Sunday, August 10, 2008

Is Support Necessary?

About a month ago, I received a question in my inbox from a young blog reader named Melanie. Her question is one I think many of us wonder about, so I asked her if I could share it on my blog:

"I'm writing to you to ask you if you think it is necessary to have support from people around you in order to keep going with your weight loss goals? I am a 21 year old and although I have never been obese, I do have a weight problem and have been struggling with one since I was very young. Your blog has really opened up my eyes and has pushed me to do something about it, but I find myself struggling with the fact that my family and friends are all very unsupportive. Everyone around me is very thin, and they don't understand what its like to constantly turn to food for comfort. Because of their lack of support I have turned into someone who refuses to go out and have fun with my friends because I constantly feel like I'm too fat. I have zero self-esteem and the more they talk about my weight the more I stop believing in myself, that I can actually do this, that I can actually escape from this hole that I have allowed myself to sink in."

First of all, let me say that the answer to your question is yes and no. Yes, because I believe that having some kind of emotional support is necessary in lots of different aspects of life, and weight loss is one of them. We are not meant to be solitary creatures (even though we often do that to ourselves). Of course lots of people, myself included, enjoy some solitude, but trying to go through life completely alone and with no one to turn to with our difficulties can be painful. And when we have no one to talk to... no where to share our feelings... it seems we are more likely to turn to food. And food is not a good support system, especially when you are trying to lose weight. Stuffing your feelings with food is quite counterproductive, and can lead to not only a deep sadness but also a rather large waistline.

But my answer is also "no," because you absolutely CAN lose weight without the support of people around you. You can find the support you need elsewhere: from more distant friends or family by phone, in online forums (I recommend 3FatChicks), or in weight loss support groups in your town (check the local paper for groups like TOPS, Weight Watchers, Overeaters Anonymous, or even just a hobby club where you can make new friends who will probably be supportive of your efforts). You could even get your support from a counselor. It's important to find at least one person who cares about your goals and cheers you on. It's good for the spirit, and can help you stay on track. You could even start a blog. A good bit of my support comes from right here. There are wonderful people out there just waiting to be your friends. So despite the negativity coming from the people around you, you can step outside that circle, find support, and lose weight. It's harder, I think, but worth it.

I want to encourage you to sit down and have a talk with the people in your life who are causing you to feel this way. Tell them how important it is for your health to lose weight. Ask them for support. Tell them specifically what you want and don't want ("I don't like it when you make fun of my weight. But when I come over you can help me by not having cheesecake for dessert. How about some fresh fruit?") And you're right: a lot of thin folks just do not understand the weird relationship we have with our food. But if they care about you, they will care about your health. They will care about your feelings. And please know that your value does not depend on your weight. You have worth NOW, at this weight. You are a wonderful, caring person NOW. Look in the mirror. Tell yourself, "I love myself." Hold your head up high and be proud of the good things about you. And don't let your weight hold you back from going out and having fun. You're only 21 once. Enjoy it.

I have struggled with a similar issue in my life, Melanie. Over the past year, as I tried to lose weight, my husband would bring home big boxes of chocolate chip muffins, cases of Coke (which he does not drink, and the kids do not drink), bags of potato chips, and 2-pound blocks of cheese (my weakness). The things that came into my home were absolutely NOT conducive to weight loss. Having an entire CASE of Hershey bars sitting on his bedroom dresser, open, was not helpful. Neither was the huge bag of sausage patties nor the 8 half-gallons of ice cream he brought home and stuck in the freezer... and then ate in front of me. But you know what? I lost weight anyway. I did it without ANYONE in my family helping me. I did it without any local friends cheering me on. But I didn't do it alone. I had support online. And that, I think, is a key to my success.

Find your support, wherever it may be. And know that regardless of what your friends and family are doing, you alone are in control of what you put in your mouth, and you CAN lose weight.

Take care, and be well.


Anonymous said...

So glad to see you blogging again! I loved the photos from the previous entry too.

Karen in TN

The Dieting Ninja said...

Definitely. My fears (both real and unjustified) of revealing my weight battle are the number one reason that I started my blog. Since then, it's been a great source of motivation, both from my own personal desire to keep it updated, and from the truly great people I've met through it.

It's hard - some would say too hard - to go through weight loss alone. It's too easy to give up, to stop, to get frustrated.

Don't give up, and hopefully your friends will take your polite requests for healthier food seriously when they realize how much it means to you.

Anonymous said...

I really related with this person saying she had no support and her family did not understand. When I started to lose weight I'd become so determined directly because my family refused to help me and would put obstacles in my way. I dont think it always translates that if people care about you they will care about your health, a lot of people are ignorant and ill informed so do not understand the damage they are doing

As for support, I agree it is not essential to losing weight or doing anything else but it does certainly help. I remember my tutor telling me when i went back into education that i would never get a degree without the support of my family but i proved them wrong and again when all my family would stock the cupboards with highly calorific junk food i still managed to lose a significant amount of weight. but it is far from easy. i hope melanie does combat her problems now because if i had done the same when i was 21 i might not be obese now.

Marcella said...

This blog strangely seems to have just the subject I need to discuss. First of all, Thank you, Lyn, for your words, your wisdom, your support for all of us who would ask for it. You gave great advice to Melanie. I have had no support from family and co-workers since November and have lost 44 pounds. I should lose 44 more, but it is going so slow now, I don't know if I'll ever make that. I am really struggling right now because I am on a huge plateau and almost "lost it" last Friday. Everyone here knows what I mean by that. I am better today. Rarely does anyone notice that I have lost 4 pants sizes. No one compliments me at all. Maybe it's because I'm 60, and 60 year old chubby women really aren't ever going to get compliments or encouragement, or much of anything, actually. I do have a lot to live for, though, and I am losing weight more for my health than for how I look. So, yes, it is probably easier with support, but it can be done without it. For me, it is only occasionally I am dying for someone to talk to about it. I usually come here and am consoled or satisfied or encouraged emotionally. Thank you, Lyn. You will never know how you have helped me out of some dark places into the light.

Sally in Ohio

Karyn said...

Lyn, you gave some solid and sensitive advise to Melanie...good job.

I agree with you - find the support you need somewhere else if your friends and family are not offering it. You also gave great suggestions as to where to find that support. For example, my MIL has gone to TOPS for years (successfully) and while she was losing weight, she gained some real friendships that she may not have made otherwise. I am sure the same would be true for other similar programs.

I also have a message for Marcella (who apparently does not have a blog for me to comment on).... I so know what you are talking about in regard to the plateau...I seem to be floundering there as well right now. I do not think it unreasonable for a 60 yr old woman who has lost 4 pant sizes to expect someone to notice! If you have lost 44 lbs and have 44 to go, that means you have lost 1/2 your extra weight! That is wonderful! I am not much younger than you - I'd be glad to be your blog/email friend...we can encourage each other!

Ceres said...

The Internet provides 24/7 counseling! I'm pretty sure that it has contributed to my own weight loss. It's so much easier to log calories, find out nutritional info for what gets in your mouth, and (perhaps most importantly) get in contact with people who are going though the same struggle as you.

Kyra said...

For me, I didn't receive any support from anyone. Instead, it took me getting mad enough to start fighting back (which gave me the energy to put the fight into my own battle - exercise and food). Support is a good thing, but for myself I found everyone was either obviously unsupportive, or they became that way a little later after being supportive to start with (which is the more insidious betrayal, if you ask me.)

I found that in the end it really comes down to learning how to support yourself. It is true that we are social creatures, but because this is about who we are on the inside out, it's hard for others not to inflict their own views (and wants, as people like to see others fail for some bizarre reason) on us. I think the internet would have been helpful back then, for me - but I didn't have that.

I did it, alone. It can be done. But it doesn't have to be.

Great to be a loser said...

I totally agree Lyn, that while it is entirely possible to lose weight without any support, it is easier to do it WITH the support. I am one of those who has been blessed with a wonderful family who has been supportive thru the weight loss journey I began in Jan. 2007. At that point I weighed 278 pounds! I was tired of not liking the person I saw in the mirror, I was tired of not being the best wife and mother I could be because I was tired all the time, I realized all the health problems in my family history are aggravated by obesity, and I was just sick of not being able to fit in all the cute clothes I saw in stores. When I decided to make a life change, my husband was behind me 100% as well as my parents. It has now been ove 18 months and I am at my goal weight (126 pounds). Could I have done it without the loving support of anyone? Definitely, because I wanted and needed to do this for a better (and longer) life. But because my family was willing to eat those healthier foods with me, to walk with me, to join the gym with me...well, it made the journey alot more fun! I would encourage anyone out there who doesn't have that support system in place to look for one. And if you can't find one locally...the internet can and does connect us with millions at the touch of a button and you'd be surprised at the support and strength you can find in one another! Good luck everyone!

Twix said...

Support is neccesary! (((hugs)))

Lynne said...

I think your husband and my husband must be related in some weird way...

Heather said...

I think family members mean well and don't realize how unhelpful they are truly being.

Back in January when I first tried to really lose weight, I was misguided and doing all this fad diet stuff. Regardless, my partner and soulmate was not supportive. Instead she was pushing all the stuff I wasn't supposed to have in my face. And justifying it with "you can't deprive yourself" and "I love you no matter what size you are". It's a nice sentiment, but at the end of the day, it's crap that doesn't help.

So, when I made the decision to do this and do it the right, we had to sit down and have a talk. And now, she gets it. She's more supportive and more understanding than I ever thought possible. I'm sure it helps that I'm not eliminating whole food groups and running around acting like a bafoon because I'm chowing down speed.

Ultimately, I got smart, got informed and started doing my part. But having my loved ones do their part has really helped. Great advice!

new*me said...

great reply to Melanie :) Lucky for me, hubby is on board with our new healthy lifestyle and has lost 6 in around his waist to prove it ;) Kids are along for the ride and don't have a choice at this point.......they are young and I am giving them the gift of health.

I think online support around here is awesome. I love my blogger buds so much ;)