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November 4th, 2011 - By Therese Madden

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A Temple University study shows that both Facebook and texting are effective ways to get college students to lose weight.  With 83% of American Adults owning some kind of mobile device, the authors of this study believe these methods can be effective with the broader public — additional study is planned.



Ever notice the flyers hanging in public places advertising studies?  Treat depression, earn money, lose weight?

For Temple University student, Alex Chappel, one of these flyers changed her life, proving that life changing moments can occur just about anywhere, she explains.

“Everyone, when advertising here will put a flyer in a bathroom stall and I was feeling horrible about myself because I was so big and it’s ironic that I felt horrible and I looked up and I saw this and I took a tab off and everything came together, it was perfect.”

The flyer was an invitation to participate in a study about weight loss. It also involved the use of text messaging and Facebook.  Fifty-two overweight college students participated and were divided into three groups. Melissa Napolitano, the study’s lead author is a clinical psychologist and Associate Professor at Temple University, she describes how the study works.

“One group received content through handouts and podcasts via Facebook, one group received that plus daily texts and personalized feedbacks and  one group was asked to delay their participation for 8 weeks.”

Alex was in the Facebook plus group- so she received Facebook and text messages daily and weekly progress reports.  The people in Facebook plus lost the most weight, about 5 pounds.  Alex lost 20 pounds during study, which lasted 8 weeks.  She says the text messages were very helpful.

“They would texts things like good morning!  Keep it up!  Keep track of your calories we will check in with you tonight “

Alex Chapelle’s study ended last December, but she’s lost 30 more pounds since then and is sticking with it.  She does admit to having felt a loss when the text messages stopped.

“Right away I was missing them, the texts I would get every morning,  but they really taught me over the 3 months to have that message in my head.  That’s the first  thing I think of when I wake up and even though they’re not still texting me, every single time I go to pack my lunch for school and every time I go out to eat, that is in the back of my head. “

For Public Health professionals this could be a cost effective way to get more people to make healthier decisions, after all Facebook and texting aren’t just for college students. Melissa Napolitano, of Temple University says they need to do more research to see if this would work beyond the college campus.

“We know with broad use of cell phones and smart phones we know this type of technology has broad applicability.”


Photo credit: Flickr user woohoo_megoo

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