PUBLISHED: 1:45 PM on Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Support crucial to weight loss program

Courtesy photo
To make that diet resolution a success, experts agree you'll need to add some things in order to lose the weight.

You'll need support, new goals and a plan.

Whether you join a diet group like TOPS or Weight Watchers, the key is to add a support system to your lifestyle. That support can come from a family member or a friend.

Mary Moslander, founder of, struggled to lose the extra 30 pounds she gained after having her third child.

"Mind you, it is not a solo journey," she said. "I tried every diet you can imagine. I had a personal trainer I met with twice a week, and it wasn't enough until I spoke with a girlfriend every morning at 9 a.m." During those conversations, Moslander would speak of the progress or tribulations of the previous day. Just restating her goals aloud helped her avoid temptations. When she did fail, having a friend to bolster her self-esteem was crucial.

"You have to have support to lose weight. It is one of the hardest things you have to do, whether it is 10 pounds or 200 pounds, it is hard for everyone," said Charlene Merrill of Orange Park, who is coordinator for North Florida branch of the not-for-profit organization Take Pounds Off Sensibly (TOPS).

Meeting with TOPS members to talk about their weight loss goals keeps dieters on track. It is how she first lost 38 pounds in 1970 and how she has kept most of that weight off since.

"People are there in the same situation, and they really care about you," Merrill said. "You had a bad day today, but tomorrow can be better." Once a support system is set up, a dieter needs a realistic set of goals. Dropping 30 pounds in 30 days won't happen short of amputation. That extra weight didn't happen overnight and losing it will also take time.

If a person lost just 1 pound a week, that would be 52 pounds in a year's time.

Laurie Bell, author of the soon to be released Lose the Lies, Lose the Weight (Back to the Basics, $24.95), is big on setting goals.

Saying you want to lose weight in the new year isn't enough.

"Get specific with your fitness goals. Steady weight loss will result in motivation," she said.

She advises coming up with a weight-loss goal and come up with ways to attain it. Besides exercise, she advises keeping an honest and thorough food journal.

Merrill said people tend to think they eat less than they really do.

Set a final goal with several minor goals that build up to it. Say for every 5 pounds of weight loss, you give yourself an extra hour of sleep or get a manicure or buy a new CD.

Bell goes as far as using visualization techniques in her goal-setting. She suggests looking through magazines to find the realistic body type you'd like to achieve. Cut out a picture of your face and paste it on that body. Realistic is the key; a middle-aged person is not going to reshape himself into a 26-year-old athlete or model.

"Visualize yourself as a success story," Bell said.

But dieting alone isn't the answer -- changing lifestyle patterns is, said Cary Barbor, diet, health and fitness editor for Quick & Simple magazine.

"If you make the goal unreachable, it then becomes impossible, you get frustrated, and you toss the whole thing," she said.

Lifestyle changes can be as simple as cutting out the afternoon candy bar or walking a mile a day. Combining a reduced intake of calories and added exercise is the key. But exercise doesn't have to mean a gym membership.

"People say that they do not like to exercise. It's exercise if you run around with the kids and play tag or when you walk the dog," Barbor said. "It doesn't have to be a miserable trip to the gym. It can be something you look forward to do. This is a good place to enlist a buddy. Needing to show up for that other person is good motivation."

But if you do go the gym route, Bell advises hiring a trainer to start. Besides making sure you are performing the exercises properly, paying for a trainer will motivate you to go to the gym.

Joining a group such as Weight Watchers, with its daily allotment of food points and weekly weigh-ins, brings a sense of accountability to the task.

"I don't think there is anything wrong with making a resolution [to lose weight] if that is how you feel," said Kim Hoffmann, a leader of a Jacksonville Weight Watchers group. "But it is going to take time, and you have to buy into that. A lot of people join gyms in January and quit in February."