I struggle when making across -the- board generalizations, however I find that most people are uncertain of what to do or say when they know someone who is trying to lose weight or implement healthy lifestyle changes. Typically, I see people falling into one of two groups: treat it like the proverbial elephant in the room and do/say little to nothing or become overly helpful.
The unfortunate thing is, that no matter which group you fall into, both usually come from a place of deep concern and a strong desire to support your friend on his or her journey. But even though both strategies come from good intentions, sadly, neither is particularly helpful. Your heart is in the right place, however it is tough to know the right approach. There is no list of guidelines detailing how to handle this delicate situation.
How to Support a Friend's Weight-Loss Journey
Check in with the person, not the progress. Don't be overly fixated on their journey during conversations. Let her know that you care about how she's doing, not how much weight she's lost or how she's eating or how much she's working out. This reminds her that there's more to her than the quest to get healthy and that you love and support her no matter what.
Help her see the big picture. Pounds lost is the typical way to quantify how the journey is progressing. But at the end of the day, it's really about health, happiness and wellness, and pounds are only a small part of that equation. Increased muscle tone and size, less low back and knee pain, more energy, better digestion, mental clarity, and overall harmony are also indicators of success, which should be celebrated. If she gets hung up on pounds or clothing sizes, check in with other numbers and measurements that help her to see the whole picture a little clearer, such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, resting heart rate and all those awesome fitness milestones she has reached. This will help her focus on how her overall quality of life is improving throughout this journey.
She's going to have some days that don't go so well. When those days come, don't be her coach or get all bossy. Just listen and let her talk. Sometimes when we are struggling, it helps to put the fear into words and let it out. Once spoken, it doesn't seem so heavy or scary anymore and by letting her work it through on her own, you help empower her.
Suggest an accountability partnership.
Be open and honest about something you're struggling with or a goal you're striving for. Ask her if she'd be willing to help you be accountable and stay focused on the positive. We all have something that we could use support with. Not your thing? Then just be active together or sign up for events together. It's easier to show up when you know someone else is counting on you and you're working toward a common goal.
Your friend is inspirational.
This one is monumental. Tell your friend what you find so inspiring, such as how you admire the new lifestyle choices and ability to handle challenges or your friends courage in the face of setbacks. Be specific. This is what will remember and draw strength from when the going gets tough.
Be a safe haven.
The most important thing you can do is be a safe place. A support system. No temptation, no judgment. No one needs someone running along behind pointing out the less-than-stellar choices. In friendship actions and reactions broaden each other's horizon. A friend rekindles out light when it has extinguished, ignites our excitement and inspires us to do better and more.