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10 Ways to Help your Spouse Lose Weight Without Being a Nag

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10) Be a patient guide.

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You can help your spouse lose weight, and you don't have to be a nag to do it. In fact, nagging doesn't work. It will just blow up in your face.

To help them accept the reality of their problem, you need to be willing to let go of what you think, and guide them to their own realizations. This requires patience.

This “conversation” may take days or weeks to mature. You can’t force this stuff on them. If you try to shock them into it, the only thing you are going to accomplish is an abrupt end to a potentially healing conversation.

Once they accept that their weight is something they need to change, they will be ready to get down to business and begin to make changes but, that may not mean what you think.

During this time, they will be in self-discovery mode and you will find them more open to discussion but, not necessarily doing anything.

That’s OK. The best role for you here is to help them along in this discovery process. Simply pointing out all the positive changes you have seen in them (no matter how small) can really get a conversation going.

9) Lead by example.

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When you are close to someone, the impact you have on their life extends well beyond the words you speak. The lifestyle YOU lead creates an atmosphere all around you.

That atmosphere permeates the lives of those you love and, just like the air they breathe, it can be clean and fresh or full of toxic second-hand smoke.

It doesn’t matter whether you have a weight problem or not, you don’t need the bigger fries either. Besides, when it comes down to it, it’s not about weight. It’s about being healthy together.

Start focusing on areas in your life where you could be better and engage in a transformation effort of your own. Show them it’s possible because, chances are, they feel like a failure and that they can’t change. Your example could help change their belief in themselves.

8) Practice empathy.

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Although leading by example can unleash the awesome power of change in others, the thought of changing yourself can be pretty overwhelming.

Guess what? Now you know how they feel. Empathy is the capacity to share and understand another's emotion and feelings. It joins patience as an essential ingredient of this process.

7) Don’t be perfect.

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If I have left you with the impression that you need to be perfect to be effective, think again. It is actually MORE effective for your loved ones to see you as imperfect and navigating the process of change with them, one small step at a time.

This is your opportunity to be vulnerable. This process requires that they fail, learn from that failure and try again. Most of the time people just fail, beat themselves up and then give up.

You have the opportunity to show them how the process of transformation works in humans.

If you’re not sure how the process of transformation works, that’s OK. There are tons of books, articles and personal coaches that will help you to better understand the process.

6) Listen BEFORE you TALK.

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If you are working on your life change, they will want to learn from you. As you improve, they will be interested. Listen for signs that they are willing to do what it takes to be better and then start the conversation.

As you develop the discussion, listen for signs that they are ready. By listening, you will find plenty of opportunities to educate motivate and guide them.

When they finally do start talking, listen as if your opinions didn’t matter. What they really want is to be understood. Once they feel you took the time to really understand them, they know you care and they are more likely to trust you.

The key is to allow any conversation about this to begin on their terms and grow in significance.

Listening is truly a lost art. If you are thinking about the next thing you want to say while they are still talking, you’re not listening.

5) Ask permission.

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Once you get them talking and you see an opportunity to share what you know, don’t be a bad used car salesman. Using high pressure to sell them on your point of view will just blow out their spark of change.

If they are not ready to hear it, no matter how true it is, it’s all bull to them. If you push a point of view that they see as radical, they will shut you off and you’re sunk.

Sometimes, all you need is a moment to consider whether or not they are ready to hear what you will say. This is a great time to simply ask them if it is a good time for you to offer advice.

A simple request for their permission allows both of you to mentally prepare for what you need to say.

If they say no, it just means it is not a good time for them, or they are not ready. Go back to listening and quietly wait for another opportunity to speak.

4) Accept every effort as a positive one.

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If you see them starting to make positive steps, get behind them. Celebrate every triumph no matter how small you think it is. Show them that you recognize their efforts. Ask questions and listen as they tell you about what they are doing.

Every step they take represents a significant brushstroke on their new lifestyle masterpiece. Who cares if it is not exactly what you think they should do. Can you look at a work of art and pick out which brush strokes the artist could have left out?

Let the artist work, all they need is a supportive patron. Be their patron.

3) Don’t sabotage!

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Don’t celebrate with ice cream. Don’t ask them three, four, five times if they want seconds at dinner and don’t buy cookies “for” them.

No one has ever called me as they were standing, naked, in front of a mirror to thank me for the high calorie dessert they got at my house. Don’t set them up to fail.

2) Set the stage.

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Arrange the world you occupy together to support their (and your) new life. Brian Wansink from Cornell University has done a lot of research on how to arrange your environment to support weight loss.

His books, "Mindless Eating" and "Slim by Design" are required reading for anyone who wants to arrange their surroundings to support weight loss. Not only that, but many of his ideas are painless and your housemate may not even notice the changes.

1) Intention is everything.

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Jennifer Crocker and Amy Canevello are two researchers who discovered that the “why” behind your actions can have a huge impact on your ability to help someone and their ability to accept your help.

Moreover, intentions set the tone of the relationship and determines if it’s a good relationship or a bad one. They distinguish between what they call egosystem and ecosystem motivations.

A person is said to possess egosystem motivations when the main reason for doing something is to get something. This is not to say that they are entirely selfish but, they tend to be more in touch with how this problem (and lack of solution) impacts them.

They may have the best interest of their partner in mind, it’s just not the first thing on their mind. They tend to see the problem in terms of themselves and become very invested in the exact outcome they envision.

This is a problem for a lot of reasons. Number one is that it blinds them. They think in terms of the results and not in terms of the larger process of personal transformation, which is a lot more complex and messier than simple “weight loss.”

Another reason this kind of motivation is a problem is that it erodes trust. Your motivation system influences everything you do, say and don’t do to help them. It’s totally subconscious.

As a result, they know your motives. You don’t have to tell them, they are receiving the cues.

Now, when you say, “Are you really going to eat that cake?” they are more likely to assume your intention was snide rather than loving.

In contrast, caregiving in an ecosystem is motivated by genuine concern for the well-being of others. Although ecosystem caregiving might result in benefits for the caregiver, these benefits are not the primary reasons why people provide care.

Caregiving in the ecosystem caregiving tends to be more cooperative, because caregivers have goals that define success in terms of what’s helpful for others — NOT by the numbers on the scale. These are called “compassionate goals.” It’s a more holistic approach.

On the emotional level as well, ecosystem caregivers feel more peaceful, clear-minded, and loving. Now this does not mean you need to be Mother Theresa. Crocker and Canevello even admit that there is a complex interrelation between the two systems.

Our motivations are often mixed, and our motivations and intentions can even be contradictory and that’s OK.

If you say something about dessert, your intention is to help them see that their dessert habit is taking them away from their weight loss goal and making them unhealthy.

Or it could be, selfishly, that you are thinking about your future together where you won’t be able to board a plane together or go hiking or just that she walks too darned slow. It could be both, but the one that’s first and foremost matters.

Luckily there are ways to slowly shift your motivation to be more compassionate and the first step is to simply be aware of your motivations and name them as being either “ecosystem” or “egosystem.”

In the Buddhist tradition, a very effective process is called the contemplative practice of intention setting. By practicing conscious, compassionate intention setting, you can learn to tap into your ecosystem motivations, rather than get stuck in your egosytem.

With practice, your compassionate intentions will take on the force of habit, and even your neural networks will “realign” to get behind your compassionate intentions.

Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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