Helping a Family Member Make a Healthy Change
Do you have a loved one who needs help improving their lifestyle? If so, then read this issue’s Ask the Doctor with Dr. Geoffrey Harris.
Question: Dear Dr. Harris, I’m trying to get my husband to eat better and start exercising. He is reluctant to change and feels he is "just fine." I was wondering if you have any advice on helping him begin a SuperFoodsRx lifestyle?
Answer: Whether it’s getting someone to stop smoking, take their medications, or drop some weight, helping people to make a change is not easy. To begin, let me address how physicians typically look at the process of making a change. We study the process of change during medical school because encouraging change is crucial to being a successful physician.
The stages of change are:
One of the most important points for loved ones to realize about this process is that patience, persistence, and support are crucial during all the stages. Maintaining a non-judgmental attitude that does not focus on negativity is also very important to help someone make a change.
From what you have told me, it seems your husband is in the pre-contemplative stage. This is often a difficult stage because people in this stage are often defensive and unwilling to even consider change. "Should-statements" often aggravate and even discourage change. Nagging, suggesting, or pushing tend to actually have opposite effect and can cause people to "dig in their heels" and cause further resistance. Sometimes, asking a person in the pre-contemplative stage what they think about their current habits can be helpful. Information can sometimes be helpful to someone in this phase. I always recommend calmly telling someone how you feel about their habits and offering to help them should they have a desire to change.
As a physician, I have found it is always important to tell a patient that a change would be worthwhile and healthy. Unfortunately, there is little anyone can do to help until someone has reached the contemplative stage. Once a person is contemplating a change there are many things that can be done to encourage and facilitate a healthy lifestyle.
For now, see if your husband would be willing to read one of the SuperFoodsRx books with no pressure to start changing anything.
Hope this helps,
Geoffrey R. Harris, MD