With the holiday season here in full force, you will soon be surrounded by long-lost aunts, cousins, family friends and heck-knows-who, maybe even the gentlemen who sold you your holiday turkey. When families unite, lots of love and joy fill the air, but it also happens to be the perfect time to bring up those ghosts lingering in the closet. For instance, remember last Thanksgiving when Aunt Ruth kindly reminded you how "healthy" you had become over the last year since you broke up with "Hot Toddy." Trust me, we've all been there, and it's not pleasant going into a large meal feeling like the only thing you should be eating is the salad and green beans.
Let's be real, weight loss is never an easy topic to address. It almost feels like you can't win, right? Whether you're complimenting someone on the weight they've lost or inviting them to join you for a Saturday morning yoga class, it can be misconstrued into "So you think I'm fat?" or "Are you saying I need to do yoga?"
The important thing to know is that there IS indeed an appropriate way to talk about weight loss with someone you love. It doesn't have to be a large production, but it should be well thought out before you bring it up.
As a Registered Dietitian, I often seem to find myself bombarded at events with questions stemming around weight loss and eating right. It's ironic because most often the questions turn into lecturing ME (the nutrition professional) about what so-and-so's trainer told them they should be doing to lose weight fast. Instead of reacting, I usually end up smiling and nodding. I encourage them to do what they feel works best for them, but do not use this as the time address the misconceptions about their warped sense of nutrition.
So, how then do I actually bite the bullet and tell them it's time to lose weight the RIGHT way? Well, put simply, I don't! I find subtle ways to encourage healthy principles that will change the culture of family gatherings surrounding food and fitness. For instance, I suggest that we all bring a slightly "lightened up" version of the traditional classics, like perhaps trying a cauliflower mashed potato mix instead of the heavy cream and butter. Yes, this is not always well-received, but at least I can begin to offer suggestions and bring an item to show that eating healthy does not have to be bland and boring but delicious and nutritious!
My point is, it's not the time to create a scene and offer unsolicited advice. Instead, sharing recipes and offering simple fitness ideas stimulate conversation, but also get your family thinking about ways they can step up their health too without making it seem like a chore. In the end, the decision for someone to change their lifestyle towards a healthier one needs to come from within, not from a family member. Family members are there to support, but until the individual recognizes the need to change, it will not be longstanding.
Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RD, is a San Diego based dietitian who specializes in lifestyle coaching and weight management, helping clients make small changes in their daily routines to improve their total health. Elizabeth is owner of Elizabeth Shaw Consulting Services, in which she offers individual, corporate and food service consulting services. She also teaches as an adjunct professor and is the Dining Dietitian for the University of California San Diego. Read her blog, Simple-Swaps, and connect with her on Facebook and Pinterest.