How to Help Friends or Family Members Who Want (or Need) to Lose Weight

Seeing others struggle, no matter what they’re struggling with, is tough. Super tough. Especially when the person who is struggling is a friend or family member. We love those closest to us, and we want them to be happy and successful in all areas of their lives.

I’ve seen a lot of people struggle with weight loss in my years and years of experience in the transformation world. I’ve seen them lose weight, gain it back, lose it again, and gain even more back. I’ve done all I physically and mentally could do to help and support them. Believe me, if there was a magic button I could’ve pushed and all that extra weight and the baggage that comes with it would disappear (because extra weight is heavy in more than just pounds!), it would’ve been so tempting to push that button.

But…and this is a HUGE BUT…the worst thing I could do for someone I love is push that button and make the changes for them. Why? Because there is no magic button, and I’d be doing them a huge disservice if I took the opportunity and growth and experience away from them that they’d gain going through the journey of transformation. And to be honest, that magic button change would be short-term. We respect and honor and protect the things we work hard for. Including, and especially, weight loss.

Here’s the deal: Change, no matter the type of change, has to come from a desire within the person who wants or needs to make that change. You cannot make someone else change. You cannot do the work to change for them. And that realization can be tough, especially when you see others struggling, even to the point of putting their health and their lives at risk.

The change—any change—has to come from them. They’re the only ones who can decide to change and then take the steps to change. But…you can support them through the changes they’re making. And that’s an important part to play in their transformation! According to the Mayo Clinic, the support of friends and family members can be a key to long-term weight loss success.

Accountability is key to transformation and achieving any goal. Learn more here.

What does the process of change look like?

So, to better equip you to help those you love achieve their transformation goals, let’s break down what the process of change looks like, otherwise known as The Transtheoretical Model, or more commonly known as The Stages of Change:

  • Stage 1. Precontemplation: Don’t think a change is needed.
  • Stage 2. Contemplation: Starting to consider change, but not quite ready to commit to change.
  • Stage 3. Preparation: Preparing to change, maybe even making steps towards change (researching workout and/or nutrition plans, starting to work out, starting to eat more healthily, etc.). This step can often be triggered by a scary health experience or diagnosis.
  • Stage 4. Action: Regularly engaging in activities to promote change (workout out and/or nutrition plan adherence) for 3-6 months. Putting plans in place to combat any roadblocks that might come up.
  • Stage 5. Maintenance: Regularly engaging in the activities to promote change (workout out and/or nutrition plan adherence) for more than six months. Able to successfully navigate any roadblocks and potential relapses.

Why do I share The Stages of Change? It’s important for both you and the person who wants to change to understand which stage they’re in right now because someone who doesn’t think they need to change and someone who is preparing to change are in two totally different spaces and mindsets.

Think of a goal you want to accomplish: What stage of change are you in right now?

Top tips to help someone you love lose weight for good

While you can’t make a change for someone else, you can be helpful on their journey, so here are six tips you can put into place today to help someone you love lose that weight for good.

Tip #1. Remember: This is their goal, not your goal. The way you go about achieving a goal, especially a transformation-related goal, might be different from what will work for them or from the steps they want to take to achieve their goal. Offer suggestions when asked, but realize that your suggestions might be implemented or ignored. And both are okay!

Tip #2. Cheer, don’t coach. This tip goes along with tip #1. Embarking on a transformation journey can be overwhelming and frustrating with so many things to learn and do. So, the last thing your loved one needs is another person, especially someone close to them, continually suggesting things for them to do and try. Your role is to cheer them on, notice and congratulate them on every single small win, and keep telling them they CAN do this!

Tip #3. Meet them where they’re at right now. You can’t force someone out of the stage of change they’re in. It just won’t work. So, understand where they are, support them as much as you can, and they’ll progress on their transformation path in the way that’s best for them.

Tip #4. Encourage baby steps. It’s going to be so tempting to them to want to hit all their workouts and nutrition plan perfectly, but this is a recipe for disaster. Instead, encourage them to take on just one new thing at a time so they can develop healthy habits and experience long-term results—results that will stick. Research backs this up:

  • Take on 1 new thing at a time = 80% chance for success.
  • Take on 2 new things at a time = 35% chance for success.
  • Take on 3+ new things at a time = 3% chance for success.

Tip #5. Help them build integrity. Integrity, especially personal integrity, is THE key to achieving any goal, but especially where weight loss is concerned. When you do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it, no matter what, the results WILL come. And that’s a promise! In fact, this is the first step I take with every single client I work with. How do you help someone build integrity? Through a little thing I call a Power Promise. A Power Promise is a promise you make to yourself, and this promise is so simple that you can do it every time, no matter what. When it comes to helping your loved one make their first Power Promise, this promise doesn’t even have to be transformation-related. The important thing is to slowly help them build their self-confidence and personal integrity and get them winning right from the beginning.

Learn more about Power Promises + Integrity here.

Tip #6. Ask them how you can best support them, then do that. Whether it’s through frequent check-ins, less frequent check-ins, whatever type of check-in works best for them (phone, text, etc.)…, it’s all about doing whatever they feel will work best for them. Their perspective of support might be different than yours or someone else’s. Remember: Weight loss—or any type of goal—has a learning curve, and your friend or family member is on that learning curve. Allow them the space to learn and grow.

Transformation is hard. Watching someone you love struggle to transform their lives, especially when it comes to losing weight, is hard. It’s our natural inclination to want to jump in and try and do the work for them. Don’t do that. Instead, use the tips I’ve shared, and not only will you be able to support them along their transformation journey, but I bet that relationship will grow even stronger!

xo,

Related reading:

Build a life you love: Set Goals + Achieve Them
How to Build Momentum, Accomplish Your Goals, + Create a Life You LOVE!
How to Beat the Odds and Actually Finish Your Goals | Jon Acuff
Consistency Is Key: How to Make Your Fitness Goals a Reality
How SMART Are Your Goals?

190 Responses

  1. Hi, I have cancer and the one thing I would like to see before I’m gone is for my daughter to lose weight. She is close to 400#. Its hard for her to work her feet can’t handle the weight. She has limited income so can’t afford surgery or hipnoses.

    1. Hi Gail: So sorry to hear about your cancer. In addition to the tools in this post, here’s a post that outlines Chris and Heidi’s complete carb cycling program (the same program they use on EWL): https://heidipowell.net/9060/how-to-begin-your-transformation-journey-step-by-step/. Have her begin with a simple promise, and go from there. And she won’t need any equipment or gym membership for the exercise part of the program. It would also be a good idea for her to discuss Chris and Heidi’s program with her healthcare team, and then follow their recommendations. She can do this!

  2. Hi my names josh I live in Illinois and I have an aunt that is over weight! I want to get her help and get her weight lower! She’s a real nice loving lady and she has been obeis for a while she lives in an apartment and she can’t even go any where besides her apartment cuz she can’t get around cuz she’s too big! I just really really wanted ur help to get her to where she can not be stuck at home and not be able to do anything! I really want ur help to help her it would mean the world to me! Please help me get her in better shape and get her help she needs ur my only hope! Please reply back to me! Thank you josh!

    1. Hi Josh: Thank you for sharing your aunt’s story with us. Unfortunately, Chris and Heidi aren’t taking on new clients due to their heavy filming schedule, other obligations, and young family. I do hope you understand. That’s why they’ve made the same program they use on EWL available for all of us to use to reach our transformation goals. Have your aunt start with making and keeping that first small, simple promise, and then go from there. The links to the promise process and Chris and Heidi’s carb cycling program are in this post. And with you to help her, she’s got a great support system too. She can do this!

  3. Hello Heidi, I am Monia I write for my mom, because seeing your program extreme make over of real time have given me a bit of hope. My mom tried to do so many diets without success, we would be willing to come on you too just to be able to have some results! We are Italian and if you could help us would our hero! Look your answers, hello and thank you!

    1. Hi Monia: Because Heidi and Chris aren’t taking on new clients at this time, they’ve made all the tools they use on the show available for all of us to use to achieve our transformation goals. In addition to the information in this post, here’s another post that outlines their program, and it will teach your mom everything she needs to know and do to begin her transformation journey: https://heidipowell.net/9060. We wish you and your mom the best – she can do this!

  4. You and Chris are such an inspiration to the world and to me. For this reason, I am reaching out to you for advice. My husband, age 50, is so close to having to use insulin it’s not funny. He has had open heart surgery and has a mechanical valve, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and could stand to loose 100 pounds. My question is, how do I help him? He gets bored with “diets” and I try so hard to make his transformation different everyday. We walk about a mile day at this point, but he needs more. We watch what we eat, and I am a healthy cook. I am about 20 lbs over weight, so I am doing this with him, but can not lose too much to quickly as I don’t want him to give up. We have some equipment at home, treadmill, ab lounger, etc. and use it daily, but it doesn’t seem to be working quick enough to keep him going. Can you please let me know some different things I can show him? Please, we were just married on 1/1/2015 and I am scared for him. I am desperate at this point to save my husband.

    Also, Heidi, do you know of an exercise that will help me with underarm fat? I have it and it drives me insane.

    Thank you so much for considering answering my questions.

    A huge fan
    Michelle

    1. Hi Michelle: Besides the information in this post, here’s another post that will help you both get started on your transformation journey: https://heidipowell.net/9060/how-to-begin-your-transformation-journey-step-by-step/. And for your arms – you really can’t spot reduce, but if you’re following a complete body workout program (like the exercise parts of carb cycling in the links in the post), they should help to reduce this for you. Every body loses fat differently, so it’s hard to say where any extra fat will come off of first. You both can do this!

  5. Dear Heidi I am currently in a college comp class her in Ohio. I am doing a research project on Food and Obesity was hoping for some help.

  6. Hello, this isn’t really a reply, but I have a 13 yr old grandson who I am so worried about. He weighs over 200lbs. His mom (my daughter) is obese also. She can’t afford a gym membership, so I paid for one, she didn’t use it. What can I do for him? It hurts to see his self esteem go down more and more. He wants to exercise. When I got them a membership for the local YMCA he was so excited then she (my daughter) just stopped making time to go. Thank you for all you do… Both of you are beautiful people! Sad Nana in Adrian, Michigan

  7. Hi Heidi!

    I just wanted to say I think you’re the bees knees and I truly admire your strength, courage, and compassion. I know you’re very busy taking care of your cute little rugrats and I just wanted to say I really appreciate you making the time to create your blog and continuing to help people better their lives.

    I just moved from St. Paul, MN to Houston, TX for work for 6 months. While I’m down here I plan on making the most of my time and I want to lose weight and surprise all my friends and family when I return. I plan on incorporating a lot of your techiniques like the carb cycling to help increase my weightloss but to be honest I’m really struggling with the exercise. It’s really frustrating when I go to the gym twice a day and see minimal results. (8lbs in one month) I’m 23 years old, currently I’m 247lbs, 4’11 “tall”, and eating a 1500 calories a day.

    If you or anyone could tell me what I’m doing wrong, or should be doing differently I would really appreciate it! Thank you so much and happy holidays! 😀

    Sincerely, Ali

    1. With carb cycling, you’ll eat 1200 calories on low carb days and 1500 calories on high carb days, and what and when to eat will be outlined for you in the program (get the complete program in Chris and Heidi’s book, “Choose More, Lose More for Life”). There’s also an awesome exercise program in their book, and it will teach you when and what to do to help you reach your weight loss goal. You want to make sure you’re working out at the correct intensity, and incorporating strength training into your workouts, and everything is outlined in the book. It’s an awesome program! And it’s true – to lose weight you need to burn more calories than you’re consuming. You can do this!

  8. Dear Powell Pack,
    My name is Kirstie and my mom has had issues with her weight since my little sister was born. She has had one surgery already a few years ago, and now she is scheduled to have the gastric sleeve at the end of the month. I firmly believe that this is a BIG mistake and do not want her to have the surgery. Everyone that I have talked to who has had the surgery has said that it was a mistake and wish that they had never done it. She is convinced that this is her only option to losing weight. I am 22 and no longer at home, so I am not able to help her as much with meal prep or working out. What can I do to help her?

    Signed,
    Kirstie

    1. So sorry to hear about this, and I can only imagine how difficult this is for you. There are some great suggestions in this post – do you think she’d be willing to even try the promise making and keeping tool? Maybe if she can even make and keep one small promise, that might lead to others, and this could help her begin her transformation journey. You might also want to share the other tools discussed in this post with her – carb cycling has been proven time and time again to be an effective way to achieve a transformation, no matter how much weight someone wants to lose. We wish you and your mom the best! And she is so fortunate to have such a loving and caring daughter. 🙂

  9. Dear Heidi, I have a brother that is 51 and weighs probably over 500 pounds. I know he is going to die if he doesn’t do something drastic soon to lose weight. He has custody of his 8 year old daughter and she is overweight as well, but adores her Daddy. Please help, I don’t know what to do. He needs help from someone that can teach him how to change his life and live! I am so nervous and scared of losing him.

    1. Hi Ann: Chris and Heidi so wish they could help everyone who needs their help, they truly do. Unfortunately, they’re not able to due to their heavy filming schedule, other obligations, and young family. I do hope you understand. This is why they’ve made all their tools available – the same tools they use on the show – for all of us to use. Help your brother follow the steps in this post, beginning with that small, simple daily promise, and he will be on his way to achieving his own transformation. We wish you both the best – he can do this!

  10. Would love to request a favor for the Holidays!
    My husband and I turned 50 last year, and workout on a daily basis, but fall short of getting where we want to be physically.
    My son is in the Military and also works out, but seems to quite get there either.
    We have had a tough year with the loss of my mother & and a dear family friend within 1 month of each other. And as hard as it is for us, it is especially hard for my son who could not be home for either. He is coming home for the Holidays, and as much as it should be a very happy time to celebrate, as we have missed out on the last 2 Christmas’s with him, it will be bitter sweet as we have closer of two people for him to deal with.
    For the Holidays I would love to give something more than gifts to my husband and son for the Holidays, the gift of Health and happiness is all I wish for them. It would mean the world to me if some how we could get some one- on- one training or to meet you in person and have personal training.
    My son also advised us he invested in a company called “Vemma” as to which my husband and I both new nothing about, so afraid for him that he has spent money on something and potentially could lose it all, we were leery, but he convinced us to try it, and we are now using the Bod.e Shake and Vemma vitamin drink.
    So long story short for the Holidays I would love to give to my husband and son an opportunity while he is home on leave from Dec 15- Jan 8th a chance to make a change for the better in all of our lives.
    I love how you guys make exercise and healthy eating a daily part of your lives, and hope that someday my son carries on the same healthy life style for he and his family.

    Sincerely,
    Lisa Cornelius
    Kent, Washington

    1. We’re so sorry to hear about the loss of your mother and friend, and we can’t imagine how difficult this has been for all of you. Unfortunately, Chris and Heidi aren’t taking on new clients right now due to their heavy filming schedule, other obligations, and young family. We’re so sorry, and we do hope you understand. As for Vemma, Chris and Heidi are affiliated with Vemma, and Vemma teamed up with them for the Bode line of products. They’re awesome! We wish you all the best!

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