Like a lot of college kids who are away from home for the first time, I let myself go during my four years on campus. Taking advantage of my newfound freedom (and comprehensive meal plan!), I stayed up late, frequented local pizzerias and burger joints, and didn’t do much to make up for the fact that I was no longer playing high school sports.
By graduation day, the damage was evident: I was 20 pounds heavier and would have gotten lapped by my younger, teenage self in a timed mile. In pictures from that day, I look happy but also a little cherubic, if you know what I mean. A few months later, once I was out in the “real world” and had managed to find a job, I committed myself to getting back into shape.
Since I wasn’t living in the same city as any of my college or high school buddies, I had to find a way to get—and stay—motivated on my own. Changing my diet was the easy part. For the first time. I had to shop for and cook all my meals. I couldn’t exactly stock my fridge with gourmet ingredients on an entry-level salary, so I stuck to the basics: beans, rice, pasta, frozen veggies and occasionally some chicken or fish.
Sticking to a workout routine proved a little harder. All I wanted to do after work was microwave a plate of leftovers, kick back on my couch and watch reruns on Netflix. When I used the elliptical machine at the gym, I felt like a hamster in a cage and was reminded of the fact that I was now a nine-to-fiver. Was the rest of my life going to be like this? It’s often very challenging to make positive changes in our daily routines, but the potential payoff to your wellness and happiness is invaluable.
Fitness-wise, everything changed for me when I found the right online community. It’s amazing how the Internet can connect strangers with little in common besides the goal of losing weight. With the help of my community, I ditched the weight I’d packed on in college, learned a few cheap and easy ways to spice up my boring diet, and began to adopt the fundamental tenets of wellness and self-care.
If you’re still on the fence about joining an online diet and weight loss community, even after my rousing story, here are a couple reasons to give it a shot.
Why you should join a weight loss community
Unless you’re the Dalai Lama or a Navy Seal, you’re probably not as disciplined as you’d like to be. And that’s OK! This modern world of ours is full of distractions and temptations. The important thing is recognizing your weaknesses and knowing when to ask for help.
One way an online community can help you hold yourself accountable is the daily or weekly weigh-in. Here’s how it works: You weigh yourself on the agreed-upon day and share the results with the other people in the forum. Think of it as a way, way less embarrassing version of “The Biggest Loser.” Unless you choose to post a picture of yourself, it’s virtually anonymous. Weigh-ins can help get your competitive juices flowing a bit as you watch other people’s progress and work harder so that you don’t fall behind.
Losing weight is hard work, both physically and emotionally. Some people, myself included, put on some extra pounds when they’re going through a major life transition. Others gain weight because of a health condition that limits their mobility. Whatever your situation, an online weight loss community is a great way to connect with people who understand your experience from a firsthand perspective and are willing to lend an ear. A community of like-minded people in the same context can help keep you motivated and engaged, and less likely to fall into negative habits or thoughts.
Earlier this year, consumer health website Treato.com published its first annual list of the top online communities for diet and weight loss, based on an analysis of more than 3,000 sites. Treato found that Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig were among those sites with the most supportive members. In terms of lesser-known sites, Three Fat Chicks was particularly tight-knit and encouraging.
Dieting isn’t inherently fun but it doesn’t have to be a drag. Are you getting tired of your exercise routine? Ask other people in your community for tips on how to switch things up. If you’re lucky, you might be able to get together in person with members of your community for a group walk/jog or maybe even something more exciting—dodgeball, anyone?
Connecting with others, online or in person, is also a good reminder of the main reason why you’ve made a commitment to exercise regularly and eat healthily: the people you care about and who care about you. We are nothing without the ties that bind us, whether they’re familial, romantic or friendly. As you continue your wellness journey, always remember to be gentle and kind to yourself and to others.
This post was written by David Noble, a health and wellness editor at Treato.For more insights follow them on Twitter or like on Facebook. Outside of work, he enjoys running, reading and traveling. He is also an avid basketball fan. Go Mavericks!