Friends and family play a major role in the success of your weight loss plan. Social support can help you stick to a diet and stay on track with a new exercise plan. But the people around you can have a negative impact as well. Sometimes, well-intentioned loved ones sabotage your success. The next time you find yourself struggling for weight loss support, use these solutions to get the help you need.
Situation: Family gatherings focus mainly on food.
Solution: Encourage members of your clan to offer lower calorie options during family feasts. Menus are often planned out of habit and tradition. With some education and encouragement, old family favorites can be blended with newer healthier options so that your weight-loss efforts aren't derailed when you sit down at the table. Offer to help with cooking, shopping or menu planning so that you know what choices you'll have before attending the get-together.
And skip the alcohol. Not only will drinking decrease your willpower, each ounce of booze contains about 100 calories. Add a mixer to the glass and each cocktail can total 300-500 calories or more.
Situation: Friends and family plan activities during your scheduled workout time.
Solution: It's easy for social pressure to get the best of you. Rather than trying to say "no" to attractive invitations, suggest an alternative plan instead. If a co-worker feels snubbed when you decline her happy hour invitation, see if she belongs to your gym and invite her to an exercise class. Or ask her to join you in a physical activity, such as a walk or indoor stair-climbing session during lunch.
On the weekends, plan exercise sessions that include your spouse or kids. Take the family on a hike and healthy picnic. Ride bicycles to the local farmer's market to get fruits and vegetables for the week. Schedule the activities in advance and write it on the family calendar so the time slot is protected.
Situation: You don't have friends who understand your weight-loss struggle.
Solution: Branch out! Many weight-loss programs include group support. Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and several other plans provide both in-person and online support. Many church groups and medical centers provide support groups, too. Take advantage of the sessions by connecting with other members. Set up a buddy system, suggest a recipe exchange or invite a fellow dieter for a walk or a healthy meal.
If you don't belong to a weight-loss group, search out online support. In a recent study of online weight loss support groups, researchers found that successful dieters appreciated the anonymity of the online experience. These communities are also a great place to share experiences and get non-judgmental feedback.
Situation: Loved ones offer food as comfort during times of stress.
Solution: Be clear about expressing your needs to others. Your weight-loss journey may take place through periods of job stress or relationship problems. Just the process of dieting can churn up feelings of insecurity, helplessness and frustration. This is normal.
When well-intentioned loved ones reach out to help by cooking for you or including you in social situations where sticking to your diet is difficult, be prepared with a response about a better way to help. Use one of these ideas to reduce stress or try one of your own.
- Attend a religious service together. Spiritual support has been shown to be a factor in successful dieting.
- Exercise together. Physical activity can help to reduce stress. Go for a walk or attend a dance class together.
- Ask for help with household chores. Tackling the to-do list with a friend may help alleviate feelings of being overwhelmed.
Situation: Friends or family members challenge your commitment or make harmful comments.
Solution: Remind yourself of the success you've already enjoyed and share your pride in your accomplishments. Be ready to counter negative comments with a positive affirmation.
Negative remark: "You won't even make it a week!"
Positive affirmation: "I'm glad I've made this investment in my health."
Negative remark: "You've never been successful before. You won't be successful this time either."
Positive affirmation: "Getting to a healthy weight is important to me. I'm proud of myself for my continued efforts."
Negative remark: "You are meant to be big. Just be happy with who you are."
Positive affirmation: "I like the goals I've set for myself."
Kevin O. Hwang, Allison J. Ottenbacher, Angela P. Green, M. Roseann Cannon-Diehl, Oneka Richardson, Elmer V. Bernstam, and Eric J. Thomas " Social support in an Internet weight loss community " International Journal of Medical Informatics Volume 79, Issue 1 , Pages 5-13, January 2010.
Nam, Sang Gon, M.S. The effect of social support on the success of a spiritual-church based weight loss program for African-American women Clemson University 2007.
Michaela Kiernan, Susan D. Moore, Danielle E. Schoffman, Katherine Lee, Abby C. King, C. Barr Taylor, Nancy E. Kiernan and Michael G. Perri. Social Support for Healthy Behaviors: Scale Psychometrics and Prediction of Weight Loss Among Women in a Behavioral Program Obesity October 13, 2011