The Internet is becoming an increasingly popular tool used in weight loss programs. Does it work? Yes, it can, says new research.
Your Mileage May Vary
In a review of 23 studies, Japanese scientists found that success highly depended on the form web usage took. On average, participants on weight loss programs with a web-based component lost 1 1/2 lbs (0.68 kg) more than those on programs entirely offline, but there were wild differences.
If the online programs entirely replaced in-person counseling, participants on average ended up weighing 3 lbs more than people whose programs were entirely offline. On the other hand, if the Internet was used in addition to personal counseling, the average loss was 2 pounds higher than for the pure offliners.
A Question Of Control?
What it basically comes down to is control, which can be achieved internally through personal discipline, through third parties or both. If you are highly disciplined, then entirely relying on online tools can work. If you need outside encouragement, this will most likely fail.
This is highlighted by a study from last year, where participants first had to lose weight and then control that loss through using a weight management website. The site actively encouraged users to log in regularly and those that did most often managed to keep the highest loss. Others were much less inclined to and as a result their success was more limited.
One Size Does Not Fit All
In the last decade, the Internet has often been heralded as the solution to most of mankind’s problems: open access to information, basic democracy and, last but certainly not least, a replacement for physical contact with your fellow human beings. In reality it simply is a tool, whose proficiency highly depends on the person using it.
When it comes to losing weight, the true advantage of having the Internet as your disposal therefore lies in the variety of combining offline and online into personal solutions for an individual needs.
Picture courtesy of Marcin Wichary.