Social connections enhance weight loss programs
People who use online weight loss programs improves their chances of success if they participate in a social group and are well-connected within an online community, according to new research.
In analyzing the weight loss program Calorie King, scientists at Northwestern University collected data on more than 47,000 individuals who had participated in the program between 2009 and 2010, including online social practices and weight loss success rates. The average age was 43, and 80 percent of the participants were female.
The researchers found that 40 percent of the people who signed up for the weight loss program never returned to the site a second time. Of those who did return, about 5,400 stayed with the program for at least six months. When it came to online social practices, about 2,000 participants developed a friendship with at least one other person in the online community. The participants who established online friendships were also found to form large social circles or at least smaller groups of two to four people.
After being involved in the weight loss program for six months, those who actively practiced no social networking lost an average of 4.1 percent of their weight. The individuals who had between two and nine online friends lost an average of 5.2 percent, while those in large social circles lost an average of 6.8 percent. Those who had the most online communication lost more than 8 percent of their weight. Researchers did note that the participants' weight loss was self-reported.
The results of the study, published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, provides more evidence that social support and networking may be a key to weight loss for both online and in-person weight loss programs.