Friday, January 14, 2011

How to find & cultivate an accountability partner

The best place to find an accountability partner is probably in a WLS support community - at in-person support group meetings, in your surgeon's waiting room, or at online support communities like Obesity Help. Go to a few meetings, eavesdrop on conversations and read forum postings, until you identify someone "simpatico". By that, I mean someone you identify with for any reason, whether it's his/her age, profession, hobbies, geographic location, you name it. Try to avoid someone would baby you when you need to be kicked in the butt. Initiate a conversation with that person. Introduce yourself, ask a question, give them a compliment, tell them a joke, express an opinion. If your interaction with this person goes well - they seem to "get" you and respond to you in a positive, caring and responsible fashion - ask if they'd be willing to try an accountability partnership with you. Tell them why. It might be, "I really admire your band success," or "Like you, I travel a lot for my job, and I'm wondering if you can share any eating tips with me."

When you find a partner and agree on how you're going to run the partnership, begin communicating immediately, every day without fail. If you're not going to be able to check in daily for a period (be it one day or one week), tell your parner in advance or as soon as you know - don't just disappear. Be has honest as you possibly can be with your partner, and demand the same thing of her/him. Listen carefully to what your partner says or writes. You may not have the magic answers to all your partner's problems, but you'll be helping just by listening closely and respectfully.

If you and your partner seem to fall into a rut, it might be time to shake things up. You can give each other a challenge, like exercising 5 minutes longer every day or giving up fast food meals for a month. You can decide to read a book together and discuss each section or chapter. A good book for this purpose (besides Bandwagon!) is The Emotional First Aid Kit by Cynthia Alexander (available on amazon). You can pledge to list three positive things that happened to you every single day. You can take a short vacation and give up talking about weight loss completely for a set period of time, but go on talking about other events and issues. When you return to the task of daily eating accountability, you might bring new energy or ideas along with you.

If at some point the partnership doesn't seem to be working for you, tell your partner and his him/her for ideas on how to improve the relationship. Your joint decision might be to end the relationship altogether, or to check in once a month instead of once a day, and that's OK.

Finally, here's an example of the kind of message I send to my accountability partner each morning:

Dear Partner (name withheld to protect the innocent),
It's 15F this morning. FIFTEEN DEGREES!!! WTF?! I moved all the way to Tennessee to get away from 15F weather!
I didn't eat according to plan yesterday, but I did OK. When I got done with my teeth cleaning and errands, I didn't have time to go home for lunch, so I got a chicken salad wrap at the coffee shop and ate most of half of it. It was pretty good, with grapes in the salad.

This morning I have a Zumba class. I've taken Zumba before at a different place and liked it a lot, but so far I'm not liking the new class because the instructor doesn't explain the moves or call them out before they start. You just have to play follow the leader.

I'll be at JCP from 11:00 am to 4:30 pm today. Food will be:

B&S: the usual (protein shake before workout, a latte afterward)
L: 2 oz catfish salad (like tuna salad), 2 Wasa thin & crispy sesame flatbreads
S: 1/4 c. trail mix
D: 3 oz crab cake, 1/4 c. barley & veggy salad
S: granola bar
I'm liking the granola bars for an evening snack because they're so chewy. Gotta chew!

Have a great day and STAY WARM!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Can you win at weight loss?

I want to challenge your (acknowledged or unacknowledged) belief that you can't succeed at weight loss. Think about it. What have you done in your life so far that required long-term, sustained effort that didn't necessarily yield immediate results or rewards? School? Marriage? Child rearing? Learning to drive, crochet, play bridge, speak another language, put your eyeliner on straight? Did you housebreak a puppy, teach a Sunday school class, grow a garden, keep an African violet alive? Make a list. After each accomplishment, write down how long you worked at it, or how long you've been working at it, and rate your current results on a scale of 0 to 5, where 0 equals complete failure and 5 equals competence or success. Here's an example from my own list:

project - time spent - score - results:
graduated from high school at age 16 - 11 yrs - 5 - done (just barely)
learned to drive a car (automatic) - 3 months - 5 - done (and only 13 speeding tickets)
learned to drive a car (standard) - 6 months - 5 - done (and didn't ruin a single clutch)
graduated from college - 4 years - 5 - Magna Cum Laude
marriage #1 - 6 years - 1 - divorced
marriage #2 - 24 years - 5 - better than ever
went back to school for a business degree - 2 yrs - 3 - 24 credits but no degree
learned to speak & write French - 6 years - 4 - no longer fluent (c'est une dommage!)
learned to speak Mandarin Chinese - 2 years - 1 - I can say beer, friend, and hello
put on eyeliner straight - 43 years - 4 - not great, but getting better
learn to play mah jongg - 20 minutes - 0 - didn't get it and quit
learned to cook - 40 years - 5 - better than ever
learned to use our new vacuum cleaner - 3 minutes - 0 - haven't tried very hard
lost 90 pounds thanks to my band and 3 years work - 5 - and still working at it!

Does that give you enough of an idea?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Making a new year's resolution that sticks

Experts say that in making resolutions or setting personal goals, it's crucial to have a strong motivation (if I don't lose 50 pounds, I may have to start using insulin to manage my diabetes) and an understanding of the obstacles ahead (to lose 50 pounds, I'm going to have to learn how to cook healthier meals). You need to assess your strengths and resources (I'm a very determined person who enjoys researching nutrition and health issues), identify the support you'll have (I have hundreds of bandster friends who will give me tips and cheer me on), and consider what your risks and mistakes might be (I tend to focus too much energy on unimportant details while completely missing some important ones). Finally, you must decide how you'll evaluate or measure your success (I will weigh myself once a week) and what reward you'll earn when you achieve your goal (I'll buy myself a new winter coat in a smaller size).

My resolution for 2011 is to log my food intake every day. Here's my assessment of that resolution.
1. Motivation - If I don't log my food, I could regain some or all of the weight I've lost.
2. Obstacles - Sometimes it's very hard to find the time to log my food.
3. Strengths & resources - Since I plan a week's worth of dinners once a week, and I plan my daily menus every morning, much of the food logging work is already done. I just have to enter my daily food plan (I use the nutrition/health tracker feature at first thing in the morning and update it at night if I've changed anything during the day.
4. Support - I have an accountability partner who expects to hear my food plan every day and who'll help keep me honest.
5. Risks & mistakes - Finding the time to use my food log will be a challenge, but if I skip a day, I will start over again the next day.
6. Evaluation - the data I enter in the food log itself will indicate whether I've done my logging task each day. No data = no success!
7. Reward - when I've updated my food log every day for a month, I will reward myself with a massage.