Journey Beyond Weight Loss

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Is Accountability Important in Weight Loss?

Recent studies have shown that people who are members of a community and who have the social support of an accountability partner are more successful at keeping weight off. Tune in as Marchelle and I talk about the evidence, about our experience with patients and clients, and what you can do to get the support you need. As the African proverb states, "if you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far, go together!"

Episode Highlights:

11:20 Well, I want everybody to know that this is actually a normal part of the human brain, this tendency to isolate when we feel ashamed.

10:23 If you want to be successful at losing weight and keeping it off, accountability and a sense of community and shared vision are absolute keys.

14:47 The journey is often very, very messy. It's rarely a straight line. But always it's gonna be a more successful journey if you know that you are not alone and that other people are available to support you and that they have your back and they can help you.

--- Full Raw Transcription Below ---

Dr. Angela Zechmann (00:00):

You are listening to the, Keep The Weight Off podcast with Dr. Angela episode number 46.

Introduction (00:07):

Welcome to the, Keep The Weight Off podcast, where we bust all the dieting myths and discover not just how to lose weight, but more importantly, how to keep it off. We go way beyond the food and we use science and psychology to give you strategies that work. And now your host, Dr. Angela Zechmann.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (00:27):

Hey everyone. And welcome back to the podcast. Marchelle, how are you doing today?

Marchelle (00:33):

I'm doing great. How are you doing?

Dr. Angela Zechmann (00:35):

Oh, I'm good. Super good. Today, I want to talk about one of the that's so important in weight loss, but it's often overlooked and that is accountability and community.

Marchelle (00:51):

Oh, this is huge.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (00:53):

It is Huge. So, I want to preface this by saying that for many of us who struggle with this disease, we've spent so much time beating ourselves up about it, that there can be a lot of shame. Now, shame is one of those emotions that feels absolutely horrible. It's very low on the emotional scale. If you're in Journey Beyond Weight Loss, you know what I mean by the emotional scale. It is it's, it's a scale of emotions and shame is low. Pure love, appreciation, and joy is very high on the emotional scale. So, when we're feeling shame as many people with this disease, do they don't like the idea of being in any sort of partnership or accountability group. They would prefer to go it alone or to do their work on their own. They don't consider themselves the type of person who would be like a joiner. Right? We have a lot of patients who feel this way. Would you say that's correct. Marchelle?

Marchelle (02:00):

I'd Say that's correct. I mean, I have spent a lot of time feeling this way, even myself.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (02:04):


Marchelle (02:05):

It's really hard to tell people your dirty laundry when you're feeling ashamed and it's easy to stay stuck in that. And that just perpetuates more bad decisions for me.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (02:21):


Marchelle (02:21):

More shame. So.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (02:22):


Marchelle (02:24):

Having a community to plug into has been really, really helpful for me.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (02:30):

Well, I want everybody to know that this is actually a normal part of the human brain, this tendency to isolate when we feel ashamed. The research on self-compassion has shown us that when we feel threatened our brain has a response called the Threat Defense System and it gets activated. And the idea here is that we are either gonna fight off a predator or run like heck. And so this works really, really well if this is a physical threat, so a threat to our physical safety.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (03:08):

So somebody's got a gun pointed at you. Like you need to have, have this threat defense system responding properly. Right? But that doesn't happen very often in this day and age. We don't have saber tooth tigers chasing us. We don't have you know, we oftentimes don't have a lot of predators and stuff like that. What, what we, most of us are feeling is more of an existential threat. So like when we're struggling with this problem of obesity, we end up turning this natural threat defense system inwards onto ourselves. And so we end up beating ourselves up, which is what you were just talking about, what you do and, or, we run and isolate ourselves.

Marchelle (03:52):

Well, I can think of another reason why I have isolated myself. Because, so, for me, I go through like struggles where, you know, when I'm doing really, really well for a while, and then I will start to isolate. And when I make some bad choices, it's because I don't want someone to tell me to stop either. I, so I find it easier, you know, if I, if I get like a, you know, a, a bad thought in my mind, you know, that I want to, I want to go eat something that I know is gonna throw me into cravings, or, you know, something that's not good for me, If I, you know, if I make my mind up to do it, then I don't want to tell anybody about it. Cause I don't want anyone to talk me out of it.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (04:41):

Ah, yeah.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (04:42):


Marchelle (04:42):

And then I, then doing that then of course, you know, then you beat yourself up for it. So vicious cycle.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (04:48):

It Is. Yeah. Yeah. So I, but, I just want you to know this is all normal. Like there's nothing wrong with you.  

Marchelle (04:56):

It's good to know. This is all Normal.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (05:01):

So, so beating ourselves up and hiding are not gonna be helpful. Right? So this actually makes the problem worse as you've discovered and as I've discovered like. So for those of you who consider yourselves to be isolators or loners, I just want to kindly and very gently let you know that you need help. Right? You need help from other people. Obesity is a very difficult disease to keep under control in the best of circumstances. And here you are living in a world where you have anything, but the best of circumstances. You have the worst of circumstances. And so I just want to encourage you to seek out as much support as possible as you work at trying to manage this disease.

Marchelle (05:49):

Right. So you're not, you know, you don't get cured. You don't come to the clinic or, or, you know, do some kind of a, you know, diet or, or whatever and then, all of a sudden, you're cured and then you can go off on your own and everything that's gonna be fine. And I know that we've had some patients that have felt so bad about coming back because they're so ashamed or embarrassed and I always try to explain to them, like, this is, this is a daily struggle like, especially, you know, some days for me, it's really, I get really in my head and I just want something to take that, you know, take it away and make me feel better. And usually I turn to food. And so I just want everyone to know, you know, that this, this is this is something that, that we need help with. And, like I said, plugging into a community is really helpful because then, you know, you don't, you don't have to do it alone.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (06:42):

Exactly. Exactly. Well, we have patients that do come and see us month after month, and they've been doing this for years and they've kept their weight off and they've been really successful and they credit their monthly visits and the accountability that it creates for them. But then we, we often hear stories of people who do really well and then they leave the office and they eat treats for a week or two, and then they buckle down again when they know they have an appointment coming up. And how many times do they call us a day or two before their visit to reschedule for a week or two later so that they can get themselves back on track before their next visit. They make up at some excuse, like they've got a meeting at work that they can't get out of, or their child is sick or something happened. And you know, we know what's going on. You know, usually we understand completely, we know that they've been struggling and they just want some time get themselves back on track.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (07:41):

And what happens is they've forgotten that they have a disease. They think they have a character flaw or a will power defect. So I want you to think about this. Like, let's say that you had asthma and you had an asthma attack. You would not call your doctor and postpone your appointment. So why…..

Marchelle (08:02):

You run right to your doctor?

Dr. Angela Zechmann (08:03):

Exactly. So why do that with this disease when you're struggling? That's the time to make sure that you get in. And that's the time to make sure if you are in our online programs that you check in, that you check in and put up a post in the Facebook groups. So, I just want to present this idea that we do tend to isolate, especially when we feel like things aren't going well, and this is normal. But it's a tendency that's not gonna be helpful. And so we just want to become aware of it and see what we can do to counteract it. Okay. So let's go back to this whole idea about accountability.

Marchelle (08:44):

So could I add something really quick? Cause, in my head, you know, I was just kind of thinking about this. Accountability doesn't mean judgment either, you know? And so I used to think that if I had to be accountable, that it was, you know, somebody was gonna be judging me, you know, picking me apart. And so that made me want to isolate even more. And so I think a lot of times even patients have said that, like, you know, is someone going to be angry or upset with me, you know, for coming back and you know, not, not doing so well, you know, this last month. And that's yeah that's not what accountability is about. It's it's not about judgment.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (09:25):

Right? Good point. Good point. So research shows that when we share our goals and report progress to another person, we're 95% likely to reach our goals. That's pretty cool. There was a 2014 study done at the University of Illinois that showed that women who had maintained their weight loss indicated that a high level of social support was a huge key to their success. And then there was another study yeah, done in 2018 at North Carolina State University, there were 704 people in this study. They were enrolled in a 15 week online weight loss program and they found that participants with buddies lost more weight and waist inches than those who took the course without buddy support. That's interesting, isn't it?

Marchelle (10:21):

Yeah. That's really interesting.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (10:23):

So I think that shows us just how important it is that if you want to be successful at losing weight and keeping it off, accountability and a sense of community and shared vision are absolute keys. Now here's a quote, here's a quote that I love. It's an African proverb. And it says, if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. So,

Marchelle (10:47):

I love that.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (10:48):

Yeah, isn't that great?

Marchelle (10:50):


Dr. Angela Zechmann (10:50):

So the weight loss journey can feel very alone. Here you are oftentimes a member of a family and you are changing everything about the way you eat and the way you live your life. So, for example, you're not partaking in taco Tuesday or the office Friday donut tradition. During the holiday season, you're taking care with the treats in the office and at home. And everyone else seems to be indulging all of around you and you can feel very alone.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (11:20):

And you might be wondering if you're missing out. These are the times when it's really, really important to know that you are not alone, that others are working on this too, that there are people who care deeply about their health and who want to stay vibrant and happy no matter what's going on around them. So you need to know that you are not the only ones facing the challenges of being in our food, obsessed, stressed out society. Right?

Marchelle (11:51):


Dr. Angela Zechmann (11:51):

So it's really, really helpful to be a member of a community where you can get the support that you need. So I have developed the free Facebook community called Sugar And Flower Buster's Society, and feel free to join us there. And then if you want deeper support, you can join us in the Journey Beyond Weight Loss community. We're gonna open that up again in late December, early January. Regardless of which group you join, feel free to join both if you like.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (12:20):

You can reach out to another member and ask to be an accountability partner. How does that sound? This way you have some…

Marchelle (12:28):

Both of these, both of these groups are amazing.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (12:30):

Yeah. And you can have somebody to sort of walk this journey along with you. The accountability partnerships are great because you can get to know each other at deeper levels. You can share your food plans and let each other know how you're doing and what your specific challenges are. And you can support each other and you can let each other know what your specific goals and how you're progressing. Your partner can help keep you accountable by reminding you of what your goals are and reminding you of your whys.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (13:02):

So share your whys with your partner because sometimes it's just not easy to stay focused and your partner can really help keep you on track, always kindly and gently and never with judgment. So, for example, let's say that you were in an accountability partnership and your partner had a slip. She had experienced an emotional upset and had gotten into some holiday cookies that were sitting on the counter. How many of us have that happening right about now? And she was feeling pretty discouraged about it. So you could, first of all, let her know that nothing had really gone wrong, that this is an excellent opportunity to learn more about herself. Then you could help her tease out what happened without judgment. So what caused the emotional upset? What thoughts was she having? What was she feeling? Could the cookies have been stored somewhere else? So they weren't readily available. Is there any other way she could have handled the emotional upset? So you're just there as a support person to help her through it, not to judge her about it.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (14:14):

And this is what the two of you can do for each other, as you're going through this process, recognizing how very difficult it is to keep this disease under control. Now, if you don't have an accountability partner, this could be done in the Facebook community, either one of them as well. You just simply put up a post where you ask for help and explain what happened and ask the group how they would handle the same situation. You'll get lots of helpful advice from the folks in the Facebook group.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (14:47):

So the point is to just make sure to remember that we're not alone in this journey, even though it feels like it. So many of us are struggling. We struggle with food. We struggle with the comments other people make. We struggle with what we feel are expectations of other people. We struggle with our self image. We struggle with motivation. We struggle with staying committed to our, we struggle with relapses into sugar and flour. The journey is often very, very messy. It's rarely a straight line. But always it's gonna be a more successful journey if you know that you are not alone and that other people are available to support you and that they have your back and they can help you.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (15:32):

Does that make sense?

Marchelle (15:33):

Yeah, mostly I think that it's, it was what was so helpful for me was just knowing that I wasn't alone and that I was around people who got me. I got them. And, we're all, we're all together in this and that there was no judgment and I could be totally open and transparent with what I was going through. And, you know, and there would always be like just in the Facebook community, well, in the Sugar and Flour Busters in the Facebook community. There's just whenever I've ever posted anything, there's just so much support and great, you know, feedback. And I just know how, how much better this journey has been for me with with, of having a community and, and not just a partner, I have a lot of partners. I need them.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (16:18):

Yeah. I mean, you can always have more than one. No question about it is, it's actually kind of nice to have several in a text thread or something where you're just sort of reporting to each other, how things are going. And you can support each other because usually somebody, you know, like a whole bunch of people can be feeling a little off, but usually there's somebody who's feeling better can help the ones who are feeling off. .

Marchelle (16:44):


Dr. Angela Zechmann (16:45):

Yeah. So you can let that one person who's kind of riding a little high carry, carry the rest, the rest of you on their wave. It's kind of fun. So, Yeah. Yeah I remember, do you remember that time that I even posted in Sugar And Flour Buster Society about the struggle that I had with the marzipan cake. Yeah. And so many people….

Marchelle (17:04):

There were so many people that are so…. Thought that was so cool.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (17:08):

They were like, you have problems too. I'm like, yes. How do you think I got here? How do think I know so much? I get it, so, right. All right. So I think, so I just really want to emphasize how important it is. And the research bears this out, how important it is to get the support that you need and to do whatever it takes. And to not let that isolate you, you know, that part of you that wants to isolate. It's a very, very normal part, but at the same time, it's not helpful unless you're being pursued by some physical thing that's trying to attack you. Then isolation will work great. but otherwise, if you're struggling with this disease and your isolators, they're trying to get you to just hide. It's not gonna be helpful. It's just gonna make it worse. So, so that's all for this week. We will see you in Sugar And Flower Buster's Society. If you haven't already joined us, feel, feel free to join us there. And if you want to join us in Journey Beyond Weight Loss later this month, we'll be open. So take care everyone, and we will see you next week. Bye.

Closing (18:26):

Hey, if you really want to lose weight and keep it off for good, your next step is to sign up for Dr. Angela's free weight loss course, where you're going to learn everything you need to get started on your weight loss journey, the right way. Just head over to Journey Beyond Weight course to sign up. Also, it would be awesome. If you could take a few moments and write a review on iTunes. Thanks. And we'll see you in Journey Beyond Weight Loss.

--- End of Transcription ---

Dr. Angela



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