You can lead … but you can’t make a person lose weight

The metaphor, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink,” makes perfect sense.  Favorable circumstances, no matter how well intended, won’t force someone to do something if that they don’t want to.  This metaphor explains the behavior of human beings as well.  You can show a person where the water is located just like you can show the horse, but that individual must want to take a drink.

Now that you have that mental image, please let me explain why I put it there.

I hope that you do not ever feel like you have failed when you’ve tried everything in your power to help, possibly even attempted to force someone to live healthier so they would lose their excess weight… and they won’t do it.

No matter how much you love someone and want them to follow a well-intended path that will positively impact their life, they won’t until they want to.  You can show them the perfect pathway to living the life of their dreams, but they have got to do one thing on their own first:  they must want to.

The same goes for me.  When I was three hundred pounds, nobody could make me end my unhealthy habits of continuously overeating and avoiding all exercise.  Those habits didn’t end until I wanted to end them.  And I wasn’t going to live healthier until I wanted to.

I knew that every close friend and relative wanted me to and they were willing to help me out.  It’s only natural for those who love us to want to help us when they feel we need the help.

But I didn’t want their help.  All I really did want was for them to stop.

I’m not alone in my feelings.  Al Roker, the weatherman on NBC’s Today Show who successfully lost 160 pounds and has kept it off for nearly a decade, revealed some information that I could only nod my head in agreement with.   Roker wrote:  “Shut up. We know we’re fat. We know we need to lose weight,” “Your nagging us and pleading with us doesn’t help. In fact, in ways it makes it worse.” “It’s not that we don’t love you; it’s not that we don’t care. It’s just that right now, we’re not prepared to deal with it for whatever reason, whether it’s emotionally or physically,”  Al claims that he lost weight only when he was ready.

I lost my weight when I was ready.   Your loved one will begin living healthier and will lose weight when they are ready.    A line in the book I was reading this morning sums it all up:  “People change when they want to change; not when you want them to change.”

Please, I only share this advice because I have been there.  Give them time and they’ll take that first sip of the water that you “ever so gently” lead them towards … when they are ready.

Photo credit: squelchey

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