Group Support Works (for weight loss and other things) Even for those Who Don’t Think They Benefit By the Help of Others!

I considered myself to be an independent, capable person. I didn’t seek help to get things done and I sure never wanted to be part of a “group support system.” The whole idea of people sitting around helping each other sounded boring, pathetic and an overall waste of time. I thought I might have something to offer to people who need help, but I didn’t expect much in the way of getting help. As I already said, I am an independent and capable person. I don’t need help and nobody can help me in ways that I can’t already help myself.

I believed that and I was wrong! I realized just how wrong I was about that during a trip when I was returning from Toronto to Maine.

Commercial flights are often counterintuitive. It seems weird to fly from Toronto to Portland, Maine with a layover in Philadelphia! That, however, was my itinerary. Toronto to Philly – Philly to Portland.

The flight from Toronto was late in departing and as I watched the minutes tick by I started to get concerned that I’d miss my connecting flight in Philadelphia. I got notched up to free first class seats for both legs of my flight and I was pretty excited about that. I would never spend the extra money for first class seats, but having enjoyed them on the way to Toronto I was looking forward to traveling first class again back to Maine. Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 11.10.28 AMI approached the counter to ask what would happen if I missed the connecting flight and was told I’d have to rebook a coach seat on a later flight. I was also advised to wait to do that until after arriving in Philadelphia because there was still a chance we’d leave in time to make the connection. Once I rebooked, even if we got there on time, I would have to take the later flight and fly coach.

A little while later we boarded and it still remained to be seen if we were going to make the connection or not. There were 4 businessmen also going to Portland in those first class seats and they overheard my conversation with the woman at the counter, so they were aware I was headed to the same destination. One of them spoke to me to ask me if I wanted to tag along with them to try to get on our flight to Portland as originally planned. He said if there were any chance at all to get on that plane they were all going to make a dash for it. He asked if I wanted “in.” I thanked him for asking and enthusiastically accepted their offer.

I was keeping an eye on my watch the whole time we were in the sky. It was going to be a matter of minutes between the time we got off the plane and when we would need to board the next plane for Portland. As it looked less and less likely I was already thinking defeat. I needed to visit the ladies’ room anyway and although first class seats are nice, I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy one for my trip home from PA.Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 11.11.55 AM

When the plane landed, the men looked at me and one asked, “you still up for it?”

I thought about how badly I needed to go to the restroom. I thought about how heavy my carry-on bag was and how clumsy it was to lug the thing since it was a duffle with no wheels. I thought about my shoes that were more cute than practical and running through an airport would surely be painful and I thought about getting on that flight and getting home sooner rather than later. I said, “yes!” as we were already running up the sky dock and towards our departure gate more than 20 gates away from where we just landed.

As I ran after the men the need to pee became more urgent, the bag heavier, and shoes more painful and my belief that we would even get there on time less believable. Any one of those conditions would have been enough to stop me if I were by myself. I would convince myself that all the discomfort was in vain. Why keep trying when I know I can’t make it in time to get on the plane? I should just go to the ladies’ room and then rebook my flight. I kept running instead, because I had four men running with me and they were all determined to get on the plane and they kept urging me to stick with them. I could easily have talked myself into quitting, but instead the group supported me and kept me going so that I could get what I wanted. We did get on that plane, by the way!

This incident took place years after I became a Lifetime Member of Weight Watchers. I went to a meeting every week and I made friends with many of the people there but I never gave the meeting any credit for my success. I thought I lost weight because of the accountability of allowing another person to weigh me and because I was spending money each week to go to my meeting. I won’t dispute that accountability and paying to lose weight didn’t help because they did. I also realized that the group support was just as important to me. I thought I didn’t need it. I thought I gave it to others who did need it and I’m sure I did, but, the airport experience also showed me how much I benefitted from support.

I realized that it’s easy to make excuses for not achieving my goals. I realized that sometimes I didn’t want something bad enough to really work as hard to get it as I am capable of working. I worked harder at creating excuses to give up than anything else. I now understood that I let negative beliefs influence my actions. I saw for myself, that negative beliefs are what stopped me; it wasn’t that I was trying to do the impossible, but just that I was convincing myself I was trying to do the impossible. Seeing that it was possible for other people showed me that it was possible for me too! I realized that working for a goal with an assorted group of people who aren’t at all like me, except that they want to reach the same goal, is an extremely powerful way to reach my goal. I didn’t know that by giving support, I got support.

If you are stuck and can’t seem to move forward towards your weight goal you might want to investigate the difference support can make!

I got to eat breakfast with the Duchess of York in 1999 when she was the Weight Watchers Spokesperson, I sat right next to her and I don't even have the "selfie" to show for it!

I got to eat breakfast with the Duchess of York in 1999 when she was the Weight Watchers Spokesperson, I sat right next to her and I don’t even have the “selfie” to show for it!

Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is the general manager of Weight Watchers of Maine. She is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. Her experience with her own weight management journey and raising girls has given her insight into the struggles families face with weight, healthy body image, food and physical activity. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news for more than ten years and appears monthly as a guest on FOX network morning program Good Day Maine.