Team Weight Loss: Group Effort Benefits

Teaming with other health-conscious people to lose weight safely and effectively has been shown to have significant benefits for all concerned.

Dieting seems to be a life-long goal for many of us. Too often we lose a few pounds and then regain them, along with an extra one or two. A year or two later we start again, with similar results. Since most people will never know about our success and failure, we feel comfortable if guilty in never reaching the desired weight loss goal.

Recent research suggests that group dieting can prove an effective strategy in losing weight and keeping it off. Group diet plans have been around for years, as evidenced in the popularity of organizations like Weight Watchers or Physicians Weight Loss Centers. Yet the cost and limited fare for some of these programs make them prohibitive for some folks to follow.

Another group tactic uses an informal approach. Instead of joining a global organization, why not team up with a few family members, neighborhood cronies, or coworkers and encourage each other to meet a shared goal? This technique has worked well in varied settings around the country, with many groups reporting that 100% of the members lost weight, and a majority reached the desired goal of perhaps ten or twenty pounds, or even more.

If you are interested in trying this approach, here are a few tips:

1. Hook up with friends you can trust. You don't have to report a weekly weigh-in to all members of your group. But in terms of confidentiality, there should be one person who can record each person's weight loss and keep track of goals. You also want to be able to count on your friends to take their weight loss goal seriously, and to encourage you to keep trying by exercising regularly and eating healthy meals. People who don't try very hard, who make fun of you for trying, and who aren't very inspirational are not the ones you want on your team.

2. Take a low-key attitude. While weight loss is important, you don't want your group to turn into an aggressive win-at-all-costs cluster of enemies. Make it fun and light when you get together by joking, sharing recipes and ideas, and urging each other to stay with it. When the groups starts bickering over who lost a quarter-pound more than someone else, it may be time to disband.

3. Meet on a regular basis. Even though your group is informal, make it a point to get together routinely, which will help to promote accountability. Choose a neutral location, like the local gym or a clinic where you can use a medical scale for weigh-ins. Or meet at the park for a walk or at the library to exchange weekly reports. Schedule a set time so you don't lose track of each other trying to figure out when you'll meet next. You may want to email or telephone each other between meetings for a friendly word of encouragement.

4. Share a common goal. Instead of tailoring individual goals, like Sharon plans to lose forty pounds while Lisa will shed just ten, work on a shared goals of perhaps five pounds over two months. If everyone makes that goal successfully, extend it another two months, and you can up the ante if members are losing weight more rapidly than planned. But don't set goals that will discourage or defeat any of the members.

5. Celebrate results. At the end of your first goal period, celebrate by cooking a low-fat breakfast or going out for a special treat, like seeing a movie or going to a concert. Sharing success makes it last as well as incites everyone to keep going. You may even want to send a short blurb to the local newspaper to see if the editor will post it in the health section. Or make a scrapbook for each of you to capture this special time for future memories.

Group dieting plans can be fun and productive. Start recruiting today even if you don't need to lose weight, but simply want to be sure you continue to eat healthy meals and exercise regularly.

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