There's no getting around it: The road to weight loss can be a bumpy one. But much like life's other journeys, the going can be smoother when you have someone to share the trip.
That's where a "diet buddy" comes in -- a partner who not only shares your weight loss and workout goals, but can help you navigate a kinder, gentler path to sveltesville. Many experts now say buddying up can make the difference between failure and success with any weight loss plan.
"Most people put all their effort into finding the right diet or exercise program but don't put any energy into creating a support and accountability system, and too often, that's where the devil lies," says Adam Shafran, DC, an exercise physiologist and chiropractor who is the author of You Can't Lose Weight Alone: The Partner Power Weight Loss Program.
Shafran, who also hosts Dr. Fitness and the Fat Guy, an Internet radio show focusing on weight loss, says people fail not necessarily because they're following a bad weight loss plan, but because they lack a good support system.
"It can be the deciding factor that makes a diet work -- or not work," say Shafran.
Some psychologists agree.
"In the realm of dieting, there is evidence that social support is a positive factor influencing weight loss," says Kenneth Schwarz, PhD, who with his wife, Julie Schwarz, wrote the book Maria's Last Diet: How to Break through the 15 Obstacles to Achieve Diet Success.
In research published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology in 2005, doctors at Brown Medical School and Dartmouth University found that people who had an exercise buddy who successfully lost weight were more successful at losing, too.
What Makes a Good Buddy
Most of us know what turns us on in a partner, and it's easy to count the virtues of our best friends. But if you're thinking of using these same guidelines to find a diet buddy, you could be making a mistake.
"You may have a partner or a best friend who you love dearly, but if you're still overweight and struggling to lose it, then clearly, that partnership, while perfect in other areas of your life, is not the right relationship to help you lose weight," says Joey Dweck, founder and CEO of DietBuddy.com, an online "match service" for those seeking weight loss partners.
As such, he says, seeking a diet buddy who has the same qualities you see in your partner or best friend may not be the ideal solution.
Experts say that sometimes, qualities you would never tolerate in a partner -- like holding you accountable for every bite you take -- could be the very qualities you need in a weight loss buddy.