Temptation is all around, especially if you are trying to lose weight. Before Facebook, Twitter and texting, those trying to shed a few extra pounds relied on old fashioned face to face support networks to help them achieve their weight loss goals. As a kid, I remember the neighborhood ladies discussing their latest pound shedding success stories at coffee klatches or Tupperware parties...yes I'm dating myself here! Historically, in-person support groups were an essential part of most weight management programs as a means to lose weight and keep it off. Weight Watchers, a pioneer in the weight management- support network philosophy, started in the 1960s at a home where neighbors met once a week to discuss the best ways to lose weight. Now, internet social networking offers a whole new way for flab fighters to interact.
It's no secret that having an enthusiastic group of friends is an essential component to reaching and sustaining healthier eating habits. Studies have shown that dieters can achieve greater weight loss if partnered with supportive friends or family members. Friends are a source of motivation, encouragement, inspiration and empathy. When it comes to weight management, today's social media provides the ideal forum to ask for support, build relationships, track progress and encourage others to share their experiences, good or bad.
So how can you effectively put Facebook and other social media to use when battling the bulge?
Start by making a list of simple, but realistic goals, like "I want to drop a few pounds this year by making healthier choices." Then, take that first brave step and post on your Facebook page for all to see: "I'm trying to LIST YOUR GOALS and I need your support." Then, tell your friends what you specifically need from them: "I need you to : suggest activities that don't involve eating; take an interest and ask me how I'm doing; not chastise me if I eat a morsel of brownie; help me avoid my triggers (emotional eating, buffets, parties; join me for a walk or other exercise." Use Facebook as a place to talk about your struggles and challenges and track your progress over time. Enlist your friends to be "on call" when you need a little extra temptation avoidance...here is where texting and tweeting come in.... Feeling unmotivated to take that walk? Text a friend that you need a virtual kick in the butt. Have an impulse to visit the corner fast food joint and raid the dollar menu? Tweet your temptation to a pal. Use your vast network to motivate and keep you on track!
Healthy behaviors are strengthened by healthy relationships. Don't be surprised if you find you have a saboteur in the company you keep. A friend or two may find your new commitment to fitness to be a threat to their well-being or even your friendship. Guilt, fear, anger and jealously may arise and you may question, "Why would my friend try to make me fail?" Some friends may be afraid of change, thinking "What if my friend gets a hot new bod and ditches me for dates?" Or he or she may be feeling guilty over their own less than healthy habits and try to sabotage your efforts toward success as a way to cope with their own perceived shortcomings. So how should you cope with a dietary slayer? Explain, up front, that you are serious about your goals and that you need support. If the friend(s) in question continues to offer more resistance than a cat getting it's claws trimmed, then its time to create some distance. Keep in mind that friends are the most powerful influence on weight loss and weight gain. This was demonstrated a couple of years ago when the influence of friendship on obesity was highlighted by data from the epic Framingham Heart study. It showed that close friendships could create corpulence. It didn't matter if the friend lived next door or across the country: people were most likely to become obese when a friend became obese. I'm not saying to abandon your portly cohorts, but be aware of the influence others have on your choices and decide to set limits. Use Facebook wisely. Surround yourself with positive, supportive influences that allow you to resist temptation in favor of a healthier you. And the next time you feel the urge to overindulge, tweet or text your temptation away!
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