This post might also be called "Why many online weight loss support groups may actually impede your progress."
PLEASE.......... allow me to vent!! There will be a happy ending at the end of the venting, but it may take me awhile to get to that point. LOL Before I begin, as a prelude to this story, lemme say that many moons ago, I read a psychological study about support groups for overcoming issues such as alcoholism, obesity, co-dependent issues, and the like.
Basically a bunch of people can start a group with the stated purpose of say, overcoming morbid obesity. At some point, the core or primary members of the group might "give up" inwardly (assuming they were really serious from the beginning), yet outwardly, they keep up the pretence that they are really trying to lose weight.
The core members form an unspoken alliance and an unspoken agreement that they will ENABLE each other to go through the motions of losing weight when they all know that their head and their heart just isn't there.
Heaven help the unsuspecting person who comes along who is really ready to lose weight and put forth the necessary effort. The core members simply can't allow anyone to show examples of hard work, personal sacrifice and actual progress. They can't let anyone upset the status quo, so anyone who does not become a member of the enabling team (or at least ignore it and pretend it isn't happening) will be dealt with swiftly.
What I am venting about here in particular is online support groups such as yahoo groups. When I came back from South Dakota in July I joined half a dozen or so online support groups for those with a lot of weight to lose, and I also reluctantly joined some body building forums as, based on what I've been reading, building a little muscle would greatly aid my weight loss efforts.
Since then, I have unsubscribed from every single "support" group, one at a time, as they were all, without exception, nothing more than havens for enablers. With one group, I unsubscribed within three days after I joined. The people on there did nothing but openly swap recipes for fattening dishes. ( I am not making that up).
In the other groups, people would daily post their excuses for overeating and not exercising and everyone would reinforce that behavior by validating their lame excuses! Hello! Enablers-R-Us, at your service!
Ironically, I was reluctant to join any of the body building forums because many of the people there have never been morbidly obese or really overweight, and those who were are so far from that now. ..... I thought it was important to associate with people who'd understand where I've been and where I was starting from. So I initially thought that the support groups for obesity would be more helpful than the body building forums.
However, as it turns out, I have received more support, better advice and more powerful inspiration from body builders than I ever did from obesity support groups. Although some of the body builders have never been really overweight, they understand what it takes to get a body fit and healthy. They don't all understand where I've been, but they understand exactly where I want to go and what I must do to get there-- because they have all achieved this themselves.
There are a number of body builders on the weight lifting forums who used to be morbidly obese and achieved health through body building. (Most don't hang around the groups for obesity and now I know why). One of them said something to me yesterday that really made something CLICK within me and I will be forever grateful to him.
I told him how I'd finally unsubscribed from the remaining so called weight loss support groups, and about the enabling and such, and we talked for a long time about what has been helpful for him.
The absolute GOLD that he gave me was pointing out how people start diet and exercise programs yet don't feel good about what they are doing. They feel like some fat tub of lard who is struggling to become an athlete.
With the ones who stay at it long enough and who also work on the head stuff, one day, there's a shift, and they stop thinking of themselves as a fat person trying to become an athlete, and instead they start thinking of themselves as an athlete who needs to lose some weight.
Once that shift happens, everything starts improving. They are able to place food in its proper perspective, they are able to make sacrifices and set priorities that support what they want to achieve. And the list goes on.
Basically, what he is saying is that if you think and act like a fit person, your body will eventually fall in line with your thoughts and actions. And he did stress the THINKING part.
I have been experiencing this gradual shift in my thinking and behavior, but might not have been really conscious of it for quite some time if he hadn't pointed this out to me. Staying on my food plan and making exercise a priority have become a routine for me. I do still get occasional urges to eat an unhealthy food, overeat, or skip exercise-- but I am able to talk myself into positive behavior MOST of the time, which is light years away from where I was a short time ago.
So, if you belong to an online support group for weight loss and the members are actually supporting each other in the thinking and actions that will create weight loss -- good for you! I hope that you can stay with it and that the group will be cheering you on your road to success.
But if you check your email every day and read one post after another of EXCUSES and enabling statements, you might want to ask yourself if you are really helping yourself and others by taking part in the group. What is your support group actually supporting?
My ONLY regret is that one or two of the groups that I unsubbed from had a couple of people who seemed to have that spark that's the mark of someone who will find their way eventually; and it would have been great to see them become that fit person they desire to be. I wish them well.
But I can no longer sit here every morning, reading over my emails as I have my morning coffee, and observe groups of people reinforcing for each other all of the lame excuses and justifications for being fat and unfit. As the body builders say, "excuses are for pussies." So I had to move on and put an end to it.
I will remain a member of OFB, as it is run by someone who overcame her obesity with exercise and is now an athlete. The group actually focuses on fitness and athletics. I will also continue with the body building forums where I get great feedback, support and advice. And I will keep reading your blogs and writing in my own -- as this has been really helpful.
Be good to you today and nurture that athlete within!