Losing weight is hard. Trying to eat the right foods, be more active and still keep up with your daily routine can be overwhelming, and staying motivated through the difficult days can seem like an impossible task. The support of friends and family can lighten the load, whether they introduce you to a great new exercise class, teach you a healthy recipe or are simply there to listen when you need to talk.
In fact the effect of your social network on your weight can go much deeper than just providing support. Research shows that obesity can spread across networks of friends and family, making it more likely that you will become obese if someone you know is obese. The good news is that a recent study in the journal Obesity found that this ripple effect may also be true for weight loss. So, if your friends lose weight you are likely to become thinner over time too!
These are my top tips on how to harness the competitive dieting effect:
Teaming up with a friend who is also trying to lose weight or change their habits is a great way to stay motivated. They will be able to empathise as they will understand exactly what you are going through. You will be able to encourage each other when things get hard, and to share the joys of success when the scales give you good news.
Spread the love
Teaming up with more than one friend could make the journey even more fun! Whether you have a few different buddies who provide support in different ways, or you organise a team based challenge at the office, having a group around you striving for the same result will help you to feel less isolated when the going gets tough.
Set goals for success
Setting realistic, time-specific goals will make you more likely to succeed. Try choosing the same goal as your buddy, for example losing 1kg every week, or running a race for charity. Committing to a goal with someone else will make you less likely to drop out or give up.
Phone a friend
Put your buddy's number on speed dial. Anytime you have a wobble you will be able to give them a call and talk it through. Not only will the distraction help you to resist the urge to reach for that extra helping, your buddy will also remind you of why you are changing your life and how hard you have worked!
Where do you start when changing the way you eat? Knowing what to cook can be confusing, especially if you are feeding your family as well. Ask your friends and family for their healthy recipes and tips, this will give you some great ideas and mean you don't have to start from scratch. Experimenting together can be fun too - you can enjoy some delicious meals and laugh about the disasters.
Out and about
If your social activities tend to revolve around food and drink, try some new activities with your family or buddy. Instead of heading to a bar or restaurant, try a dance class, visit a museum, or channel your creative side with a life-drawing lesson. You might even find that your new pastimes are so much fun that other friends and family want to join in too!
Safety in numbers
Having a friend to try new things with can benefit you in other ways too. Having someone to go jogging, walking or to a new class with will make you feel safer as well as making you more likely to go.
A word of caution
Choosing the right person to buddy up with is important so that you reap the benefits without harming yourself. A little healthy competition can be great, however having the right kind of support is essential too. Think about whether your friend's personality will complement your own, and always remember that the aim is to get healthier by losing some weight, not to lose the most weight!