This month we have been working on the social aspects of weight loss in the Dominican Republic. We have had issues with the community gossiping about the weight loss participants. As I have explained in previous blogs, Dominicans view weight in a much different light than Americans. For most Dominicans (at least in my community) a heavier person is considered healthier. As you can imagine this makes a weight loss support group a very controversial thing. There have been rumors that the people in my group are going to die because they are losing weight too fast (nobody is loosing more than 1-2 pounds a week) or that they aren't eating at all (not true). Obviously this can be very discouraging for the participants. I decided that we needed to discuss it in our support groups and come up with a plan of action. We discussed all of the different rumors people had heard, and different ways to combat them. We worked on changing all of the negative rumors into positive statements. For example, when they hear someone gossiping about them losing weight they can say "I am not dieting, I have changed my lifestyle so that I can live a longer, healthier life." or "I want to be healthy, and in my case that means I need to lose some weight". Obviously this is going to be an ongoing problem that we will have to continue to face, but I am happy to say that so far nobody has dropped out of the group due to gossip.
Besides that we have continued to have individual meetings, group meetings, and exercise classes on a weekly basis. The participants have also started their own walking groups based on where they live and when they have free time to exercise. I can't leave my house in the morning or evening without seeing a women out exercising(its too hot in the afternoon). It makes me smile to see that exercise has become such a strong presence when it so scarcely existed before. Even though I know it is going to take a long time for the community to accept that weight loss is a good thing for some people, at least I know that exercise is slowly becoming an acceptable norm thanks to some brave participants setting a good example.