Monday, September 19, 2011

Building a System of Support

So many of my clients who make successful lifestyle changes have a strong network of friends, family members or colleagues they can rely on. While it is not necessary to have lots of people to support your fitness endeavors, it is essential that your supporters accept the actions you're taking unconditionally.

This kind of connectedness with others can help you live healthier in two ways. Scientists have discovered that most risk factors decrease and longevity increases with individuals who have stable and supportive spouses, friends and co-workers.

A while back, in the small town of Roseto, Pennsylvania, researchers were astounded to learn that there was a very low incidence of heart disease among the residents even in the presence of a moderately high fat diet. After all other causes were finally ruled out, the "health serum" turned out to be the close family ties of this traditional Italian community. And as the families have drifted apart over time, the incidence of heart disease has gone up.

The second way a support system is helpful is that it consistently reinforces the fact that you don't have to go through this transition alone. Knowing there are people in your life with whom you can share frustrations, discoveries and triumphs may help to relieve you of the enormous burden of figuring everything out by yourself.

The obvious place to start is with your family, although this may sometimes be the hardest group to communicate your needs to. Spouses, children, parents, even close friends, can also be affected by the changes you're making. After all, these changes will impact them too.

When I first council clients that are considering lifestyle changes, I suggest they discuss their reasons and goals with family. Some clients can be surprised at how even small changes in the way they eat and exercise can increase energy and make them feel more powerful. As a result, family members can feel threatened if they don’t understand the motivation for such changes. I encourage you to reassure them that you're still the same person — and you're working toward a healthier and more active you.

Finding a partner to share in your process of change can help a great deal. Whether you work out and eat together regularly or just meet once a week to discuss your triumphs and tribulations, the moral support will buoy your spirit. Why not organize a neighborhood walking group, or a babysitting co-op where parents swap childcare time for workout time?

Depending on your personal situation, creating a support network may be relatively easy or fairly challenging. It may require moving outside of your immediate circle of family and friends, but don't let that stop you. You'll appreciate the strength you gather from others along the way.

And, finally, people who make successful change also have one other trait in common: They work on building their self-esteem as part of their process of change. Without a strong sense of self, help from others has little impact.

As always – Live Your Life Well,

John Aaron Villarreal

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cure, treat or prevent disease. Please consult your physician
prior to starting any exercise or diet program.

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