All 12-step programs incorporate sponsorship as a vital component of success in remaining abstinent, but I have yet to hear of sponsorship in the terms of weight-loss or more general fitness efforts. Although Overeaters Anonymous is a good fit for many who have struggled with addictive food behaviors, not everyone who wants to get healthy or lose weight is dealing with the issues addressed by OA.
Many of us have role models (I can think of more than a few here online!), but a sponsor is someone with whom you form a closer supportive relationship. The relationship benefits not only the newcomer, but also the “old-timer” (sponsor) as well.
New York Crystal Meth Anonymous defines a sponsor as “another recovering addict who offers guidance and support in a one-on-one relationship.” If we were to look for a parallel figure in our weight-loss efforts, this would obviously be someone who has successfully gone through something similar to what we are experiencing. While the details of our dieting or fitness history may vary from person to person, the underlying struggles, frustrations, and goals are often the same. A sponsor would be able to remember what it felt like at the beginning of the struggle, and offer his or her strength, wisdom, and hope as someone a bit further along in their journey.
The Alcoholics Anonymous website publishes literature that goes into more detail about the role of a sponsor. Below I’ve translated some of the important points into what a fitness or weight-loss sponsor might strive to do:
- Teach by doing; be a positive living example of what a healthy lifestyle can do for a person.
- Encourage the newbie to consult a variety of reputable sources rather than insist that they are the ultimate authority on every topic.
- Counsel patience; encourage the sponsee to stick with their new fitness or eating plan and give it a chance to work rather than immediately throwing in the towel.
- Introduce the sponsee to others with similar goals if possible. The more avenues for support, the better!
- Be knowledgeable and experienced in the food and/or workout plan the sponsee is following and makes themselves available to answer questions as they come up. . .
- BUT: Also be comfortable admitting when they don’t know the answer; help the person they have taken under their wing to make contact with qualified professionals (counselors, nutritionists, doctors) when necessary.
- NOTES PROGRESS THAT THE SPONSEE CANNOT YET SEE FOR THEMSELVES!
In choosing a “sponsor” for our weight-loss or fitness journey, the best advice I have heard it to ask someone who has what you want. When you see someone exuding balance and health in a way that resonates with you, it is natural to respect and gravitate toward that person. I have yet to find the weight-loss/fitness version of a sponsor in my real life yet, despite my attendance at Weight Watchers meetings. It’s easy to just “show up” to a meeting but not forge deeper connections with fellow members, but then again, this is something up for each of us to take our own initiative on. Keep your eyes peeled: even if your group leader isn’t your ideal vision of a healthy, balanced person, there may be another member in the room who has made great strides toward living exactly the kind of lifestyle you want for yourself.