You Don't Have to Do It Alone

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Editor's Note: Obesity expert Dr. Martin Binks contributes regular guest posts to the dailySpark.

Long-term change in how one cares for oneself can seem like a long and lonely road. It doesn’t have to be! Having the support of people who care about you can make it much easier. Support comes in many forms and is unique to each person. What you may find supportive could be seen as intrusive by another person. For example, a patient of mine recently expressed annoyance at a friend walking up to her while she was exercising and offering unsolicited motivational comments, yet for another person this might have been seen as helpful. It is essential that you become the CEO of your support team to ensure you get what you need from them. It is equally important that you recognize this when supporting your friends.

Follow the steps below to get the help you need from your support network and to help you to understand what might go into your providing good support to others.

Step 1: Own it!
You must take the lead in creating your weight friendly environment. Guard against playing the victim and blaming others. The fast food restaurants, your friends’ parties, the holidays or your co-workers may not always feel the same way about their "expected" role your weight loss efforts that you do. Be ready to accept that without animosity and be prepared to take personal responsibility in the face of less-than-ideal circumstances. Understand that your needs are part of a larger whole and that not everyone needs to change to help you to lose weight. However, some people are willing and some situations are changeable so focus on what you can do to both adapt to that which is unchangeable and change what you can. Also understand that some people may want to accommodate your needs but don’t know how. Family, friends, and coworkers may not automatically know the best way to help you if you don't explain your needs. Take some time to think about what support means to you and how you would like others to assist, comfort, and encourage you.

Step 2: Be clear, be realistic and be specific in your requests to others
If you want to communicate your needs to others, take a moment to develop a clear understanding of what you need so that you can explain it in very specific terms. Create a list of clear-cut requests for your prospective supporters. Here are just a few examples of areas in which communication with supporters might need to be clarified:
  • Eating more slowly than usual
  • Waking up to exercise
  • Supporters asking how many pounds you have lost
  • Supporters snacking habits
Think of your own list and think about what you need to get across to the person you are asking to help you.

Step 3: Identify and Request Support
Next, identify who is likely to be supportive and who is not, develop a clear communication plan, and set aside some time to talk privately with each prospective supporter. Be as specific as possible. Requests such as "Ask me if you can do anything to help as opposed to how many pounds I've lost" and "Would you be willing to put all your junk food in one cupboard to keep it out of my sight in the kitchen?" will be very effective. Vague requests like "I wish you'd be more supportive" don’t provide them with enough information to know what you need. Also, passive communication of your discontent won’t work very well either. For example, consider the statement: "Jane is lucky that her husband helps her to lose weight and just knows what she needs without asking." This really just makes the person feel "less than" but gives them no real information about what you need (other than your expectation that they are skilled at using a crystal ball). Use the requests you completed in step 2 to help structure your conversations. Here are some suggestions based on our examples in step 2:

  • "When I am eating more slowly than usual, it would help me if you were to try to eat at the same speed so I don't worry that I am keeping you waiting."
  • "If I don't wake up to exercise some morning, would you be able to wake me up once and ask me if I had planned to skip my workout?"
  • "Instead of asking how many pounds I've lost, I'd prefer for you to ask if I am feeling good about my health plan."
  • "If you are eating a snack, it would be very helpful to me if you would ask if I mind you eating it near me."
Step 4: Look beyond your existing supporters
If you are having trouble identifying good sources of support in your family or current circle of friends, there are a variety of other places you might look. Investigate new social activities or keep an eye out for people who might share your health goals. Also you might find it helpful to join an established support group. Some find support within their church or the local clubs and organizations to which they belong. Of course SparkPeople provides a wide range online support, too!

Finally, please remember the value of professional assistance. Finding a skilled and qualified health coach, therapist, dietitian, or personal trainer can be very helpful. Professionals who are knowledgeable about and sensitive to weight-related issues can add the support and guidance you need to achieve long-term success.

Step 5: Coach Your Supporters
Your supporters may have preconceived notions about what kind of support is helpful, and they may not realize that the support they're offering is not so useful to you. In step 2, you created clear-cut requests to communicate what kind of support you need and asked some folks to help. If they don’t do it perfectly at first that’s OK, assume they are doing their best and give them constructive feedback. If, however, your supporters continue to treat you in a way that does not feel helpful you may want to quietly move on to other sources and accept that they cannot meet your needs. It's up to you to decide what is and is not helpful for you and adjust yourself accordingly.

Did you struggle (or do you currently struggle) to find support with your weight-loss efforts?

Dr. Martin Binks is Clinical Director and CEO of Binks Behavioral Health PLLC. He is also Assistant Consulting Professor, Division of Medical Psychology, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center. His professional activities include direct patient care, research, consultation services and the development of evidence-based obesity and health promotion programs for healthcare, research and corporate wellness environments.

Dr. Binks received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Fairleigh Dickenson University, trained at the Bronx VA Medical Center and completed pre and postdoctoral training in behavioral medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina. He is the former Director of Behavioral Health, Research, and New Business and Strategic Alliances at the Duke Diet & Fitness Center. Dr Binks has worked extensively in the areas of obesity, health & wellness promotion, neuropsychology, substance abuse treatment, post-traumatic stress disorder and spinal cord injury.

Dr. Binks has authored and co-authored multiple research publications and the book The Duke Diet and has appeared on MSNBC Countdown with Keith Olberman, ABC news "On Call”, NPR, Lifetime Television, WGN, 700 Club and is a featured contributor on He is regularly called upon for commentary on a wide range of health and psychological topics in a variety of national publications and websites including USA Today, Washington Post, LA Times, Oprah Magazine, GX Magazine, AOL Health, Fitness, Men’s and Women’s Health Magazines Reuters and the Associated Press. Dr. Binks has been a contributor with the Army National Guard Decade of Health and Wounded Warriors Programs and is a member of several corporate advisory boards.

His research interests include technology-based healthcare delivery, obesity treatment, non alcoholic fatty liver disease, and overall health promotion. He serves as a reviewer on several scientific journals Dr. Binks contributes to healthcare provider education through his work with students and trainees and by lecturing nationally in the areas of obesity management, health promotion and behavioral medicine. Dr. Binks is currently active in several leadership positions at the national scientific organization The Obesity Society.

Dr. Binks works directly with health coaching clients from around the world through in-person, telephone and web-based technology and also offers individual psychotherapy at the Durham, N.C., location. He can be reached through

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USMAWIFE 3/27/2021
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CHERYLHURT 3/13/2021
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PIZZA5152 12/23/2020
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1CRAZYDOG 9/15/2020
to me it is definitely all about personal responsibility. Thanks for the information. Report
Not everyone has family or close friends. Report
I don’t think everyone needs outside support, I am by nature a solitary person, I can socialize if it is required, but it is not my favorite thing to do. When I do socialize I prefer it to be with only one other person not a crowd. All decisions made in my life are made by me so we all know who is responsible! For me my weight loss journey is personal, not something to discuss with the world any more then my finances for any other major decisions I make in life. Even here on spark my blogs tend to be about things going on with the farm, not personal things. Spark tends to push the socialization part of weight loss excessively, I don’t need or want an exercise buddy, and I don’t need or want to tell everyone about personal things going on in my life. Report
Quite helpful. Report
Thank You for a great article................ Report
I enjoyed this blog but does anyone have any ideas for after divorce stories to share? I really need the boost!! Report
Love this blog. It never occurred to me to tell people what I need from them about eight months ago. However, I have recently had to have some hard conversations with people in my life about my journey. I have had to let them know that their brand of cheerleading was not encouraging. It was hard to speak up because I would usually just stuff those thoughts and feelings. However, it was so awesome to be able to express myself and know that they loved me enough to really hear me and to help me be successful. Report
Thank you for the sound advise. At step two, i stopped reading briefly so i could tell my husband what he could do to support me. thanks once again! Report
Good points :) Report
Saved this to my favorites so I can revisit,good advise. Report
I think you hit the nail on the head when you said you need to take personal responsibility. I need to take personal responsibility. It is a lot easier for me to blame mood, disappointment, someone else buying tempting foods, etc. than to make decisions and consistent choices, but that is what the bottom line is on this whole process, isn't it? Report
Thank you for such a well written and relevant article! Report
Yes, some of us do have to go it alone, except for SparkPeople, of course, so thank goodness you folks are there for us loner losers. I have tried and failed to build a local support system. Probably it is my age, since I know a lot of people who would benefit from losing weight, eating healthier, and having a walking program, but my senior friends seem to have just given up. I have no family close by, so family support is also a no go. I have had to drop out of all my church activities and social groups because they always serve food and I always backslide. Good health has proven to be a boring, lonely, grueling pursuit. Report
For me, I HAVE to constantly remind myself to communicate more clearly the things that I need to succeed - not just in my weight loss journey, but in all aspects of my life. Communication can be difficult and complicated, but it truly is key. Just me....pushing beyond my comfort zone!

-- Robin
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(¸.•´ (¸.•´ (¸.•´¸¸.•¨¯`* Report
I really enjoyed this blog and am going to save it for future reference. I think that Dr. Binks gave very helpful and informative advice that could help me in a lot of other areas of my life where I need just support, not just weight loss.

I always enjoy the blogs written by the wonderful SparkPeople staff, but am so grateful that you have occasional guest bloggers who can give us a different perspective. Thank you! Report
This article is very informative and helpful. Thank you! Report
This hit home for a different reason. I try to coach my husband with his stretching and exercise routine (set up with the help of physical therapists and personal trainers) He will do everything correctly with them but is half hearted otherwise. I think I'll ask him how much if any help he wants from me. Report
This is such great advice and I would LOVE to be able to take it. Unfortunately I live with my mother in law who food shops everyday for whatever she is in the mood for daily, since she has retired a few years ago, she has put on weight and become more and more unhealthy and addicted to fatty, salty and sugary foods. The same foods that are a struggle for me to stay away from. She subscribes to that old school thought about granola bars being good for you because after all they are GRANOLA...I try and try to explain to her that they are glorified candy bars with as many calories, fat, sugar...etc....she just does not believe me...I mean french fries are good for us because they are POTATOES?? "but they are FRIED" I tell her...her response? "well I used canola oil and that is the good for you oil!" In 6 months I have gained 7 pounds, my Husband 8 and my CAT 1 1/2!
She says she doesnt make us eat anything---well if it is in our environment, we are gonna eat it... So before having to move in here, I had my own home, kitchen and fridge. I could premake my foods and meals and just grab and go. I no longer have that ability and when I come home after a long day and I am hungry, I end up grabbing her snacks because I have no healthy choices readily available to me without full on making it. And when I am THAT hungry, I do not have the energy... I will take this advice when I am back in my own home with my Husband and Son who support and understand my efforts for health and weight loss...until then I need to hang on and try not to do any more damage. Report
Communicating one's needs clearly and specifically helps in ALL areas of life!
Good article. Report
I read Judith Beck, PhD's great book "The BECK Diet Solution" (we have a Spark Team.) Dr. Beck is a Professor at the U. of Penn and she teaches how to THINK like a THIN person! (I got her book at the library.) Report
Such a great tactful way to ask for help. I was planning on having this talk with my husband and this gave me great insight on how to address it in a manner he would be more on board with me..thank you! Report
Great suggestions for finding and asking for support that is helpful. Report
Great timing! My spouse just warmed up a doughnut in the micro-wave and smelled up the whole house (I don't even like doughnuts). This gave me permission to talk to him about my journey. He hadn't even realized what he was doing. Report
Sometimes it's hard to let others in on your weight loss journey, this is all great advice! Report
Thank you so very much! These are some important points I have been wanting to share with my husband so I shared the article. I'm sure the conversation will be that of progress! I loved it! Report
Support can be found in a lot of ways. I use sp friends as support also. My family is attempting to be healthy but don't live near me so they aren't always the support I turn to. I did have to ask DH to start keeping track of how much of each ingredient he puts in our meals so I can track and to separate things where possible (chicken bean and rice burritos, I asked him not to mix the chicken, beans and rice like usually but keep them separate so I could choose my own portions of each. And yes, my DH is the cook of the house since I know how but don't always enjoy cooking.) Report
This was some great advice. I will be using some of it the future... Thanks Report
Those are very good recommendations. It's easy to expect people to know how to support us, when they don't necessarily know without our input. As you write, it's also important to take personal responsibility for our choices. Report
I like the tip on recognising how to clearly communicate your needs without resorting to passive/ aggresive techniques. I grew up in a family where I was always "wrong" without explanation-(impossible for a child who wants to win approval). I make sure I explain my needs when I catch myself magically expecting my family to read my mind! Report
Once I got my husband on board as a supporter, it really helped. This article has some good tips to help me stay on track. Report
Really good advice, thanks! Report
I LOVE this article! Such great advice. Thank you! Report