How do you coax without pushing someone away?

Anyone who’s been following along knows that I have hardly been a model of fitness and healthy lifestyle here.  At the same time I’m (hypothetically) trying to be proactive at avoiding health problems that creep up in later years.  It’s not lack of knowledge or following trends but instead a lack of execution.  When it comes to watching loved ones around you that are in the midst of having health problems that are caused by or substantially exacerbated by lifestyle choices that everyone knows are bad what can one do?

The first impulse is perhaps to call out the behavior and point out the problems that it’s causing.  It’s one thing to say, “If you keep doing this then you may eventually get that disease.”  It’s another thing to say, “The disease you already have is being caused by this thing you keep doing and it is only going to get worse unless you stop.”  In a podcast I recently listened to a doctor was being interviewed about why doctors often don’t follow the advice that they give their patients but their patients often follow it well.  The stark answer is, “I have their disease on my side.”  In other words, when it’s some ethereal thing that may happen it’s hard to stay motivated to be on the straight and narrow but when the difference is that you will literally die in the next couple of years then there is a lot more motivation to keep at it.  So, what happens when that message isn’t penetrating?  What happens when their disease isn’t helping you win their argument.

We cannot live other people’s lives for them, even when they ask you to.  It’s substantially compounded when that person isn’t interested in making changes and even more compounded when you aren’t living with that person day in and day out.   I’ve thought about trying to bring up some new books on the topic I just read and to do a read along.  How much read along would I actually get out of it though?  I thought about pointing to people that we mutually know that dealt with the same diseases for the last years of their lives and how miserable it made them.  You’d think that’d be the forefront of their mind since they are already suffering from those same diseases.  Yet if it hasn’t penetrated yet what would make it penetrate?  Perhaps an intervention would be in order but that’s one moment in time, not something consistent.  If anything that may cause further alienation.

There are really two stark scenarios that play out.  The first is that a person who has diseases that they can manage with lifestyle changes and ultimately be happier from it needs to have you show them the way and actually make it happen for themselves but the road there could be filled with tough discussions and potentially alienation.  The other scenario is to know all of that and to always stay silent in order to avoid confrontation and potential alienation but watch them become more and more miserable in the lifestyle diseases whose mitigation or even cure you know they can have at their disposal if they would just do it.  I honestly don’t know which scenario intimidates me more.   The worst case scenario is actually the merger of those two: make a big stink about it and alienate the person who then not only continues to engage in their unhealthy behaviors but then also missing out on the quality time you may have been able to have.

I wish I had an answer at the end of the post but I don’t.  It’s a needle that I don’t know how to thread at this point…

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