How to tell your honey, it’s time for a diet

When someone gains weight, they undoubtedly know it – pants don’t fit, an extra chin appears in the mirror and the only walk he or she takes is to the refrigerator for another helping of ice cream.

Constant reminders from his or her spouse can actually have a reverse effect. If your spouse or someone you care about has gradually become unhealthy and needs to get pointed in another direction, make sure you think about how to bring it up – and be prepared for rejection.

The experts at the Wuesthoff Health System Heart Center know how difficult it can be to get someone to make the changes he or she needs to be healthy – and they work with patients every day.

Think of it this way: if a doctor tells them it’s a matter of life and death and they don’t change, do you really think nagging will make a difference?

The next time you want to nudge your spouse to quit smoking, lose weight or make other healthful changes, try these alternatives.

  • Offer positive reinforcement. Sincerely congratulate your spouse when he or she makes a positive change, no matter how small. Offer a warm compliment when your spouse loses a few pounds; give an impromptu back rub for several days of no smoking; or promise tickets to a sporting event or concert for maintaining an exercise program.
  • Change your own habits. Eat the way you know your spouse should, for example. Stop buying fattening foods, and stock the refrigerator with fruits and vegetables. Turn off your favorite TV show and invite everyone on a family walk instead. Sure, it may take a while for your loved one to catch up with you, but by serving as a role model, over time you’ll be providing a wonderful example for the whole family.
  • Ask for help in making your own healthful changes. Say, for example: “The doctor has told me to get more exercise, but I just can’t walk regularly by myself. Could you please help by joining me?”
  • Schedule a doctor’s appointment for your loved one at the same time you schedule one for yourself, especially if either of you is overdue for a preventive-care visit. Many people get nervous about these appointments, and sharing the time together can make it more pleasant for each of you.
  • Bring concerns to your spouse’s attention in a caring, gentle way. Let him or her know how sad you’d be if bad habits caused him or her to get sick, and how happy you’d be if he or she had the vitality and energy to do enjoyable things. Read up on health information, and then leave it on the coffee table or night stand.
  • Avoid shaming or badgering. Give your mate the facts, then back off. You’ve made the point that healthful change matters to you, but he or she then must decide to take action. An easygoing, nonjudgmental atmosphere will leave your loved one feeling free to come to a positive decision independently. This approach requires infinite patience and openness — and often will feel like it’s going nowhere — but it’s the one most likely to help inspire long-lasting, decisive change.
  • Learn to accept your loved one as is, even if he or she doesn’t make any changes or relapses after making a good try. Behavioral change seldom comes easy, and it can take a long time, with a lot of trial and error. Your openness, love and support are the best help you can offer to inspire healthier and happier choices.

For more heart-healthy tips and information from the Wuesthoff Health System Heart Center, go to wuesthoff.com.