Show-and-Tell-Dieting

Even for a loner, the support of others can be an integral part of weight loss
Cindy Hatcher

Social media has cracked open our idea of privacy, and we're just starting to see the implications for behavioral change in areas like weight loss. Dieting in the group sense used to mean in-person meetings and weigh-ins designed to provide support and encouragement. While millions still do just that, now you can meet virtually via online communities or smartphone apps. This makes joining easier and more anonymous, though it doesn't altogether erase the pain of sharing for the shy. If you're honest and open with your app, others in the group can see your successes, setbacks, and weight.

But you can limit the sharing. "An app creates an environment where users can choose to share at their own comfort level," says Artem Petakov, cofounder of Noom, a free weight-loss app with a big social component. "They can share in a way that can be a lot less intimidating than a group setting."

An online team also gives around-the-clock support and a larger base of people who face similar obstacles. "It's also much easier for someone who's an oversharer to find other people interested in constant feedback," Petakov says.

In addition to apps like Noom and MyFitnessPal, and Bluetooth-enabled fitness trackers that sync to apps, there are online programs like Weight Watchers and SparkPeople that offer communities based on age, gender, goals, and hobbies.

Consider group size. There's no magic number, Petakov says, but "you don't want to have too few members. You want to ensure that there is an adequate amount of support, even if people drop out. The right size includes a number of people that you can realistically form close bonds with, who would miss you if you weren't there."