The buddy system works. It works for kindergartners crossing the street and grown adults trying to lose a few pounds and live a healthier life.
If you’ve ever worked with someone else to reach shared goals successfully—let’s call them an accountability partner—you realize how much harder it would’ve been to go it alone.
This is especially the case when it comes to your health. If all your friends smoke cigarettes, you’re more likely to be tempted. If your spouse is always going back for seconds at the build-your-own nacho bar, it’ll be tough to stay on the wagon yourself. So if you’re really committed to eating better and getting into shape, you’ll probably want to influence the people closest to you as well.
But how do you do it effectively? While some people may readily join you in your quest to eat better, others may be reluctant or outright resistant. Of course, you can’t force anyone to make dietary or other changes they don’t want to or aren’t ready for.
But if you’re looking to entice friends, family or colleagues to join you in your efforts without insulting or offending them, these expert tips can help.
1. Be a rock star role model.
“Helping family and friends often comes in the form of less talking and more doing,” says Susan Albers, Psy.D., author of Eating Mindfully. Instead of giving lectures, she suggests leading by example. “Your family will consciously or unconsciously start to follow in your foodsteps when they see you feeling and enjoying the benefits.”
2. Take turns in the kitchen.
“If you really want to get on the same page with a friend or loved one who wants to eat better, take turns cooking meals,” suggests registered dietitian Corinne Dobbas. To get started, Dobbas recommends buying a cookbook or simply looking online for nutritious and appealing recipes both of you will love. Then you can make a weekly grocery shopping list together. “The best part of all of this is feeling like a team,” Dobbas says.
3. Watch your language.
According to Albers, “Nothing creates a toxic atmosphere like “you shouldn’t eat that” and other negative expressions. Instead of being critical, pointing out errors, or making weight-related comments (negative or positive), Albers suggests highlighting what others are doing well when you witness their healthful behaviors.
4. Put mind over matter.
To help create a mindful food environment (and avoid being a food saboteur), Albers suggests passing on others’ offers to go out for ice cream and instead making an invitation to sit for a cup of coffee or tea.
5. Ask how you can help.
Dobbas says, “If you notice someone making time to walk or go to the gym, or talking about eating healthier, use these observations to start a conversation. She also encourages simply listening—rather than trying to “fix” them—to offer support while fostering communication and trust. And when you ask friends or family how you can help, Albers says you may be surprised by the answers you get. “They may say they need a babysitter so they have time to grocery shop, or they may want you to send them motivational texts to encourage or help them stay accountable,” Albers says.
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of SUCCESS magazine.