Recently I interviewed a guy who shed 90 pounds and reversed his type 2 diabetes with the help of his sister, who’d lost more than 200 pounds.
Together they’ve lost more than 300 pounds, and it couldn’t have happened to a couple of nicer people. But it’s gotten me thinking: As hard as it is to lose weight, it seems like it’s a million times harder to help someone else do it.
So how did Brittany succeed in helping her brother?
After listening to both sides of their story, it sounds like the biggest factor was that when he most needed help – when he was “broken and depressed” after leaving the doctor’s office, worried that his health was failing at age 32, with three kids and a fourth on the way – she dropped everything and made him up a detailed, customized diet plan.
She couldn’t just tell him what she did, because she wasn’t diabetic. She could eat energy bars before a workout, but he couldn’t have that many carbs. So she looked through her meal plans for low carb stuff she knew he’d like – lots of dishes made with ground turkey, like meatballs.
Quinton wasn’t going to hire a personal trainer like Brittany did, or even go to the gym. He’s got four kids now, including a baby. But she helped him brainstorm a workable exercise plan that would work for him: walking during his work breaks at a nearby minor league baseball stadium that’s open to walkers. He’d do one lap during his 15-minute breaks, two laps during his lunch break.
Between his exercise, his low-carb diet, and giving up sugary sodas, “the weight just fell off,” Quinton said.
The other key thing, besides providing frequent texting support (she lives in Nashville, Tenn, and he lives in Fort Wayne, Ind.), was sharing a personal rule that’s worked well for her: If you get off track, just get right back at it.
“I can’t emphasize that enough,” Quinton told me, noting how both siblings goodnaturedly ate their mom’s special Sunday brunch on Brittany’s most recent visit, but then went for a 4-mile walk that afternoon and got right back to their diets.
None of this sounds like rocket science. So why did it work for them, when my efforts to help family members have mostly failed?
Well, the big thing that strikes me is that for the first four years of Brittany’s weight loss, it didn’t work. While Brittany was busy shedding 200 pounds from 2012-2015, Quinton was in the midst of his biggest weight gain.
He was settling down, working a sedentary job, then coming home and sitting on the couch until going to bed. He found himself turning down gigs with a hip-hop band he’d once performed with because he was afraid, at 6-3 and 395 pounds, he might pass out on stage due to overexertion.
It wasn’t until he got the bad news from his doc, and began to fear that his health was in jeopardy, that he was ready to tackle his problem.
Did Brittany succeed in not nagging her brother before he was ready? I don’t know the answer to that. The important thing was, she remained a good influence by maintaining her weight loss and staying positive about it. And then when he did ask for help, she delivered.
So the moral of the story, I guess, is to stay positive and be ready to help if asked.
Note to self: No more nagging.