By Monique Bartlett
August 13th Edition
Research shows that if you want to adopt and maintain new habits, it helps to do it with others. You will find this in organized religion, 12-step self-help programs, exercise and weight loss. While small groups are better than individual efforts, some kinds of groups are more effective than others. What you really need is a group that has a common goal, but is not made up of close friends.
Weight Watchers. Over Eaters Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous and others do this through weekly or monthly meetings. The meetings are confidential, kept between you and the meeting participants but that does not mean that the group will be sympathetic when you have too many drinks or too much food. More important is the role of the meeting leader. You will find that most people who lead these groups have done the program themselves. The group leader is not afraid to push and nudge people to take personal responsibility and stay focused and challenged in a positive way.
The leader can change the group dynamic and that is not an easy thing to do but it is their job. A leaderless small group can still manage to give its members permission to give tough love, but it takes something strong enough to counteract a group of friends who naturally tend to commiserate and soothe each other.
TV shows such as “The Biggest Loser”, emphasize crash diets and in the long run may not be the best method to lose weight, yet it attracts new contestants every year and has helped many people gain their lives and their health back. Many workplaces are now also starting their own “Biggest Loser” contests, assembling people into teams that compete against one another. Individuals and corporations aren’t always able to give these contests the structure they need for people to take them seriously but participants do seem to get results.
Group participants can send one another photos of their meals and is a way for members to police one another. Spreadsheets can be set up online so participants can see everyone’s weight goals and food journals for the week. This format also emphasizes personal accountability. Small groups are the key to behavior change. They need a leader who can step up the peer pressure and help everyone to achieve their goals. The main purpose of small groups is to provide accountability and help group participants to live healthier lives.