How to support someone who is on a diet or watching what they eat

Posted on November 23, 2020 by

It might be that someone in your life has decided to focus on making changes to their diet to improve their health or performance.

This positive step should be celebrated and supported. Changing habits and mindset can be a very personal thing. If this is a choice they have made then the best thing you can do is encourage them and create an environment where they can have ownership over their food choices.

For some people in the supporting role this can be tricky if they don’t understand why or how these changes will be made, what that means for everyone involved, or try to over invest in helping and taking over.

The best thing to do is not to judge but to connect with their goal and why they are doing it and what is best for them. Below are a few reminders of some instinctive reactions to be aware of if they come up.


1. Ask supportive questions

If you feel they are making changes for the wrong reasons or they are being unsafe in their new habits, rather than try to solve their problem or tell them they are going about it all wrong, ask questions about how they are feeling and if that is aligning with how they want to feel. Show care for them as a person rather than attack their food choices. Then you might get to a point where you can refer on to a dietitian, doctor or psychologist for the additional support they need.


2. Don’t judge based on your own knowledge or experiences

You can’t determine if someone’s diet is right or wrong by comparing it to what you might do yourself, especially if this is a child or spouse or they are an active individual and you are sedentary. You also don’t need to do what they do as you might have very different goals and energy demands.

In this instance, try not to question what they are doing just because you wouldn’t do it yourself or you don’t understand it. Asking ‘should you be eating that?’ will never result in a positive outcome. Instead you might ask them where you can read additional information to help you understand it more.


3. Try not to reward with food

They don’t need to spoil themselves for the good work they have been doing with a treat. If they want a treat as part of their diet then that’s more than fine, but not as a ‘reward’. If you notice an improvement, encourage that with supportive words on their dedication and positive impact on their health. It’s important to acknowledge the work they have done each day not just celebrate the outcome, which might be the case if you just comment on their looks or weight.


4. Include in social gatherings, they can still eat!

Life should not revolve around your diet. A good diet fits into the lifestyle you have and if this includes social gatherings then work with that to provide options for them to make better choices.  You don’t have to make everyone eat the same way but to provide options so that they feel welcome and also able to make appropriate choices. This might be as simple as adding vege sticks to a cheese platter.


5. Don’t be selfish and make it about you

Try not to provide a running commentary on their choices if you feel like you should be making better choices as well. Just let them do it. They don’t need to eat what you eat, they aren’t ‘being good’ to make you feel worse about yourself if you want to eat cake. So don’t be selfish and make it about you. They are making a choice which aligns with their goals, you can do the same thing if you wish but that might look different on a plate.


To those on a diet or watching what you eat

Take ownership over your own food choices. Everyone doesn’t have to eat the same way you are eating. Especially if it’s working, it doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. Focus on what you’re consuming and not don’t judge others by what you have chosen to change, limit or include.

Conversely, If you find you’re getting a lot of push back and negative reinforcement to sway or mislead you, remember why you are changing your habit and the health focus and outcome you wish to see as that may be more important than some momentary discomfort of going out of your way to make healthy happen.


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