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All For One: Group Weight Loss Challenges.

The ratings bonanza that is "The Biggest Loser" series has spawned a healthy new social trend – groups of people vowing to lose weight together. Numerous studies have shown that one of the most important factors in sustained weight loss is support, so why not get your friends or workmates together and get on each others’ cases? You’ll all win!

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We're all in this together

Picture the scene – there’s a group of you, enjoying a coffee or a wine or a beer together, and someone says idly “I’ve got to lose some weight”. And you all nod, and then nothing happens.

But what if you decided to do it together?

More and more, around Australia, groups of people are challenging each other to slim down. And it’s working.

Chris, 24, from Brisbane, took part in a weight-loss challenge with his car club mates.

“All the overweight people in the club put their names down, then they were supposed to weigh in every week and keep each other motivated.”
So far Chris is at the top of the table, having lost 17kg, but it’s not all about the competition. “It’s about doing it for yourself,” he says.

This sort of friendly rivalry could offer just the right amount of extra incentive to keep you away from the TimTams. If you know a friend or colleague has stuck to salad and skim milk all day, it’s much easier to do the same yourself.

A bunch of losers

So a group of you have decided to drop a couple of sizes, and you’re all fired up about how great it’s going to be when you all get there. At this point, it’s a very good idea to set some ground rules.

Firstly, the weight loss should be done slowly and sustainably. If a diet or weight loss program offers miraculous results, chances are it’s a claim too good to be true. The safest, most reliable, and healthiest way to lose weight is slowly and by counting calories.

Remember that each person in the group has different needs, and that the competition should reflect this. Perhaps set individual goals that are roughly similar, so everyone should reach their goals at about the same time.

If you decide to set up a challenge with workmates, consider taking half your lunch break to go for a power walk or jog, then have a healthy lunch together afterwards. Maybe bring in wholegrain bread, lean meat and salad and have (nearly) homemade sandwiches after your exercise session. Not only do you save on calories, but bringing in the makings of a group lunch is a lot cheaper than heading to a sandwich bar.

If there are enough of you, you could even set up teams, and a challenge within your weight loss challenge.

Some large employers take part in corporate sports challenges, with activities like touch footy or dragon boat racing. Talk to your supervisor about setting something up - with the reminder that healthy employees make better workers!

Out of hours

Outside the strictures of work hours, your weight-loss challenge can become a real social occasion.

Take turns to host healthy dinner parties and enjoy a great chance to catch-up as well. Challenge each other to create low-calorie, yummy feasts. The CalorieKing recipe archive is a good place to start, but most of your favourite recipes can be tweaked to be lower in calories too.

Take an hour a couple of times a week to exercise together. A brisk walk with strollers can burn serious calories and tone your muscles. Some gyms offer discounts for group memberships, and since you’ll be encouraging each other, that membership is less likely to languish unused.

If the thought of a gym session leaves you cold, go back to your childhood with activities like rock-climbing or roller-skating. Even a strenuous group session on the monkey bars will work just about every muscle and have you in fits of giggles.

Challenge each other to train for an event – it doesn’t have to be a marathon or ocean swim. Most cities hold a fun run event that attracts large crowds, and doesn’t require elite levels of fitness. If that’s not enough of a challenge, then set your sights on a half-marathon.

Keeping focused

There are lots of ways to make your weight-loss challenge more interesting. Here are a few:

For each kilo you lose, contribute a gold coin, then at the end, put it towards a treat. You could take a picnic to the zoo, take a river or harbour cruise, or book yourselves into a day spa. If you can’t agree on a group treat, donate the money to a charity.

Create yourselves a league table and display it where everyone can see your progress. If you have a clubhouse or work lunch room, make it a work of art. Or even post it on the internet.

Hold a clothes-swap party. Since you’ll all be different sizes, chances are clothes that don’t fit you any longer will be perfect for a friend.

Take up a new hobby together – boxing, muay thai, belly dancing, or whatever you all agree on – going in a group will make it more fun, and you’ll be much less likely to find excuses not to go.

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Last updated: January 27th, 2008

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