Staying Motivated Tip #6: Assemble Your Own Success Squad

By , SparkPeople Blogger
When it comes to changing exercise and eating habits, flying solo is not a good idea for most of us. It can be tough work, with a lot of ups and downs. We need the information, ideas, moral support and inspiration we get from being around others working on the same things.

Study after study has confirmed that people who use weight loss programs with a strong social component do better than those who don’t. And it’s not hard to understand why. One of the main reasons people gain weight in the first place, and find it hard to lose on their own, is that we live in an “obesogenic” environment–an environment where calorie-dense food is TOO available, and eating it is often part of “fitting in” to the social groups we’re part of, including family, friends, and co-workers.

You’ve probably seen some of the magazine stories, like this one, about “how your friends make you fat.” Of course, no one literally forces you to overeat—you’re the one who puts the food in your own mouth. But if a spouse or significant other doesn’t want to change how they eat, or friends get upset when you change the “rules” on them (which might have included excessive drinking, eating, or sitting around), or co-workers act offended when you decline the office doughnuts or fast food lunches, this can generate an awful lot of pressure to give up your new behaviors and go back to the “way things used to be.”

And a lot of this pressure comes from the inside, as well as the outside. It’s our nature to need and want to fit in, and it's very hard to be the “outsider” who’s playing by different rules and priorities.

The bottom line is that most of us do much better, and feel much better about it, when eating and exercising the way we need to is what helps us fit in, not when it means we have to resist pressures to conform or struggle constantly with temptations.

This doesn’t mean you have to make your entire social world change their habits along with you in order to stay motivated and be successful–or move yourself into a weight loss monastery where there aren’t any temptations or conflicts to contend with. You just need to find yourself a community where doing what it takes to achieve your health and fitness goals is also what it takes to fit into that community and feel like you belong there. The motivation, support and inspiration you can get there will usually be enough to get you through whatever temptations and frustrations the rest of your life throws at you–more often than not, anyway, which is all it take to succeed.

But this doesn’t happen automatically when you sign up in a weight loss support group. It takes active participation in the community, and it takes identifying and asking for the particular kind of support you need—and giving something back in return. In effect, you have to create your own individualized support community from the people and resources available to you.

That means, of course, you have to know both what you need, and what you have to offer. Here are some ideas you can use to identify your own support needs, and the kind of supporters you might want on your Success Squad:

  • The Morale Booster. This is someone who’s had their own share of difficulties and is still plugging away. They might not have all the answers, but they know what it’s like to go through the good times and the hard times, and will understand how you’re feeling when things aren’t going the way you like. When they tell you things will get better if you just keep on keeping on, you’ll listen, because you know they’re speaking from experience.

  • The Confidant. This is someone who’s really “been there and done that” and lived to tell about it—not just in general terms, but with the specific kinds of challenges you’re dealing with. This is someone you can trust when it comes to talking about the “real” issues—the feelings, thoughts, attitudes, worries, and behaviors that make healthy eating and exercise difficult for you. You’ll want to give them permission to give you their honest feedback, even if it’s something you might not like to hear.

  • The Accountability Buddy. This is someone who knows the details of your eating and exercise plans, can see how you’re doing with them on a regular basis, and is willing to administer a friendly kick in the butt when needed. Ideally, this person might also be your workout buddy, shopping partner, etc. It could also be an internet buddy, or a combination on-line/in person group that you’re sharing a challenge with (as long as you’re being honest when you report your results, of course).

  • The Inspirational Guide. This is someone who’s already gotten themselves where you want to be, and can help you figure out what you need to do next as you move closer and closer to your goal. They also inspire you to deepen your own efforts and really “reach for the gold.”

  • The (healthy) Party Animal. This is someone who knows how to have fun without totally de-railing your healthy lifestyle. They’re full of ideas about enjoyable things to do and places to go, and they won’t let you sit home with your carrot sticks feeling sorry for yourself.

    These are just some of the basic “characters” you’ll probably want on your Success Squad—I’m sure you can think of many others. You can find the characters you need in lots of places—in real life, and in online communities like ours here at SparkPeople. But don’t wait for them to find you—get involved and take a proactive role in finding or creating what you need.

    In the long run, we can all learn how to provide this kind of support for ourselves and for others. But that takes getting it from others first, learning how to use it well enough to pass it on in words and deeds, and finally, really digesting it and making it part of your own inner dialogue with yourself. When it comes to support, getting and giving it are all part of one process that makes everyone stronger. So, don't feel like you have to wait until you've "got your own act together" to be helpful to someone else. If you understand what they're going through, that's all you need to let them know they're not alone.

    How’s YOUR support system? Are you getting what you need--and passing it on?

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    ARNETTELEE 6/1/2021
    thanks Report
    4CONNIESHEALTH 2/8/2021
    Great article. It would be great if everyone had support and understanding. Report
    ELSCO55 11/13/2020
    vero true Report
    YMWONG22 10/31/2020
    Thanks Report
    DANAEBOYCE1 8/13/2020
    This is so true. Report
    As I grew into SparkPeople (exercise & dieting) I've come to learn how important it is to be surrounded by like-minded people, not to compete but to support and encourage. Report
    thanks Report
    Great support here Report
    Thanks for the great article! :) Report
    Thank you for your information. Report
    great article Report
    cannot beat great support Report
    Great article..................Thank You. Report
    My husband is very supportive, and my kids kind of but my sisters,brothers and friens really are not they cant seem to give a compliment no matter how small. It makes it tougher when you try so hard and they dont or pretend to not notice, I always try to give compliments to people I know are trying to lose weight or exercise Report
    support is sometimes hard to come by. I don't have too many friends outside of work, besides my wife. At least not that I have contact every day. Report
    I have God, family, co-workers, & SP to help me in this journey.. Report
    I need to find my support here. My husband lives for food. Report
    I am getting support from my husband. He loves eating out ( usually at all you can eat buffets) and is very understanding when i refuse to eat out. We still eat out at buffets but not as often as we use to, and i plan on it ahead of time, i usually have two light meals a small snack if any and save the rest of my daily calories for the buffet. Report
    I use my Spark teams as my support system and they are extremely supportive while encouraging to my best...keep up the good fight! Report
    I have multiple layers of a support system in place. My husband is one part of it- he and I walk together in the evenings when the weather allows, but not during the winter when it is dark before I get home from work, plus it is cold and there is lots of snow and ice. He is not quite so supportive when it comes to healthy eating because he is always asking me to fix things we should not have so often. I also have my TOPS chapter and the TOPS friends I have met from other groups. They have been a big part of my success squad. I lost 129.75 pounds with TOPS, but then I slipped and went back to my old habits for a period of time and gained about 105 of it back. My TOPS support was still there and they probably kept me from gaining back even more than I did, but I refused to listen to them. Still, they stuck by me and now that I am back on the right track they are as happy as I am. I still need to lose 40 - 45 pounds, but I can happily say I am a little over 85 pounds lighter than when I started. Since I found SparkPeople it has also become a big part of my support. My TOPS group meets only once a week, and while we do encourage the members to keep in contact in between they don't always do so. Personally, I am not one to be on the phone. I like the online or e-mail support and most of my group are older ladies who are not online people. That is where SparkPeople comes in. I think I need the accountability of my face-to-face weigh-in at my TOPS chapter, but I also need the 7 day a week support that I get from SparkPeople. Between my husband, my TOPS group, and SparkPeople I have the support I need to lose this weight and keep it off- and I am constantly encouraging people to check out SparkPeople. Report
    I quit smoking in November, and my support group is church members, and the Committers Smoke Group. I just learned "will power" is not enough, you need God Power (spiritually) and People Power (mortually).
    I need these two for healthy is fine, but I can't stay here all day; so I am looking for someone who has the same goal as I...either they are 135 pounds and eats like a horse or 235 pounds and really likes the way they are..hmm. So I am back to "will power" ,"God Power" and the "Sparkpeople Power" Report
    My friend Aimee is using me as her inspiration to lose weight. She has diabetes on both sides of her family and with me being diagnosed as a diabetic at the age of 28, she knows she needs to lose weight, exercise more to be a healthier person. She is trying to avoid becoming a diabetic herself. We are now in a small competition to see who can get to 200lbs first. We are thinking about doing like a min spa treatment or something as a reward for when we get there. Report
    I have no fitness buddies and actually not very many friends... but I am great at motivating other people.. and for now that's what I do.. someday.. I hope to get my mojo back... Report
    My friends who are fit and active help keep me moving. We're always planning an social activities--biking, running, hiking, sledding, dancing . . . If I want to spend time with them, I can't be sedentary. Report
    I have an accountability buddy on Spark People and my grown son encourages me to exercise the most. My husband is the one who sabotages me the worst. Report
    It's my husband, Spark People and me. My local Raleigh Team and several other teams really provide a lot of motivation, too. Report
    I make sure that I meet one night a week with friends to work out for accountability and to do something fun without food. I also have my friends here on Sparkpeople. Report
    I do have support with weight watchers, pedometer club, my cousin, sparkpeople. you never can have more than you need. I really want to get me a trainer and a coach. Report
    My family is really getting into the healthier lifestyle. My middle daughter began seriously losing weight last year. She used to out-weigh me by 100 pounds. Now it is only 30 pounds! She has lost some serious weight and has become one of my morale boosters and accountability people. She got me started exercising daily and I now have my husband joining me. We keep each other exercising and eating properly most of the time.
    My youngest daughter introduced me to Spark and we now check in with each other almost daily to see how things are progressing.
    I know we will all meet our own personal goals if we continue to work together. Having a buddy really does work for me (us)! Report
    I'm so definately the Confidant... need any advice? Very interesting article, I enjoyed it; especially the different traits. Report
    I have an accountability girlfriend and we meet once a week to go over our food journals and share how the previous week was. We've exchanged recipes, shared healthy yummy snacks, watched movies, encouraged, shared, and continued to stay on track. If I did not have the once a week meeting, I might slack off a bit more. As it is, if I have a bad food day or don't exercise or drink enough water, I have to share that with her. It's humbling. I love the accountability. She is also on SP now so we have yet another thing in common.

    I also meet once a week with a few other women as a group to share what's going on and learn tips. It's like SparkPeople, only in person. Of course my hubby is my biggest supporter and I couldn't do it without him! Report
    My support group is the "CURVES GIRLS". I am not a morning person but it was recommended by a co-worker to workout before work and I tried it. The girls at curves are great.....every morning I look forward to being with them at 7:30AM. We workout in a circle so there is lots of opportunity to talk to others and find out how they are doing or let them vent. We always encourage each other to have a good day and to come tomorrow because we expect to see them. Several of us workout Monday-Friday and you are asked what happened if you miss a day. It is very motivating to be with a group of people who care about you. I love the women-only gym because I live in a household of all men (my husband and 2 teenage sons) and really enjoy visiting/talking to women for a change! This group makes exercise and working out fun.....I just love the CURVES GIRLS!! Report
    Spark is my team ! Report
    Before joining SP my main support was my sister and a few friends. Report
    Amen, amen, amen!!! I'm here to tell you that a good support system of "like minded people" even if it's only ONE person, makes all the difference. My support system now iw SparkPeople. I'm married to a couch potato who apparently couldn't care less about his health. It's very hard to live with someone who eats half a dozen miniature candy bars with dinner and a piece of pie for dessert. Report
    My support group is my 3 daughters and my best friend who is also a Sparkie. These four keep me accountable. Sometimes the customers at my job when they say things like, "Bernadette you look fantastic" or "Bernadette your disappearing" I love comments like these it let's me know I'm finally doing it right.! Then I spread the Spark!!!!! Report
    ALL my support is on SP!! & I have "Me,myself & I".. That has gotten me through alot!! Report
    Checking in with my SP teams is a constant source of support, ideas and motivation for me. My husband is supportive but not on the bandwagon with me (yet) and I have a good friend who also joined SP so we compare notes on our progress pretty regularly. If your friends/family/coworkers are dragging you down, definitely get yourself involved with some SP teams to help you get to where you want to go! Report
    My husband and I are committed to supporting each other in living an active healthy life--we are retired and want to prolong all the activities we enjoy together as long as possible. We moved to a planned community with 40 miles of biking/walking trails and a great fitness center that we use at least three or four times weekly. I find the group fitness classes at the fitness center are a great way to stay motivated and vary my workouts, and the comraderie and support of other people in the class makes me look forward to exercise, rather than dreading it.

    I realize I am very fortunate in having such a strong support system for meeting my goals. Report
    Wonderful article, My husband works all the time he loves me losing my weight. but he is never around to help me. I'm doing just great on my own. SHIRLEY Report
    I love to support others, because it helps ME. Report
    My support system is mainly two Spark teams, and this really works well for me right now. Thank you, Spark! Report
    I am very fortunate as I have a great support group among my family and friends who support my goals and plans. I also have my SP team family that keep me honest and on target. Before my Hubby passed away he was my biggest supporter, and now my children have taken over the kudos and support. It's so true that it is very hard to do alone. Report
    This is great. The msot support I get is from SP. I find there are so many different kinds of folks from different backgrounds. Feeling unmotivated? Read a couple of SP personal pages and it helps you get back on track. Report
    Yes, great info we have all been in one or more of these and in need of them as well! Thanks Spark! Report
    I going it alone most of the time until I found spark back in April 08, now my primary support is Spark. My family is more accepting than supportive. They have grown to accept the healthy meals and lack of true junk food in the house. I think because they like having a full meal every night on the table within a half hour after I get home. They also accept the fact that I WILL workout for at least an hour every night so their wants/needs/desires are on hold until after that. I have learned to put ME first. Like I tell them, when mama's happy, everyone's happy. Report
    This article is great! I have one friend who fits so many of the profiles. My hubby and I are trying to not enable eachother so much. I also have another friend who will give me a swift kick in the pants when I need it! Prayer is also very important to me in anything I do! Thanks for the great article. Report
    I really enjoyed this article. I always try to inspire and encourage people who are trying to get healthy because losing weight and keeping it off is one of the hardest things to accomplish. If you have a drinking problem or a smoking problem you can totally quit doing these things, but you can't quit eating. Changing your life style by choosing to eat healthy foods and proper amounts along with exercise is the answer. If you need the help of your doctor to get you going, then do it, but it will come down to your food choices and your exercise programs. Motivation is such an important part to all of this and I want to thank SparkPeople for giving me the motivation as I am having a difficult time right now and you inspire me to keep on keeping on. Report
    I am so glad I found this article because now I have the name of our support group at school - Success Squad - I like it! We have each one of these members in our group and I think that is why I am having an easier time losing weight. I am a teacher and the group I eat lunch with also started working out together after school. We also weigh before school on Mondays and share our successes or failures. It's so nice to know I have someone to talk to who understands what I am going through. I think the key member in our group is our Inspirational Guide. She is a tiny petite thing - we weigh for her and she is our guide when we work out! I think we all aspire to be like her! Report
    I\'ve had great support from my spouse and my married children. My best friend is also a member of SP and we compare notes. Report