Cultivating self-compassion on your weight loss journey is clinically proven to aid you in your weight loss efforts! Dr. Ellen Albertson shares some of the new evidence supporting a self-compassion practice.
Why Support Is Essential on the Weight Loss Journey
We all know how difficult it can be to lose weight, and feeling alone during the process can add hardship to an already challenging situation. When it comes to weight loss, having a support system can be a key element to making progress toward your goals and ultimately finding success.
While some may find a traditional support system like a coach or spouse to be beneficial, others may prefer to partake in a community approach. The good news is you can tailor your support system to whatever forms of encouragement work for you!
Read on to learn more about the different types of support networks, why they are important, and what to do if someone in your life is making it more challenging for you to make progress toward your weight loss goals.
Characteristics of Support
Different types of support can influence people differently. For example, one study1 examined the role of support in individuals who lost more than 10% of their starting body weight. Those who maintained their weight loss for more than a year reported receiving support in the form of compliments, active participation, and diet support, whereas those who regained weight received support in the form of encouragements and verbal instruction. This data tells us positive support, rather than instructive, may be more beneficial for weight loss maintenance.
Because there are different forms of support to take into account, it is important to determine the characteristics that will provide you with the motivation you need. This is different for everyone, so think about those factors discussed in the study and take a look at some additional types below to determine which would build you up most. Then, look for those characteristics when developing your support network.
- Tough love vs. coddling: Will you benefit more if your support system continues to push you forward, even when you’re less motivated or has a more relaxed approach to help you stay on track?
- Drill sergeant vs. soft-spoken: Would you respond better to commands or delicately spoken suggestions?
- Accountability vs. understanding: If you start to veer away from your plan, would you benefit more if your support system strongly encouraged you back on track, regardless of the situation or was more considerate of the obstacles that may be challenging for you in that moment?
- Regular check-ins vs. as-needed: Would you benefit from more frequent, scheduled accountability or touching base only when you need additional support?
- In the process with you vs. cheerleader: Would you prefer your support system to be going through the same process as you, or is it okay for them to have different goals and instead support you from the sideline?
There are many different forms of community support, from Facebook Groups to in-person group nutrition meetings and beyond. Being in an environment where you feel like the people around you are going through a similar experience and dealing with the same challenges as you may help you feel less isolated. Women, in particular, have been shown to need more support than men, and in one study,2 female participants said having the social support from someone who was going through the same experience was an important factor in making progress toward their goals.
If you think this form of support may be beneficial for you, explore weight loss support groups on social media, start a weight loss challenge with a group of friends or coworkers, and look into options for group fitness classes with those of a similar skill level.
If you are more comfortable working toward your weight loss goal in a private setting, finding one or two people to serve as your support network may be more beneficial for you. This could include a friend, family member or coach, like a registered dietitian, counselor, or personal trainer.
When choosing your network, you should make sure to tell each individual involved how they can best help you stay on track, whether that is with words of encouragement, being involved in completing weekly workouts, or following a similar type of eating plan. Any and all of these characteristics can provide support and help you feel in control of your weight loss process.
Support with Tasks
While the forms of support listed above may help with emotional and physical support, sometimes support can come in the form of helping you complete daily tasks that will keep you on track toward your goals. Grocery delivery, meal preparation services, access to quick and healthy recipes, child care, and having someone help with other mandatory daily duties to allow you the time to complete health-related tasks are examples of this form of support.
It’s important to remember that you can combine different types of support networks to develop the perfect system for you. For example, maybe joining a weight-loss support Facebook Group, hiring a personal trainer, and subscribing to a healthy prepared meal service would fulfill all of your support needs.
What If Someone in Your Life Is Holding You Back?
In many situations, there are people who don’t support a loved one or friend who is trying to lose weight, and this can prove destructive to that person’s long-term goals. If you feel like anyone in your environment is making it more challenging for you to stay on track, have a conversation with him or her.
It may be that the person holding you back wasn’t aware of your goals, or their form of support wasn’t what you wanted or needed. For example, maybe you wanted a gentle approach, and they offered you tough love. If a conversation doesn’t improve the situation, it may be best to distance yourself from anyone who is not in support of your goals. If losing weight is something that will make you feel better emotionally and physically, you shouldn’t let someone else’s opinion or difference in priorities hinder your success.
In conclusion, your support system should be unique to you and provide the type of support that lifts you up on your weight loss journey. While I hope these tips will be helpful in building your network, don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t come together as quickly as you would like. It is perfectly fine to take small steps toward building an environment that will aid in your long-term progress and maintenance. Just like many other factors related to weight loss, there may be some ups and downs along the way, but remember the goal is always progress, not perfection.
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- Karfopoulou E, Anastasiou CA, Avgeraki E, Kosmidis MH, Yannakoulia M. The role of social support in weight loss maintenance: results from the MedWeight study. J Behav Med. 2016;39(3):511–518. doi:10.1007/s10865-016-9717-y
- Metzgar, C.J., Preston, A.G., Miller, D.L. & Nickols-Richardson, S.M. (2015) Facilitators and barriers to weight loss and weight loss maintenance: a qualitative exploration. J Hum Nutr Diet. 28, 593–603 doi:10.1111/jhn.12273