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‘Health Chatter’: Research Department of Behavioural Science and Health Blog



Log it to lose it

By Susanne F Meisel, on 26 September 2011

How self-monitoring tools and participation in online support groups assists weight loss


The internet can be a wonderful place, with hours of fun to be had looking at unlimited amounts trivial information, bad adverts and cats doing the craziest things. However, new research by our research group suggests that the Web may have benefits for those looking to shed the pounds and stay fit, too.

Dr Fiona Johnson and colleagues used data collected from a commercial online weight-loss programme (Nutracheck) to see if individuals monitoring their diet and exercise levels using the software more regularly were more likely to lose weight.  The programme is an online platform which helps users track diet and exercise goals in addition to providing weight charting software, information about nutrition and health and an online forum. With over 3500 subscribers’ data to look at, there was enough information to see which techniques worked best and for whom. What the researchers wanted to find out was whether men and women used the programme differently, and whether any particular parts were more effective than others for losing weight.

The main finding was largely unsurprising – the more often people logged into the programme the more weight they lost, demonstrating the benefits of encouraging users to return frequently to online weight loss programmes.  There were also differences between the genders. Using online support forums was a better route to weight loss for women, whereas recording exercise levels seemed to increase success in men. Looking a little deeper in the data reveals yet more interesting patterns. Overweight or obese men and women that used food diaries the most were substantially more likely to lose over 5 % of their body weight (an amount which is likely to have health benefits) than those who logged their food consumption less diligently. Overweight and obese men seemed to benefit particularly from exercise diaries, with the most engaged being the most likely to shed significant amounts of weight.

We all knew it – consistency is the key. Just sticking to actually using the programme you spent your precious money on will help fight the flab. If you are a man, making note of how often and how long you spend exercising and toning your Adonis body appears to be the route to success. And if you are a woman, chatting about the experience of weight loss and dieting will help even more. So what are you waiting for? Stop looking at crazy cats and get logging!



Johnson, F & Wardle, J. (2011) The association between weight loss and engagement with a web-based food and exercise diary in a commercial weight loss programme: A retrospective analysis. International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity. 8:83 doi:101186/1479-5868-8-83


Susie (susanne.meisel.09@ucl.ac.uk)