A Support Infrastructure Can Keep You On Track
By Laura Little, PsyD
Want to lose weight and keep it off? Surround yourself with a solid support system. It’s not always easy to do, but a solid support system is one of the most important ways to adopt lifestyle changes that keep you on your path to wellness and weight loss success. When you have people in your life who are working with you to help you reach you goals, you will find that you are able to reach them quicker and with much less stress. When we cut through all the noise, social support is crucial to success three main ways: motivation, empathy and education.
Motivation is a key component in our quest to healthier living. Making prudent food choices, exercising and taking good care of our bodies are not always easy. It takes hard work to make our health a priority. Sometimes we must set limits and put our own needs first. It can be easier to fall back into old patterns of behavior. When we feel ourselves slipping back into negative behaviors, a good support system reminds us to stay focused on our health goals. A person in our support network may suggest going for a walk instead of heading out to dinner. She may join a gym with us knowing that will help us to go more often. Supportive people use positive suggestions instead of nagging or criticism to keep us motivated even when we want to give up.
Empathy is also a key skill for being a supportive person. There are times when we will feel discouraged about our progress. We will feel down on ourselves for choices we have made. A good support system isn’t judgmental. The people in your network just listen and know that you are always doing the best you know how. When we feel heard and understood, it allows us to forgive ourselves and move on, making the next best choice.
Lastly, a good support system provides you with information in the form of suggestions and ideas from others. Over time, it is easy to get burned out on the same fitness routine or meal plan. Supportive people are creative and can generate new ideas to help you keep things fresh and interesting.
Who is in your support system? Your family, friends and medical team (surgeon, bariatrician, dietitian, behavioral health provider or nurse). Remember that each person may not be able to provide all three skills, but together they can help all the pieces in the right place. Your best friend may be able to provide empathy but may not be the best source of information. Your dietitian gives you great information, but she may not be the person you call at 2 am when you are feeling down or discouraged. The wider your support system, the more likely you are to have all three of these essential areas covered.