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How to Start a Weight-Loss Program

How to Use a Support Group to Lose Weight

Losing weight is much easier if you build a team of people you can turn to for support, comfort, understanding, or helpful ideas. Here are some effective strategies for evaluating and building the social support in your life:

Step 1: Evaluate your social network.

Identify your allies -- people who'll support your weight-loss efforts -- and your saboteurs -- those who might undermine your efforts. The most obvious place to start looking for your allies is in your family, but friends and coworkers can also be allies.

Spend time with those who'll help, not hinder, your efforts. For example, if you're trying to cut back on calories, don't meet Jane the food-pusher or your drinking buddies after work. Meet with people who'll exercise with you and reinforce your efforts.

Step 2: Tell allies how to help.

Other people can't read your mind. The only way to get what you want is to ask for it. So be clear about how you want others to support you. Requests such as "Help me out more" or "You're making it impossible for me to lose weight" are too vague.

Here are a few examples of specific things that you might ask your allies to do:

To provide daily encouragement and support:

  • Ask them to praise beneficial behavior changes, not the weight loss itself. Positive feedback shouldn't depend on how many pounds you've dropped, because weight loss may be slow at times. Positive behavior changes, such as eating slowly or revising recipes, can occur at any time and deserve support.

  • Ask them to avoid criticizing your efforts even if you fall off your plan.

  • Ask them to call or talk to you and explore solutions with you when you're having trouble with your plan.

  • Ask them to walk or exercise with you. Sharing an activity can replace the usual eating ritual of so many social get-togethers.
To reduce your exposure to food:
  • Ask them to avoid offering you food or giving you food as a gift. Assure them you'll ask for what you want to eat.

  • Ask them to avoid eating "problem" foods in your presence.

  • Ask them to clear the table and put food away as soon as the meal is over.

  • Ask them to store food out of sight in the kitchen.
To reduce the importance of food:
  • Ask them to minimize "food talk" with you.

  • Ask them to demonstrate affection with hugs, kisses, or words -- not food.

  • Ask them to invite you to activities that don't revolve around eating -- such as movies, plays, or sporting events.

  • Ask them to entertain with lower-fat, reduced calorie foods.

With such clear-cut suggestions, people close to you will know how to support you. In the past, they may have felt left out or didn't think you wanted their help, because you never told them exactly what you needed.

When people help you, don't just thank them. Acknowledge the specific behavior you would like repeated, as well. For example, you might say something like "Thanks for not buying ice cream. It really helps when it's not in the house." Don't be too general and say, "Thanks for being so helpful." And be sure to ask what you can do for them in return -- helping is a two-way street.

Losing weight is very difficult and takes a lot of will power. To achieve your weight-loss goals, you need to put yourself in the best possible position for success. By following the suggestions in this article, you should be well on your way.

©Publications International, Ltd.

The following people contributed to this article:

Joan Horbiak, R.D., M.P.H (writer): Joan Horbiak is a registered dietician and president of Health and Nutrition Network, where she has designed and implemented programs for weight reduction and worksite nutrition. She has most recently served as a media and resource spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and is active on many advisory panels including ADA nationwide workshops on nutrition techniques for a low-fat lifestyle.

The Duke University Diet and Fitness Center (consulting organization): The Duke University Diet and Fitness Center was founded in 1969 to help people live healthier, fuller lives through weight loss and lifestyle change. The Center's professional staff includes physicians, clinical psychologists, exercise physiologists, registered dieticians, and massage therapists. The team helps clients plan strategies and form new, healthier habits for life.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.