As a health coach, one of the major barriers that I hear about most often from participants is that their family isn’t on board with the changes they are trying to make for themselves. When it comes to healthy eating, the most common issues include picky eaters and family members bringing unhealthy foods into the house. It can be very frustrating because in addition to your own challenges, you are also dealing with other people who may be less than supportive or helpful in this whole process.
In situations like this, it can feel like you are fighting an uphill battle by yourself. But I promise that it doesn’t have to be this way. By utilizing smart strategies and being open about your needs and expectations, your family will hopefully start becoming more receptive about the changes you are making and may even get inspired to follow your lead.
First Things First, Communicate
Talk openly to your family about your desires to lead a healthier lifestyle.
Being direct and honest about your health goals will help your family understand the changes that you are making in your life. You can talk about the motivations that you have for getting healthy and express your hope that they can be supportive of you on this journey. If you have children, this can also be a great opportunity for them to start learning about living a healthier lifestyle. Plus, most children worship their parents (especially before the teenage years!) and can be surprisingly willing to help motivate and push you to adhere to your goals.
Specify the kind of help and support you would like from your family.
This is important because everyone’s idea of help can be different and it may be hard for your family to truly support you the way you want them to, unless you spell it out. Maybe it involves you telling your spouse not to ask if you’d like dessert after meals or asking your children to help pick out three vegetables from the fridge for you to cook dinner with. Whatever you choose to ask for help on, being specific about your needs will make you feel much happier and supported in the long run.
Get Them Involved
Make meals a family affair, even the picky eaters.
Many participants often prepare two separate meals—one “healthy” one for themselves and one for their families. While this might seem like a compromise to make everyone happy, it can easily make you feel isolated and unmotivated to continue making healthy choices. To start bridging the meal gap, you can offer one main lean protein dish and have a non-negotiable veggie dish on the table for everyone to eat. Then, have other family members choose a side dish that may not be “program-approved,” which you do not have to partake in. This way, your family won’t feel like they are being put on a diet and can still be a part of your journey to success. Getting them involved in the cooking process is also a great way to move towards a family goal of healthier eating without putting too much pressure on them.
Celebrate your successes together.
Another easy way of getting your family more involved is to celebrate together any time you’ve met a goal, regardless of whether it’s a big or small one. If you meet your step count goals for the week for example, you can reward the whole family with a picnic at the park or a day out exploring nature. If you have children, you can create sticker charts and have them place a sticker on the chart for every day that you eat leafy greens or exercise. A full sticker chart can mean a special reward for them, which is a great way to keep both you and your kids motivated to fill up the chart.
Lead by Example
Start educating your family by sharing what you’ve learned through the program.
Most people, even kids, know that they should eat fruits and veggies because they are “healthy,” but might not know the exact why behind it or how it translates into a healthy long life. Share with your family different facts about the foods you are eating, which can pique their interest in your new habits and lifestyle changes. You can also increase your family’s awareness about ingredients by pointing out food labels and ingredient lists to start a discussion on why whole foods do not need ingredient labels and how that indicates a healthy meal choice.
Do more showing (and a little less telling) of your healthy habits around your family.
Of course, just talking about your food choices isn’t enough. If you actively show how you put your healthy habits into place, your family will be more likely to pick up on them and may even start changing their own habits as a result. If your spouse sees you heading out the door for a walk every evening, he or she may decide to join you next time you get ready to go outside. Similarly, if you start setting out bowls of fruit on the counter within easy reach, your kids might just opt to eat the fruit the next time they’re rumbling for a snack.