Surrounding yourself with family and friends who support you in your efforts to lose weight can be very valuable when you are on a journey towards health and fitness. It’s also more difficult than you think. My friends and family have always cheered me on and believed in me, but the people closest to me throughout my life have really never had the same kind of struggles with their weight as I have (or at least have not been vocal about it) so I have sort of fought this battle alone.
I started watching the Biggest Loser this past year and realized that a lot of people who struggle with their weight are surrounded by people with similar lifestyles who also have similar issues. When they decide to change, they have workout buddies and their family and/or friends make similar lifestyle changes out of solidarity or because they too would benefit from the changes. While I would never wish the issues I’ve dealt with on anybody, especially my closest friends and family, it has been tough to deal with this all on my own without having people to workout with or follow a healthy diet with. For a long time I have felt alone in this. I wanted to know other people who felt like I felt, so I had some sort of proof that I wasn’t crazy.
A few months ago, I stumbled upon an amazing feature to an app I’ve been using to track my calories and workouts for almost two years. It’s called My Fitness Pal and it’s a great tool for anyone looking to watch their waistline. The app allows you to track the calories you consume and has a huge database of foods at your disposal. You can also track your goals, progress, and workouts. It has been a huge element of my success. But I didn’t realize for a long time that there were features I wasn’t using. I found message boards on there and saw that people would talk about their personal journeys, share workout tips and recipes, or give motivation and support. I was intrigued.
I’m generally a friendly person and I like meeting new people in real life, but I was nervous and hesitant to open up this private part of myself to an unknown group of people (and the entire Internet). But, my favorite quote is “life begins at the end of your comfort zone” and I believe you’ve got to practice what you preach. So, I bit the bullet and introduced myself in a post. I had several friend requests right away and quickly began to grow my friend list…my virtual network of fellow friends on the path to health and fitness.
The site is a lot like Facebook; you can put up status messages and pictures, and people can comment on your activity and cheer you on. It has been such an amazingly great tool for me. I have spent so much time creating a whole new lifestyle that really focuses on eating healthy and being active, and the social feature of MFP allows me to have friends who know the same struggles and offer advice and support along the way. I don’t know these people or have any idea what they’re like in real life, but they support me as I strive to become the healthiest I can be. They know similar struggles, have felt similar pain, and shared similar victories. And there’s something about not knowing these people that makes it easier to open up to them. I can vent my frustrations or share my victories and not feel weird doing it, because they’re doing it too.
Having this virtual social network also gives me the opportunity to cheer other people on, which I find very therapeutic. I have motivated myself through trying to motivate others. When people write status updates about days when they don’t feel motivated, or pushing through a plateau, or facing an uphill battle, it’s a great feeling to offer words of encouragement, and sometimes I realize that I can use the advice too.
Some of my MFP friends have also become Instagram and Facebook friends, and I’ve even found out that one of my MFP friends works in the same town as me and we have planned to start working out together. It’s so funny how life works sometimes…it’s a small world, and technology makes it even smaller.
If you’ve found yourself struggling and feeling alone in this, I urge you to join My Fitness Pal and create your own virtual social network of people just like you. Maybe you don’t want to track all of your calories, but you can share questions, comments, or ideas on working out, eating, and staying motivated with like-minded people. You can build a pretty amazing network of friends and they’ll help keep you on track. It might feel a little strange to open yourself up, but as with many things in life, the greater the risk, the greater the reward.