There’s this African proverb that rings true in many situations; if you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together. It is an aphorism that aptly illustrates the fact that humans achieve more when they do things in concert, not in isolation.
I know this for a fact because on the occasions that I go to the gym, I find it is easier to train with a gym partner rather than doing everything alone. Weights feel lighter for some reason, when you are being psyched by another person. From my own experience, I know that the mere fact that the other person is watching out for me imbues me with strength, because I know if the weight overwhelms me, he will quickly step in and lift it off me. When training alone, I do not have such a safety cushion, and for that reason, I will always train with weights that can never truly test my strength.
The importance of such teamwork has been further demonstrated by researchers drawn from the Baylor College of Medicine.
Weight Watchers vs. Individual Effort
The researchers conducted a 6-month randomized clinical trial that used a total of 292 obese individuals. These people were then placed into two groups, one to follow a weight loss program through Weight Watchers and the other to follow weight loss programs on an individual basis. 147 people were picked for the Weight Watchers program, and the rest, 145, left to lose weight on their own programs.
For those who may not know, Weight Watchers is a company that offers a point-based system for checking on your diet; membership to the program allows you to interact with other people on the program through weekly meetings and an online forum. It also provides mobile apps that will help you stick to the weight loss program.
The volunteers in the program had their weights measured at the beginning of the trial to get a baseline weight. They then got into their respective programs, and their weights were measured after 3 and 6 months. During these subsequent weigh-ins, the volunteers also reported on how they were utilizing resources at hand. In the case of Weight Watchers, this included reporting which of the three access options they were using and the frequency of usage.
It was discovered that at the end of the trial, volunteers who had followed the Weight Watchers program had lost more weight than the volunteers on individual programs. On average, they lost 10.1lbs while their counterparts lost 1.3lbs.
Using their body mass index (BMI) values, these values showed that those on the Weight Watchers program were 8x more likely to lose 5% of their weight, or 8.8x more likely to lose 10% of their body weight when compared to their counterparts on individual self-help programs. While these benefits may seem puny, they are anything but; such a tiny loss has been proven to improve cholesterol and blood sugars, thus reducing the probability of suffering obesity-related diabetes and other conditions.
A further breakdown of the data from the Weight Watchers program volunteers showed that those who used all three options available to them lost the most weight, averaging at 19lbs. Those who used only two options lost on average 9.5lbs, and 9.3lbs was the average weight lost by people who only used one option. The researchers found that attending the weekly meetings was the strongest indicator of a high probability of success in the weight loss program.
It’s About Teamwork
Weight loss is hard to fight individually; if people are constantly presenting you with unhealthy foods in the house, it becomes very hard to keep to the straight and narrow. If no one is there to urge you on when everything seems to be getting unravelled, the probability of despairing is awfully high.
And sharing your experiences facing challenges similar to yours reminds you that you are not the only one in this boat.