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Food and Lifestyle Buddies: A Case Study

By: Meg Russell - Updated: 24 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss

Kirstie and Zoe are both secretaries, colleagues in a busy construction company.

Nearly a year ago they took a decision to encourage each other to become fitter and healthier by becoming lifestyle buddies.

Deciding to Team Up

"We didn't spend a long time discussing this", Kirstie says. "It came about on the spur of the moment, like a lot of good ideas.

"Notice of our gym membership fees landed on our desks one morning. We had a discount through a deal between our firm and the gym, but even so we were paying a few hundred pounds a year and were hardly ever there. It was madness."

A Painless Cut

The girls realised that ending their gym membership would be a painless budget cut. Yet at the same time they knew they had joined for a very good reason. They were both a bit overweight and, more importantly, not terribly fit.

Zoe picks up the story. "We decided to have lunch together that day to discuss why the gym hadn't worked out. It became obvious we'd found it too difficult to commit regular time.

"Some colleagues were getting up unbelievably early to do an hour at the gym before work. Others headed off to the gym after work.

"The trouble is that both Kirstie and I have a long commute to work - me by car and Kirstie by train. Our enthusiasm for making the extra effort to attend the gym had waned very soon."

A Winning Arrangement

As they took stock, the girls decided they needed a tailor-made programme if they were serious about making lifestyle changes. They resolved to devise a programme they could tackle together; a 'buddy' arrangement to help them stick to their guns.

Kirstie and Zoe drew up a flexible plan which they felt was realistic.

"We wanted it to be attainable", says Zoe, "not something we would give up easily. We decided not to worry if we had to abandon plans occasionally. We were aiming for an overall regime of healthy eating and regular exercise."

Proper Breakfasts

"Our new programme meant making time for a proper breakfast. No grabbing a coffee at home and filling up on high calorie snacks or biscuits in the office.

Says Zoe: "I now have porridge or an oats-based cereal and a piece of fruit. Kirstie prefers whole-wheat toast and a healthy fruit smoothie.

"Starting our day just 20 minutes or so earlier was all it took. We were amazed how our breakfast filled us up and kept us going for the whole morning. It really was not difficult to say 'no' to biscuits in the coffee break."

The Lunchtime Plan

The main element of the girls' new lifestyle plan came at lunchtime. They aimed for a nutritious lunch which would refuel their bodies but not leave them feeling lethargic in the afternoon.

"There are a few things to take into account", says Kirstie. "Anyone working in a busy office knows that managing a full hour for lunch every day can be a bit of a myth. We were in the habit of taking packed lunches, but they contained too many crisps and chocolate biscuits."

Enough for Two

"Our new regime meant switching to healthy whole-wheat sandwiches, pitta bread or wraps, with fillings of lean chicken or tuna, for example. We take salad in a separate, cool container and add it at the last minute, with a fat-free dressing if we want. We have fruit, too, or low fat cereal bars and yoghurts.

"We took the hassle out of preparing lunches by agreeing we would each prepare enough for two, twice a week. That took care of four days, and we decided to go out for lunch one day - not high calorie fast-food, but something low calorie, low fat and tasty."

Zoe says: "The next important element of our 'buddy' programme was to add in some exercise. Even on very busy days, after we have eaten our packed lunches, we get outside and walk for at least 20 minutes. It may not seem much, but this brisk walking, five days a week, is a lot more exercise than we had before."

Away from Work

Kirstie adds: "We trusted each other to stick to our healthy eating plan in the evenings, and even drew up some menu guides. We often shop together for food."

Nearly twelve months on, Kirstie and Zoe are delighted that they have lost weight and feel so much fitter. Unexpectedly, what may have seemed daunting to start with, sticking to the food programme and taking walks in all weathers, became almost automatic in time.

Says Kirstie: "We both agree it all becomes so much easier as you get fitter and notice the changes in your appearance.

"We would say to anyone thinking of trying this buddy arrangement - keep your goals realistic. That way you'll stick to them and be surprised how you start to enjoy your routine.

"Also, supporting each other like this is great fun."

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