This is a great way to keep portion sizes in check. The idea is that you each pick a day of the week to pack a lunch for the both of you, says Ashley Koff, RD, author of Mom Energy. “You discuss food likes and issues beforehand and can use a nutrition plan like this one to create a nutrient-balanced eating occasion. “The benefit here is that we typically overdo it when we make a meal for ourselves but splitting it in two is easier when you have someone to give the other half too,” says Koff “Plus, most of us get a little more inspired when cooking and/or assembling food for another person, so the creative spirit may come out in force.”
Take five minutes while you’re drinking your coffee or packing your lunch to phone a friend and share your exercise or health commitments for the day, recommends JJ Virgin, celebrity nutrition and fitness expert and the bestselling author of Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy. Setting your intention will make you more likely to follow through.
Create a fitness calendar with friends or co-workers, says celebrity strength and conditioning coach and certified sports nutritionist Jay Cardiello. “Use shiny stars and smiley face stickers to mark workout days and use playful fruity stickers to select the one day that month that you'll both celebrate yourselves with that piece of low-fat cheesecake that you’ve been putting off.”
“Do a cleanse together,” say Sara Haley, Global Reebok Master Trainer, independent fitness consultant and creator of the upcoming prenatal fitness DVD Daily Sweat Pregnancy Program: Expecting More. “I love the Isagenix Cleanse because you can eat on it!”
Do you have a BFF who’s good at doling out tough love? Ask her to be your lifeline, says Virgin. That way, when a craving strikes you can call or text her before you binge and she can remind you of the goals you’ve set and the commitment you’ve made to living healthier.
Have you always wanted to try Bikram yoga but didn't want to buy an expensive package? “Deal-of-the-day websites such as Groupon and LivingSocial offer deep discounts on monthly packages and are great ways to take advantage of a new type of workout,” says Heather Bauer, RD, CDN, founder of Nu-Train and author of Bread is the Devil (out January 2012). “Buy two coupons and surprise a friend for her birthday or upcoming holiday.
Is there a certain style of clothing you’re dying to fit into? Go shopping with a friend and each pick out one item that is one size too small, suggests Koff. Then check-in with each other weekly to see how it is fitting. “This is great because you can do it with your college roommate from years ago or another friend that lives miles away via Skype or by texting or e-mailing photos.” It also forces you to focus on how you look and feel—not the number on the scale.
Encourage each other with small, health-boosting gifts. “We love giving discounts when you buy for your buddy at HappyBellyBags.com,” says Koff. But you don’t even have to spend money. Forwarding e-mail coupons or Facebook freebies from wellness companies, such as Gaiam or Kashi, is also a great way to inspire better buys.
Motivated by money? “Agree to pay one of your friends if you don't achieve 3.5 hours of activity per week,” suggests Aschan. “It will help you to implement your activity plan and stay motivated.” Want to raise the stakes? Wage at least $100 on LoseItorLoseIt.com. The website is run by two computer programmers who will keep your money—not even donate it to charity!—if you don’t achieve your weight loss goal.
“Music is a huge motivator and definitely gets people excited to work out,” says Bauer. “Sharing your iTunes or Spotify playlists will provide you and your friends with more options than just your own, overplayed songs and will push you to work out longer.”
“Bring your friends to try out a new workout such as boot camp or pole dancing at your local gym,” says Aschan. Variety helps prevent boredom and can make you more likely to work out at a higher intensity, enhancing your results.
“Once every two months hold a wellness group in your home or community center where you invite local experts to discuss how to beat hormonal weight gain, eat healthier or exercise smarter,” suggests Aschan. It will help you stay informed about the best and newest ways to stay in shape.
“In many cases, just telling your best friends that you are starting a weight loss program helps keep you accountable and can motivate you to stick to your plan,” says Mickey Harpaz, PhD, nutritionist, exercise physiologist and author of Menopause Reset!
Make your health a priority by planning a girlfriend’s wellness weekend, suggests Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN, director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and author of The Active Calorie Diet. Spend the weekend (at home or away) cooking nutritious food, exercising and indulging in spa treatments.
Writing down everything you eat can be time consuming, especially with a busy job and family obligations. “Instead of logging every calorie, be creative and jot down how you are feeling each Monday, or describe the day of the week that is hardest for you to workout or stay away from sweets,” suggests Cardiello. “Then, share these emotions with a friend or someone who will hold you accountable to your goals. This way you can constructively plan to control and conquer those feelings and get to the gym.”
“My wife, who is a private chef, invites her friends over once a month and teaches them to cook simple, delicious, healthy meals,” says Cardiello. "Anywhere from three to six women gather in our kitchen to share their desire to learn and support and encourage each other in all aspects of life. If you don't have the luxury of having a friend who is a chef, then organize a monthly gathering where you and your friends can share healthy recipes and other weight loss tips and tricks.”
“With a friend, pick a new activity—like spinning or indoor rock climbing—sign up for classes and go together to buy all of the necessary equipment,” says Steve Ettinger, fitness expert and author of Wallie Exercises. ”By making each other spend money, you’re making a commitment to follow through with the activity. Plus, you’ll feel more accountable because if you back out your friend will be directly affected as well.”
“Sign up with a friend for fun evening of dancing at your local YMCA, church or town event, says Cardiello. “The two of you can literally twist your way to a tighter tummy while building a stronger bond.”
“Take a night out each week to go for a stroll or brisk walk with a friend,” says Cardiello. “Walking with another person is not only safer, but it also holds you accountable.” If none of your friends are walkers, make a new one by posting a sign on the bulletin board at your gym or join a local group through MeetUp.com.
“Get in shape with a friend or group by pledging to run or walk for a cause,” suggests Cardiello. Having a charity race on your calendar gives your goal importance and sets an end date by which you must get fit.
It’s easy to get excited to exercise when you have cool new clothes to wear. Go shopping with a friend for fun workout duds that will make you look as good as you’re going to feel, says Mitzi Dulan, RD, CSSD, nutritionist and owner of Mitzi Dulan’s Adventure Boot Camp.
“Supermarkets are full of distractions and potential dieting disasters,” says Bauer. “Taking along a pal who is also interested in losing weight helps to keep the focus. Compare labels, bounce ideas off of each other and share insight on the newest, healthiest product. If you're hesitant to try a new product, offer to split it so you can both give it a go.”
Want to feel like you’re 15 again? Organize a fun-filled afternoon of sports like volleyball, basketball or even just Frisbee with a friend and your kids, says Cardiello. It will bring out the athlete in you and force you to try to keep up with the endless energy of the younger set.
“Each month choose a healthy recipe that you and a friend will prepare and cook together—from buying the ingredients to firing up the oven,” says Cardiello. Save the recipes in a folder and use them to create a personalized cookbook with photos and written descriptions of memorable moments that the two of you can reminisce about when your weight loss journey is over.
“Competition can be healthy,” says Bauer “Make small weight loss goals with your friends and see who meets them first. Each goal that is met should have a small reward—for example, coffee gift cards or gift certificates for a manicure. Keep it friendly and you'll stay motivated.” Keep track of everything online or race out-of-town friends using websites such as WeightLossAndWin.com, Slim2Win.net and BuddySlim.com.
There’s no denying that healthy food can be pricey. To beat obesity on a budget, start an informal co-op of sorts, suggests Bonci. Do a weekly group cook of healthy foods and then split up servings, or buy herbs in bulk and then share the cost.
It can be easy to let yourself put on a few pounds when you know you still have “fat clothes” you can fit into. Take away this safety net by asking a friend to help you box up all your oversized clothes and give them away, says Bonci.