Dieters struggling with how to stay motivated and on track can tap into diet books, counselors, and weight-loss programs for support. But more and more people are reaching out through the Internet for help shedding pounds.
The Web offers a surprising array of tools that can help support your weight loss journey. Public and private websites offer a host of services, which can include all or some of the following:
- Forums or "communities" where users sign in and communicate with others seeking to lose or maintain weight.
- Calorie and exercise trackers
- Weight trackers
- Tips on weight loss and fitness
- Motivational messages
- Help with setting goals
The key, though, is to find a site that is reputable. You might start by asking your doctor or healthcare insurance provider for a reference.
Finding help on the Web
Losing or maintaining weight loss is no easy task. Online programs are one more tool to provide you with instant support, information on weight loss, and helpful advice.
The benefits? Here are several:
It's there when you need it. One advantage of the Internet is that it can be accessed any time at your convenience.You may find it easier to connect online than find the time to attend a local support group. In addition to articles and tools, most weight loss sites include forums or communities, which offer access to a large network of other dieters. You can choose to express your own thoughts on a particular topic, or read feedback and comments from other members. Having a sugar craving at 2:00 in the morning? Log on and it's likely someone else is there to help you fight the urge.
A virtual cheering section. Friends, family members, or work colleagues may not share your daily enthusiasm about losing weight. This can drain your motivation. Studies show social support can be a very positive factor in helping to achieve weight-loss goals, especially when you get little support elsewhere. Internet support groups are an easy way to connect with others who have personal knowledge of what it's like to struggle with losing weight. They won't make you feel guilty for eating two desserts or overindulging at the buffet table. These are people who are also looking to make changes and build new habits, just like you.
Advice and experience. Joining a group gives you access to the experience of others. Often times, many people in the community have already had some success, and are happy to share their tips and strategies. Some support groups are led by an expert facilitator, such as a registered dietitian. Other groups may invite guest presenters to discuss topics of interest.
What comes around goes around. Studies have shown that helping others can actually help you.You may have your own weight loss tips or recipes to share with others. Sharing your own successes with someone else who is struggling can make you feel good about yourself, which can in turn fuel your own motivation.
Keeping you focused. Like the idea of having a friend who checks in on you? Once you're involved in a support group, your new contacts will want to know how you're doing on a regular basis. There's nothing wrong with a little positive peer pressure to help to keep you accountable.
Keeping off the weight. Using the Internet appears to be a great way to promote long-term weight maintenance. One study showed that people who consistently used a website to help maintain their weight loss were as successful over an 18-month period as those who had face-to-face counseling.
Low cost or free. Many online sites do not charge a fee to set up an account. Some will charge for a monthly or yearly subscription, but it is usually modest.
By being careful, you can maintain your privacy online while still sharing your progress. Simply choose not to completely reveal your identity or personal details. Reputable online programs may be found through local hospitals, your healthcare insurer, popular weight-loss programs with an online component, or websites geared solely toward the weight-loss process.
Created on 09/20/2011
Updated on 09/21/2011
- Verheijden MW, Bakx JC, van Weel C, et al. Role of social support in lifestyle-focused weight management intervention. European Journal of Clinical Intervention.
- Harvey-Berino J, Pintauro S, Buzzell P, Casey Gold E. Effect of internet support on the long-term maintenance of weight loss. Obesity Research. 2004;12:320-329.
- National Broadband Map. How connected is my community?
- Funk K, Stevens VJ, Appel LJ. Associations of internet website use with weight change in a long-term weight loss maintenance program. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2010;12(3):e29.