How to Make Lifestyle Changes

When someone you love is doing something you hate (smoking, overeating, drinking too much), staying silent isn’t really an option. Here’s how to encourage a change—without crushing his or her spirit.

Photo by Brian Rea

Here’s a fun activity. During dinner, ask your husband if he really needs that second helping of macaroni and cheese. Make sure you raise an eyebrow, maybe pinch a little pudge on his waist. He will thank you for the extra push he needed to lose those 10 pounds, put down his fork, and then lace up his running shoes for a midnight jog. ( You can’t start soon enough!)

In your 32-inch-waist dreams. You may have the best intentions in wanting to help a family member with an unhealthy habit, whether it’s a sister whose happy hour often stretches past dinnertime or a teenager who can’t put down the pizza. But how you approach the conversation can be the difference between lasting success and a lose-lose situation. “Family members expect unconditional approval from each other, and if a parent, spouse, or sibling suggests that a loved one needs to change, it can burst that bubble,” says Alice Domar, Ph.D., a psychologist and the executive director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health, in Waltham, Massachusetts. The fear of being the bad guy—or simply not knowing how to start—leaves most of us in one of two predicaments. We either wring our hands behind closed doors, or we let frustration build and explode during American Idol (“Ugh, that is your sixth cookie tonight!”). So how do you show tenderness during a tough conversation and get results? Start with this advice.