Strength in Numbers


How often have you set a goal but never quite got around to doing anything to achieve it? Or maybe you’ve found yourself making progress, but then something got in the way and you got off track.

tinatommerPeople are social animals, so it’s no surprise that research shows one of the best ways to develop positive habits is to pair up with an accountability partner — someone who can help keep you committed to your goals and objectives. Experts say one of the best predictors of whether people will stick with an exercise program is if they have a friend — either an individual or a group — to work out with, keeping them accountable. This is true for people looking to make other behavior changes: losing weight, quitting smoking, sticking to a beauty routine, improving their diets. The system works, experts say, because if we promise someone we will meet them at the gym or the salon, for example, we’ll feel guilty if we don’t keep our promise. The sense of obligation we feel toward others often is stronger than the sense of obligation we feel toward ourselves.

It keeps you motivated and challenged.


“Goals take time, hard work, perseverance and commitment to achieve,” said coach Thomas Oppong, who blogs on “Results often do not come as quickly as we might hope, and it’s easy to lose motivation in the process and give up.”

Like many wellness professionals, Oppong recommends teaming up with a friend, citing an American Society of Training and Development study that found that people have a 65% chance of reaching a goal if they have an accountability partner. The study also found that people’s chances of successfully reaching their goals rose to 95% when they established a regular appointment with their accountability partners.

“If you don’t measure and report your progress, then you’re probably not making much progress at all,” Oppong wrote recently in a post titled “This Is How to Increase the Odds of Reaching Your Goals by 95%.” “According to Pearson’s Law — when performance is measured, it improves; when performance is measured and reported, it improves exponentially.”


The ideal accountability partner is someone who is highly motivated. Bluffton friends Nancy Foss, 33, and Carmen Hidalgo, 28, are both serious about losing weight, and last June they decided to team up to improve their efforts.

“I knew Carmen from my neighborhood because our kids are friends,” Foss said. “We were at a birthday party and she started talking about weight and everything she was doing. I could tell she had done a lot of research and was really committed.”

The next day, Foss texted Hidalgo and asked if they could meet for coffee. Their weight-loss partnership was born over skim-milk lattes with Splenda.

“We joined forces,” Hidalgo said. “When I cheat on my diet, I have to tell her about it.”

The pair set clear goals: They would cook at home more and eat out less. They would call each other when they were upset to avoid emotional eating, and they would track what they ate and weigh in weekly. Their motto became “progress, not perfection,” and it seems to be working — Foss has lost 17 pounds and Hidalgo is down 12. Just as important: Their friendship has deepened by motivating, inspiring and challenging each other.

“In the process (of losing weight), we’ve become best friends,” Foss said. “This has been a bigger joy to me than fitting into smaller sizes.”


At Burn Boot Camp in Bluffton, franchise owner Laura Lutz and trainer Katelyn Vitzthum created accountability small groups to help members make it to the gym more often, get in more reps and lift heavier weights.

“We wanted to take people out of their comfort zones, hold each other accountable and build a strong community,” Vitzthum said. 


The pair came up with the idea for the groups after brainstorming last winter about how to keep members’ motivation high in a season when people’s workouts “tend to fade off due to holiday parties, travel and visitors,” Lutz said. 

They matched up members who joined voluntary accountability groups and created a Facebook group for them. A year later, several of the groups — which include five to six people — are still going strong.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or an athlete,” Lutz said. “It keeps you motivated and challenged.”

Tina and Jamie Toomer are a mother-daughter accountability team at Burn Boot Camp who consistently work out together and support each other. 

“For me, it’s a level of comfort, having a buddy,” Tina said. “She pushes me.”

Jamie, who is lead trauma nurse at Savannah Memorial Health University Medical Center and works the night shift, finds it easier to get up and go to the gym when she knows her mom will be there.

The Toomers are a large, close family, but exercising together is something only Jamie and her mom share. 

“Jamie has always been health conscious, and this is our niche,” Tina said.


Taking a team approach can also help people stop smoking, according to the American Lung Association.

“Quitting smoking isn’t just a decision — it’s a process. You have to learn how to smoke, and you have to learn how to stop smoking,” said Bill Blatt, the organization’s national director of tobacco programs. “It’s not the kind of thing you’re just going to know how to successfully accomplish.”

Most smokers who are successful in quitting do so over time in fits and starts, said Dr. Laura Knobel, a direct primary doctor in Bluffton. Medical experts say the best quit rates are seen in households where both adults smoke and decide to quit.

“Then it becomes a challenge,” Knobel said. “Both people get healthy. You can do this with spouses or with friends.”

Because smoking rates have fallen dramatically across the country, it may be hard for smokers to find an accountability partner locally who is also trying to quit. The Center For Disease Control runs a “quit smoking hotline” that offers live support. For more information go to



Non-invasive cosmetic procedures including Botox, microdermabrasion, hydro-facials and chemical peels are popular and can take years off one’s appearance. But they are also costly and time-consuming, so it’s common for people to procrastinate or miss appointments. So a group of friends from Hilton Head Island and Bluffton turned their bi-monthly treatments at a local medical spa into an excuse to see each other regularly. 

“We have a couple glasses of wine together first,” said one group member. “We all have children and are very busy, so we book our appointments together. We’re happy to be together and we enjoy it more.” 


Bluffton Aesthetics 
3 Plantation Park Drive

Envision Medical Spa
14 Westbury Park Way, Ste. 100 (Bluffton)

Faces Day Spa
The Village at Wexford

Farmers Market of Bluffton
40 Calhoun Street (at the Carson Cottages)

Dr. Richard J. Greco
The Georgia Institute of Plastic Surgery

Good Health Unlimited
124 Arrow Road, Suite 4

The Herb Room Organic Apothecary & The Art of Massage and Yoga
14 New Orleans Road, Suite 2

LUX ~ A Medical Spa
350 Fording Island Road, Suite 101 (Bluffton)
24 Shelter Cove Lane, Suite 50

Orangetheory Fitness
430 William Hilton Parkway

Pure Barre
28 Shelter Cove Lane, Suite 105
109 Towne Drive (Bluffton)

Street Meet
95 Mathews Drive
Port Royal Plaza

Terra’s Style Studio
2 Marshland Road, #3