So you’ve decided to change your life and you’re excited about your new, healthier, lean future.
You’re so happy and excited that you can’t wait to tell your most loved confidant about your fantastic plans…
As you’re driving home, you fantasize about how they’re going to be so excited for you. You know deep down that they too will be excited and want to join you on this wonderful journey of discovery….
You dream about long walks in the park with them and wonderful dinners full of colorful salads, lean meats, and constant conversation about how much energy you both seem to have since making the shift. You hallucinate about vacations on the beach as other couples admire you two as they whisper about what a beautiful and fit couple you are.
Finally you get home and you explode with excitement as you tell your husband or wife about the wonderful future that awaits! You’re spouse looks up at you, and you look back in anticipation, and they reply…
“That’s nice dear.”
This sad story of “mate melancholy” surrounding body change is not at all uncommon and let’s be honest, it’s a total buzz kill! Beyond just the motivational havoc that such a response has on us, that person who loves you so much can often become your greatest enemy in your journey towards a better, healthier you! More on this in a moment.
In this post you’ll learn why your significant other responds this way and how to help your spouse or loved-one make the shift towards a healthier lifestyle! So let’s get started…
Why Your Spouse Is Not Interested In What You’re Selling
Human beings are interesting creatures with a serious social flaw; they think, “If I like watermelon, then you must like watermelon as well.” We think how can anyone possibly not like watermelon…watermelon-haters must be off their rockers! We just can’t see the world through other people’s eyes, but we naturally believe that others can see through ours.
Crazy creatures, us humans…
Change is a very personal and individual process. Psychologists have determined 6 stages of change and although we all go through the same stages, where we are in that continuum is different from person to person.
There are six stages of change. The challenge is to realize that change begins at the first stage, which we call “Precontemplateion”.
Precontemplation is when someone doesn’t realize that they have a problem at all. That’s right…not realizing that you have a problem is actually a stage of change…
From the stage of precontemplation, a pressure will build until they are literally propelled into the next stage, and then the next, and then the next, and so on…
So, let’s talk about the six stages of change and how it pertains to the situation with our loved ones…
Now let me let you in on an empowering secret…
Our culture believes that action and change are synonymous; in other words, our culture dictates that we aren’t changing unless we are in the action phase…but that philosophy is totally wrong, that is, if we’re talking about lasting change.
There is a process to change; we all start in the precontemplation stage and we must move chronologically through the stages until we reach the ideal phase of termination.
If we attempt to skip stages, it is like trying to move a child from kindergarten right into college. We can do it, but it would be ridiculous to expect the child to get a diploma. With change, we can skip stages, but it would be ridiculous to expect it to last.
The reason why you’re so excited and they aren’t is because you are through the precontemplation, contemplation, and preparation stages; you’re in the action stage and it’s exciting times for you.
On the other hand, they may be in the preparation, contemplation, or even the precontemplation stage.
Rather than taking offense at their melancholy response, we must have the mindfulness to stop ourselves from getting defensive and screaming, “how can you not like watermelon?!?!”
Just realize that they’re in a different stage of the change continuum and commit yourself to the cause of taking action yourself. Embody the change that you want your family and friends to make.
Jennifer was a participant in one of my weight loss coaching programs. She had struggled with weight for practically her entire life and went so far as to have gastric bypass surgery.
After the gastric bypass surgery, she lost significant weight only to put it all back on after getting pregnant. She was frustrated by the fact that she had tried and failed so many times and not even the “miracle surgery” could save her from her weight gain curse.
Jennifer took immediately to the philosophy of fat loss that I taught in the class and began to see immediate change in her weight and body. More than that, there was a shift in her attitude about weight loss.
During the program I taught them that weight loss can be an exciting time of transformation rather than a constant struggle characterized by bland food and constant exercise. I taught her to take great joy in the change and soon she started to crave her lunch walks.
A funny thing began to happen in the office…her coworkers noticed that Jen was happy, eating real food, enjoying her meals, losing weight, and happily disappearing out the door at lunchtime.
When her coworkers learned that she was going for a 20 minute lunch walk every afternoon, they all of a sudden were motivated to walk themselves. Before long, Jen would find a crowd of coworkers following behind on her afternoon lunch walks. It was as if they were attracted to the change they saw in Jen and they wanted a piece of that change.
There is a curious thing about the rich and famous…people want to be around them. We feel naturally drawn to the rich and famous because we are hard wired to believe that a little bit of that fame and riches will rub off on us if we just hang close to it…
Health and body transformation has a similar effect.
When people see us successfully changing ourselves, we feel drawn to that because we think they have the key to the kingdom and to get in all we need to do is hang close.
Everybody likes to buy, but nobody likes to be sold. Make this your mantra when it comes to helping your spouse move through the stages of change. If they’re in precontemplation, remember they may not know that there’s a problem, if you go in guns blazing and start trying to force participation in your activities and eating habits, it will be like a used car salesman trying to force you into buying a hoopty.
Precontemplators are often demoralized, they don’t want to talk about the problem because they simply don’t feel like they can do much about it. You will have to fight the urge to press your will upon your spouse, trust me when I tell you that it is a tactic with a 100% record of failure! As the old rhyme goes…
“A mind convinced against its will is of the same opinion still.”
Change is difficult, that’s why we have so many mental health professionals and a dismal record of success. Below are some guidelines that you can begin implementing immediately to help potentate change when the time is right for your spouse or loved-one.
You can’t change someone, the trick is to have the resources readily available so that when they decide to shift to a new stage, it’s an easy process. You might say something like, I got a great deal on my gym membership, let me know if you ever want to join with me, they have a great deal on joint memberships. The key is to make offers like this nonchalantly-like you don’t care either way. Say it in passing or while on your way to the gym. Just say it and leave, not waiting for a response.
Every moment of change occurs because the brain is either moving towards pleasure or it is moving away from pain…Psychologists call this concept the carrot and the stick. Of these two motivators, pain is many times more powerful. So much so that change rarely happens until someone is in enough pain that they can’t stand it any longer. You as their spouse or loved-one will have a natural tendency to want to help them out of pain, however, sometimes you will have to let them stew in that pain long enough to get them to move from precontemplation into contemplation.
If you want to propagate change, then help your loved one get disturbed about their current situation. Sometimes this is as simple as asking a question. For example, if your husband comes home from the doctor’s office and says, “Dr. Phillips told me that I look like I’m gaining weight.” Your tendency would be to say, “Hon, I think you look great!”, this, however, removes the stick and hands them the carrot free and clear, which will prolong the stage of precontemplation. Instead, you might ask, “hmm, what do you think?” I’m not suggesting that you tell your spouse that they’re fat and out of shape, I’m simply suggesting that maybe they need to sit in a little discomfort in order to move from precontemplation into the contemplation stage…
In our fat loss journey, our biggest foe is often the person that loves us most. Change expert, Wyatt Woodsmall, once said, “Our family and friends will often try to sabotage our change because the things that they use to control us stop working.” In other words, we all know how to push our loved-ones buttons, as we change, those buttons often stop working. In the case of weight loss, our loved-one may know that we love chocolate cake. If something goes wrong in the relationship, or you’re sad for some reason, they know that as long as they give you the chocolate cake you will feel better. All of a sudden, their goto tactic no longer works and it scares the heck out of them. Watch out for your significant other’s attempts to maintain the status quo.
As you get healthy, lose weight, feel confident and/or sexy, start to get complements, etc. a rift will grow between your level of personal growth and their level of personal growth. This will activate a certain primal code within their brain that will cause their behavior to change. Initially, they will try to pull you back down to their level. Why? Because people in the precontemplation stage don’t want to change, but they do want the world to change to accommodate their needs. You will be ready for this counter punch and it won’t work. That will leave only one other option, they will be forced to change.
Don’t make the unhealthy lifestyle easy on them. Try this line, “I realize that you are not exactly into this health thing right now, that’s totally cool with me, but I have to ask you to help me stick to my program. I would like to move your junk food to the basement or the garage. I know myself, if it’s in the kitchen I won’t be able to help myself. I have to keep it out of sight!” Aside from making the unhealthy living an inconvenience, you will also get them participating in a health transition. Sure, it’s your health transition and not theirs, but at least it’s practice. When their time comes, they won’t feel as lost because they have played a small part in your journey.
People can’t help but read while in the bathroom. Leave a bin of health magazines in the bathroom strategically place within arms reach of the “thrown”. These magazines are designed to draw you in. He or she may not feel the need to change right now, after weeks or months of exposure to these magazines full of healthy and fit people, it will take a toll on the subconscious mind.
Don’t ever complain about your obstacles and difficulties to the person that you’re trying to propagate change in. You want them to crave what you have, not feel vindicated in their choice not to pursue health. Remember, the default program is “eat well, exercise daily, die anyway.” They want to maintain the status quo, don’t give them reason to stay where they are!
Important Note: I’m not speaking about my wonderful wife, Sheri, she’s TOTALLY supportive and health-minded 🙂
Dr. Ray Hinish is a nutritional pharmacist, certified personal trainer, & certified Lifestyle & Weight Management Coach. He currently practices in Baltimore, MD, where he owns and operates a wellness center and natural foods restaurant. His mission is to help folks to live their health potential so that they can pursue their passions with confidence and endless supplies of energy!