So you've decided to change your eating habits.
Have you thought about getting support in making this
Having the support of people close to you is an important
part of change. It doesn't matter if you're changing a job, a routine, or how
you eat—support gives you a better chance of making the change work.
- Support can come from lots of people. Your
family and friends can help you change how you eat, but you also can get help
- Support comes in many forms. It can be positive words
and actions or gentle reminders to stay on track.
- Support works.
Research shows that getting support from spouses, family members, and friends
is important in making behavior changes that affect health.1
- Some people that you may expect to support you may not help you
and may even make it harder for you to succeed.
- You can decide who you want to share your plans for change
How can your family and friends help you?
Your family and friends can do a lot to help you change how you
eat, but you need to talk to them about it.
- Tell your family and friends why you're making
this change. Give them your reasons, and explain why they are important to
- Tell them that you would like their help, but that you don't
expect them to change their lives for you. If they're willing to make some of
the same eating changes as you are, then that's great. But they can support you
even without changing how they eat.
Support from your family
Here are some ways that
you and your family can team up.
- Keep to a regular family meal schedule. Families that regularly
eat meals together tend to eat healthier foods and be closer to a healthy
weight than those who don't.
- You may be able to talk with your family about making some of
the same eating changes you are. This may take compromise on everyone's part.
It may mean eating less of some foods and more of others.
- If what
you eat is different from what your family eats, ask them to eat a meal from
your food plan once a week. If they see that this is as tasty as the food
they're eating, they may choose to eat more of what you're
- Set up "no food" zones in the house. Make one room
food-free. You can use this room to do things that you may have done in the
kitchen while eating, such as paying bills or helping the kids with homework.
Staying out of the kitchen may help you stay with your eating plan.
- Put away foods that you
don't want to eat so that they are out of sight. Ask family members not to
leave food on the table when they are finished eating.
- Set up a
kitchen or refrigerator shelf that is just for healthy foods that you want to
eat. When you're hungry, you'll have several healthy
- Discuss your family routines. If you take the kids out for
pizza once a week, could you make a healthier pizza at home instead? Or you
could go out to eat but order a salad and other healthy foods with the pizza.
This way you can fill up on other foods and eat fewer slices of pizza. See if
you can find something you can all agree on.
Support from your friends or family
Here are some
ways that your friends or family can help you. Ask them to:
- Not say negative things about you or what you
- Be positive about your desire to change. Let your family and
friends know that you'd like to hear encouraging words from time to time, and
that their words and actions mean a lot. Hearing how well you are doing with
your new eating habits helps you stay with your plan.
- Celebrate with you when you reach your
goals. Take a cooking class or go to the movies together. Remind yourself and
others that you're successful.
- Help you make healthy
food choices. Ask them to encourage you to eat more fruits and vegetables, for
- Encourage you when you slip away from your eating plan. A
reminder of how well you've done will help you get back on track.
- Respect your new eating habits and not urge you to eat foods
that you don't want to eat.
Many people find that having a partner or "food buddy"
makes the change easier. A food buddy is someone who is also making changes in
his or her eating habits.
It's motivating to know
that someone is sharing the same goals. Your food buddy can remind you how far
you've come and support you when you're having a hard time following your
eating plan. You and your buddy can talk about healthy recipes, ways to plan
regular meals, and how to fit small amounts of your favorite foods into your
food plan, for example.
You may find that some friends or family
members say or do things that make you feel bad. They seem not to want you to
succeed. They may urge you to eat more than you want, make negative comments
about your new eating habits, or point out how many times you may have slipped
If this happens, it's important to talk to these people. They
may not even be aware that they are doing it or that it bothers you. If you
need to, ask them to stop doing this. You also can ask them why they are
behaving this way. You might find that they are worried that your change is
leaving them out or that you are making them look bad. They may not like
the attention your change is getting you.
If this is the case,
ask them what you can do to help them. Often, an honest talk is all that is
Other types of support
You also can look for
support outside of your family and friends.
- Join a healthy-eating class or support group. People in these
groups often have some of the same barriers that you have.
Internet has many online forums and chat rooms for people who are trying to
make changes in food choices. You can read and leave messages and chat online
with others for support.
- A local hospital or other health facility
may have a wellness center or support groups.
- If part of your plan is to become more active, see if anyone in
your exercise class or neighborhood wants to change how they eat.
Return to Healthy Eating: Getting Support When Changing Your Eating Habits
Thompson WG, et al. (2007). Treatment of obesity.
Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 82(1): 93–102. Available