Support versus no support: Is there a difference when it comes to your health and fitness program?

Each year, I run a six-week weight loss challenge. It is a program where participants register to compete against one another in attempts to see who can change their body composition the most over a six-week period.

It’s fun. It’s motivating. It’s tracked. But it is not a support group. There are no meetings. There is no follow-up. There is no commitment to anyone other than yourself.

Personal training is not mandatory. Group classes are not mandatory. Participants can choose to meet with a trainer or do a fitness class, or they can choose to do it on their own.

A couple of times a year, I also run a six-week weight loss group for women only. For this one, there are weekly meetings. There is a support group. There are weekly diets. There are weekly updates to fitness programs. Participants are contacted if they miss a meeting.

This year, I decided to run the programs in conjunction with one another over the same six-week time period. I did a little comparison on the changes people made and those in the supported group had huge changes.

One hundred per cent of them lost weight. One hundred per cent of them made it through the six weeks, no drop outs. The average weight loss was 13.4 pounds. The most weight lost was 22.8 pounds! The average percentage of weight loss was 6.7 per cent with the highest percentage of weight loss being 11.1 per cent. These are female clients only.

With the non-support challenge group, there were three drop outs after the four-week period. Four weeks is the average time for people who start a new fitness program to give up and quit.

The fourth week is the most frustrating, hardest time for people to get through. We can usually push ourselves for a few weeks, hoping to see results each week. If we are not doing it properly we will “deal” with the lack of treats and push through temptations, but by Week 4 we will start to want more from the scale, we will give in to temptation and we will give up.

When you are not supported through this fourth week, it is very hard to keep going. If you do not know that this is “normal”, and are not given the tools to succeed, then it is very hard not to give up and think exercise and clean eating doesn’t work.

The challenge consisted of both males and females. The largest percentage weight loss in the six weeks for the men was 26.8 pounds with the largest percentage of weight loss in the men being 13.1 per cent.

Interestingly, when I look at the two men who did the best, they created a sort of support group with each other. They discussed daily with each other, in passing, how they were doing, gave each other tips on their programs and created almost a mini-challenge between one another.

On the female side, the largest amount of weight loss was 10 pounds, or 6.7 percent of body weight. This is a huge difference from the 11.1 percent or almost 23 pounds from the support group.

All in all, I was very glad I ran these programs simultaneously this year. In the end, it became apparent that getting that extra support is well worth it.