Reaching Out For Group Support: Real or Virtual Online Hugs

Portrait of cheeful college students

Deciding to lose weight can be a momentous decision. It is not an easy thing to do. This is particularly true if you try to tackle it on your own. You do not have to fly solo when it comes to embarking on any weight loss journey. Whether you decide to follow a specific guided or online plan, or opt to fight the battle of the bulge your way, you will need support. Your family is an excellent start, but often it is essential you locate a support group.

Why you need a Support Group

Research indicates the importance of having a support group or network in place.A group for support can extend and include a variety of activities that will encourage you to keep up the good work. Benefits include:

  • Groups can provide you with a feeling of belonging.
  • Exercise programs can be more fun and thorough if performed in a group
  •  People who understand exactly what you are experiencing. They know the lows, the highs, the temptations and the need to keep on dieting and exercising
  • Groups know all about what it means to fail. They also understand what it takes to succeed
  • Groups can provide you with advice on what may work when everything else seems to fall apart. They can offer sound advice based on the experience of the group. This provides you with multiple possibilities and approaches you can try
  • You are more likely to persist with your new lifestyle if you are part of a group

There are also physical and emotional benefits from having the support of a reliable group. According to research, those on a diet with the backing of a group go through less stress than those who do not.2

Types of Support Groups

Support groups come in a variety of types. They can be directly associated with you e.g. members of the same local weight loss group. They can also be indirectly associated with you. This may be because you belong to a large, national or international weight loss support group. If you sign up with an internet group, the members may not have any relation to you at all. They may be members of a weight loss forum, a blogging group or even a simple online support group. All, according to basic research, may be equally successful in helping you stick to your diet weight loss program.3

The group may be characterized as formal. You may, therefore, meet at a specific time of the day every week or month. Several formal and commercial weight watching groups include this characteristic as part of their overall weight loss plan. It is part of a formal arrangement to help you lose weight as effectively as possible.

You can take an alternative route and be in touch on a more frequent basis. This is true of those who find their groups on the internet. They may sign on daily if they are a member of an internet chat group or forum. If the group is informal, however, the meetings may be as random as the members of the group decide it to be. Informal groups can also help you by putting less pressure on you if you do not meet the targets of the weekly weight loss.

A support group may also be small or large. If it is large, you may feel more relaxed. You may also benefit from the wider experience base of the members. If it is small, however, you may feel closer and want to succeed. You may even stay in touch with the other members because of the intimacy the group provides.

Locating Weight Loss Support Groups

You can locate weight loss support groups in a number of ways. If you are associated with a popular form of weight loss program, you can find the information when you join. They will provide you with both actual meetings taking place in your area or virtual locations. Sometimes, if it is a book, it will provide you with a website. Follow this and you can tap into whatever social support is available. Often this is a forum or chat group. Both can prove effective in helping you adhere to your goal.

If you want personal face-to-face time or clearly need to be a member of a group that meets regularly in your area, you will have to look to a number of sources. The internet may be able to provide you with contact numbers, but you will have to follow them up. You may want to consider:

  • Community agencies – They often provide a list of local services you can access in locating a weight loss support group in your area.
  • The local newspaper may provide listings of meetings.
  • Talk to your doctor as well. He or she may know of a local support group.
  • Church groups are also a possible source. They often host weight loss programs in their facilities
  • Community centers are another possible source of such information


You can fight to regain control of your life on your own. There is, however, no need to do so. Moreover, research indicates that those with support fare better at weight loss and staying the course than those who do not have anyone. Go online or join a local weight loss chapter. Become a member of a formal or informal group. Decide to do whatever you need to make sure you are healthy again.


1Love, S. M. and Domar, A. A. (2009). Live A Little.New York: Crown

Wood, M (2006.) Dieting Study Highlights Benefits of Group Support. retrieved from www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2006/060125.htm

Hemmingsson, E; Hellénius, M-L; Ekelund, U; Bergström,  J; and Rössner, S (2008). Impact of Social Support Intensity on Walking in the Severely Obese: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Obesity 16, 1308-1313.


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