Weight loss support groups promote accountability

To lose weight and keep it off, you have to want it. But there’s no reason to go it alone, and area weight loss support groups aim to ensure you won’t have to.

In Winchester and Front Royal, Weight Loss Boot Camp classes aren’t as hardcore as they sound.

There’s no drill sergeant and no group exercise, said Susie Carter, nutrition educator with Valley Health Wellness Services.

Instead, for $10 a week, class participants in Front Royal and Winchester support each other as they learn to track their food intake in journals, choose healthy foods and exercise properly.

“I don’t shove it down their throat,” Carter said. But she stresses adherence to a program that includes food journaling and teaching the fundamentals of living a healthy lifestyle.

“They have to track their food, they just have to,” Carter said. “They have to exercise, just going out and walking.”

If they don’t, she said, they won’t maintain long-term weight loss.

Graduates from first and second sessions can move up to the Weight Loss Support Group, which meets regularly to ensure continued success for members.

It’s similar in premise to TOPS Club meetings, part of the national Take Off Pounds Sensibly organization, which area Captain Barbara Simmons leads in Winchester, Strasburg and Woodstock.

“We talk about things and we’re basically a support group,” Simmons said. Talk is always conducive to weight loss, she explained, recently centering on maintaining weight goals during the holidays and sometimes discussing the latest fad diets.

“It’s like a little family,” she said. “You pick a chapter and you stay with that one group.”

Those who reach their weight goals graduate to KOPS, which stands for Keep Off Pounds Sensibly.

“People come in at different points [of weight loss] and it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get there,” Simmons said.

Carter likes the boot camp classes because they offer a sense of accountability that she hasn’t found through do-it-yourself programs or electronic apps.

“People don’t want to go to class,” she said. “They’re too busy.”

The introduction of programs like My Fitness Pal, which offers free apps for Android and Apple products at http://www.myfitnesspal.com, have drawn members from her classes during the last six years, though she said they aren’t lasting solutions either.

“People don’t follow through … they’re not consistent with it,” she said. Plus, it’s too easy to quit when you know no one is watching. “Classes offer accountability,” she added.

Weight Loss Boot Camp teaches portion control and offers nutrition-related handouts, but she said it all starts with journaling.

“There’s so many things that you eat during the day that you’re not aware of,” she said.

“The ones that are keeping the journal lose [weight]. That ones that don’t, don’t,” she said. “If you’re not keeping a journal, forget it.”

A group member for more than five years, Denis Doherty of Stephens City said he’s learned to make better food choices after his first go at weight loss resulted in him gaining most of it back.

“It was a reawakening,” he said.

“In the past if I went out to eat, I would just go and eat and not think anything of it,” he said. Now he looks up restaurant nutrition info before deciding where to eat and what to order.

Also, he said, “I know what to do in case my weight goes back up.”

“It’s something that you have to do, you have to eat, but you’ve got to use good judgment on what you do,” he said.

Weight Loss Boot Camp meets from Jan. 15-April 2 in Front Royal at Warren Memorial Hospital’s third floor Wellness Services office at noon or 12:45 p.m. Thursdays, and in Winchester at 10:30 a.m. or 5:15 p.m. Thursdays at Valley Health Wellness & Fitness Center on the campus of Winchester Medical Center. The cost is $120 for the series, and registration ends Jan. 12.

Boot Camp 2, for graduates of the first class, meets at Valley Health Wellness & Fitness Center at 5:15 p.m. Tuesdays from Jan. 13 to March 31. The cost is $120 for the series, and registration ends Jan. 8.

Register for the classes at 540-536-3035 or 540-536-3050.

TOPS meets locally in Strasburg at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Woodstock at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ and in Winchester at Valley Health Rehabilitation Systems, Relief United Methodist Church, St. Paul’s on the Hill Episcopal Church and Bethel Lutheran Church. First chapter meetings are free. Yearly membership is $32. For information, call 540-943-4056 or visit www.tops.org.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com