Body, Mind & Spirit: How to be a better health-nag

Most people don’t like a nag. So when it comes to important issues like physical fitness, a bit of diplomacy is in order – especially when it involves your spouse. “If you nag they just get mad,” says Jamie Moore, a registered dietitian at Lake Wales Medical Center. “It’s more leading by example.”
“Show how it is helping you,” agrees Belinda Rieger,director of Rehabilitation Service and Wound Care for Davenport’s Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center. “The motivation has to come from within.”
Instead of regularly reminding them to exercise, you can find a fun way you can exercise together. That might mean biking, jogging or walking together instead of attending your nearly all-female aerobics class. It might mean going for a rowboat ride or even bowling.
Moore suggests putting exercise equipment in the middle of a room where it may wreck the décor but where you’ll see it and be inspired to use it. “Who wants to get out in the hot garage and exercise?” Moore asks. “Plea-se.”
Using diplomacy doesn’t mean you have to keep quiet about your concern for their health, however. Rieger suggests you should be honest about your feelings. “They might be more willing to exercise,” she says.
It’s important to remain encouraging even if they can’t keep up with you on the jogging trail. “Try to be at their level instead of making them feel bad,” she suggests. “Be sensitive.”
Rieger says you also may take advantage of 2-for-1 specials offered by personal trainers. “Sign them up for a surprise.” Involving another person may act as a buffer to discourage arguments.
In the long run, persistence can be a good thing. Behind many recovering couch potatoes there may be a nag.
A recent study from the University of Lincoln in England found adults over 30 are more likely to exercise if nagged by their loved ones. Subjects who were the least active told researchers they needed and even appreciated regular reminders and pestering by spouses and children, according to findings presented in April at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society in London.
Negativity, however, can boomerang. “If you are constantly – and negatively – trying to push someone to do something by saying things like ‘Look how fat you are! You should go to the gym’ or ‘Stop eating so much! You’re going to look like your mother’, then the other person is just going to feel awful and ignore you in self-defense,” says Miami-based psychiatrist and wellness expert Gabriela Cora. “On the other hand, if you nag but associate it with a positive result, this could make a difference.”
An example would be reminding a loved one how good it felt when he or she was more active. “If you’re going to try and gently nudge your partner to exercise, it had better be very delicate or you can create a big relationship problem,” says psychotherapist Tina Tessina, who counsels couples and individuals in Long Beach, Calif. “Take the weight loss issue off the table. Instead, focus on health, longevity and fun. If you cook healthy food, invite your partner to take walks with you and generally live a healthier lifestyle, that’s the best way to influence your partner.”

CREDITS
story by Cheryl Rogers and Dawn Klingensmith