If you’ve already reached your weight loss goal, you might be thinking that you can take it easy for a while. However, when you’re on your own, you might find yourself gaining back the pounds that you worked so hard to lose.
Support groups have been proven to help dieters keep the weight off, but many people think that they’re only for people who still have pounds to lose. Weight Watchers, one of the most popular dieting support groups, has been clinically proven to be effective.
Weight Watchers offers two ways for its members to support one another: online chats and face-to-face meetings. The online and real-world programs are as similar as possible, but is there a difference in how well they work?
A 2006 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine compared in-person and online weight management programs to see which was more effective in helping members avoid regaining lost weight.
Clinical Study: Weight Watchers Prevents Weight Regain
The 314 people who participated in the study, each of whom had lost at least 10 percent of his or her body weight during the past two years, were divided into three groups:
Face-to-face group members reported their weight using an automated phone system and attended weekly Weight Watchers-like meetings at a clinic.
Internet group members were given a computer with Internet access so that they could report their weight on the Web and attend weekly chat room meetings.
- Control group members were given a quarterly newsletter with tips for managing their weight.
Weight Watchers Online or Meetings? Who Had the Best Results?
Participants who met with other support group members face-to-face had an average weight gain of only 2.5 kilograms, or 5.5 pounds.
Those who participated on the Internet gained back more weight: an average of 4.7 kilograms, or 10.3 pounds.
The control group regained the most weight. These participants, who were on their own, had an average weight gain of 4.9 kilograms, or 10.8 pounds.
What Did the Face-to-Face Group Do Differently?
As researchers note, the online and face-to-face meetings both had a decreased turnout over time, but the participants who attended meetings in person had consistently better attendance than those who met online.
Members of the face-to-face group also were more diligent about working at weight loss and maintenance. They tended to continue setting weight goals, tracking their daily calorie intake and maintaining graphs or journals of their eating and exercise habits.
Meetings or Online – What’s the Best Choice?
As the study results show, only the face-to-face meetings worked better than going it alone. Many people have better attendance rates if they belong to a group that meets in person.
Consider your own personality: are you the type who can work from home easily, or are you more productive when you’re surrounded by co-workers at the office?
Only you can decide which program you’ll best be able to follow. If you decide to join the online program, be careful about monitoring your progress. Consider switching to in-person meetings for a while if you start to backslide. One of the best things you can do for your success is to get support in a way that’s useful and meaningful to you.