This has been an overview of what happens at the intersection of electronic media and the struggles of individuals to deal with their weight issues, body image issues, food issues, addiction issues, food addiction issues, and the obesity epidemic in general.
One of the unsurprising revelations is that Alcoholics Anonymous is right again. Service to others is a core value. The young people who share their thoughts with the Weigh2Rock website feel the same way. There is a whole section devoted to “Kids Helping Kids.”
Dr. Pretlow expresses it like this in Overweight: What Kids Say:
Once they have achieved some success at losing weight, they become a helper to those just starting out. Becoming a helper is a win-win, as helping someone else reinforces the changes the helper has made in themselves. Explaining what works to someone else, gives the helper a deep understanding of the process, and helping improves their own self-worth.
Helping somebody else always brings opportunities for self-improvement. Which is, after all, what this is all about. We hope to improve our chances for a long and healthy life, and the chances of our children, patients, and students to have the same.
Helping someone is good for you, even if his or her problem is pretty much like your problem. Or, perhaps, especially if it is basically the same problem. This is why people tend to pair off for mutual aid. In AA, the object is to get a sponsor who has been through what you are going through and can offer guideposts and personal support. Then, the object is to become one of these mentors. The same principles are observed in all 12-step groups, including those that specialize in eating disorders.
The other way to pair off is not so much teacher-to-pupil, as peer-to-peer. In forums and discussion groups, experienced recovering food addicts give pep talks, of course, as one person addressing an audience. For example, we are reminded by a website called Weight Loss Buddy that “Weight loss isn’t for wimps!”
Here is a typical piece of advice:
People will say negative things to you, perhaps out of jealousy or scorn. Don’t allow others to discourage you with their negative comments on your weight loss journey!
At a site called BuddySlim, the motto is, “Connect, Inspire, and Lose Weight Together!,” and it seems to have a wide array of support options. There is a Weight Loss Challenge, a Fitness Challenge, weight loss Groups, Motivation, Diary, Chat, and so on.
Perhaps the most useful is the option to find a weight loss buddy to pair up with. For instance, a young woman named Leah says,
Hi, I’m just finishing out my freshman year in college and I’m looking for someone in a similar situation to me to talk with for support… I hope to find a buddy that will be able to help me stop binging so I don’t do any more damage, and help me to maintain my current plan. I’m looking forward to supporting somebody who’s fighting the same battle.
This seems to be the most important function such websites can offer. Accountability is a major issue for a lot of people. Sometimes, if we don’t have another person to emotionally “report to,” we have trouble staying on track. And there is the matter of keeping our word. A lot of times, we don’t mind breaking our promises to ourselves, but if we make a verbal commitment to somebody else, we will go the extra mile to keep our word.
The folks at Slimwell Academy suggest another possibility:
This individual may be someone within your own home or family or even someone in your community or at your job; however they do not necessarily need to be participating in a weight loss program as long as they support your goals in a healthy manner.
For Weight Watchers, Sherry Amatenstein wrote “The Buddy System: A Tale of Weight-Loss Success,” explaining why goals are more easily met by teaming up with a person or persons who are not only unconditionally supportive, but tough. (A combination that makes better parents, too.) To support this, she not only provided a true-life example of the system working right, but brought in the scientific research:
A university study cited in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that people who recruited three friends or family members to assist them in their quest to lose weight had better results losing and keeping weight off than those who had no buddy system to fall back on.
Buddies set up hotline systems by phone or email, or texting, for distress calls when temptation throws itself in your path. You promise to keep a food diary or eating log, honestly, and throw it open to criticism. You make commitments to each other, like a promise to work out three times a week, and hold each other to it. Or, better yet, go to gym class (or its grown-up equivalent) together. You take walks together, and keep each other on track. Apparently, some kind of weight-loss buddy robot is produced in Japan, but the first mention of it looked too dicey even to bother pursuing.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Overweight: What Kids Say,”Amazon.com
Source: “Weight loss isn’t for wimps!,” Weight Loss Buddy,05/02/10
Source: “Diet and Weight Loss Forums,” BuddySlim
Source: “Supporting Your Weight Loss Goals,” Slimwell Academy
Source: “The Buddy System: A Tale of Weight-Loss Success,” WeightWatchers.com
Image by Carnoodles (Carnie Lewis), used under its Creative Commons license.