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4 Tips for Motivating a Friend to Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle

June 1, 2014

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Maybe it’s smoking, or a pizza-centric diet, or a penchant for spending every weekend planted in front of the TV—whatever the vice, we all have loved ones whose unhealthy habits give us cause for concern. Watching people you care about do things that damage their health and happiness is never easy.

No matter how healthy your lifestyle is today, it probably wasn’t always that way. Chances are, you’ve benefited from some form of motivation, either from someone or something, that helped you make better decisions about a certain aspect of your life. If you have, then you know the sense of well-being and satisfaction that comes with accomplishing healthier lifestyle goals. But what about when you want to help someone else experience the same thing? Though ultimately change has to come from within, there are certain steps you can take to help motivate a loved one to move toward healthier habits.

Keep Your Expectations in Check

Even though you want your friend to adopt a healthy lifestyle, the truth is that you can’t force anyone to do something they are not willing to do. The final decision to make that choice has to come from them, and you can only encourage them to take the steps toward making the best choices. It’s important to not get too invested in their progress—after all, you still have to take care of yourself first and foremost.

Try Not to Sound Smug

There are few things as annoying as having someone say they are encouraging you to do something for your own good, while sounding condescending or self-satisfied. So you’ve adopted healthy eating habits—good for you! Don’t try to put your friend down for their less healthy choices, as this will most likely make them feel defensive and rebellious. Plus, always keep in mind that what’s right for you might not be right everybody.

Practice What You Preach

How are you going to convince someone to eat more vegetables when you glide right past the salad bar? If your friend can see you making the effort to adopt healthy habits, they will be more willing to try it out for themselves, especially if you have some positive results to show for your efforts.

Educate Them

Most times, people respond well to seeing factual evidence of the benefits of eating more healthily. Appeal to this need for evidence by learning the facts yourself. For instance, you could show your friend a study on the different effects junk food and more nutritional foods have on your brain. Or if your friend is suffering from the negative effects of unhealthy food choices, such as shortness of breath from obesity, you could gently observe that eating healthier food will make him or her feel so much better. This is a very tricky area, and you have to be tactful to avoid sounding like you are judging them. The goal is to motivate, not make anyone feel guilty. Share your information objectively, and without a direct comparison to your loved one’s current lifestyle.

Enlist an Expert

If your friend or family member is having trouble getting or staying motivated to get healthy, it might be time for them to reach out to a professional, like a nutritionist, therapist, or Health Coach. As a friend, you can only do so much to support their progress before it starts to take a toll on you or on the friendship. Plus, people like Health Coaches have in-depth knowledge of many dietary theories as well as how nutrition interacts with other areas of life, so your friend can know they're in good hands. Just remember that, like with every other healthy habit, seeing a professional is something they need to want for themselves.

Have you motivated a friend or family member to adopt a healthier lifestyle? Tell us how you did it in the comments section below!