Does using the Internet facilitate the maintenance of weight loss?

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2002 Sep;26(9):1254-60. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0802051.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of a weight maintenance program conducted over the Internet.

Design: Longitudinal, clinical behavioral weight loss trial with 6-month in-person behavioral obesity treatment followed by a 12-month maintenance program conducted both in-person (frequent in-person support; F-IPS, minimal in-person support; M-IPS) and over the Internet (Internet support; IS).

Subjects: A total of 122 healthy, overweight adults (age=48.4+/-9.6, BMI=32.2+/-4.5 kg/m(2), 18 male)

Measurements: Body weight, dietary intake, energy expended in physical activity, attendance, self-monitoring, comfort with technology.

Results: Results (n=101) showed that weight loss did not differ by condition during treatment (8.0+/-5 vs 11+/-6.5 vs 9.8+/-5.9 kg, P=0.27 for IS, M-IPS and F-IPS, respectively). The IS condition gained significantly more weight than the F-IPS group during the first 6 months of weight maintenance (+2.2+/-3.8 vs 0+/-4 kg, P<0.05) and sustained a significantly smaller weight loss than both in-person support groups at the 1 y follow-up (-5.7+/-5.9 vs -10.4+/-9.3 vs -10.4+/-6.3 kg, P<0.05 for IS, M-IPS and F-IPS, respectively). Attendance at maintenance meetings was greater for the F-IPS than the IS condition over the 1 y maintenance program (54 vs 39%, P=0.04). Acceptability of assigned condition was higher for subjects in the F-IPS than IS condition.

Conclusion: The results of this study suggest that Internet support does not appear to be as effective as minimal or frequent intensive in-person therapist support for facilitating the long-term maintenance of weight loss.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Behavior Therapy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Self-Help Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Support*
  • Time Factors
  • Weight Loss / physiology*