This Article is About
lack of exercise
exercise videos
rare occasions
wits end
daily basis
gentle touch
breaking point
different things
couple of days
guilt
knees
What Method Should You Use To Help Someone?
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What Method Should You Use to Help Someone?

I have a friend who has a husband with a weight problem. He is seriously obese, has problems with his knees and has diabetes. He really needs to do something about his weight and my friend has tried different things to help him.

The Gentle Touch

She’s tried the softly, softly approach where she has offered lots of gentle encouragement, bought him various exercise videos, offered to walk with him on a daily basis, tried cooking lots of low fat meals and carried out lots of research on anything diet related that could help him. And then when she tries to talk to him about it, perhaps to suggest something new, he gets upset, he cries, he smiles and promises to start doing something the following day.

She’s never quite sure whether or not he’s serious or not, but she wants to believe him and for a couple of days after their latest conversation he does appear to make a real effort to build in a little more exercise and he's more careful about what he’s eating, but less than a week later he soon reverts to normal behaviour, eating too much and exercising too little.

The Boot Camp Approach

She’s also tried a harsher approach, cajoling (he’d say bulling) him about his weight and lack of exercise, making him feel guilty with a little subtle blackmail about all the social events they’ve missed out on because of him. On rare occasions, she also tried getting furiously angry.

As you can imagine that doesn’t really work either. He gets resentful, perhaps angry too, then sheds tears once again and agrees that he will make more effort (probably out of fear or guilt). However, after a couple of days the same pattern is repeated as he reverts back to his normal habits and he starts making excuses why he can’t do any exercise and why he can’t control his diet.

At Breaking Point

My friend is at her wits end. She loves her husband and really wants to help him but has no idea what else she can do. She finds it difficult to understand why when she will give him as much support as he needs that he constantly turns it down.

She’s even accepted that perhaps she’s not the best person to help him and that he’s better off receiving help from outside sources so they’ve tried gym membership, a local fitness programme, the support of a dietician and the ongoing support of people from the local weight management team.

The result? He’s actually gained a further three stone even with the medical interventions.

What's the real issue?

So what’s going on here? Why with all that support he gets does he stay stubbornly over weight? The fact is despite the health issues of his obesity, the diabetes, the indigestion, the pain in his knees and the increasing immobility and the depression he suffers as he becomes increasingly isolated and housebound he doesn’t want to lose weight – or at least not enough. At the moment he’s not prepared to make any sacrifices or make any substantial changes to his habits that would improve his current medical problems.

I’m not suggesting it’s easy for him because it isn’t. it’s a simply awful situation to be in, and incredibly sad that he has the support if he wants it and isn’t able to take it.

Making change

But there’s the key issue for anyone trying to help another person. You can try a softly, softly approach and that might be just what they need, or you can try the ‘kick up the butt’ approach which might be equally successful for some people (think of all those bootcamps), but at the end of the day it makes no difference whatsoever, if the person themselves doesn’t want to change.

It may be a harsh assessment but it’s true. Each of us have to make our own decisions to bring about changes in our lives. Establishing new habits and patterns of behaviour is a huge challenge but the fact is that no one can do it for us.

So my advice to my friend or anyone else trying to bring about change in someone else’s behaviour – don’t. Offer the support but once it’s been rejected, bite your tongue and use that energy and effort on something for yourself. Selfish? No. It’s the only sensible approach for your own sanity and wellbeing.


Street Talk

So True. Good article. Change comes from acceptance of that change within a person. External stuff doesn't go about the work of establishing new habits and accepting them.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
  

Thanks Cynthia. So often it is the struggle with ourselves which is the hard one.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

Definitely!

  
  about 1 decade ago

Great advice Bis

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
  

Thanks Shawn

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

I hate to say it Beverly but you are right, if they don't want to do it, they won't no matter what. I think of it as mind set, I have been in the three hundred pound range, and not getting any younger I made my mind up to get physically fit, and gave my self some goals...how I did it is not reallly the issue here...it is getting the mind set to do it and having a reason is very important also...not many fat men at age 70 or 75 they are dead....not me...at least not from my body mass.....that was my push....but it was my push and my descion that i made not from anyone pushing me...My wife will not quit smoking...I guit ten years ago...smoke the occasional cigar with a beer or tequilia...lol...there has been nothing I can do to make her quit...I have done the good cop abad cop thing...nothing but the promisese you talk about....empty...So I am affraid I will have to try and let her make her own mind up and quit...wont' be easy but may be the only way to keep the peace....

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
  

Hi Tim Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I think you're right. Sometimes it's just better to stay quiet an preserve the peace. All of us have to want things for ourselves and without that drive there's not much you can do to help.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
AnnMarie  

So true. You can lead a horse to water.....It can be very frustrating trying to help someone who doesn't want to change. They may say they do want to but it's ultimately up to them to make the changes and that takes a strong desire, self-discipline, and perseverance all of which are needed - any one of these missing and you have failure and too many of us simply find all that too difficult despite the repercussions of not changing.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
  

Hi AnnMarie Yes I'd forgotten the 'horse to water...'saying until I read your comment. It's sad isn't it that our inabiity to change often means we will do terrible damage to ourselves. Thanks for taking the time to read.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
AnnMarie  

Watching people stubbornly hold onto the status quo at all costs (not just financial) especially if they are endangering themselves is difficult for those around them as well. Does that seem selfish on their part? How do the other people in their lives handle the stress or hurt is might cause? Do they even consider the feelings of others?

  
  about 1 decade ago
Johnney  

Very true Bis, one size does not fit all, (no pun intended) but until the pain of ones condition overrides the pleasure of ones habits, change will be difficult if not nearly impossible. Let's just hope when that time comes it is not too late. It;s a difficult situation no doubt, and I 'm sure there are many factors other than poor diet and lack of exercise that contribute to obesity.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
  

Thanks Johnney. It's a grim situation for anyone to be in and it's incredibly difficult for any of us to change long entrenched habits.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
Barbara9  

fantastic article

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
  

Thanks Barbara. Glad you'r enjoying the articles and thanks for always taking the time to comment.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
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