There are a lot of group approaches to weight management out there. Some are commercial programs like Weight Watchers, while others are nonprofits like Overeaters Anonymous. On a smaller scale, some people put together their own support groups with friends, neighbors, or co-workers. π There are pros and cons to consider before signing up for a group:
π Being with others who are struggling with the same issues can help you feel like you're not alone. This can have a powerful effect on motivations.
π Sometimes a group can together come up with more ideas about weight management.
π In a society where weight discrimination is so prevalent, being around others who share the same concerns provides feelings of acceptance.
π Feeling understood by those around you is psychologically empowering.
π When you falter, the group is there to provide encouragement.
π The group can provide social opportunities outside of group meetings, providing added support for staying on track with goals in everyday life.
π The competition that may develop in a group might distract you from learning to manage your weight for a lifetime. It's not your weight loss compared to others that matters most, but how well you learn the behavioral changes required to do the job well for yourself.
π The group may not match the pace you require. Some people need more time to make changes and will feel pressured to go at a pace that's doesn't fit them well. Others might outstrip the group's pace.
π You can become overly dependent on the group. Some people won't exercise on days their "buddy" can't join them. Doing what's in your best interest even when the group support isn't there is of upmost importance. The group can't be there all the time, so you need to take advantage of what it provides without becoming dependent on it.
π Conflicts between group members can hurt the positive aspects of group support. Or members who get too close can get distracted from the original purpose of the group.
π You may feel shy or embarrassed about your weight or feel awkward about talking about weight loss with strangers. If you can't get over that sense of intimidation, you won't profit from the group.
π People who judge themselves harshly are more likely to drop out of the group when they have a setback. Rather than learning to let mistakes provide a blueprint for dealing with difficulty, they miss out on the group's benefits.
How do you know if a group approach will be good for you? Ask yourself these questions
π Do you like being a part of a group?
π Are open to other's feedback and opinions, even on personal issues.
π Would it help you to be with others who share your issues with weight management?
π Do you lack a network of people that care about you and will support your goals?
π Can you avoid getting so competitive with others that you lose track of your personal goals?
π Can you avoid becoming overly dependent on others?
π Can you face your mistakes and setback calmly, without trying to run away?
If you can answer yes to these questions, then you might want to try a group approach to managing your weight. But remember it's only one of many tools you should use.
And, if it turns out to not be all you thought it would be, move on from the group — but not your goals.
Dr. Lavinia Rodriguez is a Tampa psychologist and expert in weight management. She is the author of "Mind Over Fat Matters: Conquering Psychological Barriers to Weight Management." Send questions to her at email@example.com.