Weight Loss: Ways to Help a Loved One Lose Weight (cont.)

8. Encourage a healthy lifestyle, not just weight loss. "By encouragement, I mean participation," says Waugh. "Don't just tell someone they need to walk more, offer to walk with them .... The point here is to encourage a healthy lifestyle overall by making it a part of the time you spend together."

9. Learn about their weight loss program. Make an effort to learn as much about their diet plan as you can -- the kinds of foods they're eating, how the plan works, and what it involves, such as attending meetings or participating in online support groups. Then, respect the time they want to devote to these activities -- and don't nag if that means spending a little less time with you, Wolfe-Radbill says. "If you learn about their diet plan you won't have to ask them as many questions, and more of their behaviors and choices may make more sense," she says.

10. Be positive! This is the most important tip of all. When you're fighting a battle, says Wolfe-Radbill, nothing beats the feeling of knowing there's someone who believes in your ability to win. "If the dieter stumbles, and feels bad about themselves, remind them of their other accomplishments and encourage them to move forward -- and whatever you do, don't throw in the towel with them, no matter how discouraged they may sound," she says.

What Not to Do

While it's vital for family and friends to concentrate on the positive things that can help a dieter, it's also important to check some negative habits at the door. Our experts offer this checklist of what not to do when someone you love is on a diet:

1. Don't tempt them. Respect the dieter's food choices, and don't tempt them with a "bite" or a "nibble." " Not only can this take the dieter off track, at the end of the week, bites and nibbles add up and can sabotage a weight loss plan," says Wolfe-Radbill.

2. Don't become the "food police." "You can ask someone if they'd like you to play that role, but I can almost guarantee they won't," says Waugh. As such, don't take on the role of reciting out loud everything a person eats, or locking away food you think they shouldn't have, or reprimanding them for eating the "wrong" thing.

3. Don't say anything to the dieter you wouldn't want said to you. While you may not be struggling with a weight problem yourself, Wolfe-Radbill says, think of a challenge you're trying to overcome, then think about how you'd feel if someone was "in your face" about it.

4. Don't use judgmental language. "Avoid phrases such as 'Did you stick to the plan today?' Or 'You should have been more careful,' or 'Why did you eat that?' You are not the umpire of their life, so remember it's not your role to criticize or judge," says Baard.

5. Don't overdo -- anything! "Don't bombard the dieter with weight loss books and articles, subscriptions to fitness magazines, or low-calorie cookbooks unless they say that's what they want," says Wolfe-Radbill. She reminds us that even when that kind of behavior is invited, it's easy to overdo it and come off as rude: "Keep a lid on the helpfulness, and when in doubt, think under-do, not overkill!

Originally published February 10, 2006.
Medically updated February 16, 2007.

SOURCES: Barrie Wolfe-Radbill, RD, New York University Surgical Weight Loss Program, New York. Jennifer Waugh, RD, LDN, clinical nutrition manager, Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore. Paul P. Baard, PhD, motivational and sport psychologist; associate professor, Fordham University.

©2007 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.

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