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!

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