Thousands of dollars are spent every week by people desperately trying to lose weight. Tips, tricks and hints are found everywhere you look. Weight loss is something that millions of people obsess about, and it’s one of the hardest things in the world to achieve. We try every fad, gadget and food that we can get our hands on. Some literally starve themselves to oblivion. Others yo-yo up and down without ever hitting the goal they have set for themselves. We try so hard – in so many ways – to get into the pants size we dream of. Who knew all we had to do was log on to the Internet?
Investigators at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research (KPCHR) designed a website to track the weight of about 350 of the 1,600 overweight or obese participants of a longer-term study. The site was designed to act like a weight-loss program which offers personal counseling and group meetings. The researchers feel that the mixture of accountability and sociability is what made it such a success. The study showed that the more often people logged into the site, the more likely they were to maintain weight loss.
This isn’t surprising to Nancy Makin. She lost more than a quarter of a ton after her sister purchased a computer for her birthday back in 2003. Nancy was afraid to go outdoors, due to the stares and rudeness she encountered when she tipped the scales at 703 pounds. After receiving the computer, she went online and found how easy it was to make friends when someone cannot see you. She began losing weight as she became integrated with an online community. She emphatically states that it wasn’t that she was no longer hungry. The key was the friendships she made, the fact she felt she belonged and the sense of community she came to love.
“The key is to find contentment and value in yourself by reaching out and doing something not for you, and the weight will come off as a side effect,” said Makin, who believes that community plays a larger role in weight loss for the morbidly obese, while accountability better helps those who are over weight.
I couldn’t agree more with the findings of this study. I’ve been building and catalyzing communities online for many years now. I’ve personally witnessed any number of physical – and emotional – changes in people over the years. Becoming a part of a thriving community – feeling as though you’re an important member of that society – can be the catalyst needed to change a person’s life.
What about you? How has your life changed for the better once you became part of an online community?