Why Friendship Matters For Successful Weight Loss

Human beings are wired for connection.  We need to belong.  We need to feel understood and loved.  We need to feel like we matter.

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When our need for connection is not met, we can end up searching for friendship and love in the wrong places; it can lead to behaviours that only hurt us in the long term, like addiction and over-eating.  Because when we're hungry for connection, we seek out chemicals like dopamine and serotonin that we associate with love, warmth and belonging, and we can get them from food (temporarily).

But sometimes building connection is scary.  Our human vulnerability means that we can  also be hurt by others.  Past experiences of being rejected, ridiculed or traumatised lead us to protect ourselves from that pain.  It means our trust is damaged.  Our fear of being hurt can leave us feeling isolated, or misunderstood, or lonely, even if we're surrounded by people.  It's scary to open up.  Scary to show people who we really are.  Scary to reach out to get to know others.

In a world where everyone is committed to being positive, it can be hard to open up when life gets tough.  But it's okay to say you're not okay.  In fact it's important that we do say when we're not okay.  If we avoid the lows like sadness, despair, anger it means we live life in neutral and we miss the joy, the excitement and the fun. We're here living this life to feel the full range of emotions.  But who do we turn to when we're not okay?  

Sometimes as a society we think we should be able to look after ourselves, and others look after themselves.  "Feel good" quotes tell us that 'only you can help you'.  But ... whilst personal responsibility is important, that's NOT the whole story.

Studies have shown that loneliness has a bigger effect on our life expectancy than obesity and smoking.  Loneliness is also linked to anxiety and depression.  We need community. We need our tribe. We need friendship.  Real life ones not online.  And creating connection means sharing experiences together.  That means sharing the lows as well as the highs. I don't mean moaning, complaining or dumping on people. But I do mean honest, open, mutually supportive exchanges with depth and realness.

Connecting with your community can take immense courage.  But ultimately food is no substitute for friendship, love and companionship.

Bethan Louise