It’s hard enough eating healthier and trying to lose weight. But trying to get your whole family on board—well, that can be more difficult than deciding on a movie to please the whole crew. Here are six simple things you can do to make your household and family members more supportive of you–and each other–when it comes to health, weight loss and good nutrition.
Be a good role model. “Do as I do” is more powerful than “Do as I say,” and acting from that belief helps you choose the behavior changes you want to make, too, says Kate Larsen, a wellness coach and owner of Winning Lifestyles, Inc., in Eden Prairie, Minn. “People, kids especially, do notice,” she says. So be the change you want to see in your household. Eat a good breakfast, eat vegetables and fruits for snacks. Choose fruit for dessert. Don’t eat in front of the TV. Don’t complain about being on a diet in front of your kids. Display a positive attitude. Prepare and eat the same foods you want your kids to be eating, and eat together as a family. When your kids follow your example, praise specific behaviors, such as “Thank you for offering to cut up an apple for your younger brother as a snack.” Kids will respond!
Get your spouse on board. If your spouse is skeptical, it undermines your influence on your kids, Larsen says. Your first step is to have a conversation where you articulate what you’re trying to do and why—“not just that you want to lose weight, but deep motivations and feelings,” she says. Maybe your mother’s diabetes diagnosis has you concerned for your own health, or you want to get off medications for high blood pressure.
Ask for what you want. It’s important to get clear about what you want or need from other people, and also, to think about your request from the other person’s perspective, Larsen says. “Jot down the other person’s probable perspective,” she suggests. Kids and a spouse used to junk food are going to resist. “Ask them how best to cut back with them involved,” she says.
Help your kids develop their own reasons to eat better. Preaching and strict rules can backfire. Instead of lectures, engage your kids in conversation about why they think eating healthy is important, Larsen says. “I often included my sons in conversations about why we eat the way we eat,” she says. “I talked about what fuels our bodies and is good for us versus what might taste good but not be good for us, like certain breakfast cereals.” Try to make it an interesting conversation with teaching moments, rather than a right-or-wrong approach, she says.
Create a supportive environment. When the healthiest choice is the easiest choice, it’s often default mode, research shows. Simply keeping goodies out of the house, or at least, out of easy reach, reduces consumption. Having healthy snacks at the front of the cupboard or refrigerator means that’s what kids grab. “I was willing to be the bad mom, not the buddy,” Larsen says. “I got ridiculed and teased by the boys for not letting junk food in the house, but now, they thank me for it. Some rules are OK.”
Savor the little successes. “Talk about what you feel good about with your family,” Larsen urges. “You are making a positive choice in your life, a choice to be healthier and more energetic, to look and feel better. You want the same for your family. It is a choice to be celebrated, every day.” At the dinner table, ask “What is the smartest thing or the thing you are most proud of having done for your health today?” Every day, note three things, however small, for which you are grateful. It fuels positivity.