The road to your healthy weight can sometimes be a lonely one. Maybe you miss out on after work drinks so you can hit the gym, or you start cleaning the dishes while your family enjoys seconds at the dinner table. Though you may have charted your own course to help you reach your goal, that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. While your journey is ultimately a personal one, pairing up with a trusted friend or loved one who is also working toward weight loss can increase your chance of success.
Social support is a key factor in making behavioral changes that support health changes, including losing weight. In fact, in one study, women who got plenty of support from their friends and family were far more likely to lose weight than those who didn’t get the same help and encouragement. People who enlist the help of a buddy are more likely to stick with their weight loss plan and be more successful at it for several reasons:
Weight loss partners keep you motivated. It’s like having your own personal cheering squad. Your buddy can give you that extra boost—whether it’s a high five, a sympathetic nod or some encouraging words—to keep you going when you’re thinking about cutting your workout short or overindulging at lunchtime.
They provide accountability... Hitting the snooze button is a lot harder when you know someone is going to be waiting for you at the gym. And you may find that you’re less likely to make unhealthy food choices if you know that your weight loss partner might ask about them later on.
…and tangible help. In a workout rut? Need some new recipe recommendations? Desperate for someone to watch your kids for an hour while you swim laps? Along with their encouragement, a weight loss partner can offer you a fresh perspective, tips and tricks he or she has learned along the way and logistical support when you need it.
They increase the fun factor. You may not think that “weight loss” and “fun” belong in the same sentence. But a walk through the park with your pal, preparing and enjoying a healthy, homemade dish together or sweating through a dance class side by side can transform what could feel like a chore into memories you’ll both cherish.
They make success even sweeter. Losing weight is a great accomplishment—one that is worth sharing. Your weight loss partner will be there to congratulate you for your achievements, as you can do in return. That goes a long way to keeping you motivated and on track.
When picking your partner, you may have the most success if you opt for someone who has similar habits and interests. For instance, if you like exercising outdoors in the morning, but your friend hits the gym after work, it might not be the best pairing.
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Once you find a good match, keep in mind that you’re still two totally different people. Your metabolism, body shape, current weight and gender will affect how quickly you lose weight, and the same is true for your weight loss partner. Don’t expect to slim down at the same rate or otherwise compare yourself to your partner. Trying to keep up with—or even outdo—your buddy can create undue stress and lead to potential disappointment for you. If you push yourself too hard or too far, you could also end up with an injury. The competition could potentially even damage your relationship with your partner.
A better bet: Compare you to you and reflect on how far you’ve come, which is a much more accurate and useful gauge of your progress. Set your own goals and let your weight loss partner do the same. If you’re unsure of what your goals should be, consider checking in with an exercise physiologist and nutritionist; these experts can help you set realistic and individual goals based on your ability and lifestyle.