How to tell someone they need to get in shape without being a total A-hole

Image: Making it about you, not them, is a good start

Years ago, a boyfriend of mine told me that he was worried about me.

He told me that I ate too much sugar. That I was going to end up with diabetes. That I needed to either change my eating habits or suffer the consequences, and I’d be suffering them soon.

It would be a serious understatement to say that I was pissed off with his little ‘intervention’. Firstly, we were on the last leg of a ridiculously tedious road trip, and I was already pretty damn cranky from spending a million hours in the car. Secondly, he was quite a shitty boyfriend and barely even spent any time with me during day-to-day life – so how was he supposed to know if I ate a lot of sugar?

Anyway, he was clearly an a-hole. But if you are legitimately worried about someone in your life, there are ways to tell them without being a total douche about it.

I spoke to health and wellness expert/PT, Kirsty Welsh, about what to do when you want someone in your life to be healthier – and she had five tips to share that might get them on the right track.

1. Ask yourself – “Do I really know what I’m talking about?”

Unless you see everything that person's eating, say nothing.

In the great majority of situations, you have no place to judge how healthy someone else is - unless you can see everything that they're eating and doing.

"The only way you can make a comment about someone else is if you’re aware of their eating and nutrition and movement habits," Kirsty says. "If you’ve got no idea, you have no place to make a judgment. But when you’re close to someone, you should know what their health status is – if they’re high blood pressure, or have diabetes in the family, for example. That’s serious stuff and you can’t ignore it."

So if you're worried about a friend who you only see once a week... it's probably not your place to say anything. But if you're living with someone and aware of every single one of their movements, you're probably in a good position to encourage them to change their habits.

2. Try to break down any resistance they might have.

Think back to when you were little and your parents encouraged you to eat healthy food. You didn't want to do what they told you to do, right? Kirsty points out that we're still naturally resistant to what people tell us to do - and more often than not, someone close to you will also be resistant to your suggestions if you try and diagnose them as unhealthy.

Kirsty explains that we've got to work out a way "to dissolve that resistance wall - to allow them to see what they’re doing to their body and how they’re damaging it. You need to plant some seeds but let them learn it in their own time."

She suggests the following: "If you’re sitting down with them at dinner, tell them a story. Use metaphors or refer to an article you’ve read. If you bring up a conversation about a similar health issue in someone else, and tell it like a really engaging story about how it’s affected them, without actually linking it directly to the person of concern, hopefully they can kind of connect to that a little bit."

So all you really have to do is plant that seed of thought - and maybe they'll kick off their own health revolution.


3. Make it about you - not them.

Investing in fitness trackers together is always a good idea

If you really want to get your significant other/family member to kick off on a fitness journey, tell them that YOU want to get fitter and healthier - and encourage them to come along with you, to keep you on track.

"It's all about being compassionate and not judgmental," Kirsty says. "Make it clear that you’re in this together. Tell them, 'Oh, I’ve got these issues, let’s motivate each other'.”

Book the both of you into fitness classes, just to give them a go. Suggest that you train for a big run together. Or try something new and fun - surfing lessons or Zumba dancing or trampolining or whatever, as long as it will get the two of you laughing and getting active.

If the two of you go out to dinner, Kirsty suggests that you ask to get something healthier to eat, but again do it from your perspective. "You can say, 'hey, we had burgers the other night and so I'd really appreciate if we went for something better this time'," she says.

4. Buy them presents.

If they've ever expressed a vague interest in something, remember it and invest in it for their birthday/Christmas/as a "just because" present.

Personal training sessions, gym memberships, new running clothes and fitness accessories all make for awesome presents, and it'll encourage them to get out and get moving.

"If you can get them three sessions with a personal trainer who is holistic-minded and also does nutrition, they get a health assessment and a weigh-in," Kirsty says. "That’ll make them realise they’re in the high body fat percentage - and once you know that, it's hard to ignore."

Click through this gallery for our verdict on the fitness accessories that are and aren't worth the money:

5. Make it a competition.

If they have the right kind of personality, you can even make fitness and health into a bit of a competition.

Kirsty suggests the following: "Each of you can get a DEXA scan to measure muscle and fat density - and you can then go on a challenge before Christmas. November and December are going to be mental, so make sure you get fit and healthy now. And make it fun! Don't make it too serious, otherwise neither of you will want to do it."

A great idea is to buy a fitness tracker for each of you and compete to see who can reach their 10,000 step goal every single day. I do this with my mum and we love coming home to see who's done their steps for the day - she usually smashes me.

Have you ever staged a health intervention with someone in your life? How did it go?

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