May - Jun 2015

Surround Yourself with the Right People

By Cynthia J. Turner, PhD


Human beings have an innate primal need to fit into groups, families, clubs or other organized social structures. Our primitive brains are wired such that when we don't fit in, we don't feel safe, and this can trigger fear and anxiety. It's easy to see how regional and ethnic food rituals and preferences evolve and become a part of the day-to-day connection and socialization process with others.


Significant weight loss can turn these familiar rituals upside down, in that food choices, eating patterns, meal schedules, and portion sizes change radically. Some of the most difficult challenges patients face post weight loss may relate to managing comments, opinions, and attitudes of others about their new lifestyle and their sudden weight loss. Patients often report that they don't feel supported, that they are encouraged to "eat just a little bit" of heavily processed foods, sweets, or other products that don't fit into the diet. Family members and friends may express  anger and disapproval due to their own underlying, unacknowledged fears about their own personal weight or health issues, and sometimes maintaining these relationships becomes difficult and challenging.


Therefore, it is extremely important, in order to attain long-term success, that you find as many opportunities as possible to connect with others who are on track with a successful weight loss program and others who are committed to pursuing a healthy lifestyle, including diet, exercise and social activities. Research has shown that regular attendance at support groups specifically for weight loss patients is highly effective. Similarly, some patients enjoy the input from Overeaters Anonymous and other local or religious based support groups centered around the development of a healthy lifestyle. Joining some type of activity based club such as a walking group, running group, or kayaking club can be a fun way to regularly enjoy the company of other like-minded people.


You are encouraged to attend support group as this can be a great way to meet and connect with individuals who have set their sights on a healthier diet and lifestyle. If you have a friend or relative who has lost a significant amount of weight, a buddy system, can be very helpful. For decades, studies have shown that groups are extremely powerful in creating energy, motivation, and long-term success, including meeting goals and permanently changing old dysfunctional behaviors.