Health Stories: Successful Weight Loss Aided by Online Tools
WeightWatchers.com is an example of a thriving, well-segmented online health community. The segmentation has been applied to their success stories as well, making it easy to locate stories that are likely to resonate. With both the discussion forums and stories, segmentation works because of the number of contributions. WeightWatchers.com also seemingly does what many consumer websites have failed at: charges for parts of the website. They employ a tiered approach to registration and payment: most of the site is available to someone who is browsing; contributing requires registration; and using their online tools requires paying fees. While I have used the website often as an example in my classes, I had never tried the online tools and was interested when I met someone who had not only used them, but successfully lost weight.
When I joined Weight Watchers in May of 2007, I was really pleased that they were offering a promotional rate of $39 per month for unlimited meeting attendance as well as unlimited use of their “member website” which definitely has more to offer than their “free site” for lifetime members. I had tried to lose weight earlier in the year by logging on to “Spark People” which I believe is supported by a government agency. I just didn’t find it gave me the format that I needed even though it has some of the same features as weight watchers like keeping a journal of what you eat.
The pay site for weight watchers reinforced the simple ideas of weight watchers and I just put my faith in the “flex program” of counting points. If I couldn’t make it to a in person meeting on a given week, I found a lot of the same principles reinforced on the website, and all I seemed to need was a “weekly mantra” to keep me on track for the week. The pay site also has a place where you can chart your progress, and weeks that I would go to a meeting I would “log in” my current weight, and it felt great to have the little chart appear and show my weight going down. Another thing that I found really useful on the pay website was the feature where I could input my own recipes and find their point value. I like the flex plan because you can eat your own food, and I like to cook, so I could use my old recipes and still stay on the plan and I would KNOW what the point value was. The pay website also had point values for different restaurant meals and some neat chat rooms. I definitely logged on frequently while I was in the “losing phase” of weight watchers, and I found it motivated me when I felt a little lost.
I hit my goal weight after about 14 weeks ( 17 pounds), and I paid for a total of 5 months and became a lifetime member almost exactly a year ago. I go to the “free website,” but I don’t find it quite as interesting or motivating, but I’ve been “maintaining” so I guess I have the tools that I need (A.M., private correspondence, 10/13/08).