One of the studies I cited in my master's research found this: even people who predicted they'd lose more weight with individual counseling were more successful at shedding pounds when they were assigned to group counseling. I don't remember exactly how the scientists explained this (and I'm too lazy to look it up) but it totally makes sense. And, for me, a major theme of 2014 has been that a good group, and a great guru, helps you get better. Some examples:
The five little guys below are spending part of their Sunday mornings Swimming with Annie. Annie (the guru) speaks to them like the small people that they are—tiny little men with hopes and fears and lots of energy. It's obvious she knows what she's doing. They're responding. In just two sessions, every single one of these boys has made marked progress. The one who was more comfortable sticking by the steps on Day One was paddling through the pool and jumping off the side on Day Two. Another who'd resisted getting his hair wet in the first class was repeating dunking himself in the second. A third suddenly started kicking and scooping under the water, unassisted, this past Sunday while his dad shouted, "He's swimming! He's swimming!" in disbelief.
Much of this forward movement has to do with Annie knowing her shit. But some of it, I'd say, has to do with the fact that these small dudes are a solidly supportive crew. They're clapping and shouting encouragement for each other—and they're also fostering a healthy sense of competition.
Same thing happened during our Saturdays Smuggs: no doubt, the "Team Eagle" Mini Mites Snowboarders pushed each other... to the point that all of the littler shedders were on the lift and riding an actual green run by the end of the 8-week session.
And I've also been benefitting from accountability and social support that comes with a crew:
At the mountain, I hit the jackpot with Gaby, my guru. In 8 weeks, she patiently talked me down (and listened to my verbal diarrhea often focused on fear) Sir Henry, and then a bunch of green runs and, finally, Snowsnake, a blue. But pairing up with Laurie definitely made me a braver, better rider. When she jumped at the chance to take the next step—hop on the bigger lift, pick up the pace—I didn't want to be left behind. Or hold her back. I'd take a few deep breaths and go.
For the last couple of months, I've been working on writing—things beyond this blog and content on weight management and diabetes. It's because, every Monday, I sit around a table with a group of intelligent and insightful new (and old) friends who offer me deadlines and smart suggestions for refining first drafts. Plus, their writing—all so good—inspires me.
Back in January, I recruited a bunch of friends who could rally each other to run. I promised Kate I'd do the VCM 2-person relay in May and knew I'd need a posse to push myself through the half-marathon training. I'm only up to 5 miles but, so far, it's working. And it's fun. Friends make you better. This—at least for me—I know is true.