Although there is a lot of talk about eating healthier and ‘moving more’, it seems that Americans continue to lose the weight battle. A report entitled “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2011” issued jointly by the Trust for America’s Health & the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, notes that currently more than 70 percent of Americans are struggling with overweight, and twelve states now have obesity rates above 30 percent. Four years ago, this applied to only one state in the Union.
And that said, Americans continue to try to control their weight, by buying books, or programs, or diet supplements and by “going” on a “diet”…from 40 to 80 million make at least one attempt to lose weight yearly.
Try this: type “diet” into your search engine. I just ‘googled’ diet—more than 73 million hits. Try “online diets’. More than 27 million here too. Some feature pictures of that skinny model with a tape measure around her waist. Approximately 75 percent of American households contain at least one person accessing the Internet on a regular basis. So, what do you say—do you think, hmmm, can I log on and lose weight? Not so fast.
Just like buying a diet book, or a CD, or even joining a gym, if you click “buy it now” you probably think that you’re investing in a resource to hopefully help you lose weight. But, just like buying a treadmill that sits in the corner of the room, gathering dust, it is just money down the drain if you don’t use the machine…or the program regularly. Research shows that online programs can definitely be a solution for some. But, you need to use it to lose it…the weight, that is.
There are hundreds of online programs to choose from…just a few include free websites (sign up and register online) CalorieCount.com, FitDay.com, and the USDA’s ChooseMyPlate.gov. Utilize lots of ‘eTools’ including a foods log, activities schedule and calorie burner: some programs offer ‘chats’, blogs, and informational and instructional videos and podcasts, all enhancing the consumer’s ability to make healthy choices wherever they go.
Online benefits include affordability—going to a weight loss meeting costs you time and money. Online is convenient—you can log on late at night, or when you’re at work. Online may be mobile…lots of programs include applications for a smart phone, so you can journal foods and activities, or learn the nutrition facts about the foods you’re eating while dining out. You can even search restaurant menus on your smart phone in advance, and plan your menus accordingly. A subscription program Sensei.com send you text messages reminding you to order a light turkey club at Subway for lunch, and walk for 30 minutes that day.
Some require a subscription and many are free, supported by the government (ChooseMyPlate.gov), or by advertising (SparkPeople.com), or by pharma (Cornerstone4Care.com, a program offered by Novo Nordisk, the diabetes products company, for people with diabetes to learn more about managing their health by managing their foods, portions, activity and more).
Free ‘self-help’ programs lack what some experts cite as a very important component of behavioral change…and that is accountability. That said, many do offer community, such as SparkPeople’s Spark Teams, where you can connect over common interests and goals.
Some online weight management programs also incorporate best practice designs, such as digitized programs based on social cognitive theory: new users take an electronic assessment and receive personalized programs based on their unique needs. Research shows that online weight management programs that emphasize changes and use cognitive and behavior strategies do help people lose and maintain weight loss as successfully as traditional programs and face-to-face meetings.
Stay in touch with your dietitian online—a must-have added value offered by progressive clinicians. Instead of having to hand-write your journals and drive to office, just use your mobile phone or laptop to log your foods and activities and transmit to the shared information online.
It may seem counter-intuitive to suggest that anyone spend more time online—we’re sedentary enough as it is. But, when you can take that information, transmit it electronically at your convenience, and receive professionally directed feedback, support and updates easily, it’s likely to serve as an avenue toward wellness.
Registered and Licensed Dietitian Susan Burke March is the author of Making Weight Control Second Nature: Living Thin Naturally—a fun and informative book intended to liberate serial dieters and make healthy living and weight control both possible and instinctual over the long term. Susan consults with individuals and companies to create personalized and practical weight management solutions. She may be reached online at www.SusanBurkeMarch.com.