Talk to any woman who’s ever tried to break a bad habit, and she’ll tell you the process can be tough and isolating. However, what we at The Girlfriends Diet have discovered (and research also proves) is that support is the key to success — and that’s especially true when it comes to weight loss.
According to the American Psychological Association, your chances of shedding pounds and keeping it off are best when you have a social network where you can share tips on diet and exercise and when you have a diet buddy or buddies to go along with you for the ride. Brown University researchers found that people who had a diet buddy dropped significantly more weight after a year of effort compared with those who went it alone. When people are in a group with others on the same journey and make themselves accountable to one another, they feel there is this element of, Hey, this worked for her, so why can’t it work for me, too? I’m giving it a try!
A diet buddy can be even more effective than a professional. University of Pittsburgh researchers put this theory to the test by pitting dieting teams of four friends against lone dieters, all of whom were given the same eating plan and the same behavioral counseling. Among the loners, 76% completed the program and 24% went on to maintain their weight loss after 10 months. But 95% of the diet buddies completed the program, and 66% maintained their full weight loss 10 months later, way overshooting the 20% long-term success rate that is believed to be the norm. A lot of it has to do with accountability, research shows. Being in it together gives you a feeling of responsibility to others — you don’t want to let them down. And it appears to work best peer-to-peer.
Another study involving more than 200 people, most of whom were women, found that professionally led diet programs can actually hinder weight-loss progress because they tend to be so rigid. However, even in such a setting, the dropout rate is lower when friends attend the program together. More important, researchers discovered the same thing: Friends dieting together manage to keep the weight off longer than individuals who make a go of it alone. In the study group, two-thirds of diet buddies were still successful six months later, compared with only a quarter of those who were participating solo.
Overall, while getting support and diet guidance (eat this, don’t eat that) from a pro — be it your doctor or a well-established forum such as Weight Watchers — beats doing it on your own, dieter-to-dieter support has proved to produce the best results.