Short answer: You don't.
At the beginning of this journey, people wanted to know a lot about how I was going about losing weight and sticking to it. What was I eating? What were my fitness goals? Later on, questions started pouring in about how I felt in my new body. Was it different? Did I have more energy? However, following the publication of my "success" story on Nerd Fitness, there's been a huge upswing in questions from people who want to know how to approach their friends about their weight issues and get them to change.
It wasn't someone telling me to lose weight that caused me to take up arms and accept the mission. In fact, for years people told me to do something about my health and the more they insisted, the more I dug in my heals. To be told by someone you trust and love implicitly that you are less than acceptable in their eyes can be extremely hurtful, and what's more, that particular "f-word" can sting forever. I still remember every time that someone used it in regard to me whether it was out of the desperation of love or as a jibe. It hurts just the same either way and you can guarantee that when that person gets ready to face their demons, they are not going to come to you for empathy, guidance, and support.
When a doctor or a parent told me I was overweight to the point where it would affect my health significantly, aside from the very first time when I was elementary school and I wouldn't have realized otherwise, I always wanted to ask them if they thought I didn't know that.
I look in the mirror every morning. I can see that I'm fat. It's old news. Telling me isn't going to make me have some huge revelation that I haven't had already. Seeing photos of yourself where you've significantly gained weight since the last time you saw yourself in a picture or attempting to do something you could always do physically and then finding out you're unable to do it anymore- those are the things that will make you hit rock bottom and realize that you need to change for yourself and not for anyone else. I feel like I can pretty much guarantee you that the impetus to lose weight and keep it off never came from someone telling someone else they were fat. Truly finding redemption for your body through health and fitness isn't about anyone else but you.
That's why it can be hard when we watch the people we love going down roads we know are toxic for them. At the end of the day, you can't want it enough for them. They have to want it themselves. So how can we help them along the way?
Let's look at some successful redemption tales, shall we?
Xena doesn't decide to change her ways because someone tells her she's an evil warlord. When they do that, she laughs in their face and slaughters their entire village. She eventually changes because of the people in her life. Hercules and Gabriel see her for her potential as a whole person and not just a force of destruction.
In Buffy, Spike doesn't change his ways because of a chip in his head. That limits his behavior, but it's Buffy's presence in his life that causes him to want redemption- to chase after his lost soul.
In Star Trek: Deep Space 9, Quark slowly changes his smarmy cheating Ferengi ways because he's deeply affected by the people living around him on the station. Without them, he wouldn't ever start sticking his neck out for people or making selfless acts.
These characters change because people in their lives set an example for them to follow that they admire.
So what do you do to be that example for your friends so they can morph into the rerolled heroes they were meant to be?
You can love them for who they are right now, inside and out. Tell them that you do, because more than likely, they berate themselves and think they're worthless because of the place they've let themselves get to without doing anything. Tell them they matter to you. Make them feel good about themselves. If they feel good, then they'll think they're worth fighting for.
You can "be the change you want to see in the world," as Ghandi said. Tackle your own health and addictions. Sometimes seeing someone else succeed is what will inspire someone to take charge of their own problems.
You can educate yourself on nutrition and fitness so that when they are ready to ask questions, you have answers.
You can empathize with them and make them feel validated when they open up to you about their emotions, health related or not. That way, when they are ready to expose themselves and do the work to get healthy, they'll feel like you've created a safe harbor for them to express their trials and tribulations. They're going to need a fellowship to get that ring to Mordor and you could be a part of it.
I'm certainly not an expert and I don't have all the answers. I just know how I've been affected by these kinds of confrontations and more importantly, how I'd like to be treated. So how 'bout it? If you have any related questions, advice, or experiences you'd like to share, please leave them in the comments.