The Gift of Elizabeth

NOTE: pronouns (he/she) were intentionally interchanged in this post

A few years ago I had a client approach me for a Valentine’s Day gift-certificate of Nutritional Counseling for her husband. "He really needs to start working out and eating better. He’s getting fat & I think he could really use your help." He never called me to schedule his appointments. I knew that he wouldn’t.

One would probably think that I would be a huge advocate of giving the gift of Elizabeth; after all, it’s a win for everyone. Right? Well, not necessarily.

Purchasing health related gifts for your loved ones is a delicate gift to give. This applies to purchasing personal training, nutritional counseling, gym memberships or even workout equipment and fitness gadgets like the bodybugg.

If you’re reading this blog, you are probably somewhat interested in your health. You know how good you feel by eating foods that are good for you, and how moving your body improves your mood, helps you sleep at night, and decreases stress. You see how uncomfortable your partner is, and if she just got started, you KNOW that she would be so much happier. You buy your significant other(SO) a few sessions with a personal trainer; just to get her jump-started. Your intentions are good, but she may not see it that way. It could surely backfire.

So why can’t we purchase health related gifts for our SO? Well, there are a few reasons:

  1. He will not be successful with someone else’s goal. It’s a funny thing about motivation and goals, but if they aren’t personal; if we don’t OWN them, the goal will never happen. In order to accomplish a goal, the most important aspect is that the person who is responsible for the goal is on board with result.
  2. Weight/Body Image is a very emotional topic. This is especially true with women. Weight, Body Image and Self-Esteem are very tightly intertwined for many folks. If the scale goes up (or down) 5 lbs, it can greatly affect a person’s mood. A small fluctuation like that isn’t going to make any difference in how people see us, or how we do our job, but it can have a profound effect on how we talk to ourselves & what we say that no one else can hear.
  3. Changing health behaviors is difficult! It’s about creating new habits. Creating a new habit is uncomfortable until it becomes automatic & you don’t have to think about doing it. Creating new habits takes a lot of mental time and energy. Your SO may not be prepared to do that.

As a health educator, I really want to help people see the light of eating well & moving their bodies. It’s already difficult to motivate someone who wants to see me; it’s impossible if that person doesn’t want to be there. I want all of my clients to feel good about themselves; I want everyone I work with to be happy; I want them to succeed; I want them to be walking, talking billboards for me & my services.

A reluctant client isn’t going to be any of these things. As a result, two things will happen: 1) She’s going to think I was bad at my job, won’t come to me when she is ready to make a change, won’t be happy, and will not refer her friends as clients. I can work her out, or teach her what she needs to know, but I can’t watch over her 24 hours a day 7 days a week. She needs to do it on her own. She’ll sabotage the efforts to be successful in favor of "being right". 2) His Self-Efficacy will go down. Self Efficacy is the belief that we have the ability to do something. He’s not going to feel good about future attempts at being healthier or losing weight because this time failed. This failed attempt will be proof as to why he can’t do it; even though he sabotaged himself.

How do you know if your partner would be receptive to a health related gift?

  • he has told you that he would like to see a personal trainer
  • he already sees a personal trainer & you’re just purchasing additional sessions
  • he has recently joined a health club & doesn’t feel comfortable using the strength training equipment

Indications that you should NOT get your SO a health related gift:

  • anything other than the reasons listed above

So you want your partner to be healthier. What should you do? First off, your heart is in the right place. It’s fantastic that your partner has someone who is so supportive. There are lots of folks out there who are trying desperately to change their health lifestyle, but their partners sabotage them either through bringing home tempting sugary treats or being openly hostile about how their life is changing as a result of the SO’s behavior change. But the truth is that YOU want your partner to be healthier. Giving your partner a gift isn’t about YOU. It should be about him. What does HE want? Does he want to be healthier? Are you sure?

Make sure that your intentions are in the right place: health not appearance. One of my mantra’s is that if we treat our body with the respect it deserves, weight will fall in line. Focus first on giving the body what it was made to eat and do (MOVE) and the appearance benefit of healthy eating and intentional exercise will begin to show.

Set a good example. Be inspiring & motivating through your actions. When she’s ready to make a change, she’ll do it. In order to commit to a new behavior, anyone has to really want it. An individuals decision to adopt healthy behavior is based largely upon the belief that the benefits of change will outweigh the costs of changing. One of the keys for success in change is that there has to be an internal motivator that will act as a switch to make her want to make a shift. When she does, you’ll be there to support her.