Naturally Savvy: Losing Weight is a Group Effort
By Lisa Tsakos
If you've already given up on your New Year's pledge to better manage weight and eating habits, it could be because you're taking the process too personally.
Lifestyle and diet changes occur when you're ready for them. Unfortunately, your readiness doesn't always correspond with that of family, friends, and co-workers. Getting the support of those around you is critical when you're trying to lose weight.
People are generally resistant to change. Families provide brilliant examples of this. Coming home to a child or spouse who insists on tempting you with potato chips and ice cream - reminding you of what you can't eat - is utter torment and can undermine your best intentions.
Family members can be insensitive to, and even threatened by, your commitment to adopt a healthier lifestyle, and they are often the cause of why many give up on reaching their goals. Intuitively, they may believe that modifications in your eating behavior or weight will affect your relationship with them.
So how do you solicit support from loved ones? Before embarking on any type of new diet program or menu change, discuss it with your family first. Explain your goals and the reasons behind them, and assure them that if the family dynamic does change, it will be for the better.
Lack of support from friends can also hamper a lifestyle change. Kristina, 37, a participant in a corporate weight loss program in Toronto, Canada, felt compelled to withdraw as a result of pressure from her friends. Kristina's social network consists of a group of friends averaging the same weight, and at least once weekly, they gather at a local pub for dinner and drinks. Her friends were unwilling to consider a different restaurant offering healthier options, and because Kristina felt excluded, she left the program after only six weeks, choosing her friends over her health.
Another common story is that of the 50-something male struggling with elevated cholesterol or any one of the many conditions plaguing the average male in this age group. Following their weekly hockey game, he and the guys visit the local watering hole for chicken wings and beer. After all that exercise, what's the harm? Then his doctor insists that he change his eating habits.
He didn't expect that in his 50s he'd still be prone to peer pressure, and yet here he is, embarrassed to order a grilled chicken salad instead of fried chicken fingers because he doesn't want to look like a chump in front of his friends. The alarming reality is, at his age, almost every other guy on his team is likely in the same boat. Someone has to make the first move.
The positive peer pressure in the workplace is sometimes more powerful than what happens at home. Many companies now offer at-work weight loss or healthy eating programs. Because you spend at least eight hours a day with your work colleagues, this is a great support system to have, providing an opportunity to share challenges, experiences, and even recipes with others in the same boat. In fact, as more organizations recognize the benefits of having such programs on-site, they are either subsidizing or covering the entire cost for employees. If your company doesn't offer this type of support group, request one and check for coverage under your benefits plan.
Moving towards a healthier lifestyle does cause a change in attitude. Feeling better about yourself, having more energy to spend time with your family and to engage in more adventurous activities may be threatening to those around you. If your peers are unsupportive, find a support system of some kind. Group support is a major reason why weight loss programs like Weight Watchers are so successful.
(Lisa Tsakos is a Registered Nutritionist and Chief Nutrition Officer (CNO) for NaturallySavvy.com, a website dedicated to educating people on the benefits of living a natural, organic and green lifestyle. For more information and to sign up for their newsletter, visit www.NaturallySavvy.com) (http://www.NaturallySavvy.com).