Up until the age of 42 I was overweight – I was a chubby baby, a plump little girl, a heavy teenager, a fat college student, and an overweight young mom. At the early age of 12, I began to seek out diets. I would desperately attempt any diet I heard about, even the most extreme fads. Always motivated at the beginning, I would follow the diet to a tee, losing 6 to 8 pounds (3 to 4 kilos) within the first few weeks only to fall off the dieting wagon and eat everything in sight. At the end of these binges, I found I had regained all my weight and then some.
This cycle of losing and gaining weight affected how I felt about myself and my abilities. It ate away my self-esteem. With my extra weight, I was embarrassed to leave the house and go out with friends.
I wanted to be thin so badly that I bought into all sorts of scams, even a pair of pants that supposedly made you sweat and lose weight. I even dreamed about having intestinal parasites.
It all started by chance. After the birth of my third son 30 years ago, I was 35 pounds overweight. An idea came to me – perhaps I could have more success dieting with the support of a group. I gathered some friends who shared my same struggles, and we agreed to meet once a week at my home. Every meeting I would hand out a weekly menu, and the group would weigh in, share ideas about how to overcome temptations, and mostly laugh a lot. We all lost weight. Evidently, the sense of warmth, the small-group atmosphere, and the mutual support helped us achieve our weight-loss goals and keep the weight off long-term.
Without any advertising at all, friends of friends approached me to ask if I would start a new weight-loss group. I hesitated at first, but eventually agreed. The word got out that there was a group where everyone successfully lost weight, where the leader called if you missed a meeting, and where people noticed if you had a bad week and needed encouragement.
There was demand to start more and more groups.
But the path to success was anything but simple. It frightens me today to think about how I began leading the first weight-loss group without any understanding of how people make changes in their lives or which weight-loss menus can be followed in the long run.
My method developed through trial and error. If I had only gotten ahold of this book, I would have spared myself many mistakes!
Our menu is based on the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes large quantities of vegetables for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The menu has been altered many times throughout the years, according to the groups’ outcomes. I removed fruit salad, rice, and quinoa from the menu after I saw that participants didn’t lose weight during the weeks these foods were included. Since the majority of my clients are working women, I put a lot of effort into ensuring that meal preparation would be simple and time efficient.
Over the years, I read all the self-help books I could get my hands on, and these books helped me to create the meeting syllabi. Group participants also contributed wonderful ideas that appear in many of these syllabi.
I developed exercises that helped participants stay motivated after the meeting and maintain healthy eating habits during the week. And I spent a lot of time pondering over questions like “what inspires people to make changes in their lives?”, “what motivates participants to attend every meeting?”, and “how can meetings become interesting for participants, or even make them laugh?”
Best Wishes, Yaffa Kosloff