Support relationships make a big difference in weight loss efforts. They are not only important, but can be incredibly fun and rewarding. This is my first of three posts on this topic.
A song made famous by Barbara Streisand claims that people who need people are the luckiest people of all. But we aren’t just lucky, God made us this way.
From conception to passing, our very survival depends on other people. God Himself is a relational being, and as His image bearers, He designed us to need Him and each other. He considered this so important, Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-39 that these are His most important commandments:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
“And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself”
Not surprisingly, psychological research bears out our need for each other. We and we do better in all kinds of ways when partnered or grouped with others.
Losing weight is no exception.
- Groups did better than individuals ( Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology Vol. 69, No. 4).
- Friends did better together (Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol 67(1), Feb 1999, 132-138.)
Many millennia before the field of psychology was born (1879, Leipzig, Germany, Wilhelm Wundt), a wise King named Solomon said:
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9)
I don’t think I am going out on a limb to suggest that God made people to need people.
In losing weight, one of the most helpful and powerful weapons is having an effective accountability partner. The key word here is effective. Since there are many ways to go wrong with this vital relationship, I have a few do’s and don’ts to help you find the right one for you.
After some trial and error, I have found the right partners make accountability fun, supportive, and yes, very effective. My best accountability partnership is still ongoing and has been working fabulously for a few years now. Here are my best suggestions for you.
My Axioms of Accountability: Do’s and Don’ts
Pray for your partner before your find her. Pray that the Lord leads you to the right one. How can you be a blessing to her? Ask the Lord to teach you how to serve and support your partner from your heart and with His wisdom. Be patient, it may not always be the first person you encounter.
Picture in your mind of what success looks like
Realize it or not, you have a preconceived notion of what the success of this relationship would look like. Spell it out and tweak it into something well-defined (but flexible), mutually beneficial, and fun. You will need to convey this to your partner so that she knows what you need.
Get clear in your mind what you want to be held accountable for:
Examples may include:
- Not eating after a specific time
- Reporting weight
- Waking up at a certain time for intimate time with the Lord
- Following a Bible reading plan
- Taking 30 minutes for afternoon prayer
- Taking a certain number of steps each day
- Logging food in a food tracker
- Journaling daily
- Memorizing scripture
Mainly, choose what you need, and update it often to always keep accountability fresh and effective.
Plan how you want to communicate with your partner
I like to report my progress to my accountability partner by text. That is what works for me, and for her. There are some people who need to talk by phone, some who want to meet in person. Make sure your preferences match your partner’s. I have been in accountability relationships where my partner preferred the phone. I loved her, but talking on the phone is my least favorite form of communication. Because of that, the partnership was a mismatch and ultimately fizzled.
Set up a mutually agreed upon communication plan and schedule
My current accountability partner likes to report in twice a week. There are some areas I like to report on almost every day. We both initiate our reporting in. If one of us delays, we reach out. I look forward to hearing her progress. We celebrate each other and also exhort each other to pick up, dust off, and soldier on when we stumble.
Prepare to share your vision of the relationship with your potential accountability partners
To build a great accountability partnership, you will be collaborating with another person. Create a plan that is simple, but also includes the best of both your ideas.
Choose a partner who is also a believer
It is vitally important that your accountability partner shares your faith. Jesus is present where two agree in His Name (Matthew 18:20). All of your actions will be taking place in the context of your relationship with the Lord, desire to please Him, and effort to bring your life into submission to Him. An unbeliever may respect your faith, but will not be likely to understand the role sanctification, God’s work in your heart, plays in the outcome you are seeking. This is not self-improvement, it is self surrender.
Ensure you fully understand what your partner needs
Be careful to allow your partner to define what she wants to be held accountable for, and to let go of what you might think she needs. As a coach, I may think I know what my partner “ought to do,” but she has proven over and over that she knows what is right for her. I give what she asks for, and offer it the way she has asked. She does the same for me.
Don’t ask for accountability for something you are not willing to do
Don’t place your accountability partner in the untenable position of being your mom, babysitter, or police. If you do, you aren’t seeking accountability. Instead, you are asking for a warden that you don’t really want and are unwilling to cooperate with. A person with this type of mindset is not yet ready for a constructive and effective accountability relationship.
Don’t choose more than 2 things (3 at the most) that you want to be held accountable for
We don’t have the capacity to change more than a few actions, behaviors or thoughts at a time. Also, having too many issues to keep up with will undermine the accountability relationship by making it too cumbersome for you and your partner.
Don’t “set it and forget it.”
Accountability relationships, like other constructive relationships need to be fed, nurtured and allowed to breathe and grow. They must be dynamic. My partner and I know when it is time to tweak our relationship. We both feel it, and we ask each other, “Is this still working for you?” If our relationship has become stale, we both think about what we need, and how to change our relationship. Then it comes to life again and is fun and effective.
Don’t stay in an accountability relationship that doesn’t fit or work. Be sure to end it with kindness and grace
Encourage your partner to join you in trying the partnership on for size. If either of you senses that it would not be “just right,” then clarify what you each need. If you can’t reach a compromise, then you will both agree to continue looking for a better fit.
I hope these “axioms” will help you find the partner you need to make the journey of permanent weight loss together.