There's an African proverb that says, "If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together." That wisdom is reflected in the fact that this week gym parking lots are packed with people committed to making lifestyle changes. Unfortunately, the numbers will dwindle as weeks go by.

The secret to success may be to not walk alone. The American Psychological Association lists joining a support group as one of its top five suggestions to make lifestyle resolutions that last. There are many examples of increasing the success rates for maintaining a lifestyle change by joining a support group. I'll discuss two I'm involved in that have had remarkable success; hopefully these can serve as examples for your journey this year.

The Daniel Plan

A few years ago, Pastor Rick Warren realized that not only did he have a weight and health issue, but many of the congregants at his massive Saddleback Church were also suffering from similar challenges. He assembled a group of experts and instituted a plan for lifestyle change emphasizing diet, fitness and stress management.

The key to the phenomenal success of his plan was that it was adapted into thousands of pre-existing bible study small groups in homes. Once a curriculum was developed online and in written material, a portion of the study group session was dedicated to lifestyle education and tracking progress. Stories of success, frustrations, recipes and such could be shared.

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Built into these small groups were intermittent large health rallies. I was fortunate to attend last year's health rally, and will be participating in this year's, which you can watch by simulcast on January 10. The congregants have lost weight and maintained the weight loss, have changed their diets at church events and at home, and have enjoyed greater fitness that's sustained due to the group support, elements of which you can do at home.

Plant-Based Nutrition Support Group

A year ago I was asked by Paul in Detroit, who was following a heart disease reversal diet, to co-found a support group for others doing the same. He had avoided bypass surgery the year before by adopting a plant-based diet with no added oil, as taught by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn of the Cleveland Clinic, and is still doing phenomenally well without heart surgery. He's maintaining ideal weight, cholesterol levels and fitness by strict adherence to the Essy diet.

I agreed to help out, and we got a small news article written about our plans while I secured a hospital conference room on a snowy night in February. I anticipated 20 people showing up, but more than 130 appeared. We'd uncovered an untapped need for a plant-based support group.

A website was set up, a schedule of monthly lectures and support sessions was created, a walking club developed, and we approached restaurants to create menus adapted to the PBNSG requirements. The success of the group in 2014 has far exceeded expectations, with more than 600 members, rotating lecturers who volunteer their time and speak to between 150-500 people, and an energy and adherence rate to a challenging dietary plan that is remarkable. Members have lost pounds, reduced medications, and shown renewed hope for the future by taking charge of their health with like minded people.

To build on this success, a seminar on plant-based disease reversal is planned for February., and our meeting at the end of January, 2015 will feature a lecture by Dr. Esselstyn; 1,000 attendees are already registered. Amazing!

After studying cultures around the world, anthropologist Margaret Mead indicated that "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." Finding a buddy or a group of committed people may be just the ticket you need to make 2015 the year you make resolutions stick. Good luck!

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