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I really care about exercise and health. I was a decent athlete growing up and played a few sports in high school. Since then, I’ve continued to take my health pretty seriously. I eat 5 planned out meals every day including a moderate portion size for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as 2 small snacks in between like a banana or other fruit. I have stayed active with exercise and have joined both a Ballys and a crossfit gym to help keep my body guessing and to stay fit. I try to avoid any unhealthy foods like donuts or pizza and avoid smoking like it’s the plague. Most of my colleagues look pretty similar to me and go out of their way to also live healthy lifestyles. We regularly talk about the new health foods we’re trying out or new exercises we’re getting into. I go to the same gym as a few guys and gals I work with.
However, one of my colleagues is significantly overweight. He gets along with everyone really well and he is a super nice guy. But it pains me to see him eat the things that he does. Almost every meal I see him eat at work is a large frozen dinner and he always has a bag of potato chips on his desk that he is eating during the day. I can’t help but think that he is killing himself. I want to say something to him and even help him. I could give him helpful tips about my eating habits and could set up a workout routine for him. But I have no idea how to do all this. I don’t want to make him feel bad about himself but I also don’t feel like I can just sit by idly. Is there something I can say to him or should I just let it go?
-Want to Help
Dear Want to Help,
Listen, I eat kale and organic chicken because I know it’s good for me, but I’d rather eat the bag of chips. I skip the chips because I’m making a healthy decision. It’s a choice. You can’t just go around preaching and telling people how to live their lives, especially if this colleague has never reached out for help. You may have the greatest nutrition plan and workout regiment in the world, but extending your services without being asked will most likely result in your colleague feeling attacked and preached over.
The best way to promote your healthy lifestyle is to lead by example. Your colleague may very well like his chips and frozen meals and not give a damn. If that’s the case, it’s his life, and you need to let it go. Continue doing your fit thing while staying positive and supportive. You have lead an active lifestyle but you have to understand that your colleague may be making these food choices because he does not know any different.
The best way to promote your healthy lifestyle is to lead by example.
If you feel like you absolutely cannot contain yourself from saying something, find a way to be as kind as possible. Have you thought about getting the office together to play an intramural sport? By extending an invitation to everyone in the office you are not singling out this colleague but rather inviting everyone into some healthy office team building.
Dear Want to Help,
You may have missed your calling as a fitness guru! You take really good care of yourself and you take pride in that. Because of your excitement, you have an interest in spreading the gospel of good health and believe that it could help one of your colleagues.
For the most part, this is a terrible idea. Even if approached in the most careful way, it could be offending. Your decision to approach him should be informed by how important this is to you and how engaged you are in the relationship. If you aren’t strongly convinced by either of those, leave the health interventions to someone else. While this could be a risky decision to approach him, it could also be one that helps your coworker lead a healthier lifestyle and could add years to his life, IF you approach it in the right way. You should also consider that if you go about this the wrong way, it may harm your co-worker and could get you into trouble within the company.
It will be important that if you decide to move forward that it isn’t just a fly-by comment or two, but instead sharing within a relationship. It will be important to consider that there could be many different factors that could contribute to someone’s health decisions including a lack of information, family experience, and unresolved mental health issues, to name a few. You will need to be able to communicate care for him while also sticking with non-judgment language. Realistically, that may work by sharing your own story of health and focusing on the positive, future-focused aspect of his health.
It will be important that if you decide to move forward that it isn’t just a fly-by comment or two, but instead sharing within a relationship.
For example “I really love the gym I go to…would you be interested in checking out the gym with me?” is quite different than “You should go to the gym.” If you do approach him, it will be important to consider that he may or may not be responsive to your discussion.
However, if he has any interest, you may just be the push he needed to make some changes to improve his health. In the event that you don’t feel able to share about yourself or aren’t quite sure about investing in the relationship, your intended efforts to help could really backfire. If this is the case, it would probably be best to keep your thoughts to yourself. At the end of the day, acceptance is key. While we can try to influence others for the better, it is their life and we can only accept them as they are.