Weight-loss confidants can talk you down before you inhale the doughnuts in the break room, maybe cajoling you into going for a walk instead. They also can rejoice with you in another 5 pounds shed.
"The key is shared commitment of beliefs and values," says Daniel Stettner, director of psychology for UnaSource Health Center, a medical and surgical complex in Troy, Mich.
Group or professional therapy, which can be expensive, isn't always necessary. Sometimes having a few simpatico types in your corner who have been there and done that is enough. Stettner offers some guidelines for choosing a coterie that can make getting healthy less arduous:
Don't assume family and existing friends are the best option. Major lifestyle changes require upheaval from normal routines such as going out for drinks or dinner -- and that can create resentment. "You're going against the group at times," Stettner says, "and you're singling out yourself to be different -- eating differently from the family, not eating snacks at work." Friends might try to dissuade you from exercising in favor of some other activity, but support group buddies will go on a walk with you, changing old patterns for newer ones.
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Check out existing groups. Weight Watchers, Overeaters Anonymous and even nearby gyms are usually filled with people who are making similar lifestyle changes. Like-minded folks can become workout partners or coffee pals who won't goad you into eating fattening treats. Online obesity and weight-loss forums are another option, but be aware that some are geared to those who have gone through, or are contemplating, gastric bypass surgery or medication. Some, like Pritikin, may charge a membership fee. Weight Watchers has its own online forum; others to check out include SparkPeople.com and Weight Loss Forum.
Turn your regular friends and family into an adjunct support group.
"Tell them, 'This is what I want to do, and I'd like to talk to you about how we can do this together so you can be supportive of me but it won't cause issues for you,' " Stettner says. That might mean meeting for activities other than eating or asking family members to tuck chips out of sight.
Realize that friends and support groups have their limits.
For starters, they might not be the best sources for nutritional or fitness advice. If, despite your efforts, you still aren't achieving your goals, counseling may be in order.