5 steps to starting a weight loss support group

A healthy lifestyle is easier to achieve when you’ve got support. Learn how to start your own weight loss support group in five easy steps

5 steps to starting a weight loss support group

Source: Web exclusive: January 2009

Book clubs are commonplace these days and money groups are gaining popularity. If we can support each other in our quests to pay off credit card debt and widen our literary world, why do we turn to strangers for help when it comes to losing weight? Stacey Segal, a registered dietitian in Toronto, offers her advice on putting together your own weight loss support group—no registration fee required.

1. Choose your group

The first place to look for potential group members is close to home. “If you already have a support system of good friends and family in your life, then why not surround yourself with those people while embarking on a healthier lifestyle?” suggests Segal. Another option is to engage like-minded co-workers that have the same day-to-day routine as you do.

Segal recommends keeping the weight loss support group small—four to six people—for ease of scheduling. And don’t worry too much about the amount of weight people have to lose, but rather about their commitment to living a better life. “The common goal should be to eat healthy, well-balanced meals and snacks, which will in turn result in weight loss or weight management,” she says. “The idea is to encourage, support and celebrate each others’ victories, no matter how small.”

2. Establish the structure

Determine exactly when, where and how the weight loss support group will work. Segal recommends meeting every two weeks: “This gives each person enough time to work on their goals in between meetings and discover what obstacles they encounter.” Considering the sensitive nature of the topic, members might want to alternate hosting the meetings in their homes rather than in public. And Segal suggests that everyone take turns bringing smart snacks to the meetings. “Inspire each other with your healthy creations,” she suggests. Her examples include whole grain crackers and hummus, rice paper salad rolls, and walnuts and berries.

3. Set goals

Rather than publicizing daunting final goal weights within the group, each member should set an attainable goal, such as losing a dress size, trying to eat smaller portions, or losing 10 pounds. These goals should not only be shared with the group, but also recorded in each member’s individual journal—an important piece of the weight loss puzzle. Segal recommends that members use these journals between meetings to write down both their challenges, such as insistent afternoon hunger pangs, and their victories, to share at the next meeting.

Individually and on their own time, members should weigh themselves and record their progress once a week. “Try to use the same scale every time,” says Segal, for the most accuracy. Don’t be tempted to monitor your weight more often. “Our body weight will have normal daily fluctuations, which are not representative of actual weight gained or lost.”

4. Call on the experts

Bringing guest speakers in to help educate the group will give everyone in the support group tools they can use on their weight loss journeys. “It’s imperative to understand how your food choices will impact your progress,” says Segal, who believes a registered dietitian is the first place to start. Another idea is a fitness expert, who can demystify the idea of exercise. “Eating well is only part of losing weight and keeping it off," Segal says.

5. Support each other

There’s a reason you’re not doing this alone, so lean on one another and share the good days and the bad days. Bring up your challenges, says Segal, because there’s a good chance someone else in the weight loss support group is struggling with the same thing. “Brainstorm about how you can overcome those challenges,” she suggests.

If members are having trouble coming up with healthy food options or aren’t inspired to hit the gym, organize a healthy recipe exchange or share exercise tips. “Set up a buddy system within the group, so you have one particular person who you can call in between meetings for support,” says Segal. And don’t forget to keep the atmosphere light, laugh together and, maybe most importantly, celebrate everyone’s milestones along the way.

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