Text Messaging to Lose Weight

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College students using cellphones to monitor their calories and physical activity through text messaging dropped significantly more weight that those who did not.

texting for weight loss

In order to view the effects on using cell phones to monitor calories and physical activities, Melissa Napolitano, a research scientist at the Center for Obesity Research and Education and an associate professor of kinesiology at Temple University in Philadelphia, conducted a study with college students. The research showed that college students using cellphones to monitor their calories and physical activity while receiving personalized feedback about how they were doing dropped significantly more weight that those who did not.

Napolitano and her colleagues recruited 52 overweight college students, predominately women, who weighed an average of 190 pounds, and assigned them to one of three plans. The first plan consisted of a Facebook-only group that was private and dieters could get support from other members in the group.

The group was set up so students received eating and exercise advice online on topics such as setting goals, monitoring food intake, portion control, liquid calories, physical activity, and stress eating. Along with the group page, dieters also viewed podcasts that Napolitano said were short, to the point, and everything was related to college students. The overall average loss of weight for this group was 1.4 pounds.

The second group was the Facebook-plus group that received the same dieting advice online, but also a book of calorie counts along with extra help and encouragement via text messages on their cellphones. A text message would be sent to a student three times a week reminding them to send in their calorie intake and exercise information. Once the information was sent, it was processed and sent as feedback to the dieter. During the other four days, subjects acquired personalized tips and self-monitoring reminders via texts. The average weight loss for this group was 5.3 pounds.

The third group was put on a waiting list to participate and received no extra help. This group had an average weight loss of half a pound.

Napolitano said that the Facebook-plus group’s weight loss “was relatively modest but it was without face-to-face contact.” She added, “We really wanted to mimic a face-to-face treatment with text messaging.”

Gary Foster, director of Temple’s obesity research center, says dieters often say they need to be held accountable. He said that text messaging “tries to replicate the interaction with a health care professional. There is someone on the other end.”

Around the Web

Text Messages Help with Weight Loss [USA Today]

Researchers Find that Texting Can Help Your Dieting [Livingston Daily]

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Ankeet Bhatt, MD, MBA | Credit: X.com
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