Having only yourself to rely on when you're trying to lose weight can be tough. In fact, a little help from your friends may be just what you need to make it over the hump and lose that extra weight that's been slowing you down.
It's Better When You're Not Alone
A 2005 study published in "The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology" tracked the weight-loss efforts of people working with buddies instead of going it alone. Over an 18-month period, there were some encouraging results. It seems that success rubs off, and if you lose weight in the company of others who are also successfully shedding the pounds, you're more likely to take it off and keep it off. The test group was involved in exercise as well as dieting, which leads to some interesting insights on how the dynamics of "buddy" dieting might work. Being accountable to someone else when you just don't feel like doing crunches is one way to stay on target (especially when they're struggling, too) and still manage to get they're exercises done [source: Gorin].
Picking Your Partner
The old saying, "A high tide raises all boats," might be very true for buddy dieting. Your best chance of being successful over the long haul is to be part of a group of dieters who are determined to succeed. This isn't the only important element, though. Personal style also plays a role. Where your wife might be easygoing about your endearing habit of always having a second helping of cheesecake, what you appreciate in a mate may not be what you need in a weight-loss buddy. The dynamics of your buddy group will have to challenge your entrenched habits without being so harsh that you can't keep up -- or don't want to. That means pushing boundaries, but only so far. This can be a delicate process that may require tact and persistence. Eating and exercise can be touchy subjects, especially when you're not at the top of your game. There are some strategies you can employ when shopping around for the best weight-loss buddies:
- There's Safety in Numbers - If you're part of a larger dieting group, it may be easier to find a couple of people whose style works best with yours. You can match up with different buddies until you find a good fit. Persistence is the key. Don't give up. The perfect buddy or buddy group is out there.
- Consider Online Buddies - If you want to get your feet wet but hesitate about making a face-to-face commitment, you can try hooking up with a buddy online. For some people, cyberspace provides a comfortable distance while still offering structure. Accessibility is important, though. Make sure that your buddy or buddies are easy to get in touch with and have the same level of commitment you do.
- Make up a Contract - You knew it was coming: the dreaded contract. The easiest way to make sure everyone understands how to proceed is by spelling things out. It's also the best way to weed out participants who aren't quite ready for the commitment. You should set down goals and expectations, including weight and exercise goals, as well as how accessible you'll be to one another. If the plan is to get together three times a week and e-mail one another daily, then that should be spelled out clearly in the contract. Make it specific, but keep it flexible enough to be workable.
The road to weight loss doesn't have to be a lonely one. In fact, the more the merrier is a good motto, especially if you pick a group or just one good friend who's dedicated to getting the weight off. It can be your husband, sister, neighbor or even just a struggling soul on the other side of the world with a will and an Internet connection. You can become a force for good in one another's lives, and that's pretty heavy, no matter how you look at it.