And it’s tough.
You don’t want to come off judgey or pushy with people you care about but how we express love for ourselves is how we’ll express it for others and for us health psychos that means being healthy.
Health and happiness aren’t mutually inclusive, you can be healthy but not happy; however I don’t think you can really be happy without being healthy. Like, I think you actually have to be healthy to enjoy hedonistic, unhealthy foods even. Have you ever eaten massive, indulgent burgers everyday? It stops being fun.
But getting someone who is doing that (i.e, me in my 20’s) to see that is tough. Fit people telling others what to do can seem like saying they’re not good enough and causes them to take a defiant fine-the-way-I-am-and-even-proud-of-it stance. Like me, in my 20s.
So what are some strategies to love someone as they are AND help them on a path to getting better?
Number one for me: Vitamins as gifts. Taking vitamin D one winter was the first step to realizing my mood is my nutrition period. It doesn’t matter what you tell yourself to think because you and thinking is downstream of the chemicals at your body’s disposal.
Giving someone vitamins as gift will get them to take them for a while and likely they’ll let it run out but hopefully they’ll notice what the lack of vitamins feels like and take them from then on because they feel like it, not because you ever told them to.
You can meal-prep or snack-prep for someone close to you. I hear there are people who use food as love anyway so this shouldn’t be too out of the ordinary.
The point is I-made-you-something or I-bought-you-something communicates love better than telling them to include something in their diet or to go out and buy something.
Exercise is the master class I have yet to master though. People will get good emotional feedback from eating healthy pretty quick. I had a friend tell me the first day he didn’t have a huge, over-the-counter sandwich for lunch he noticed right away he didn’t feel like garbage in the afternoon.
It takes a long time to see and feel the benefits of regular exercise though. Extremely especially for people who think that exercise is only about losing weight. They will experience (or we fear they will experience) any recommendation to exercise as body-shame.
But even with people who know there’s big emotional benefits to working out and who haven’t built a habit of it yet it’s tough to be a Drill Sargent for people you care about – even though you’re doing it precisely because you care about them.
The inclination is to express your love by letting them be comfortable; by telling them it’s okay and they don’t have to take on anything more right now. We’re used to pushing ourselves and being austere and knowing exactly how tough we can talk to ourselves – but with others we go for the softest possible touch and move up from there until we give up.
In relation to anybody we know what the deal-breakers are and we know (vaguely) what the the ideal would be – but we don’t know how to navigate the in-between.
And it’s tough because I know all advice is autobiography. When I was a musician self-expression was the only reliable path to happiness for me so I recommended it, sternly, to everyone. It eventually became wrought and unreliable and I found that health was a much more reliable path and so now it is the hammer I use on the nail of anyone else’s unhappiness.
With so many people it simply may not be their time yet and you have to keep loving them anyway – and remembering that your encouragement is an act of love from you to them rather than a burden from them to you.
But you know, I also think back on some of the bizarre, hurtful, or unhelpful things people have said to me over the years on my faltering journey towards health and I see they always came from a place of love on their part – but it was a lazy, fearful love. People encouraging me not to quit drinking because I was fine; people telling me not to work out because I might hurt myself because I’m sickly; people telling me not to try something again and that maybe I wasn’t cut out for it because I’d failed and my feelings were hurt.
Bold love should make the people you love braver, it should make them joyfully want to be better, to reach higher and be sure they can reach higher. Your love shouldn’t be complicit in holding someone back – just as your self-love shouldn’t be complicit in holding you back, right?