Weight Management Websites Work Better, Study Finds

Published:August 24th, 2010

Interactive weight management websites are good motivators to keep the weight off, says a Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research study. Results are published online in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Results of this study reveal that internet-based weight management interventions encourage the more weight loss. Users who kept logging on and recording their monthly weight for two and half years were found to have lost more weight.

It’s all about accountability and consistency for any weight loss program to work. Readily available on the Web and providing convenience whenever, wherever, is a significant factor for intervention. Kristine L. Funk, MS, RD, researcher at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon is highly encouraged at the results – given the fact that weight is more difficult to maintain than losing it at the beginning of every weight loss program.

Another encouraging factor to keep the weight off is the consistent information and support available in these internet-based programs, where interaction and coaching happens, and as they log in every day, people keep remembering their primary motivation to keep the weight off. Victor Stevens, co-author of the study points out that if the internet-based intervention is so good that people would like to stick with the whole program, it’s more likely that they can maintain their weight loss.

The internet-based weight maintenance platform started from a Weight Loss Maintenance trial lasting for 3 long years which included more than 1,600 people covering 4 study sites in the US. Participants had to be obese or overweight to qualify for the trial and they had to be under medication for high cholesterol. The first 6 months entailed recording their food diaries, information on healthy diets and exercise, along with weekly attendance of group meetings where weight was recorded and monitored consistently. The trial also involved strict discipline on losing 9 pounds at the very least, lasting for 2 and a half years, and randomized participants where one group had no intervention, one had a personal coach, and one was given internet access for a weight maintenance website exclusively designed for the trial program.

This website provided for regular email alerts once the participant forgot to log in once a week, and for access they were prompted to record their actual weight, food intake of the day, and duration of daily exercise. Other parts of the website were disabled until a user records their weight and follows all the prompts. More than that, the website also featured discussion boards encouraging interaction with members of the study, and get detailed answers from the experts. The users who had been religiously following the website guidelines were reported to lose 19 pounds on the average, while those who didn’t follow as much only lost an average of 3-5 pounds.

The website is no longer available when the trial program ended. Study authors note that this level of participation reflected the kind of commitment of users were willing to put in just to lose weight. Look for the following if you’re just one of those looking for a good weight management intervention website:

– accountability by consistently prompting record weight, calorie count, and duration of exercise
– discussion boards that encourage interaction with experts and fellow members
– accurate health information
– tailored personal information

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