How to talk to your family about health
Clinical psychologist Dr Cindy Nour, GP Dr Ronald McCoy, accredited practising dietitian Aloysa Hourigan and exercise physiologist Dr Adam Fraser offer advice and appropriate conversation starters that you can use to talk to your loved ones about their health and wellbeing.
How to help your husband:
Dr McCoy says that helping your hubby get healthy is vital. “In Australia, one man dies every five minutes due to preventable diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes,” he says. Dr Nour suggests taking the pressure off your spouse by making yourself the focus instead of them. “Say, ‘I’d like to start going for a walk after dinner – could you please help me stay motivated by coming along, too?’.” Hourigan agrees that planning to do healthy things together as a couple, is key: “Plan meals and shop and cook together.” Dr Fraser adds: “And encourage your spouse to join a sports group with mates. This way, he gets to hang out with his friends and exercise at the same time.”
How to help your child:
“Overweight children can become overweight adults,” says Dr McCoy. “To avoid this, you need to start building healthy behaviours in childhood. Aim to be a good role model by providing a healthy, active environment for your kids.” If you are concerned about your child’s weight, see your doctor before making any amendments to their dietary intake, as children have specific nutritional needs while growing. And be very mindful about how you talk to your children about any issues surrounding their weight, advises Dr Nour. “With children, it’s best not to mention food or their bodies,” she says. “Why? Because it can have extremely negative ramifications on their relationship with food and their body image.” Instead, she suggests instigating active outdoor family activities by saying, “It’s a nice day, so let’s go and play in the park.” Dr Fraser agrees that emphasising ‘play’ is key. “For kids, the key element is fun. If an activity is not fun they won’t do it, so play games together,” he says. Think hide-and-seek, throwing a Frisbee around or walking the dog – as long as it gets them outdoors and moving in a way they enjoy. Hourigan adds: “Don’t restrict any foods, but do make sure ‘junk foods’ are only available for special occasions.”
How to help a parent:
“One of the most important things nutrition-wise is to keep elderly parents interested in preparing and eating healthy meals,” says Hourigan. Enrol in a cooking class together, invite them over for a home-cooked dinner once a week or arrange to have healthy groceries delivered direct to their door in order to make preparing healthy meals easier. And when it comes to physical activity, Dr Fraser says it’s important to be empathetic with your parents, as they grow older. “They might be fearful of looking silly or being unable to do certain exercises. If you nag them, this will only add to the negative association they might have. Encourage them to be active by walking together to their local shops, participating in active pastimes together or finding a seniors’ exercise group for them where everyone is at the same life stage.”