January 12, 2012

Learn how your friends, family, even your phone and online communities can help you achieve successful weight loss.

Every facet of your social network-family, friends, even your local community-can influence your weight. Here's how to work that to your advantage.

-Kerri-Ann Jennings, M.S., R.D. Former Associate Nutrition Editor for EatingWell Magazine

1. Your Spouse

In a study in the International Journal of Obesity, when people joined a weight-loss group their spouses naturally lost about 3 percent of their body weight in a year. And since partners tend to share fluctuating waistlines, your spouse's weight loss should help you stay slim too. A win-win.

2. Your Phone

When people in a Finnish study texted their daily weight and received text messages with tips to cut calories and amp up exercise, they lost about 7½ pounds more in a year than those who didn't. Ask a friend to text you daily or get textWeight.com to do it for you.

3. Co-Workers

A 2011 study found that when co-workers were put into two groups and competed together for the biggest weight loss, they dropped more weight than people who followed a worksite weight-loss program alone.

4. Your Family

Eating with your kids may help you keep pounds off: one study found that adults with kids in the house who ate more family meals weighed less than those who ate separately from their kids.

5. Online Communities

Prefer a virtual program over an in-person meetup? Go for it-it will help you lose too. Of course, you'll get out of it what you put in-research suggests that the more you use sites the better you'll maintain the weight you lost. Try Sparkpeople.com for round-the-clock support.

6. Weight-Loss Groups

A structured in-person program that connects you with other dieters can boost your success. Though both groups lost weight, people who joined Weight Watchers lost twice as much as those who received a physician-guided plan, says a study in The Lancet in October 2011.

7. Your Friends

When friends participated in a group weight-loss program together, they lost more weight-and were more successful in keeping it off-than people who did the same program on their own, says research. Buddy up!