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Can you convince someone you care about to eat healthy?

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Today we are going to try to answer the question, “How do I convince someone who I really care about to eat healthy?” I know they have this chronic health condition that is making their life very hard to live. I know that they’re overweight. I know that they don’t feel good about themselves. How do I convince them to eat healthy and better their lives? Typically if you’re asking this question you’re someone who has seen the benefits yourself of eating healthy and you want to help others and understandably so.

The first thing I want to say before I give you the answer to this question is you’re to be applauded for trying to do something nice for people that you care about. Obviously that’s something that you’re trying to do out of generosity and kindness. That being said, you can’t do this. It’s pretty much impossible to do. I know that’s probably not the answer that you wanted to hear, but both as a nutrition coach and someone who has seen this happen personally firsthand, and from some of my mentors in the field, like Rob Wolff, who is one of the leaders in the healthy nutrition community, whose parents to their dying day were smokers and drinkers even though their son was a health nutrition coach, this isn’t something you can do. It’s very understandably that you would want to do it, but you need to understand that there is nothing you can do or say to convince someone to eat healthy. They have to come to it themselves.

You might be asking, “Is there anything I can do to help?” Number one, almost do the exact opposite of what you’re trying to do right now, which I know sounds kind of intuitive, but have you ever met someone who was more likely to do something the more they were told to do it? Typically as adults it’s the exact opposite. So if someone tells us what to do, whether it’s a friend or a significant other and they kind of belabor the point, and they’re dogmatic about it, “Oh you need to start eating healthy. Stop eating that bread.” We just kind of view them as a jerk. We just say, “You’re being really pushy, and this is really making me feel uncomfortable.” It’s very rare that you are going to convince someone that way. That’s really not going to work. So stop doing that in general. That’s not really going to help.

What can you do instead? Number one, be the example. Be the example. Instead of talking about all these great benefits and being the proselytizer, which no one really likes just by the way, instead of being the health proselytizer be an example. Just eat the way that you think is healthiest and continue to eat your real whole food and people will see the benefits. They will understand. They will be much more likely to take advice from you just by watching what happens with you than if you repeatedly tell them what to do. That’s number one.

Number two, if someone’s really genuinely interested, send them some detail. Send them some information on it after they ask you. Don’t send this unsolicited. Don’t be a jerk about it. If you think they need to lose weight, but they haven’t asked you about how to lose weight, don’t send them an article about how to lose weight. If they ask you then send them some general information. If they want to follow-up from there then you can talk about it.

Number three, never under any circumstances talk about this in a food context. This is like politics and religion. The last thing you should ever talk about at dinner or lunch or breakfast or any sort of special occasion is what you should be eating. This is the worst place to talk about this. Again, I’m talking about this both from personal experience, from my mentors in the field, from the people I’ve coached, this is the worst place to talk about this stuff. You are not going to convince someone who’s sitting there eating a roll of bread in front of you not to eat gluten, because of this that and the other thing that you’re listing out right then and there. That is the worst time to do it. So don’t talk about those things in that context.

Then lastly, make peace with the way things are. We’ve talked about this in other videos with regard to mindfulness and making your peace with the way things are. The truth is we all only have so much control over what we can do. You can do the best job of trying to make these rational arguments, this that and the other thing, this piece of evidence. I come from a philosophy background. Before I got into health nutrition I was a philosophy grad student. We did tons and tons of debating. One of the things we all found out was it’s very, very rare no matter how much you try to present a rational argument to someone that they will accept it just purely on the basis of reason. There’s a lot of emotion, and psychology and other things that go into it. So make peace with the fact that you may just not be able to do this.

I have certainly had this many times as a health coach where I know that there are people that I can help, who’ve come to me and have issues that they need help with, but they are not willing to put in the effort to get help. They say the equivalent of, “Well, I want to get better but I don’t want to change my diet. What can you do for me?” And the answer is, “Nothing.” At the end of the day you need to make peace with the fact that there might just be certain situations where you can’t convince people and that’s okay. Do what you can for you and for your health, and for those who want to be helped, provide them with information. Don’t browbeat them. Don’t be pushy, but give information. If someone doesn’t want to be convinced that’s just all you can do. Okay.

Hopefully that gives you a better sense of how to deal with these situations. Thank you guys so much for tuning in and we’ll see you next time.


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