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. Hello Heidi & Chris,

    My name is Tony. I am writing this for my girlfriend Rachel who has been challenging weight loss her entire life. Since she was a child she always had complications with weight. She watches your show religiously and hopes to someday meet you guys whether its to help her combat her weight. A little about her.. she is a vegetarian and manages to never have enough energy and courage to succeed her goals. There have been many things that have been a road block in her life with the loss of her dog and her beloved friend from her sorority. I would love for her to meet you guys so y’all can help her loss the demon she faces every day. Its really tough for a vegetarian to find things to eat and always maintain the courage of losing weight. Its a small request to help give her a diet or a schedule to keep her motivated to lose weight because its hard for her and you would honestly be heaven sent. She doesn’t know I am writing this… but I feel it would lift her spirits just to get any response.

    Best & Always,

    Tony

  2. Hi! My husband recently approached me about wanting to lose weight and get healthier, he’s even already started to set his goals. He’s 6’4″ and weighs around 400 pounds. Since I’m a stay-at-home mom, all of the meal planning and cooking falls to me, so I’ve been trying to research and find enjoyable healthy meals, that hopefully our kids would love as well. I just feel completely at a loss, there’s just so many different diets and diet programs out there. What would you recommend, also keeping in mind that one of my children is very picky and pretty much only eats chicken nuggets, french fries, pastas, cookies, cakes, etc… The only way I’ve successfully gotten him to eat veggies is by blending them up and hiding them in muffins and such. If he sees green of any sorts the fight is on.

    Sincerely,
    Rachel Simpson

    1. That’s awesome that your husband has this goal! I recommend Chris and Heidi’s carb cycling program in their book, “Choose More, Lose More for Life.” The book contains their complete nutrition and exercise program, as well as lots of awesome recipes, and it’s the same one they use on the show. It will teach him everything he needs to know and do to achieve his own transformation! Learn all about it here: https://heidipowell.net/9060/how-to-begin-your-transformation-journey-step-by-step/. And you said you had a picky eater – here’s another post that might help: https://heidipowell.net/7986/funwithfood/. We wish you all the best!

  3. Hello Heidi, I’m looking for advice for my 9 year of son. We live in Vegas. He is gaining weight and does not have much drive for fitness. I’m so worried about him. We try to get him involved in swimming and soccer, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. When we eat, he goes for seconds and thirds because he says he is hungry. We try and help him as much as we can but it is so difficult. I don’t allow any soda or other sugary drinks in our house. Our other children don’t have that problem. Do you have any advice on how to battle obesity in young children? How do I motivate him? What is the most effective workout for him? Diet? What is an appropriate calorie intake for a 9 year old child? I understand the proper diet and exercise for adults, but I am lost at what to do when it comes to a child. I really need help, I want to help him now, before it gets worse. I would so appreciate any advice. Thank you!!

    1. Hi Anya: Thank you for sharing your son’s story with us. Here’s a post from this blog that will hopefully give you some good ideas on how to help him: https://heidipowell.net/7201/teens-and-healthy-body-image-its-not-just-about-the-pounds/. I’d also recommend you discuss your concerns with his healthcare team if you haven’t already, as they are the best equipped to help you figure out how to help him, what his ideal weight range is, and any other questions you have, as they can work with you both on a one-on-one basis. We wish you both the best!

  4. I have an autistic daughter. She is 30 years old and very overweight. She also has mild cerebral palsy so walking hurts her feet and leaves blisters. Worried about any kind of heavy exercise with her because of her communications issues. If she is hurt or sore somewhere, she might not be able to tell me well enough. I do have her doing mild exercises with a dvd I bought: Helping Hands Move With Us. She enjoys it but I don’t know for sure if it is enough. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. Hi Sherri: With your daughter’s health issues, it would be best to work with her healthcare team and have them help you put a program together that will meet her needs and keep her safe. They are best equipped to help you since they know her exact issues and can work with her on a one-on-one basis. We wish you both the best!

  5. Hi Heidi and Chris
    first of all sorry for disturbing you and for my English
    I know that it’s not perfect 🙂
    I’m Rita from Italy and following your program extreme weight loss I’ve found the strength to make exercises every day and eat healthy to love myself and life
    so the problem it’s not me..
    I’m writing to you for my father
    he is 64 years old and 220 pounds overweight actually
    he is conscious that something it’s wrong
    and I know the reason why he decided to don’t take care of himself anymore
    because of my mother s death..
    I mean obviously I miss her but life has to go on
    we must looking forward!

    I’ve tried to take him to the gym with me but he gave up and know he just thinks to go to work,and make houseworks

    can you help me somehow
    I just ask you if you have time to make an encouraging video for him

    he knows who you are because I’ve made see you on TV during my treadmill sessions

    so..I hope that this may help him to take his life back and reborning not for me but for him

    he has to understand that he has to improve his life and if gap got the power to do it and not waiting for someone new in his life to make something happen

    I’m sure that my mother would be glad too to see his happiness

    thank you very much guys
    Love you both
    Rita

    1. Congratulations on the great changes you’re making in your own life, and thank you for sharing your dad’s story with us. The first step he needs to take, and it’s the first thing Chris and Heidi do with everyone they work with, is to help him make and keep that first promise. (There’s a link in the post to information about the promise process). Once he makes and keeps that first promise, and then another one he’ll be on his way. We wish you both the best – we know you can both do this!

    1. Hi Rabeaa: It is so difficult to be a teen these days! You are constantly bombarded with images and advice on how and what you should do and be and look like, and most are very unrealistic. Heidi has addressed the teens and body image issue in this amazing post on this blog: https://heidipowell.net/7201/teens-and-healthy-body-image-its-not-just-about-the-pounds/. In this post, she offers lots of helpful suggestions for both teens and those with teens in their lives, and I hope you can find some ideas that will help you develop healthy habits that will benefit you your entire life! And please discuss your health-related concerns with a parent or an adult close to you – a support system can be such an awesome resource as you’re working to achieve your health and fitness goals.

      Here’s another thing that might help you on your journey to get and stay healthy: One awesome tool Chris and Heidi use with every client is to make and keep a small, simple promise to yourself every day. This is truly a key to achieving any goal! Learn about the process here: https://heidipowell.net/8679/it-really-is-all-about-promises-2/. What will your first promise be today? Make and keep that one, then make and keep one tomorrow, and so on. It works! We wish you the best – keep us updated on your progress. You can do this!

  6. Hello! My name is Mary, i’m 32 years old and extremely obese. I’ve been overweight most of my life and I need help. I fear what my days will look like if I do not get weight under control. I can’t do it alone, I’ve tried countless times. Hope I could get some help…

    1. Hi Mary! Check out Chris and Heidi’s carb cycling program in their book, “Choose More, Lose More for Life.” The book contains their complete nutrition and exercise program, and it’s the same one they use on the show. It will teach you everything you need to know and do to achieve your own transformation! Learn all about it here: https://heidipowell.net/9060/how-to-begin-your-transformation-journey-step-by-step/. And hang out with Chris and Heidi on their social media channels – they have a great community of support. Give it a try – you can do this!

  7. Dear Chris and Heidi,
    My name is Kevin Ryon and I come from a family of 7 kids. One of my little twin sisters, Kathy who is in her 40’s and is over weight. I convinced her several years ago to join my firm Booz Allen Hamilton and move away from her twin sister and our mom and dad in Traverse City, Michigan out to Colorado Springs. We both live here in Colorado Springs along with another one of our brothers. The difference between us is that my brother and I are both married and have families to come home to every day. Kathy is single and has been her entire life. She was in love with someone when she was younger and he broke her heart and she has never found anyone else. She plays tennis and golf but she has gained a lot of weight the past 6 months. I don’t know how to help her get on track. I invite her to play golf and walk instead of riding in a cart but can’t get her out very often. I know she sits around and watches a lot of TV and eats unhealthy food. How do I get her to change? I love her very much and think she is beautiful but I know she feels bad about the weight as well. Please help give me some ideas to help her. She has arthritis in her knees so I know running a lot hurts her. Please help me to help her. Thanks

    1. Hi Kevin: Thank you for sharing your sister’s story with us. All the steps she needs to achieve her own transformation are in this post and this post: https://heidipowell.net. Help her begin with that first, small promise, then another one, and she’ll be on her way. We wish you both the best – and you are an awesome brother!

  8. Hi I am 36 and have alot of health issues and industrial to loose 50 lbs I am 5 3 221. I have to weigh myself every day because I have Congestive heart failure and diabetes plus pacemaker and difublator. I was wondering what information do you think you could help me. I don’t love myself

    1. Hi Angel: I’d discuss Chris and Heidi’s carb cycling program with your healthcare team and then follow any recommendations they suggest. Here’s a quick link to their program: https://heidipowell.net/9060. You can do this – we know you can!

  9. Hello im a Husband and a father of 2 beautiful girls. We live in Az as well. I’m here because I want to help my wife lose weight and I don’t know how anymore. My wife wants to lose weight but hates exercising. She is eating a lot healthier now but still needs to learn a little more with that. She had a gym membership with a personal trainer and failed to go all the time and then she tried kick boxing classes and gave up on that too. Sometimes she blames it on the kids that she can’t workout . We even tried working out together and even excise videos and games. She even worked out with her sister and mom but same results goes back to her same bad habits. She is a amazing woman raising my two little girls pretty much on her own as well working 2 part time Jobs. As a truck driver it’s hard to be home and help out if anyone can help me help her please contact me at [email protected] or a way to nominate her for your show I would really appreciate it Thank you

    1. Hi Daniel: Thank you for contacting us! Casting for EWL is closed right now, and you can get info about future castings by going to http://www.extremeweightlosscasting.com. In the meantime, the first step she can take is to make and keep that first small promise to herself. It doesn’t even have to be weight loss related – anything she can do will help to build her confidence in herself. There’s a link to the promise process in this post. And have her check out the link to the nutrition part of Chris and Heidi’s carb cycling program in this post – that might give her some good ideas too. We know she can do this when she’s ready! And she’s so lucky to have such a caring and supportive husband.

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