Support: The Missing Diet Link

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Having the right support system in place is one of the most important factors in succeeding in your weight-loss efforts. However, a supportive friend, no matter how well-intentioned, is not someone who tells you that you look fine just the way you are. A supportive friend is not someone who urges you to go off your diet "just this once." A supportive friend is not someone who although she says she wants you to lose weight really doesn't.

It's great to have people who love us just for who and what we are. We all need that, but true friends, old or new, pay attention to our goals and help us achieve them. That doesn't mean scolding us when we stray but complimenting us when we make even small successes. A dieter doesn't need a food policeman for a friend but rather a facilitator for success. A dieter needs a supportive person who offers low-fat alternatives at gatherings or healthy snacks at an office party.

A supportive person understands that your goals may be different than hers or his. This is an especially delicate matter in a family where one spouse may be more motivated than the other to transform unhealthy habits. The truly loving spouse will continue to support the one losing weight even if it means not having company in failure.It's difficult to navigate the emotional tightrope between loving and needing someone and truly wanting what's best for them. The dieter must be aware of these complexities and find other ways to bond with friends or family members who don't have the same goals.

A support system doesn't need to be made up of people you know. After being named the fattest city in America several years ago, Philadelphia Mayor John Street set up a health and fitness initiative. He named Gwen Foster as the city's "Health and Fitness Czar," and she created "Fun, Fit, and Free," a fitness program with more than 200 social support groups in hospitals, churches, and even City Hall. The average participant lost 5.3 lbs including the mayor who was overweight. Community pride plus personal goals and education gave the participants the incentive to succeed.