In my personal weight loss journey, I actively participate in on-line and in-person support networks. The Obesity Help discussion boards and my hospital’s bariatric care center support group were the cornerstones of my support though those early years. Today, I am an active poster in bariatric Facebook groups.
Four years ago I found myself in a place I had never been. After losing considerable weight, I discovered a love for cycling. I began cycling with my husband and friends. I soon found out that there were other bariatric surgery post-ops who were also cycling. Though networking and word of mouth, this small group grew. We formed a support network of people who shared a passion for cycling for their health.
The above experience illustrates that I had to look beyond the obvious for support. I was looking for specific type of in-person support that did not exist. I had to stretch myself and create support where the support did not exist. It was a leap of faith. With my fellow weight loss surgery cyclists, we stretched ourselves and built what we needed. And… it worked!
I hear comments such as “We don’t have a weight loss support group in town.”, “I wish I had other people to talk to about my struggles with maintaining my weight.”, and “I don’t have anyone to join me in my health club workouts.” If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. There are many others looking for the identical thing. Someone just has to take the initiative to take the first step.
As scary as taking responsibility of starting a support network sounds, it is likewise just as exciting. You get to mold the group to fit your needs and the needs of others. It takes an individual who is invested in their personal support to reach out to support the needs of others.
Steps to creating a support network
- Brainstorm – Spend time writing down what do you want from a support network. Now list the things that are missing from your current support network. The gaps point you to the focus of your new group.
- Test the Waters – A support group needs more than one member. Talk to other people who share the common needs. Run your ideas past them. User their feedback to better define your group.
- Build it – Every support network needs a home. It should be easily accessible on-line. A Facebook group is ideal for most people whose support network will be virtual. Meetup.com is a very popular social networking site that makes managing an in-person support group a breeze.
- Care and Feeding – It’s your baby. You need to give it life. Promo it on existing message boards and web sites with a common theme. Regularly post items of interest to the group’s web page. Schedule interesting an informative events and topics. Make your support group something that people want to be included in.
- Loosen the Reins – Once you are up and running, allow others to help. Look for group leaders who believe in your group’s purpose and are willing to work for the success of the group.
- Join In – Don’t make the mistake of devoting so much energy to the group that you forget to enjoy the benefits of the group.
I have been involved in the formation of two weight loss support oriented groups via meetup.com. Spin-off Cyclists is a bicycle club for people who went to cycle socially with others for their health. Movin’ Forward is a weight loss surgery support group that offers social activities for post-op bariatric patients while encouraging them to be more active.
Looking back, I realize how important it was for me to cofound the Spin-offs. It has grown me and many others. It has built a network of friends and has encouraged members to broaden their activities and cycling skills. This would not have happened without three bariatric patients making the effort to get the group going.
I hope that this post encourages you to get out there and form a support group if one is missing from your life. Support is what we make it. You will be amazed of the number of people who join you who are excited to see your group. You are not alone in looking for support. You just have to give others the opportunity to join you.