Of course it’s possible to lose weight entirely on your own. It’s possible to get fit on your own time too. Many people do it every day. If privacy is your virtue and keeping it all to yourself is your preference, and most importantly, if it works for you, then do it. Ignore this post.
But many of us need other people, need to remember we’re not the only little soft-shelled creature dealing with the sorts of feelings we have when we do the work to change our behaviors, our habits, our selves to lose weight and keep it off. For us weight loss is hard, and having an understanding soul or 10 or 5,000 nearby helps a lot:
*We get unconditional understanding.
*We get interest, even three, six, 12 months, a year or three after starting.
*We get tips, recipes, grocery intelligence, diet program reconnaissance, book reviews. Many eyes and ears making research and testing move faster.
*We get understanding help through the plateaus, the setbacks.
*We get room to vent, laugh hard, or get a little weepy.
*We get reinforcement of our own intentions when we help somebody else.
*We get help when we are overwhelmed and can’t think our way through situations.
*We get strength when we’re weak, and give strength to others.
*We get the power of a community of like and unlike minds. There’s always more brilliance and insight in a group.
Like face-to-face meetings? Many hospitals, churches, and school systems offer weight loss support programs for free in communities around the world. Or for a fee or donation there is probably a TOPS, Overeaters Anonymous, or WeightWatchers meeting near you, maybe several.
Like Web anonymity? There are many great boards available with communities of interest carved out for people of various age groups, religions, geographic boundaries, preferences, and dieting styles. Try 3Fatchicks.com, and dwlz.com to start with free boards that support any dieting preference or style. Use Google or Yahoo to find more specific boards. Choose a sport or fitness activity you like best, and find boards for these. Many include discussions on weight loss too. Coolrunning.com has an active board for people working on their health goals. Even motleyfool.com has weight loss and fitness discussions. Most of the diet programs offer support boards, of course. You’ll find active boards at WeightWatchers.com, jennycraig.com, low-carbing folks at lowcarb.ca.
Tried all of that and it just doesn’t work for you? You need something else, something that fits who you are more completely, or more discretely? Or both? Then grow your own.
Sure, why not? Run a group in person or online, or both, much as you would a book club, community program, or task team at work. Centralize it around a particular diet or form a no-diet club. Have weigh-ins or shun the scale. Meet at gyms, in homes, at coffee bars, at church, or don’t meet at all, and run the thing entirely online through groups.yahoo.com, groups.msn.com, or ezboard.com.
Open it up to the world, or make it by invitation only, with group agreement before inviting any member to join.
Gather together three or four founding members, and make some decisions. Regardless of how open or closed your group is, consider establishing a few ground rules or guidelines.
First, describe the nature of the group. People should know whether this will be an entirely accepting community or a regular kick-in-the-ass. Is this group about prayerful empowerment, about hard-core bodybuilding, about learning a macrobiotic lifestyle? Is it a gentle helping hand, or a bracing bitch-slap? Is it weekly? Monthly? Say what it is, and maybe write it down somewhere. You may or may not go in for by-lines and Robert’s Rules, but at least don’t confuse anybody about who you are.
So great, you have a group, what else must you decide?
*Consider the type of meetings you want. What sort of effect do you want from each meeting? Finish the statement: Members should leave this meeting feeling ____________________. Design your meetings to deliver on this statement.
*Will you post discussion topics well in advance? Or surprise people?
*Will you lead each discussion, hire somebody, or will leadership rotate?
*Will there be rules of participation? Group members must present a food log, or must wear a blue hat, or must bring a book, article, or recipe for sharing? Or resist developing rules?
*How will you encourage attendance? Or discourage attrition?
*Will group membership require sponsorship for new members?
*Will group members call or contact one another between meetings?
*Who will write down the answers to these questions, keep a list of group members, remember what the topic is from week to week? A recorder, manager, administrator?
*Consider a succession plan. What will happen to the group once you’ve achieved a healthy weight and kept it off for a while? Will you stay with it, or move on?
*Consider inviting guests in to speak with your group. You have nutritionists, chefs, medical professionals, therapists, diet counselors, trainers, massage therapists, clothiers, plastic surgeons near you who might be delighted to speak with your group or offer up tours of their facilities.
My point is, no one ever needs to go through this alone if they don’t want to. No one ever needs to “endure” groups that don’t fit. There are always options. Shop around to find a good fit for you, or grab your bootstraps and form the support system of your dreams.
(Ed note: I’m honored that many groups, online and off, in various diet programs, at bariatric clinics, in hospital programs, use these posts within their support groups to generate discussion. Got a group? Feel free, please. Just be sure to communicate the URL to anyone who needs a daily hit, please.)
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