A new study has shown that digital forms of weight loss support can be just as helpful as support groups in real life. This means that substantial assistance with your weight loss efforts can be as close to you as your smartphone. That said, it’s important to make the right choice to be sure you truly are receiving the help you need.

The findings in the study were published in the Obesity journal. They examined the impact of a behavior-based app when compared to the impact of intensive group-based therapies. The digital and real-life programs were both meant for providing weight loss support to individuals with obesity.

Innovative Weight Loss Support

J. Graham Thomas, PhD, lead author of the study, underscored the great need for “innovative approaches” when it comes to weight loss support. The researchers found that behavioral obesity treatments can be very helpful in overcoming obesity. That said, the more accessible and the more affordable these types of resources are, the more likely dieters will be to benefit from them. Dr. Thomas is an associate professor in the Warren Alpert Medical School’s department of psychiatry and human behavior of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

He also pointed out that a mobile approach to weight loss support has “potential to fill the need” by bringing together mobile devices with online resources that can deliver the types of behavioral treatments required without having to actually visit a clinic.

What the Research Found

Thomas and his research colleagues followed 276 adults with obesity in a randomized clinical trial from January 2013 through January 2015. The research compared a previously established program called Self-Monitoring and Recording Using Technology (SMART), a group-based intervention in real life, or a control group. All participants were randomly selected to use the SMART, in-person group therapy or to be a part of the control group. The ratio of selection was 2:2:1.

The average age of the weight loss support study participants was 55.1 years. Among the participants, 83 percent were women. The average BMI was 35.2.

The researchers found that the SMART intervention was just as helpful for overcoming obesity as the weight loss support in-person. They now feel that the digital intervention “could be considered a model for relying primarily on technology for behavioral intervention delivery” while still being able to use in-person contacts for supplementary weight loss support and accountability.