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The Ins and Outs of Internet Dieting and How to Find Your Online Dieting Groove

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What You Should Know About Before You Decide on a Plan

What Are the Characteristics of a Good Internet Dieting Program?

According to Blatner, all online programs should include:
- Diet recommendations, recipes, and menus
- Exercise recommendations, suggested exercises
- Log/tracking system
- Social component, chat rooms, bulletin boards
- Individualized feedback, counseling, and accountability

Additionally, Foster recommends that some sort of weekly check-in is critical. "With the check-in, there should be feedback (a system of accountability) -- tailored sites work better than nontailored sites. Meaning, if you don't check in, you will be prompted with an e-mail. That is, the program should ask you what day and time is good for check-in (i.e., Mondays at 6 p.m.). If you don't check in within 24 hours of your scheduled time you would get an e-mail reminder."

Blatner also warns against "scam" sites. They usually:
- Promise a quick fix
- Make claims that sound too good to be true
- Give recommendations based on a single research study (or none at all)
- List good and bad foods
- Make dramatic statements that are refuted by reputable scientific organizations
- Push products such as supplements/have weight-loss supplement advertisements on the site

How Much Does It Cost? $65 for your first three months, $16.95 a month thereafter $17.96 per month, three-month minimum ($25 cancellation fee)
South Beach Diet Online: $65 per three months and Free $90 for three months

Questions You Need to Ask Yourself Before You Join

- Are you at your computer often? Will you remember to log on to the diet site?
- Are you self-motivated?
- What diets have worked for you in the past?
- Do you get a good feel from the site? Is it easy to navigate?
- You like the tools, but will you really use them?
- Is the information on the site engaging?
- Will this site work with your lifestyle?
- Does the program include accountability?
- Can you afford it?
- Is there a free option that does the same thing?
- Do you need face-to-face interaction, or will virtual interactions be enough?

What Are the Right Questions to Ask About Any Online Weight-Loss Program?

- What kind of specific support do you offer your members?
- Are there message boards? Are they monitored by a professional, a member of the group, or are they completely unmonitored?
- How many active members do you have?
- Do you sell supplements?
- Is the pricing policy clearly stated on the Web site?
- Is there a base fee?
- Are there any additional charges aside from the base fee?
- Do you require food purchases, or are they simply an add-on to the program?
- Who developed the program? Was it designed by qualified health professionals who have previous experience in weight-loss counseling? Did at least one registered dietitian (RD) assist with the development?
- Is your site medically supervised? Psychologically supervised? Registered dietitian supervised?
- When you say "personalized" or "tailored," what does that mean?
- Is the support simply customer-service messages? Or are there real, live people responding?
- What is your cancellation policy?
- Do you have a guarantee? What is it? Is it listed on the site?
- Do you have a phone number with an address? Do you answer the phone? How long is the wait?
- What kinds of physical activity or exercise programs do you offer? Who developed them? Were the programs developed by certified exercise professionals? (American College of Sports Medicine or the National Strength and Conditioning Association)
- Is there advertising on the site? Do you have an advertising policy?
- Is the site easy to navigate and use?
- Does the site look professional?
- What is the privacy policy?
- Are there articles on the site? Who wrote them? Are they experts?
- Is the site promoting or advertising quick weight loss?
- Is the diet very restrictive? Will it work for you? Is it healthy?
- Is it a one-size-fits-all diet, or is it tailored or designed specifically for your height, weight, gender, age, personality, eating preferences and activity level? What if you're a vegetarian or have other food restrictions -- will the diet accommodate them?
- Does the site belong to HON -- Health on the Net Foundation -- and follow the HON Code of Conduct (HONcode) for medical and health Web sites?

Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate, author of The Diet Detective's Calorie Bargain Bible (Simon & Schuster, 2007), and founder of, the health and fitness network. Copyright 2007 by Charles Stuart Platkin.

Reprinted with permission from, July 2007.



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