-Loss Program Sucks The Least? | How Your Brain Tricks You Into Staying Fat | How Bad Is Australia’s Obesity Problem? | How I Lost 50 Kilograms | Ask LH: Can Exercise Change My Penis Size?
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