Dieting is a principal health topic in the U.S. and rightfully so. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, almost two thirds of American adults (age 20 years and older) qualify as overweight. That’s slightly over 127 million people, sixty million of whom qualify as obese, or seriously overweight. It’s a major problem for our population, and therefore, naturally, a major topic on the Internet.
There are dozens of sites that are more or less informative on the issues of weight loss and dieting and dozens more that pitch one diet program or another, or provide commercial content on several diets. There’s lots of money being devoted to web advertising to steer you to one diet or another, many of which have become names familiar in most households.
Of the informative sources, perhaps the most thorough on the issue of weight is the American Obesity Treatment Association (www.americanobesity.org) which treats the affliction as a disease and has extensive educational material available. Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org) does an excellent job discussing the basics of dieting. Their material addresses types of diets (as opposed to brands); the relationship of exercise, weight loss and dieting; how calories are counted and how they work; and some of the dangers inherent in misguided attempts at dieting.
Diets are also the core of a major American industry. Millions are spent annually on specialty diet programs, on books, prepared food programs, and hands-on therapy that involve both diet and exercise. If you’re looking for an analysis of the online resources for dieting, there’s a fairly extensive body of material at Free Dieting. The title itself illustrates the mercenary nature of most diet web sites; however it’s a place to start if you want to learn about the more popular online diet programs.
Free Dieting provides recommendations on programs, rankings based on popularity, and lots of content on the ancillary items such as workout plans and calorie counters. It is unclear, however, what criteria their recommendations are based on: it could be advertising, or it could be truly objective analysis. Given the title of the site, it may be a combination of the two.
An openly commercial site that provides comparisons of fourteen online diet programs can be found at Weight Shapes (www.weightshapes.com). While it’s clear that the programs found there paid for positioning, it provides you with an opportunity for some quick comparisons of diet program models.
In November the Department of Health and Human Services in conjunction with the FDA, announced two online tools to assist consumers in dieting. The tools are Make Your Calories Count, a Web-based learning program, and a new Nutrition Facts Label brochure. These tools combine an online diet program with a detailed explanation of how to use the nutritional facts posted on every food item sold publicly. It is the government’s attempt at countering the rising tide of obesity in this country and it is possibly the only truly cost-free program you’ll find online.
There is a vast amount of information online about nutrition and dieting. There are also vast numbers of online diet programs, of various designs, that are paid services. If you are interested in an online diet and exercise program, choosing among them is the second biggest challenge you will face. The number one challenge, of course, will be mustering up the discipline to follow it.