Have you been in a situation where you knew exactly how to help a person you love, but they didn’t want to listen?
More than 4 years ago I started changing my diet. As I told in my previous article, I lost 40 pounds of fat and completely transformed my body and life. Naturally, I wanted to help the people I love the most. Both of my parents were overweight and had health challenges.
However, in the beginning they thought my new lifestyle was a joke and saw it as just another fad diet that I’d quickly give up on.
I was learning so much about nutrition, natural healing and healthy lifestyles. And it was becoming so painful to watch my parents destroy their health with unhealthy foods, like lots of meat, dairy and fried or processed foods.
My first attempts to help failed.
I knew exactly what they should do in order to heal themselves and reach a healthy weight, but they weren't ready to listen. I took it personally and I must admit, I felt sad about it.
It was painful when my parents were teasing me about my breakfast smoothie when I was visiting them. They joked, “So you’ve had your drink, what are you having for breakfast?" A large green smoothie was my breakfast.
Then, a miracle happened.
But then the miracle happened! More than a year ago, they asked me for help! I made a custom-tailored diet plan for them and coached them through the process.
Since a lot of people are struggling with trying to change a loved one's diet or lifestyle, I receive many questions about how I managed to accomplish Mission Impossible — changing my stubborn parents’ diets. So here’s what I did:
1. I finally accepted myself and decided that I didn't need approval from others (not even from my parents).
It may seem somewhat unrelated, but it’s actually the most important step. I was seeking approval, seeking to be understood and respected. Looking back, I can see that it was just a manifestation of my own insecurities, and lack of confidence and belief in myself.
Through my spiritual practice and self-development work, I eventually learned to fully accept and love myself. I remember the day when I first had that moment of clarity. I realized that I don’t need anyone’s approval to be happy, because I love and accept myself.
2. I stopped preaching.
I decided that I wasn’t going to convince my parents to believe in my approach, so I was just going to show them unconditional love and accept them as they were.
3. I became a shining example.
Actions speak louder than words. My success in losing weight, gaining abundant energy, a positive outlook and unconditional love was a lot more powerful than the best scientific evidence from the newest peer-reviewed study from a scientific magazine.
4. I didn’t expect anything.
I didn’t do all this because I was expecting that this “strategy” would make them change. This is the trap for most people. They look at withholding advice (biting your tongue) and acceptance as a new strategy to make people change. But then if you do, it means that you’re not genuine in your approach, and it most likely won't work. You have to be genuine.
I was shocked when one day (this was a few weeks after I decided to accept myself and stop preaching) my parents spoke to me and said that they were ready to change their diets.
5. I gave my best advice when I was asked.
They asked to make a diet plan for them and advise them as to how they could transition to a healthy whole foods diet. So I did, and helped them through the process.
In one year my mom has lost over 50 pounds and my dad lost about 40 pounds. They are my best success story, and I’m tremendously proud of them.
The most important lesson in my story is this: don’t have expectations and don’t take it personally if your loved ones don’t listen to your advice. After all, you can only control yourself. And ... it might seem like what you’re doing is not working, but you’re planting a seed and offering unconditional love, which is the best any of us can do!