By Matt O'Neill, MSc(Nut&Diet), APD
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Making changes to your diet and exercise patterns are easier when you have a powerful network of social support. Research shows that people who enlist family, friends or workmates to support them are more successful at managing their weight.
To help you build your success support crew, first consider who is helping and who is hindering your progress. Recruit Buddies and Cheerleaders to your team. You'll also need to manage any Hecklers and Saboteurs, who tend to undermine your success.
Here's how it works and some useful tips. And don't forget the vital role of a weight management advisor or coach, who will help you with information, guidance and understanding.
A buddy is someone who partners with you on your program. Your buddy may be your partner, friend or workmate. They often share similar weight loss goals and join you to achieve them. The biggest benefit of having a buddy is in creating accountability to another person who cares about your success.
How a buddy can help:
Who could you ask to be your buddy? ___________________
- Enrol in a program with you
- Commit to physical activity sessions with you - daily or weekly
- Call or text you when they have done their own activity session
- Choose an event (eg. fun walk or run) to enter together and train for
- Share a challenge for effort (eg. exercise frequency, kilos lost) with the weekly winner receiving a prize (eg. cash, clothing voucher, massage)
- Help shop for and prepare healthy food
- Agree to be your emergency contact when you have an urge to give in
- Make a time to catch up each week to share success and challenges
A cheerleader doesn't partner so closely with you, but they do cheer from the sidelines with generous encouragement, praise and friendly support.
When recruiting cheerleaders look for people who are naturally supportive. You may need to let others know exactly how they should cheer your efforts.
Ideas for how cheerleaders can help:
- Ask you how you are doing each week
- Offer only positive advice, comments or feedback
- Give you compliments on your appearance
- Remind you why your goals are important
- Question your excuses for not exercising
- Take time to listen to your successes and challenges
- Avoid discussions about dieting when they are with you
- Offer helpful tips and information about food and fitness
- Are non-judgmental when you appear to be off your diet
- Start a fitness club at work to sign up more cheerleaders
- Share positive stories about your efforts with other friends
- Do extra work around the house to give you time for activity
- Spend active social time away from food distractions
Surround yourself with positive energy that boosts your motivation!
- Change their schedule to allow you to fit in exercise
- Are prepared to try new foods that you are eating
- Provide healthy food options when you visit their home
- Buy you flowers to say, “Well done!”
Who can you recruit as cheerleaders? _______________________
Hecklers aren't as bad as the name suggests. They are often well-meaning people, but their behaviour can unwittingly trip you up on your way to success. Hecklers can be family members, friends or work colleagues.
How people can act as hecklers:
How to manage hecklers:
- Eat high-calorie foods in front of you
- Talk about their failed attempts to get into shape
- Make excuses why they don't have the will power you do
- They innocently offer food as a sign of friendship or love
- Make passing negative comments about your weight or shape
- Put you down when you are trying really hard
- They don't seem to understand what you are trying to achieve
- Be specific about how you need them to behave to support your efforts
- Let them know that although you are motivated, your willpower can be dented by their comments
- Suggest you catch up with them for a walk, rather than coffee and cake
- Ask them to praise your positive changes, not just for achieving your goal
- Ask them not to give you food as gifts
- Engage in social activities that don't involve food
- At the workplace, take a poll on who wants the snack box removed. You might be surprised how many people say, “Yes!”
- Just say, “No thanks”. You don't owe an explanation or have to feel guilty
- Let them know that your enthusiasm may rub off on them.
Although challenging, you may need to spend less time with some friends and more time with others.
People you are close to can be saboteurs. They are more active in creating obstacles for your success. They still may not realise what they are doing, but often have strong reasons for getting in your way.
You are making changes that they may not be entirely comfortable with or are not ready to change themselves, which can create friction.
Recognising the signs of sabotage and managing your saboteurs will help you enjoy more success.
How people can act as saboteurs:
- They focus on the sacrifices you are making to reach your goals
- They schedule other activities during your exercise time
- They buy you chocolates or treats to test your resolve
- They seem to think you are making changes too quickly
- Question your motives for making changes
How to manage saboteurs:
- Say they like the old (larger) you
- Seem to be uncomfortable with the new you
- They may be in a rut and think you should join them
- They feel that they might lose you
- Discuss your weight loss goals with family & friends
- Make a statement about how important your needs are
- Ask them about their concerns relating the changes you are making
- Reassure them that although you are making changes to your lifestyle, you are not changing who you are, and you still love them just as much
- Include them in your weight loss rewards. Take a weekend off together or make a purchase for your house.
- Explain how you'll have more energy from regular exercise, rather than it taking away from family.
Remember that you are making changes for YOU, your health and your vitality! Don't be deterred by others.
So, who can be your Buddies and Cheerleaders. And how will you effectively manage your Hecklers and Saboteurs?
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