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Support At Your Fingertips: Internet Based Weight Loss Intervention Programs That Work!

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Trying to lose weight is a very difficult task for most people and one that, without support and help, is often doomed to failure. This is because people can change their food intake levels, change their food choices, but they cannot change the negative thoughts, emotional associations with food and the underlying reasons why they are obese or overweight. One very viable option for people to consider is using online or internet based counseling programs to help in successfully achieving weight loss goals.

Interestingly research on the use of the internet in weight loss programs has shown that the results are positive but only if there are specific components provided in the online support. In a study of the efficacy of different online programs, it was determined that one of the major components that predicted success for users was the inclusion of cognitive-behavioral strategies that included feedback and support.1 Online counseling programs that provide these strategies as well as personalized education, support and feedback throughout the weight loss program are more successful than those that simply provide text or video presentations that highlight the same educational information.

The human interaction in online weight loss counseling, or e-counseling, also has been shown to have positive results over individuals that received computer generated e-mail responses or no specific counseling at all. One hundred and ninety two individuals that had body mass index ratings of more than 32 participated in a study. They were divided into three groups, one with no counseling, one with feedback that was computer generated and one that received emails from a human counselor. All had access to a single group session and coupons for meal replacement products. The human counselor and computer email group received one email per week from the respective counselor.

The results showed that the group that received no counseling lost approximately half the weight of the groups that had counseling over the 6 months of the study. The first three months the computer email group and the human email group lost approximately the same amount but after six months the human email counseling group lost almost double the weight of the computer generated email group with both still doing better than the no counseling group. 2

Uniquely Personal

This positive result occurs because of the uniquely personal medium that the internet provides for seeking professional counseling services. It is convenient and, depending on the specific type of counseling, it can be available any time of day or night. This makes attending regular counseling sessions possible for those with very complex lives where scheduling an in-person appointment is simply not an option.

Online counseling that focuses in on cognition or thoughts as well as behavioral changes that are relevant and personalized to your unique life situation is also important in the success of the program. These programs can focus in on teaching specific problem solving skills that will help in determining areas of difficulty around eating and adding exercise and physical activity to your lifestyle. The counselor either through an online chat or during email conversations will be able to pose questions and help you to develop a set of positive, practical and realistic options to address these issues given your unique life situation.

Don’t Abandon Dietary Efforts

Other ways that online counselors can be invaluable in weight loss programs is to help the client set realistic weight loss goals. Often diets are abandoned because the individual feels they have not met some unrealistic weight loss goal. Having a professional that can guide and education each person about healthy weight loss will ensure that there is no sense of failure when unrealistic goals are not met.

Stress, which is a huge predictor of weight gain, can be addressed directly by the online counselor. Stress related weight gain is reported in men and women alike but tends to be reported at higher levels in women that have a BMI (Body Mass Index) of greater than 30. 3 Managing stress is also seen as a key factor in preventing sleep disorders, which can contribute to both stress and obesity. In studies of women that were sleeping less than 5 hours per night there were much higher overall stress levels reported as well as larger amounts of weight gain.4

Counseling When You Need It

Phone therapy makes it possible for anyone to get support with a phone call. Online counseling or psychotherapy offers customized support and guidance. Your working relationship with a trained counselor increases your chances of success. With phone therapy, you have easy ongoing access to a therapist when you require it rather than waiting for a pre-arranged meeting. Most people are so busy today that they need to the ability to easily access a weight loss counselor or psychotherapist able to deal with associated mental disorders.

An online counselor that can provide personalized attention and information on stress reduction, relaxation and adding healthy activities to increase sleep is instrumental in ensuring the best possible emotional and mental health support for your weight loss goals. There are online support groups offered through some counseling programs that are highly interactive and supportive. These groups may include chat systems, forums and access to videos and resources for members.

Patients that complete bariatric surgery are typically required to attend support groups or participate in online support programs and the results are very positive. Individuals that attend support groups lose more weight, 42% compared to 32% after surgery, showing the power of additional support. 5  This same trend in  improvement is also noted by online group participants in weight loss programs.

Getting involved with a specialized weight loss online counselor is an important tool in your weight loss program. Look for an online program that meets your needs and  provides the specific type of counseling and support that you feel most comfortable with to achieve your weight loss goals.

References

1 Saperstein, S. L., Atkinson, N. L., & Gold, R. S. (2007). The impact of Internet use for weight loss. Obesity Reviews , 459-465.

2 Tate, D. F., Jackvony, E. H., & Wing, R. R. (2006). A Randomized Trial Comparing Human e-Mail Counseling, Computer-Automated Tailored Counseling, and No Counseling in an Internet Weight Loss Program. Archives of Internal Medicine , 1620-1625.

3 Block, J. P., He, Y., Zaslavsky, A. M., et al. (2009). Psychosocial Stress and Change in Weight Among US Adults. American Journal of Epidemiology , 181-192.

4 Patel, S. R., Malhotra, A., White, D. P., et al. (2006). Association between Reduced Sleep and Weight Gain in Women. American Journal of Epidemiology , 947-954.

5 Orth, W. S., Madan, A. K., Taddeucci, R. J., et al. (20008). Support Group Meeting Attendance is Associated with Better Weight Loss. Obesity Surgery , 391-394.

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