The power of support and community
The importance of weight-loss support
Women who participated in a small study conducted by the University of Illinois revealed that social support was invaluable in helping them to lose weight and sustain the loss. During 18 weeks following a healthy eating plan, those who dropped kilos and kept them off reported that social support was one of the main reasons for their success.
Why? The accountability factor, for one thing. Telling others about your goals is linked to achieving them. In a study led by Professor Matthews of the Department of Psychology at the Dominican University of California, 267 people wrote down a goal. The study found that more than 70 per cent of participants who shared that goal with a friend and sent them weekly progress updates either reached their goal or were more than halfway there, while only 35 per cent of people who didn’t share their goals achieved similar weight loss results.
Support can be a game changer
WW member Michelle Goff would agree with all this. “Support is key,” she says. “The game changer for my weight loss (16.5kg in 12 months) was Group Coaching. No matter how I was feeling – good or bad – I went to my meeting,” says Michelle. “With the support of my Coaches (Alison Jones and Marie Elliott) and fellow members I reached my goal.”
Michelle’s advice to others is if you can’t attend a meeting, find a support network, such as social media pages. “Being able to share your struggles and triumphs will encourage you to strive!” she says. And with 80,000 members in Australia and New Zealand alone, WW offers a strong support circle. Having like-minded people around you helps too.
According to a study in the journal Obesity, when overweight people had friends trying to get healthy, they got on board too. “Fortunately for those attempting to lose weight, possessing more social contacts also attempting weight loss has been associated with greater intention to lose weight,” the researchers say.
WW meeting members
The right support is crucial
While it’s great that people can spur on others to get started, it’s the quality of support that matters when it comes to sticking with weight-loss goals and successfully reaching them. “An authoritative approach is likely to get the response of a toddler or rebellious teenager,” says organisational, health and wellbeing psychologist Dr Rachel Abramson. “People don’t need to be told – being encouraged and rewarded is far more effective. “When working together, the language needs to be positive and empowering,” she adds. “Many people have well-meaning friends and family who might say, ‘Aren’t you on a diet?’, but the conversation needs to be encouraging with statements such as, ‘You look awesome, I can see you’ve been losing weight.’”
In a study of primarily middle-aged Caucasian men who had already lost weight, one of the keys to maintaining their weight loss was supportive phone calls post-loss. While some men had regained weight after the yearly follow-up, the ones who had the phone chats put on less weight than those who were left to their own devices.
The right kind of encouraging support is just what WW offers. Coaches are all members of the program who have ‘been there, done that’, offering first-hand advice to their members. In fact, the most recent research, published in medical journal The Lancet, found that participants who were referred to Weight Watchers lost twice as much weight – and maintained it – after one year compared to those who followed a self-help approach with brief intervention.
Sister support! These 3 WW members lost a combined 50kg
The Lancet, found that participants who were referred to WW lost twice as much weight – and maintained it – after one year compared to those who followed a self-help approach with brief intervention.
It's okay to stay in your comfort zone
If the idea of going to group meetings fills you with dread and feels too daunting, you’re not alone. Many WW members recall being nervous on their first trip to a meeting, which is one reason why WW offers several online support networks you can be a part of in the comfort of your own home. There’s access to Coaches 24/7, Facebook groups, and the members-only Instagram-like Connect feature on the WW app, which one US member nicknamed ‘the happiest place on the internet’.
An Online membership also has convenience benefits if you’re not able to commit to meetings due to a hectic schedule. “It wasn’t embarrassment that kept me from going to meetings, it was time,” says member and Coach Amy O’Dowd. But she was still part of the WW community. “I use the Connect app a lot because it’s a safe spot and you can talk about anything,” she says. “The Connect community is great because you feel like you’re a part of a cool secret group,” adds WW member and Coach Carolyn Eltakchi.
Support has health benefits beyond weight loss
Sure, there’s plenty of research showing that quality social support and being part of a like-minded community helps lead to weight-loss success but, beyond that, having a strong, supportive circle of friends is linked to better physical and emotional health overall. When discussing the determinants of health, the World Health Organization says, “Support from family, friends and community is linked to better health.” Time to get together and live the healthy life!
"We’re like one big group that understands each other. We’re here to help celebrate and support each other – we have each other’s backs! - Leah Newman, Member and Coach"
Support at Meetings
WW Coach and member Leah Niewman, 33, says it was accountability as well as the social support that motivated her to stay on track. “I knew I’d only cheat myself if I did it alone,” says the mum of two, who lost 22kg in nine months. “I was so nervous walking into that first meeting, but my Coach (Sue Anderson) was so encouraging and what she said has always stuck: if you’ve had a bad week you need the meeting. If you’ve had a great week the meeting needs you!”
Leah, WW mag cover star in September 2015, believes she wouldn’t have reached her goal if it wasn’t for the group challenges that were set in her meeting. “I would never have tried half the activities I did if it weren’t for the support of Group coaching – we set ourselves mini targets, like hitting 10,000 steps a day and trying three new recipes a week.”
While everyone at meetings is at different life stages, there’s still common ground. “Even though we may not have anything else in common, we all have that one focus and end goal, and you bond over that. You support each other,” adds Leah. And it doesn’t stop once that end goal is reached. “I still attend my same group every Tuesday morning and weigh in once a month,” she says. “Maintaining a healthy weight can be harder than losing it, so having that support is crucial.”
Support via WW App
“The community spirit of WW works for me because I never feel as if I’m alone on this journey.” These are the words of WW member Anna Van Dyken, who’s lost a staggering 77kg with WW over the last few years. “Having like-minded people aiming towards the same healthy goals keeps me focused,” says Anna, who was a WW mag cover star in March 2017. And with thousands of WW members on Connect, there’s always support at your fi ngertips. “ e support from other members on Connect is phenomenal,” says Anna. “Just reading members’ posts can make you feel like you’re doing a great job. You can seek motivation, reach out for help or just ask a question, and there’s always someone willing to help you.” You get what you give, too. Anna has a huge social media base, with 18,000 followers on Facebook and 11,000+ people following her Instagram, @feedmehealthy_annavandyken. “It’s overwhelming that I can reach out to so many people, but I always wanted to give back as the WW community was so supportive of me,” she says. “I believe, 100 per cent, that without the WW community I wouldn’t be where I am today. I did the hard work, but without the help of the community it makes it that little bit harder.”
WW app makes it easy to tap into support from fellow members
Support with Online Coaching
The Online Coaching aspect of WW is about as flexible as it gets, with access to Coaches at any time of day. is works for 24-year-old member Mary Bourke (WW mag cover star in November 2017), who’s lost 20kg with WW so far. “I work and study full-time, so using the 24/7 online chat service for advice, motivation and program assistance fits my lifestyle and is so easy to engage with,” she says. It’s not just the technical support that’s helping Mary, but the social support, too. “The virtual WW community helps me feel connected to other members at all stages of the journey. Through online communities, including Connect and Instagram, I’ve been offered an outlet to share my journey in a non-judgemental, safe space.”
Engaging with these communities is helpful – and you can search for whatever support you’re after, whether it’s food, move or mindset motivation. “I make sure I’m actively involved in the WW community,” says Mary. “Even searching hashtags on Connect and Instagram helps me feel connected to other members by sharing stories and recipes.”
WW World Domination
1.1 million meeting members worldwide
1.5 million online subscribers to WW
32,000 WW meetings are held around the globe
80,000 WW members in Australia and New Zealand
Mother-daughter dynamite duo. Mum Sonia and daughter Melissa.
3 quick tips for support success!
Get the most from your support network with the following ideas:
1. Share your goals with friends, family and other WW members and regularly update them on your progress.
2. Find a support group, whether you’re on the way to Goal or maintaining your weight loss.
3. Be actively engaged on the WW website, Facebook page, Instagram page, or Connect on the WW app, even if you aren’t able to make it to meetings.