Losing weight doesn't have to be a solo pursuit—in fact, like anything else, your chances of success go up when you've got a smart team behind you.

By Shaun Chavis
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Losing weight doesn't have to be a solo pursuit; in fact, like anything else, your chances of success go up when you've got a smart team behind you.

I'm in a weight-loss program at the University of Alabama–Birmingham (UAB), where patients get access to a doctor, a registered dietitian (RD), an exercise physiologist, and a behavioral psychologist. There are also nutrition classes where dieters can share ideas and support each other.

Scads of studies show that having consistent support for weight loss leads to results—that's a no-brainer. Even phone- and Web-based support boosts your chances of success. But I think part of the secret is to find the right mix for you. Here are two new experts who may help you reach your goals.


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The rise of the personal organizer
When UAB gave me a list of behavioral psychologists, I had two thoughts. One: The psychologist could give me suggestions to tweak my habits and environment to support my goals. Two: Wouldn't it be great if the psychologist could actually come to my condo to see what my environment's really like?

So that's what I did. I hired Angela Camp, a Birmingham-based personal organizer. I've used her services before to help organize my office—and she's worked with quite a few others here in the complex where Health, Cooking Light, Southern Living, Coastal Living, and Oxmoor House Publishing are located.

You might be saying, "Huh? A personal organizer to help with a diet?"

Angela happens to have a degree in behavioral psychology. She's got a knack for figuring out how people work and live, and then helping them build systems and habits to reach their goals. And she makes house calls.

It turns out, Angela has helped a lot of other clients lose weight: She's purged pantries and fridges, gone grocery shopping with clients, restocked kitchens with healthy foods, and created schedules for clients so they have time to do what it takes to get healthy.

She'll even call you once a day just to see how you're doing with your new healthy plan.

As she puts it, the good thing about using an organizer is that she can come into your home and see how you have things set up. "When you go to a nutritionist, you're going to their office and they don't typically go to your home or into your office. But it's important for the person who's helping you to see what's going on in your home and environment."

She recently helped a high-powered client find healthier ways to snack. "This gentleman wanted to be healthy, but he kept Honey Buns and other unhealthy snacks in his office." Her solution? She got rid of those unhealthy snacks and made a new snack stash with protein bars, fruit, and protein shake mixes.

Nutrition mentors
Another trend I'm seeing in offbeat experts to help you lose weight: nutrition mentors. Like RDs, they give you nutrition advice, but mentors work with you over a longer period of time (most insurance companies pay for limited RD visits).

Nutrition mentors are more likely than an RD to take you beyond the basics and give you specific advice to reach your goals—whether you want to lose weight, eat to train for an athletic event, eat to manage a health condition, or simply eat healthier. Depending on the setup, you can work individually with the mentor or in a small group.

My friend Lia Huber owns The Nourish Network and My Nourish Mentor. Her online-based mentoring program takes six months, and it brings a group of 10 people together on the phone for a weekly call.

In between the calls there is homework involving readings, watching videos, trying recipes, and other exercises. For example, a recent class covered knife skills and gave clients a recipe with plenty of chopping involved for practice.

Lia says what she does is much more than your typical RD appointment: "It's part nutrition, but it combines much more than that—your mind-set, being mindful around meals, getting comfortable in the kitchen, your mental state and emotions. We focus so much on weight in the U.S., we forget to look at the other factors that can help us live healthier lives." (If you're interested in trying Lia's services, she's offering a discounted rate through April 2010.)

Do you have other ideas for experts that might help you reach your healthy goals? How about a personal life coach? Some cooking lessons? Anything interesting you've tried?