April 22, 2012

Lose Weight Online? You Bet You Can!

vtrim logoI’ve just got to share the sheer joy and reward I’ve recently experienced facilitating yet another chat-based online weight loss group for the program called vtrimonline.com.

Picture this: It’s Tuesday evening at 7pm ET. Somewhere between 10 to 20 people who range in age, health concerns and pounds to shed; log on to the vtrimonline website for one of our 12  weekly chats. No phones, no cauliflower ears or hoarse voices. Just our fingers!

During the hour I, as the registered dietitian facilitator, get group members to share their weeks’ weight loss wows and woes (with no mention of pounds lost). I deliver key content to help arm people with nutrition, fitness and psychological expertise to lose weight and (hopefully) keep it off. Topics range from how to get moving more each day, to tactics to deal with emotional eating, to healthy choices when eating out, and much more.

Beyond our weekly hour long chats participants have 24/7 access to an online journal. They’re encouraged to keep daily food journals, exercise logs and detail any thoughts, feelings or questions to explore their relationship with food, eating and being physically active. Once a week I review these journals and offer suggestions, responses and most importantly SUPPORT.

No gimmicks, no magic potions or supplements. Just the un-sugar coated harsh realities of losing weight and keeping it off. And as for participant's weekly report on their weight loss, that’s just between me and the participant.

Did everyone who enrolled in January stick with the program through the 12 weeks? No, like other online and in-person facilitated weight loss programs, the number of participants waned. Participants who attended the most sessions, put the journaling and goal setting into action succeeded. This is exactly what the research shows us to be critical for success.

Weight losses for the people who stayed engaged was between about 10 to 30 pounds in 12 weeks. A few attendees were back for a second round of vtrimonline because they had more weight to lose and/or weren’t ready to go it alone. I asked several of my fellow Tues eve chatters to capture their vtrimonline experience. To protect their identities I’ve not used their names rather just a few simple facts about them.

  • #1: (female, mid life, starting weight: 140, ending weight: 120): “I went beyond my weight lost expectation--I made a life-style change. When I started I had many medical issues:  high BP, high cholesterol, and acid reflex. At the end of 8 WEEKS, I was able to reverse the numbers. My BP went down, cholesterol went from 300 to 191 and my acid reflex resolved. WOW! is what my doctor said you need no medications!!! There’s much more-- exercise is now part of my daily routine and I’m learning to enjoy it. Walking allows me to clear my head and do positive thinking. Exercise energizes me and allows me to sleep without using medication. Other changes: I stopped drinking cans of soda each day, I’m cooking/eating more at home and eating healthier and I shop with a grocery list in hand.  This is the first on-line class I have ever taken. I loved it! Everyone shared willingly and it was reassuring to know that my “classmates” were going through the same struggles – we were in it together – people shared and supported each other. That made it so inspirational!”

  • #2: (female, mid life, starting weight: 142, ending weight: 130): “vtrimonline is making a HUGE difference in my life...everyday. The weekly meetings really helped me focus on this effort. Journaling has become part of my regular routine. I’ve found that writing everything down really keeps me honest. The absolutely most significant behavior change I’ve made is pre-planning my food for the day. I pack my lunch and snacks the night before and set out my breakfast so I can start off the day on a good note. I have our dinner pre-planned as much as possible, given our hectic household. I’ve learned to be mindful of all aspects of my eating to be very intentional about it. Approaching my health, not just weight loss, from the mindset of being organized and logical is so very important. vtrimonline led me back into a regular exercise routine, which makes my body feel better and stronger! I now feel addicted to my walking/dance program! I’m sleeping better – through the night and wake up rested. For a long time I've had interrupted sleep and sleep that hasn't left me feel rested with energy for the day. I can't say enough about how good this feels!”

  • #3: (male, mid life, starting weight: 322, ending weight: 295): “vtrimonline is helping me achieve my weight loss goals by giving me the tools to succeed, in an informal, supportive, and convenient format.  It is easier than getting to an in-person class and, based on my experience. I find that people are more open than they would be in person. In addition to losing 30 pounds, to date, my blood pressure is now on the low side of normal and I anticipate eliminating BP medication in the near future.  My blood sugar is also back in line [on BG lowering medication]. I'm actually looking forward to my quarterly checkup later this month!”

  • #4: (female, young adult, starting weight: 220, ending weight: 190): “My vtrimonline experience has certainly changed my life for the better! One thing that helped me be successful was all the helpful tips and information provided during the weekly online lessons. It was a supportive environment in which we could ask questions and actively participate in discussions. Besides weight loss, I noticed an overall improvement in my mood, how I felt about myself, how I felt about my body. Even my brain seems to work better now! I certainly have more energy and even noticed improvements in my asthma. At the end of the program I saw my doctor. My cholesterol (total) went from 192 to 135! I'm now off my statin drug. Yes! What a difference vtrimonline has made in my life.”

My reward as a dietitian? Ah, what a feel good it is to get to know people using this novel technology-enabled vehicle and to help guide them on their road to making (hopefully) permanent lifestyle changes. Check out the recap of my 1st vtrimonline class experience.

Why am I a facilitator for vtrimonline? It's doing what we need to do for millions of people who are overweight or obese with or without medical issues such as prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and more -- use modern technology to deliver a proven research-based weight loss program to busy people who have the opportunity to anonymously share their weight control challenge with registered dietitians expertise in counseling. Any other questions?

Note: I am compensated for serving as a vtrimonline facilitator but not for writing about my experiences with the program. vtrimonline participants provided above comments upon request and with no compensation or incentive.