For the past year, besides being a full time mommy, I have chosen to serve the world by coaching students who are on their way to becoming great health coaches themselves. There are many news reports and studies that validate how much health coaches are needed across America today and just how much they are helping to restore health, vitality and educate the masses about eating and living mindfully. It is a very fun experience that I truly enjoy and this week during my sessions with students I noticed something very interesting. Besides the fact that my students and I all seem to be on a very similar healing/health path (which was not easy to get on, for many of us) we all seem to have this one very big, difficult and oftentimes emotionally draining issue come up AGAIN, AGAIN...and AGAIN.
It is this: The health un-health of our own families. I'm talking about our immediate family, extended family, closest friends; all of our loved ones! Those whom we care about most. Those whom we want around us most often. We want them to have enough energy to enjoy running in the park with us, to swim with us, to play softball with us. Basically, to play with us and our children for a long, happy and fun lifetime!
Often these people you are trying to help most are just NOT hearing your message! It is foreign to them. It is a different language you are speaking! It is not in alignment with the choices they are currently making on a daily basis and so it IS NOT registering! But don't just get mad at them. Always remember the bigger picture: they are usually responding to the media messages that are conditioning them. Television, Billboards, OVERCONSUMPTION-by far, the biggest of all of our dis-eases! It is also not their fault that many of them are too tired at the end of the day from overworking AND being underpaid AND feeling stressed out trying to survive and thrive in this economy. I can see how a dollar menu sounds really delicious, intelligent and is appealing to most American families. This situation is a great opportunity for us to practice compassion. Real understanding and true compassion takes hard work and YOU have to do it if you really want to be able to help your family!
So for all of you health coaches and health coaches-in-training that are often brought to tears by your family's flat out refusal to LISTEN and for your fear of bringing up the conversation AGAIN. Here are several tips that I offer to empower you in this situation.
1.) STAY FOCUSED ON YOUR PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT. You are not doomed and can not blame it on your genes. You know too much already. You can't give up. Ever.
2.) LEAD BY EXAMPLE. For example, when you are around others at a family gathering who are eating less healthfully, choose differently. Don't just go along with what they are doing to make them feel better about their choices. Choose differently in a very subtle and non-arrogant way (they may already see you as a goody-two-shoes anyway). Find humor in that and always choose to make or bring your own healthy meal with you AND smile while you eat it. When they ask you about why you are eating that way and give you a hell of a hard time about it, just tell them the truth!! And in only ONE sentence. RESPOND: This is the nutrition my body requires and it is delicious! Important: you MUST smile when you say that. :) And then...DROP IT!! Which leads me to my next tip....
3.) NO PREACHING AT FAMILY GATHERINGS! Change the subject. Let it go! Now! You are not working. You are being social with the ones you love. If they want your advice, they will ask you for it at another time. If they ask for your suggestions at a gathering, tell them you will send them an email or set up a time for a phone call to do a health history consultation.
4.) REMAIN OPEN, PATIENT, APPROACHABLE. When they are ready, you want them to always feel comfortable coming to YOU for advice. It takes big time COURAGE to do so. Most people have a HARD time admitting that they REQUIRE or DESIRE help. Believe me! I know this can be really hard on you. Often times we find that we just want to cut off our loved ones after we have repeatedly tried to plant the seeds in their heads that they require changes immediately to avoid diabetes, obesity, heart disease, surgery, stress, pain, etc. Truth is: You can NEVER give up on your family because you DON'T really want to! That feeling right there...is....LOVE. Hold on to it. It keeps you alive and working!
5.) OFFER THE SIMPLEST, MOST ACTIONABLE SUGGESTIONS. When they do call, do NOT bombard them with every little thing you know or every theory you have ever heard or read about. We have their attention now!! Don't lose it by overwhelming them with too much information. Make 1-3 suggestions at a time. Simple ones such as:
- drink a big glass of fresh lemon water upon rising in the morning
- eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking up
- Avoid the dirty dozen as much as possible
- make one big yummy meal that lasts a few days instead of going out for fast food (quinoa, pot of beans, extra fish to put in salads for lunch etc)
- walk 30 minutes a day
- learn to make a superfood green smoothie
- committ to eating home cooked meals 5 x a week
You get the idea. You can go on and on here. Choose tips that resonate with you and that you truly believe your loved ones CAN and WILL implement.
6.) Dont take credit for their efforts or success! Just be glad they are making changes. Show them how happy you are that they have decided to lose weight, turn off the television, stop drinking sodas/alcohol, stop eating fast food etc. And then send them a handwritten letter expressing your sincere support.
And remember, there is at least one of us (health coach, health nut, weirdos) in every family!! ;) And for very good reasons: To light the way, to ignite the spark, to continue to plant the seeds. So do not ever feel like you alone on this very important mission. Never stop being who you are and are becoming. You are part of a beautiful ripple effect.
I dedicate this post to my little brother who just graduated from college, works hard everyday and has just lost over 45lbs AND to my little sister who refused gall bladder surgery, did a juice flush instead and is now healthfully and happily pregnant with her second baby!! And finally, to my beloved man, best friend and father of my child: You are my biggest inspiration! I love you!
One final tip: Always anticipate greatness from yourself and your loved ones as well. Even Today!! Namaste.