Maybe you’ve regained some lost weight. Or blown it after a stretch of eating well. You’re demoralized, thinking you’ll never get it right.

We usually blame ourselves when we struggle to change how we eat. We manage to forget how hard those changes are for nearly everyone–for reasons that aren’t entirely in our control. The “I should be able to do it myself” belief fuels our feelings of failure—and can actually keep our behavior stuck. Some kinds of problems, and some kinds of changes, call for help. This is certainly true when you’ve set out to turn a “diet” into a change that lasts for good, and not just another frustration.

Twelve-step groups have long used the power of relationships to help people find lasting solutions–to substance addictions as well as to other behaviors, like gambling or shopping. Regular check-ins with a sponsor help people get and stay on track. More recently, some diet books have suggested the using a “diet coach” when trying to lose weight Dr. Judith Beck, for example, says “Few people who have struggled with dieting can lose weight and sustain that weight loss without help and encouragement from another person.”

More and more, research backs this idea, too: People lose more weight, and keep that weight off, when they have help, or even phone check-ins, with support people. (Weight loss is necessarily not the only goal of eating sanely, but keeping weight in a desired place usually does indicate a permanent change in behavior and eating patterns.)

A coach supports your effort to change. A coach offers care, encouragement, ideas and inspiration. A coach helps you identify and stick with goals, fine-tuning and problem-solving if you stumble along the way. A coach greatly increases your chances of success.

Click Here for “Research Confirms: Coaching Works”

Professional coaches offer specialized knowledge and skill. They offer the advantage of objectivity and confidentiality as well. They come from a range of professional areas, from those leaning more toward exercise , to those leaning more toward attitude change, to those trained specifically in nutrition. Which will best match your needs? Ideally, your coach has the skills to help you identify and change the thinking and behaviors you need to alter. And ideally, this person will have some knowledge of nutrition and exercise as well. Generally speaking, it’s good to avoid people who recommend one specific type of diet or plan above all others–the same regime for just about anyone. And your coach should have solid ideas about how and why you might be getting stuck. Changing your eating patterns, for good, usually takes time and effort. Succeeding often hinges on getting good support for the process. Our problems rarely develop in isolation. And sometimes they’re better solved in connection with others.