If you want to change your life, you need someone to change it with.
Confession time: I’ve been slacking on working out.
I know, it’s a terrible thing to admit. I mean, I’m a personal trainer! Working out is pretty much my job. But since I spend most of my time training other people, my own workout tends to get lost in the shuffle. I put other things first — work, kids, endless laundry — and before I know it, it’s been two or three days since I’ve worked out.
I used to have to psych myself for a reset when this happened. I’d spend a weekend getting all the things done so I’d have no excuses on Monday. If I started the week strong, it was easier to see it through. But now, I don’t have to do that. All I have to do is text one of my trainer teammates and say, “Hey, I need some accountability. I’m coming to see you this week — can you make sure I do?”
Built-in accountability is one of the greatest benefits of my job. As a trainer, I hold our campers accountable by texting, calling, and tagging them in social media. If they need extra help, they just have to ask… but eventually they find friends to serve as “accountability buddies,” and missing workouts becomes even less likely since they don’t want to let their friend down (or miss the social aspect of camp). I’ve watched these bonds create consistency and dedication in people who’ve never stuck with any other form of exercise before, and they get the results they wanted in the process.
Research is finally catching up to what personal trainers have known for years — the US Preventative Services Taskforce has discovered that face-to-face accountability makes the difference between success and failure in weight loss:
After studying nearly 100 weight-loss programs and weight maintenance programs, the task force concluded that successful dieting isn’t just about what diet plan you follow, and what you eat, or even what type of exercise you do. It’s about whether you have a system in place that provides regular support, including frequent face-to-face meetings, to help you stick to it. In a nutshell: Don’t diet alone.
And successful programs last long enough to change behavior, researchers found. The successful programs studied often lasted for a full year, and frequently for more than that. And they include weight maintenance programs to keep off the weight once you’ve lost it. “Most of the intensive behavioral weight loss interventions… lasted for 1 or 2 years, and the majority had 12 or more sessions in the first year,” the researchers write.
The thing about losing weight and maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle is that it’s never just a one-and-done deal. You can’t just change your mindset and stick to it without restructuring your life. Even if you find exercise you love doing or an eating plan that makes you feel amazing, you still need people to do it with you. There will always be days when you don’t want to get out of bed, days when Netflix and chips doesn’t seem like such a bad decision… or at least, it seems like a bad decision you’re willing to make.
But those little slips will pile up unless you have someone to pull you out of it and back to the healthy structure you’ve created. Before you know it, you’ll have to gear yourself up to start over again — and constant resets will not only sabotage your progress, they’ll sap your energy and your confidence.
This goes for any major life change, from getting in shape to giving up alcohol. Building virtue isn’t something we’re made to do alone. We don’t live our lives in a void, and it’s the relationships we form along the way that truly shape the trajectory of our lives.
So when you’re thinking about the changes you want to make in the coming year, don’t rely on your own willpower. It will only take you so far, and there are days when willpower is in short supply. It’s worth the investment to find someone to hold you accountable by joining you in your new lifestyle. Plus, you might find that a year from now you’ve not only lost weight and gotten healthier, you’ve also made a friend for life.
And now if you’ll excuse me, I have a text to send.