The power of the internet to wage war against unwanted weight? You bet.
The waist lines of the world have been getting progressively wider since the 1970s. As a result of this, our hip pockets are also bearing the brunt. A staggering $3 billion is spent every year in Australia on services to directly treat conditions that arise as a result of being obese or very overweight. Add to this the costs related to things such as loss of productivity, absenteeism and short-term disability, and that figure tops $20 billion each year. The financial reasons to lose weight are one thing and then there are the obvious health gains. Consider the numerous illnesses that are often associated with obesity. They ain't pretty. These encompass diabetes type 2, kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, heart disease, hypertension and increased risk of stroke.
Obesity has also been a key factor in affecting fertility rates. In women, it can interfere with ovulation, which makes it harder to fall pregnant. It has also contributed to an increased risk of complications being endured during pregnancy and labour. Whilst in men, obesity can lead to elevated levels of oestrogen, which upsets male reproductive function, impacting on the ability to conceive.
Being obese or considerably overweight is not something that occurs within a short space of time. Speak to anyone who can be understood in terms of these categories (with a Body Mass Index of over 30) and they'll tell you that the weight seemed to creep up steadily over time. Although shifting this weight is hard to do, it is not impossible. Even aiming for an initial moderate weight loss of between five and ten kilos, shed in the right circumstances, can be highly beneficial in kick-starting a renewed sense of health and wellbeing.
How the internet is helping in the fight against obesity.
People from all corners of the world are using the internet more and more, not only to access information but to trigger lifestyle changes through online forums and by using the integrated tools available in online fitness programs - just like the nifty ones on the wellness hub that members are able to use 24/7!
Although some governments in countries where obesity is prevalent (America, Australia, Britain) have been trying to implement their own programs via the media to promote better nutrition and physical activity, these have not been having the desired effect in reducing numbers of the population who can be classified as obese.
The suggestion is that there are simply not enough incentives for many to feel encouraged to consistently follow through to reach a positive outcome.
This is where the internet has exceeded expectations.
Online wellness programs allow for greater accountability, whereby members feel in charge of their progress. Rather than by being dictated to by a third party who may not appear entirely sympathetic with their plight, there is more scope given over for ‘checking in' on oneself, and monitoring progress regularly from the comfort of home. Being severely overweight can bring about crippling self-esteem. These online programs allow for a safe environment from which to leisurely explore dietary and fitness alternatives, rather than having to rely on constant face-to-face contact, which in those crucial first phases of a weight-loss program can bring about heightened levels of anxiety that can impinge on progress.
This ability to educate the self at will, and increase a knowledge base about lifestyle choices, results in improved behavioural outcomes. That is people are more likely to be prompted into action through information that is readily accessible and encountered according to personal interests and needs. Keeping track of individual progress becomes an enjoyable part of the lifestyle change - a bit like updating a blog or a profile page - rather than being regarded as a laborious task. The incentive to keep this up comes partly through visualising and tracking results, coupled with being able to log on and have unlimited use of online features which enable engagement with and encouragement from others. One becomes part of a ‘wellness community', and is able to share weight-loss tales and advice with others who may be in a similar boat.
It may seem ironic that the internet, which is more often connected with sedentary pursuits, has the capacity to effect change through action. However it has been monumentally successful as a tool which in itself can promote activity and spur motivation. Think of the revolutionary world events that have taken place recently as a result of online social networks. If the net can be a source used to topple a government, then it surely can be capable of toppling unwanted weight on one individual!
Written by Cassandra Duell