Teaming with another makes weight loss more likely....can that other be your mate?
“Two is better than one” : here’s a phrase that can’t possibly apply to weight loss, right? Well, not if you’re talking donuts. However, research does suggest that people best lose weight, and keep it off, in tandem with another. A “diet buddy” can boost your chances of getting the body you want. Who’s the best buddy for you? It could be a friend…..or even your mate. Teaming with your mate can pose special challenges, but sometimes works especially well. Here’s how to figure who’ll work best for you.
A buddy team usually consists of two who share a similar goal. Maybe each of you wants to stick with the South Beach diet, for example. Or maybe each of you has a specific weight target in mind. Maybe you both want to overhaul your eating habits in small but consistent ways, like cutting down on sweets or exercising more. Working together, you gain strength against cravings, fatigue, discouragement, or confusion. We’re less likely to mess up when we know someone else counts on us. We’re also more likely to do what’s good for us with the encouragement and problem-solving help of another.
While many kinds of buddy combinations can work, generally speaking it’s best to choose someone whose goals are fairly similar to your own. Choose someone you feel you can be honest with—in other words that you trust and feel emotionally safe with. At the same time, avoid someone who couldn’t challenge you if you were slacking off (or someone you’d be uncomfortable challenging yourself if need be).
Each of us responds differently to varied types of encouragement. Do you get rebellious or overly guilty if spoken to firmly? Do you prefer a gentler approach? Or, do you like a tougher kind of directness? It’s important to discuss in advance what you think will work best for you. Of course, if you’re considering someone as a buddy, you probably have a sense of that person’s style already. Trust your own sense of whether or not you could work together.
That said, it’s important to remember that different styles sometimes provoke us to think of things, and do things, in brand-new ways. If you’re bad at planning your time and staying organized, for instance, you may do quite well teamed with someone who struggles more with perfectionism. You can learn from each other, partaking of the good parts of the other’s habits. (For more on this particular aspect of teamwork, check Martha Beck’s January 2010 column in O, the Oprah Magazine, “It Takes All Kinds”.)
A buddy team can fizzle if certain pitfalls aren’t detected in advance. Minimize this possibility by discussing issues up front. This includes basics, such as how often you want to check in with each other. It also includes stickier issues you might anticipate, like how will you feel if one of you starts progressing more than the other? How might you cope with that?
Consider, also, if there are things you can do together to reinforce your progress. For example, you could simultaneously read an inspiring book. You could plan walks or exercise times together, regularly or on occasion. It’s important to think, too, about how you’ll reward yourselves (in non-food ways) as you succeed.
Teaming up with your mate presents certain advantages—you know each other well, you see each other often. However, this kind of teamwork can also create problems. Here are a few to mull over: We tend to get more judgmental with those close to us than with those we have less stake in. In other words, it can be harder to stay objective and neutral. Also, oversharing of personal struggles can sometimes rob our erotic life of a certain mysteriousness. Finally, chronic couple arguments can be triggered in the stress of inevitable frustrations.
In picturing these potential advantages and pitfalls, you may gain a clear sense of whether or not you and your beloved can team in the weight loss quest--or if it makes more sense to enlist a friend. Sometimes a thorough discussion ahead of time will help sort out problems, or at least make clear that the friend route is best for you.
If you remain unsure, you and your mate could start by setting a single simple goal to work toward together. Adding a couple of walks to your weekly routine is one example. Adding more vegetables to your diet is another. If you live together, the content of your meals at home could be a target. These smaller projects should avoid some of the more difficult couple-as-a-diet-team challenges.
The road to healthy diet and weight can be rocky. A solid diet buddy can help you stay on track. And if it works to make that a couple’s trek, you both reap the rewards.