An easy way to lose weight that’s actually enjoyable? Sign me up.
Losing weight and keeping it off is an ongoing battle that requires a strong support system – and if you decide to use an online weight management program to go the distance, new research suggests the more social you are in the program, the more weight you’ll lose.
The study, published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, found that online dieters who frequently participated through logging in regularly, recording their weigh-ins and friending other members, lost eight percent of their body weight in six months – and the less users interacted in the community, the less weight they lost.
“Our findings suggest that people can do very well at losing weight with minimal professional help when they become centrally connected to others on the same weight loss journey,” Bonnie Spring, an author of the study and professor in preventative medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine said in a statement.
Those who didn’t connect with others in the program lost about five percent of their body weight over six months, while those who had a few friends (two to nine) lost almost seven percent, and those with more than 10 lost over eight percent.
Using data from the CalorieKing.com online weight loss community – where users pay a membership fee for access to weight loss tools and an online community – senior study author Luis A. Nunes Amaral’s lab analyzed user data to uncover trends within the network.
The identities of users weren’t revealed, but the data did provide when the users signed up, how old they were, height, gender, their initial weight and time-stamped activities within the online community for the last year. Engagement, such as recorded weigh-ins, friendship requests, and online communication, was analyzed (though text exchanged between the users was kept private).
“We found that the frequency with which you report your weight is a good indicator of positive outcomes,” Amaral said in a statement. “If you monitor your weight, you are engaged. If you communicate online with other people you are even more engaged, and when you need support you might be able to get it.”
“There’s an almost Facebook-like social network system in this program where people can friend each other and build cliques,” Amaral continued. “In this case, we found the larger your clique, the better your outcomes.”
These days with how addicted we are to our social networks du jour, it only seems natural that embedding ourselves in one that has the same ultimate goal as we do would translate into an easy way to lose weight. It also may be a life-changing option for those who wouldn’t necessarily have convenient access to an in-person weight loss clinic, such as those who are crunched for time, live in a rural area, or can’t afford the service.
“Modern life is so complex and stressful, to go somewhere for a meeting is often not practical,” Amaral said. “It is hopeful that this alternative approach, of going online for support, could work.”
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