Web Sites: Weight Loss Tactical Support
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
As California trims its budget, we're looking at ways people are trying to trim their waistlines. A number of Web sites are promising to help people lose weight using just phones and computers. NPR's Katia Dunn takes a look at a few.
KATIA DUNN: When Cara McIntosh(ph) decided to lose 40 pounds, she knew the popular Weight Watcher support groups were not going to work for her.
M: I actually was embarrassed by my weight, and I did not want to have to talk to anybody else about it. I just wanted it to be gone.
DUNN: So McIntosh signed up for an online weight loss program called MyNetDiary. Every day, she enters what she eats into a database. The program calculates calories and nutrition. McIntosh pays $7 a month to participate.
M: If you have a bad food eating day, you know - you can look at it objectively and know exactly where you messed up. And because it's so in your face, I mean, you can't hide from it.
DUNN: There's also a discussion board on the Web site where clients write questions. Dietitian Katherine Isacks, who lives in Colorado, checks the board and posts responses. Isacks reads this post from a client who is wondering if he can eat more sodium and still decrease his blood pressure.
M: And then he says, I mean, just going to Subway, the only sandwich I can eat there is the Veggie Delight. That gets pretty boring.
DUNN: Isacks says there's good news. There may be fewer Veggie Delights in his future. She replies that some people are less sensitive to sodium.
M: Then if you can control blood pressure with exercise and reducing body weight, then maybe a higher intake is okay.
DUNN: Before she started working online, Isacks counseled people in person on nutrition and dieting. She worked in hospitals and clinics.
M: I think that these forums are actually a better way to get honest questions and - because then people are not embarrassed to ask a stupid question. They also realize when they're on a forum, like, oh, my God, you know, five people are confused about the same thing.
DUNN: At the Web site stickK.com, Ian Ayers takes a different approach to helping people lose weight.
M: People work really hard to avoid losing a dollar, much harder than they work to gain a dollar.
DUNN: Ayers teaches at Yale. He and a colleague started the Web site based on research suggesting that people will follow through on commitments when their own money is at stake. At stickK, users put down money up front. If they fess up to not meeting their weight loss goals, they give it to charity.
M: We'll even let you choose an anti-charity. Some people have a lot of trouble losing money when it's forfeited to a cause that they despise.
DUNN: Ayers says since they started the Web site about a year ago, users have put over $1 million at risk. They've forfeited 20 percent to charity. Of course, stickK users have the same problem many dieters do. Even if they lose the weight, it's hard to keep it off. Ayers has used the site himself. Recently, he forfeited money after he broke a commitment to be a partial vegetarian on Wednesdays. He says he forgot and ate a hamburger.
Katia Dunn, NPR News.
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