Enlist friends to support you

by Ali on July 9, 2008

This is the fifteenth part of the dieting basics series – see the series outline for links to all the other posts so far.

I’ve discussed before on The Office Diet whether you should tell your colleagues that you’re on a diet. Some people like to keep their dieting efforts completely to themselves, especially to begin with – often fearing that they’ll fail embarrassingly (especially if they’ve attempted to diet before and not succeeded), or that others will react negatively. But getting the support of your friends could well be the factor that makes the difference, this time, and helps you to achieve your goals rather than give up part-way.

How friends can help you diet

1. Offer tips and ideas to one another

One of the simplest ways for your friends to help you – and for you to help them! – is by sharing great tips that you’ve come across. These could be anything from recommending a website (how about The Office Diet? ;-)), swapping favourite low-fat recipes, or lending one another dieting books and magazines.

Just some of the tips I’ve had from friends are:

  • Freeze chocolate mousses – they’re (almost) as good as chocolate ice-cream
  • Set out your gym clothes the night before, if you plan to exercise in the morning
  • Soak oats in milk overnight for your porridge – it’ll taste much creamier

2. Phone a friend

You might want to pick one or two close friends to be your personal phone-support line for those moments when all your good intentions have vanished, and when you’re reaching for a chocolate bar. Before you “break” your diet, ring your friend to chat … just twenty minutes of distraction is enough for the craving to pass. Admit to them that you’re struggling, and they’ll find some words of wisdom for you: friends are great at knowing when you need some gentle encouragement verses when you need them to get strict.

One study carried out by Stanford University showed the power of a phone call in helping people stick to their fitness plans – see my article How chatting on the phone can help your fitness (on Diet-Blog).

3. Share your food diary

If you do persuade one of your pals to join your healthy living adventure, why not celebrate your triumphs – and commiserate over the difficult times – by sharing your food diaries once a week. Knowing that someone will be reviewing what you ate (and seeing whether you stuck to the good intentions in your plan) can make you reconsider that third jaffa cake…

Some friends even like to award one another gold stars, or smiley face stickers; if you can do it in good spirits, go for it, but don’t become too competitive (or patronising).

4. Exercise with a friend

It’s great to get active with someone else alongside. The best choices are either a friend who’s already sporty (who will be chipper and encouraging when you just want to sit down and moan) or a friend who has been inspired by your healthy living attempts to start up an exercise plan too.

Arrange a set time to get together — it won’t work if you just decide to go for a walk “at some point”. Once you’ve made an appointment with someone else, it’s much harder to break it, and even if you’re not in the mood to exercise, you’ll just have to go along anyway. And, of course, once you get going, you’ll probably have a great time.

Some sports need two people anyway, such as tennis or badminton; try booking a court in your local park or leisure centre. There’s also safety in numbers — if you’re going on a jog, walk or cycle ride, having a buddy alongside means you won’t feel intimidated if you veer off the public track.

Why your diet will succeed with support from friends

1. You’ll avoid your friends sabotaging your efforts

Sometimes, friends can feel threatened when you change your eating habits drastically, or make big lifestyle alterations. They might react by encouraging you to eat things that you shouldn’t, or by acting hurt when you turn down the offer of a giant cookie. Unreasonable? Perhaps, but imagine some of the thoughts which might be going through their minds:

  • “If Sue’s on a diet, I suppose we won’t be able to get together for lunch on Friday like we always do.”
  • “Brian’s not as chubby as me, and he thinks he needs to diet? What does that say about me?”
  • “I’m really worried about Josie. What if she ends up starving herself or becoming anorexic? I’d better make sure she eats enough.”

Essentially, your friends are likely to either feel:

  • Worried that their relationship with you will change (eg. that you won’t ever come out any more, or that you’ll go on and on about your diet to the exclusion of all else).
  • Threatened by the positive changes you’re making to your lifestyle (they might not admit this, even to themselves, but if you and your group of friends have always been a bit overweight and prone to scoffing pizza together, your friends might feel you’re trying to be “better” than them.)

By being upfront with your friends about wanting their advice and support, you make it clear that you want to continue the strong relationship which you have AND that you still need them. Most friends will be delighted to help you to achieve your goals, and they’ll be able to stop you from getting too obsessed, or from giving up the minute things get tough.

2. You tend to behave like the people around you

It’s normal to find yourself behaving like the people around you. I’m sure you notice this at work: we tend to conform to the same patterns – for example, if all your colleagues work late, you’ll probably find yourself joining them.

So when you’re out at the pub and your friends decide to get a few bowls of chips to share … you’ll find it very hard not to join in. It often feels awkward to be the odd one out, especially if you’ve not told anyone that you’re on a diet. And it’s easy to think “if they’re all having chips, why shouldn’t I?”

Or if you’re in the office and everyone else is digging into the box of chocolates sent by a grateful client, it gets harder and harder to refuse when colleagues keep passing it your way…

Letting your friends know about your diet, and asking them not to wave temptation under your nose, means that they’ll be a little more sensitive to how they behave around you.

3. Having support and encouragement makes you more determined to succeed in your diet

If you have a lot of weight to lose, getting your body (and life) into shape can be a long and daunting journey. There’ll be times when you ask yourself whether it’s worth it, and when you consider giving up. And if you’re trying to go it alone, chances are that a run of bad days or weeks will spell The End for all your hard work so far.

This is when you need a support team cheering you on. Having friends to encourage you when things get tough really will make all the difference. They’ll be able to tell you that you’ve visibly lost weight (it’s often hard to see the difference yourself, in the mirror) and they’ll reassure you that you’re doing brilliantly. Knowing that you have a crowd of mates wanting you to succeed can help you pull yourself through the rough patches.

So get your friends on board today: that might mean turning to a colleague, an old pal from school, your partner, or even your mum! If you can’t think of anyone in your life to confide in, email me (ali@theofficediet.com) – I’d love to hear how you’re doing, and find out about your triumphs so far.

The next part in this series will explain how your friends can support you during your diet, and why you’ll want to get them involved. Make sure you’re getting RSS updates so that you don’t miss it!

(Image above by Wrote)

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