When it comes to making health changes, how can family members best support you?
When you need to make big changes to your diet or leisure time, there’s a good chance that the new plan is going to disrupt the family status quo. Households tend to eat the same foods so unless you plan to cook two different meals every night compromises will have to be made. Your decision to make good health changes may not coincide with other family members desire to change or your lifestyle may require substantially different calorie intakes.
Similarly, your family members might miss you if you choose to go to the gym or spend an extra 30 minutes walking home each night.
On the other hand, your loved ones may be determined to drive you to your goals faster than you had prepared for and create huge changes in your diet and routine. From the starting point of great love can come a tyrannical menu plan with greater pressure than you had planned for.
This is a tricky area which requires good communication and plenty of opportunity for reflection.
SMART goals as we discussed 2 weeks ago may provide a starting point for discussion but they oversimplify your plans. It’s likely that you will feel comfortable digging deeper into your feelings about your change and the support from your loved ones should reflect this.
The help from your family should be reassessed several times a week at the start of a change and at least weekly after the first month of long term change. This won't require a formal meeting, more a sharing of daily and weekly successes with truthful discussion between all family members about how the changes are affecting the household.
It could be that you can’t resist a takeaway so you agree to make yourself scarce while the rest of the family enjoy. Perhaps you need the cupboards to be bare of sweets to stop you snacking so you discuss which treats the family can stock up on without tempting you.
Young children are especially good at monitoring behaviour as their own lives are made up of check sheets (did you brush your teeth, have you put your coat away, did you wash your hands?). If you want to make sure you go for a daily walk, ask a small child to make you a sticker chart for the fridge. They can put a sticker on the chart each day you manage your walk. The tables may have turned but they’ll keep you on track.
Families are great at helping us out but there can be plenty of tension points as well. Next week we'll look at potential pitfalls when asking family to assist with change.