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Text Messaging Can Help Weight Loss, Study Says

Let's face it: weight loss is not only an enormous preoccupation in American minds, but an enormous investment of American time and money. With about half of American adults trying to lose weight and an estimated 65 billion dollars being spent each year by Americans on weight loss-related products and services, there simply has to be a better way. And, studies suggest, there is.

In a pioneering study published in Computers, Informatics, and Nursing in 2013, text messaging was isolated and tested as a weight loss tool: the small study divided 28 overweight and obese adults in a community-based weight loss program in the Richmond area into control and experimental groups. The experimental group received text messages tailored to aid in the weight loss process twice per week throughout the 12 week duration of the study.

The text messages that the experimental condition received included reminders to continue habits like eating well and exercising as well as motivational words. Many texts offered tips to help participants make these goals a reality, such as suggestions for healthy snacks. The texts were also interactive, allowing participants to respond with a simple 'yes' or 'no' indicating whether or not they used the advice they received. And they worked.

By the end of the study's 12 week run, the experimental group lost an average of 4.5 more pounds than the control group that did not receive the texts. Additionally, 79% of the participants indicated that they found the texts helpful, though rates of reply declined from 66% to 52% between the beginning and end of the study. Although most participants reported finding the texts helpful, several mentioned that some texts were ill-timed, arriving during busy work days or when participants were driving.

Another study, published online in the Journal of Medical Internet Research in 2013, tested the use of text messaging to track daily diet and exercise habits, in lieu of keeping a diet and exercise diary. Tracking one's own diet and exercise habits can be a great boon to weight loss efforts, and is a strong predictor of the success of these efforts. However, keeping a diary of these habits can be daunting, tedious, and uncomfortable, making the recording itself an easy habit to drop, or a factor that may discourage people from weight loss plans. Introducing texting as a similar mode of tracking affords participants in weight management programs a more convenient and casual mode of keeping track of their wellness habits and, researchers hoped, might increase the efficacy of weight loss programs.

During a six month research period, researchers divided 50 obese women into an experimental condition that received daily texts that encouraged self-monitoring of tailored goals, and a control condition. Though rates of response to the texts were not perfect, with an average of 49% of the women in the experimental group responding to the interactive texts per day, 85% of the women did text self-monitored goals at least twice weekly; additionally, 70% strongly agreed that the texts were easy and helpful, and 76% felt that they received texts at an appropriate frequency. In short, the design was quite popular with the texting participants.

The success of the study shines even more when its participants' weight was objectively measured at the conclusion of the study's six month run. The experimental condition on average lost about 2.80 pounds, whereas the control condition in fact gained about 2.51 pounds over the course of the study. While these are small averages for a study lasting six months, these results point to texting as a promising beginning to a new way to bolster weight loss attempts and programs. As we further fine-tune and expand the reach of text messaging in weight loss initiatives, who knows what we can accomplish?

About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage, Inc. a software company for communication software solutions. http://www.notepage.net

 


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