• The Importance of a Fitness Sponsor

    While the Cambridge Dictionary Online defines the act of sponsorship as "providing a person with money or encouragement," it is in the various 12-Step programs that the concept of sponsorship took on its contemporary meaning: a relationship in which a more experienced member shares his wisdom and skills with a newer member to help guide him towards recovery.

    So your sponsor is simply someone whose support you have enlisted in order to achieve a healthier lifestyle. You can use a family member, co-worker, roommate, or a friend as a sponsor. Anybody who shares your commitment to a healthy lifestyle and has your best interests at heart can fit the bill. The support can be in the form of words or deeds. A workout buddy who spots you while you're lifting weights, a running partner who motivates you to conquer that last hill, or a friend who gently steers you towards the crudite tray at a party are all providing the support of a sponsor.

    What a good sponsor never does is reproach or belittle you. If mutual respect and encouragement are not the rule, find yourself another sponsor. And you don't have to limit yourself to one at a time. WebMD, which advises using sponsors in the form of "food buddies," recommends having one food buddy you can call on late at night and another that you could meet for a healthy lunch. Whether you have one sponsor or many, the relationship has significant benefits. A 2007 Mayo Clinic study showed that support from others was a major factor in helping people make behavioral changes that affected their health.

    Finding a Sponsor

    Your own circle of friends and family is a good place to start your search. Your ideal candidate is someone you respect who is successfully maintaining a healthy lifestyle and is also willing to advise and inspire you. Tell her that you admire what she's accomplished, and ask if she would mind giving you occasional pointers and encouragement.

    A sponsorship relationship can also arise out of a new friendship. Fitness classes, support groups, and even mall-walking clubs may contain many potential sponsors. You can also connect with a sponsor online. WebMD recommends online bulletin boards and chat rooms as sources of support, like the online community here at Ferrigno FIT.

    How a Sponsor Can Help

    If your roommate, spouse, or family member is a sponsor, you can enlist their help in dedicating at least one shelf of the refrigerator to healthy foods such as brightly-colored fruits, fresh vegetables, cottage cheese, and low-fat yogurt. If you have a family or workplace tradition of going out for pizza, ask your sponsor to remind you to order salads or some healthier items on the side - perhaps your tablemates may sample them and make them a regular part of the tradition. Once you have reached a health goal -- ten pounds lost, a month without cigarettes, whatever the case may be, celebrate by taking your sponsor(s) to a movie or out for a healthy dinner.

    The Bottom Line

    Many sponsors report that the act of helping someone else reinforces their own commitment. So, when it comes to finding a support system for your goals, don't worry about "imposing." The right person will welcome your interest.

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