Party of 12: A Real Women's Weight-Loss Group

Twelve over-40 women start a weight-loss group to encourage each other to diet and exercise.

By Louisa Kasdon

Our meetings have changed from our first, very structured conversations. More of us have things to say, and it’s become a little difficult for the leader to maintain order. She comes to each meeting with a discussion topic: how to break the clean-plate syndrome, how to manage social situations at which food and drink are at the center. (She suggests leaving the table before dessert is served, but that won’t work for many of us who do business entertaining. Our consensus is that she’s a tad militant.) She stresses that weight control is a lifestyle, not a diet — we can always eat less tomorrow if we overdo it today.

Stuck on Heartbreak Hill

Two-and-a-half months along, Susan, in keeping with her discipline, has lost the 17 pounds she had hoped to before taking off for a two-month sabbatical. Most of us have lost, but almost all of us have hit plateaus.

Our leader sends an e-mail to boost us over Heartbreak Hill. She explains that it’s natural to get stuck in neutral for a few weeks or fall off the wagon occasionally. "This is a years-long personal journey, not a one-week boot camp," she writes. "Try to come to meetings even when you have only 15 minutes. It’s amazing what just a little group contact and support can do." She’s right. A couple of us who’ve missed a few meetings because we were dispirited with our progress return to the fold.

As the weeks pass, the lunch part starts to feel more helpful than the meeting part. We are developing friendships, and we begin to save our more intimate conversations about our weight problems for the table. We have stopped caring if other members know our weight; we are all struggling together. Plus, the lunch menus are getting better every week. Often other diners look over at our table and say, "I’ll have what they’re having."

Round Two

At the end of 10 weeks, several members have reached their target weights and left the group. I’ve lost eight of my 10 pounds (with a little seesawing around my daughter’s graduation), and I want to keep going. So do most of the rest of the group. We recruit a few new members.

Being committed to the group seems to give us confidence that our lifestyle changes will help us lose weight and keep it off. Many of us now wear pedometers and make walking dates. Some of us are becoming one-day-a-week vegetarians. We take food with us when we travel. (See more weight-loss tips on page 3.) We sign the leader up again, but most of us feel that it will be the last go-round with a leader running the group.

Many of us nursed the fantasy that we’d lose weight automatically just by joining the group. Now we know there won’t be a quick fix. So as we work to become sylphs, we continue to meet for lunch each Wednesday to bolster our vigilance and our sense of humor. We expect to be ladies who lunch wisely for a very long time.

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