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    5 strategies to support a loved one’s health and fitness efforts
    • May 31, 2024

    Summer is a popular time of year to commit to a healthier lifestyle, including improved nutrition and regular exercise. Not only is there a wide variety of fresh produce in season, but longer and warmer days boost motivation to get outdoors and be active. Maybe you know someone who is embarking on a new health or fitness journey.

    Unfortunately, there are many barriers to starting and maintaining healthier habits. Having the support of close relationships can make a big difference in one’s success. Even if you already consider yourself a supportive person, there may be more you can do to effectively support your loved decision to make a lifestyle change.

    When a friend, partner, colleague or family member confides that they are ready to take positive steps to be healthier, it’s natural to be eager to help. You may even want to offer well-intentioned advice about what to eat, where to work out and the latest fitness gadget to purchase. Research shows that those with strong support systems are more likely to be successful with sticking to their healthy lifestyle.

    However, it’s important to remember that each person’s wellness journey is different and health and nutrition needs vary individually. While your friend or loved one may benefit from your encouragement, they most likely are not looking for someone to critique their food choices or expect them to make 180-degree changes overnight.

    Here are some of the best strategies to be a positive and effective support person on your loved one’s path to better health. Plus, by helping them, you may even improve your own health.

    Ask What You Can Do to Help

    While you may be inclined to share all of your healthiest recipes, they may be more interested in you joining them at the gym or coming along to a medical appointment. Have a conversation about how they see you supporting them on this journey.

    Don’t Project Your Own Goals

    Ask your friend on their health journey how they want to define their health and fitness goals. While some folks may be focused on weight loss, others may prioritize building muscle and boosting energy. Keep in mind that their success may be measured differently than your own.

    Provide Positive Feedback that is Not Centered on Weight or Appearance

    Well-intentioned compliments that bring attention to body size or weight may be misconstrued, unhelpful and in some cases may even cause harm. Instead praise behaviors such as dedication, hard work, consistency and new skills.

    Preach Progress, Not Perfection

    One way to be supportive is to be a cheerleader through the ups and downs. Help them celebrate the wins, even the small ones. Setbacks are to be expected, but lasting change happens for those who keep on going. You can gently remind them of their goals and how far they’ve already come.

    Be Open to Change

    If someone in your household is changing their eating habits, it may require you to also adapt your own food choices. We tend to eat like the people with whom we eat. Therefore, your support may require flexibility toward new recipes and ingredients, updated eating schedules and even an overhaul of the pantry. You may need to rethink the way you socialize, swapping out lunch dates for an afternoon walk or opting for fruit instead of ice cream for evening snacks.

    LeeAnn Weintraub, MPH, RD is a registered dietitian, providing nutrition counseling and consulting to individuals, families and organizations. She can be reached by email at [email protected].

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    ​ Orange County Register