New research suggests that while being in a support group may help you lose weight, you may lose your new friends as you approach your weight goals.
Investigators reviewed popular weight loss groups and discovered that while the group setting is an ideal place to share advice and get support, the bond with the other members may diminish as you get closer to reaching your goals.
“When consumers start working toward a goal, they often feel uncertain about how to achieve the goal and see others at a similar stage as friends. They pass on helpful tips and cheer each other on.
“But once the goal is in sight, consumers feel more certain and believe they don’t need support from others, so they become distant and keep useful information to themselves,” write authors Szu-chi Huang (Stanford University), Susan M. Broniarczyk (University of Texas at Austin), Ying Zhang (Peking University), and Mariam Beruchashvili (California State University, Northridge).
In one study, the researchers analyzed group meetings and interviews with members of Weight Watchers. All of the members in an early stage of weight loss talked about companionship and felt close to and willing to help other members compared with fewer than half in the advanced stage (42 percent).
In contrast, the vast majority in an advanced stage of weight loss felt distant and were reluctant to share information with other members (79 percent), compared with less than half in the early stage (44 percent).
Since sharing information benefits consumers, this research can help support groups such as Weight Watchers, Alcoholics Anonymous, or smoking cessation programs find ways to keep people engaged and working toward their goals.
The research has been published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
“As consumers move from the early stages of pursuing a goal to a more advanced stage, they change from being friendly to decidedly distant. And the more consumers distance themselves from others with similar goals, the more likely they are to feel disengaged and even give up on their goals entirely,” the authors conclude.