Whether it’s a friend, co-worker, family members, or a larger, more organized group, working with others can make all the difference. When two or more people share similar goals and values, people create synergy. So, along with encouraging each other, you’ll have someone to walk with, dine with, and build healthy habits with.
• Friends, family, or informal group settings. Not only is sharing the Habits of Health with family and friends socially satisfying, it increases accountability and creates an entire environment of health. And wouldn’t you rather help change your friends’ habits than have to think about changing your friends?
• Formal settings. Evidence suggests that group meetings can be a more effective way to lose weight than doing it on your own. Some medical facilities offer clinically based behavioral groups that spur weight loss and health maintenance by combining group dynamics with a professional counselor.
Commercial programs also offer opportunities to attend group meetings for support, discussion, and even assignments such as food diaries. However, studies show that the drop-out rate for these types of groups is high due to busy schedules and travel considerations. If you do choose a group and stay with it, though, you may well benefit from the extra accountability you’ll have through e-mail, phone, and face-to-face contact with others.
• Online. Internet-based programs have advanced tremendously. Today’s sites are generally highly interactive, and the privacy and convenience they offer may make them more attractive than ongoing sessions with a counselor.
In fact, one leading researcher, Dr. Jean Harvey-Berino, has concluded that, contrary to her findings as recently as 2002, a Web site with dynamic, socially supportive, interactive features is just as effective as behavioral counseling.*