The enormous increase in Internet use may be ironic in so far as the unremitting prevalence of global overweight and obesity. However, there is a parallel increase in online weight management programs, which feature electronic tools (eTools) including nutrition trackers, web logs and weight and activities calculators and more. Recently online weight management programs are also incorporating best practice designs, such as digitized programs based on social cognitive theory; for example, some programs ask new users to take an electronic survey to assess their current nutrition knowledge, and their receptivity to change. Research shows that online weight management programs that emphasize changes in food intake and physical activity and use cognitive and behavior strategies with personalized feedback and support help people lose and maintain weight loss.
Online weight management programs offer sophisticated and, I think, fun and user-friendly eTools for nutrition education, tracking and expanded opportunities for clinicians and clients to communicate. Those clinicians unfamiliar with online programs can sign on and take a test drive and explore different features of various websites. Then, based on client’s needs and desires, clinicians can recommend optimal websites to their clients. Best programs limit advertising, and are password-protected.
“Free” sites include the USDA’s MyPyramid.gov, as well as other advertising-supported programs. Fee-based services offer much personalization and often live support (email/phone), and are usually comparably inexpensive.
I think is a smart new development are programs that allow clinicians their own Web Portal, so to speak, where they don’t have to “reinvent the wheel” but instead may incorporate a comprehensive weight management program into their private (or group, or employer-based) program, and use these eTools to enhance their practice and effectively manage their client’s progress toward a healthy lifestyle and desired body weight. Women who are trying to lose weight permanently would be well-served to find a dietitian who incorporates secure online technology into their program for weight control—the user can be assured that their personal information is secure, and can have the advantage of enhanced communication plus the efficiency of eTools to journal their foods and activities.
Registered and licensed dietitian Susan Burke March, MS, CDE, is the author of “Making Weight Control Second Nature: Living Thin Naturally” – a book intended to liberate serial “dieters” and make living healthfully and weight-wise intuitive and instinctual over the long term. She may be reached online at www.SusanBurkeMarch.com.
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