Racing Weight: Partner Up To Slim Down

Reaching your racing weight may be easier if you have a partner.

Reaching your racing weight may be easier if you have a partner.

People who get gastric bypass surgery expect to lose weight afterward. That’s the whole point. Family members of people who get gastric bypass surgery generally don’t expect to lose weight. But they do. A Stanford University study found that adult family members of gastric bypass patients lost 8 pounds, on average, over the next year.

Why? Because human beings are deeply social animals, and we’re affected in all kinds of ways we’re not even conscious of by the people around us. When it comes to weight management, social influence can work for better or worse. A 2008 study reported that the spouses of 357 diabetic men and women who enrolled in a clinical weight-loss program lost an average of 5 pounds in one year despite having no direct involvement in the program. But a Harvard study published two years later discovered that having obese friends doubles the risk of becoming obese oneself.

Nobody would suggest that you choose whom you associate with based on how much they weigh. But if you’ve set a goal to lose weight, taking advantage of the social influence factor by teaming up with a partner pursuing a similar goal could increase your chances of success.

This, too, has been supported by studies. Several years ago researchers associated with the National Weight Control Registry studied 109 people seeking weight loss, each of whom teamed up with a partner. Those whose partners succeeded in losing weight lost twice as much as dieters in a separate group who tried to lose weight without a partner. But again, the effect worked both ways. Those whose partners failed to lose weight lost no more weight themselves than the solo dieters.

As a triathlete, you probably have friends who are triathletes. Among them, no doubt, are a few who, like you, would like to get down to their ideal racing weight. And among these, there’s probably at least one who would be willing to pursue that goal seriously. (Never approach someone who has not expressed a desire to lose weight and ask if he or she would like to join your effort to lose weight. “Are you saying I’m fat?”) But if you know a perfect candidate for a weight-loss buddy who has expressed a desire to shed some pounds, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain—or maybe the opposite of that—by reaching out.

This kind of partnership can take whatever form you like. It can be formal and structured, involving a written pact, a shared diet and exercise plan, and daily check-ins. Or it can be more informal—just a matter of sharing a spoken intention and providing mutual support as needed. Whatever sort of arrangement feels most comfortable for you and your buddy will probably be most effective—and at least more effective than going it alone.

RELATED: Lose Weight Or Lose Fat?