Thursday, June 4, 2009

Group Weight Loss and Google Documents

All of the research on weight loss says that if you do it with a partner you are more likely to have success. Additionally, the research says that if you journal everything that you put in your mouth you are also more likely to have success. What I have done is combine the two using Google Documents and have found it to be extremely successful!

After having my second child I had about 40 pounds that I had to lose (yes, I was one of those mothers that put on 55 pounds during pregnancy). I had several friends who were also interested in losing weight. None of us had time to go to a weight loss center to weigh in so we decided we would be accountable to each other. This is where Google documents came in.

Google documents is a free application offered by Google that allows users to upload documents to a shared site so that more than one person can work on a document at the same time and all the changes will be saved. No more e-mailing documents back and forth! For a more formal definition of Google Docs here is the wikipedia definition

You do need a gmail account in order to access Google Documents but once you do that it is free to use!

What my friends and I have done is created an excel document where each of us has our own tab and in that tab we write down everything we eat for the day as well as any exercise that we did. Everybody can access everybody else’s tab and then can comment on their food choices for the day. We also have a tab of shared recipes. Additionally, we have chosen a common “weigh in” day where we all weigh in and track our weight loss on that specific day. We currently have 7 people all using the same document to track our weight loss journey! It is a great group!

The benefits of doing it this way are a plenty. Here are just a few:


It isn’t easy for anybody to lose weight. We all have families, events, responsibilities, and parties that are likely to derail our weight loss success. By having a document where we are all tracking this information in the same place we know that we are not going through it alone. Successes are celebrated together and setbacks are supported by every one. Just a few comments on “the spreadsheet” (as we call it) really helps me to keep my will power strong and keeps me from ripping into that bag of chips that my husband insists that we have in the cupboard for his lunches.


When you promise your friends that you are going to maintain this document with them, you instantly become accountable for doing so. I have found that sometimes I enter my information more because I know that my friends will be looking for this information than for myself. But in the end I am glad that the information is there.

Additionally, because I know that I will be entering my information onto the shared document I think twice about having that second helping of dinner. When other people see what you are eating it is a lot easier to say “no” to food items that won’t look so good on your tab of the document.

It is important to state that you all must commit that you are going to put down everything that you eat even if it does not shed you in the best light. The amount of detail that you want to include is up to you and your partners to decide upon, but it is important to make sure you are tracking in the same way. For example, are you going to be weighing and measuring everything or will you be entering in estimates of the amount. i.e. a glass of orange juice vs. 1 cup orange juice.

Historical Information:

As I go through my weight loss journey I am really enjoying going back to see what I have eaten in previous weeks. Therefore, I am able to determine what has proven successful or not successful for me. This information is invaluable when you hit a plateau or find that you are not losing as much weight as you would like to.

For example, I have found that when I eat less carbohydrates I lose a bit more quickly even if the amount of calories that I am taking in is the same. I would have never known this if I did not have the historical information to look back on.


I have gotten many breakfast/lunch/dinner/snack ideas from my partners on my document. When I see that someone has made “baked oatmeal” for example, I ask them for the recipe and try it for myself to see if I like it. One of my partners is a vegetarian so I have gotten great non-meat ideas from her that I have incorporated into my eating habits.

Additionally, I will ask for advice from my friends on this document. I had to make a meal for my daughters baptism and I asked my friends what they thought I should serve that would please a crowd as well as my waistline. I got some great ideas!

Maintaining Friendships:

As we have all moved into the child rearing portion of our lives we have been able to find less and less time to spend together. “The spreadsheet” is used as a place to vent and celebrate not only our weight loss journey but also our lives. By being on “the spreadsheet” we always know what is going on in people’s lives because of the food that they enter. Because of our shared document I know that last weekend one of my friends had a date night with her husband, another friend went to a fundraising benefit for the breast cancer 3 day, another one of my friends babysat for her brothers children, and another one of my friends went camping with her family. This is information that I now know on a weekly basis about my friends that I probably would not have otherwise have known. It has kept our relationships strong and happy.

If you are looking to lose weight I hope you give this technique a try!

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