Awkward conversations: How to encourage your mate to eat healthier

As you watch your mate gulp down a large stack of food, wash it down with a fizzy drink, and then casually suggest it’s time for dessert, you might get a sinking feeling in your stomach that has nothing to do with the fish’n’chips you just ate.

For you, a takeaway meal might be an occasional treat, balanced by an otherwise-healthy diet and regular exercise. But for others, a meal made up of mostly processed foods may be the norm (and a dangerous one at that).  

It’s awkward, it’s nerve wracking, and it’s probably something they already know – but need a genuinely good friend to help them kick the habit and get their health back on track.  That’s where you come in.  

So what’s the deal with BMI?

BMI stands for Body Mass Index. It’s basically just a ratio of your weight to height. In other words, how much you should weigh based on how tall you are. You can measure your BMI pretty easily at home or you can use a BMI calculator.  Generally, anything under 18.5 could be considered underweight while 25 or higher could mean you’re overweight .

Keeping your BMI in-check means you have a lower risk of things like diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis. It might also keep your clothes fitting better and make it easier to take out life insurance, so why not consider getting your mate in on these great benefits? But keep in mind that healthy living isn’t just about numbers so it’s always better to speak to a doctor if you have specific health concerns.

How to have those awkward conversations

Getting your mate to eat healthy and live well is a big ask, but there are a few techniques you could try. You know your friend best and how to approach them without being insulting.

To begin, remember that your job isn’t to shame or preach to your mates. They likely already know about the dangers of an unhealthy lifestyle, so you don’t want to risk coming across as condescending.  

Instead, come from a place of concern and make it 100% clear that you want to see them healthy and happy. Don’t be judgmental or place blame – they might be doing enough of that for themselves already.

Here’s some casual phrases you can try to start the conversation:

  • “Mate, you know that if you were worried about me, but felt awkward about saying anything, I’d still want you to say it, right?”
  • “It’s been a pretty forgettable year for all of us. I’ve really struggled to keep up with exercising and eating well, so I totally get it, but we should look at getting back on track”
  • “I’ve recently been focusing a bit more on what I eat. I’m looking to start an exercise plan too – are you keen to join me?”
  • “I’m just gonna say it because I care about you, and seeing you happy makes me happy. But are you doing ok? I know you usually make a point to eat better than this.”

You’ll notice a lot of these prompts make the conversation about you. That’s because while you’re talking about your friend, it can take the pressure off them to make it about how you want to see them healthy and happy, how you care about them, and how you’re worried about them.

It avoids accusatory language (“Should you be eating that?”) and opens up the conversation so they can talk about what’s going on. That’s your chance to listen, show how much you care, and encourage healthier choices.

Play it cool

Ultimately, you can’t force them to do anything. It has to be their choice to make the change, as it’s their will power and determination that will make it happen. Aside from starting the conversation, you can be there to join them for exercise, have them over for healthy dinners, and lead by example by choosing healthier meals when you’re dining out.

And if all else fails, subtly mention how they could end up with additional health worries. You never know, that might be the one thing that helps them to step back from the takeout and onto the treadmill.