Study: Cell Phone Counseling Is a Great Weight Loss Tool

You don’t need an in-person coach to help you shed the pounds, researchers find.

Photograph courtesy of Flickr user mikogo

Add this to the growing list of reasons why your smartphone is your new best friend: It can help you lose weight.

Obese patients who received counseling and support over the phone for two years shed an average of ten pounds, according to a recent study. On the other hand, the control group, which received information about weight loss but no counseling, lost an average of less than two pounds.

The 415 participants had an average weight of 229 pounds and included mostly middle-aged women. They were broken into three groups: the control group, an in-person counseling group, and a group that received counseling only over the phone.

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The phone-only group had access to health coaches, physicians, and an interactive Web site that provided tools to track their weight and provided feedback via e-mail. Participants were encouraged to check in to the site weekly—they received reminders from the site, coaches, and doctors if they didn’t.

Researchers found that this group did just as well losing weight as the face-to-face group. In fact, participants in the face-to-face group later asked to switch to phone-only counseling, partly due to its convenience.

The phone counseling also appeals to medical professionals, since a health coach or mentor will be able to support a patient no matter the time or place.

“I like the telephone program,” Lawrence J. Appel, professor of medicine at John Hopkins University, told Futurity. “It is convenient to individuals and can be done anywhere. You could be living in rural South Dakota, and we could deliver this intervention. It removes some of the major logistical barriers.”

To read the original study, click here.