In a culture where individuality and independence are valued so greatly, following a “group mentality” isn’t always deemed ideal.
“Some of the biggest advantages of losing weight in a group setting are the support, encouragement and motivation that it provides,” says Nicholas Frye, L.C.P.C., N.C.C., behavioral counseling manager at Medifast. “Being able to work together with other individuals towards the same goal is incredibly empowering.”
An additional advantage, Frye points out, is the level of accountability a group setting provides.
“There’s nothing wrong with positive extrinsic motivation,” he explained. “In fact, research has shown that if you have heavier friends, family members and colleagues, it is more likely that you will be heavier, too. So, instead hang out with people who are trying or have successfully lost weight.”
Like with any approach to weight loss, there are some obstacles involved when it comes to working with a group, though.
Frye said finding the time to meet is one of the biggest challenges for many, but ultimately he feels the greatest hurdle people face is themselves.
“Many times people can have a fear or public embarrassment or fear of disappointing others which may keep them away from a supportive environment,” Frye said. “The best way to move past these fears is to acknowledge them, allow them to be there — don’t fight them — and go to the group anyway. Don’t allow your fears to prevent you from achieving the life you want.”
Getting Involved and Maintaining Motivation
For those who are interested in losing weight in a group setting, Fry recommends several different options.
“There are many different setups for weight loss in a group setting,” Frye said. “It could be in-person or online, with single-gender or coed groups. It could be more supportive or more hardcore. It may take some trial and error to find what works best for you.”
Of course, there are plenty of commercial weight loss programs that offer group sessions and support, but Frye suggests using what he calls your greatest technological resource: the Internet.
“You can find online support groups, connect with weight loss buddies in your area or even find weight loss meet-ups near you,” he said.
The initial steps it takes to join a group can be intimidating for many, so Fry said if you’re feeling hesitant, worried or anxious you should keep in mind that those feelings are totally normal — you’re certainly not the only one who feels this way.
Once you’re part of a positive, supportive group Frye recommends keeping track of your progress using some traditional methods in order to make sure you’re on track.
“Track your food intake in a journal, track your exercise, specifically any gains or improvements you make, and track your weight, focusing more on how your weight is trending as opposed to any fluctuations you might see from day to day,” he explained. “Writing these behaviors down is still the best tool we have for successful weight loss.”
Final Words of Wisdom
Frye noted that while using group settings for weight loss is a helpful tool that leads to success for many, eventually you’ll need to find a deeper reason to further your goals.
“The most important thing to understand is that it’s okay to start a weight loss journey with the goal of weight loss, but if you want to maintain that weight loss it will need to become about something else,” he explained. “It will need to become about lifestyle change. A diet isn’t successful if you regain the weight, so in order to prevent this you must create a permanent shift in your behaviors. Healthy eating, regular exercise, quality sleep, stress management, etc. These need to become your new life, not a temporary fix.”