If you’re worried about a friend, family member, or coworker’s health, chances are you’ve also wondered how to best approach them without hurting their feelings or losing someone you truly care about. Figuring out how to tell someone that they need to lose weight is about as uncomfortable as it gets, but thankfully there’s more than one way to deliver a weight loss message. In fact, we count seven:

1. Open the Floor for Discussion

It probably goes without saying that you shouldn’t walk up to your sister or spouse and announce, “You’ve gotten fat and you need to do something about it” but we’ll say it anyways – don’t do that! Nobody wants to be reminded that they’re not as healthy as they could be, but sometimes just knowing that they can talk about the things they’d like to improve will help them be more open about their goals and concerns. You can open the floor up for discussion by starting a conversation about overall well-being, exercise, or healthy cooking. Perhaps there are changes you’d like to make, especially as the new year approaches; by outlining how you’d like to improve your wellness, you somehow make it easier for those around you to do the same.

2. Be the Change You Seek

Albert Einstein once said, “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means.” You can complain about a loved one’s weight gain or shame them for their lack of exercise all you want, but if you truly want to bring about change the best way is to set a stellar example. Revamp your own eating and cook mouthwatering meals for two or make smart decisions when you and your friend are eating out together. Sign up for the gym and be vocal about how good those workouts are making you feel – and look!

3. Make it a Health-Based Journey Instead of a Weight-Based Challenge

It’s understandable to want to be able to pull on your jeans without doing an elaborate squirm-and-squat dance just to get them zipped all the way up, but losing weight can’t be just about getting “skinny.” People can be sensitive about their appearance, especially if you’re referring to it in a negative or critical way as part of a weight loss plea, but if you put it in terms of health and longevity that may be a different story.

Try this:

“I think you’d look a lot better in that suit if you lost 20 lbs.”

Or

“I want to be able to dance with you at our daughter’s wedding.”

Which would you respond to with greater positivity?

Having obesity comes with health problems that are far more serious than disliking how you look in a swimsuit. People who are clinically overweight are more likely to suffer from:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Reproductive issues
  • Sleep apnea
  • Cancer
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Gallstones

If you still have any doubt how you should frame your message, then check out this study. Researchers at the Cornell Food & Brand Lab found that positive messages outlining clear, actionable steps result in the recipient feeling more motivated and positive, and that can only be a good thing.

4. Aim for Support – Not Sabotage!

While you don’t want to force someone into eating better or exercising more, you can certainly plant the seed and support a healthier lifestyle in some understated yet effective ways. If you do the grocery shopping, start filling your cart with fresh vegetables and meats located on the outer perimeter of the supermarket and minimize the purchase of canned, bagged, and frozen options that may contain more preservatives and additives. When you and your brother want to catch up, skip brunch and try a hike instead.

What you absolutely don’t want to do is encourage your loved one to lose weight and then ask them out for ice cream sundaes or complain when they head to the gym instead of vegging out with you for yet another Netflix marathon. You wanted to see some changes – it’s time to celebrate the ones your bestie is making.

5. Practice the Subtle Art of Positive Reinforcement

No one likes being criticized, least of all when they already know they’ve done something they shouldn’t have. When your loved one falls off the healthy eating wagon or starts pledging allegiance to Call of Duty instead of the gym, don’t bother berating them – they’ll most definitely shoot the messenger, so to speak, and creating all that animosity isn’t good for either of you. Instead, don’t react at all to unhealthy behaviors and use positive enforcement to reward good choices. If your loved one chooses a side salad instead of french fries with their burger, don’t make a face at the fatty sandwich but instead comment on how fresh and delicious the greens look. If they go for a walk after dinner, do the dishes while they’re gone or surprise them with sneakers that will make those walks feel even better.

6. Reject Ultimatums

Backing someone into a corner and expecting a positive result is a recipe for utter disappoint – on both sides. You can’t shame or extort someone into losing weight, nor should you want to, and trying to do that can ruin a relationship faster than you can say “I’m so sorry.” Ultimatums don’t work as marriage proposals, they don’t work when angling for a salary bump or promotion, and they definitely don’t work when you’re trying to get your friend to lose weight. Come from a place of love, understanding, and support and you’ll not only keep your friend, you’ll most likely be around long enough to see them change their life, too.

7. Help Them Take the First Step

Trying new things can be really, really hard. Telling someone you love that they need to lose weight may be as easy as supplying them with the things they need in order to jump start their journey. Here are some gift ideas:

  • A basket stocked with exercise clothes, a water bottle, and a yoga mat
  • A gym membership with stars next to the classes you go to and instructors you like the most
  • A certificate to a healthy cooking workshop
  • A spiralizer, juicer, steamer, or other health-inspired kitchen gadget
  • An IOU for a staycation getaway or spa day to be booked when you’ve both gotten halfway to your goals
  • A Vitality Health gift card good for a one-on-one session with one of our highly qualified weight loss experts

At Vitality Health, we use a multifaceted approach combining education, nutrition, and lifestyle changes to help you reach your weight loss goals. Contact us now to schedule a consultation or pick up a gift card for someone you love, because the best gift you can give – to yourself or to someone else – is a long and happy life.