Warning: reading this post may create illusions of power and seasons of marital amazement.

Yes, I got my husband to change. When we first met Al was a smoker, and had been for 45 years. He was seriously overweight, and had been much of his life. He ate – and loved – the typical unhealthy American diet. He drank nothing but Coke and diet orange soda, and rarely ate fruits and vegetables. He was on a number of medications, and was frequently ill.

Today things are completely different. He hasn’t smoked since we got married: that was a huge accomplishment, and made a big difference in his health right away. Now he drinks water most of the time, and has a Coke perhaps every 3 months. I can’t remember when he last ate processed meat, and he greatly misses his fruits and vegetables if we don’t have them. He’s lost 65 pounds, and is off a number of his medications. He feels like he is healthy enough to stick around for a while now!

How did I get him to change? (Hint: this is where the illusions of power come!)

  1. I didn’t set out to change him! People can tell the difference. If you love someone first, change MAY happen. If you try to change someone before loving them they will dig in their heels and never change. This is the most powerful point of all.
  2. I tackled things with him that he wanted to change. Stopping smoking was the hardest and first change he asked for help with. I helped him with medication, put up with his chewing gum, and bought him snacks when he asked for them. He gained weight at first. Then when he was ready to change his eating habits we worked on that, and the weight started taking care of itself.
  3. I made it easy for him. He hated water, so I compromised. I prepared Crystal Light for him: it was much healthier than soda, and closer to water. It was a bridge to drinking healthier. When I discovered a healthier food he liked, I made sure it was always available.
  4. I helped him focus on the positive. When he felt bad that his efforts were not giving results, I would remind him of how far he had come – how much weight he had lost, or things he could do now that he couldn’t do before. When he became a connoisseur vegetable shopper at the farmer’s market I let him take over that household chore.
  5. I encouraged always, nagged never. Al will tell you that never once did I nag him about smoking, what he ate, or losing weight. I believe that is crucial to his success. I became his biggest cheerleader, and celebrated every positive change and every good result. I tell him often how proud I am of the things he has changed, and that provides wonderful motivation for him.

Al will tell you that he changed because of me. Perhaps that’s true. But he will also tell you that I never asked him to change. That was his doing, and I’m glad to be his biggest fan.

Honey, I’m proud of you!

Your turn. Is there someone you hope will make a lifestyle change? How are you helping them do so? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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