Several studies have shown that e-mail counseling can improve weight loss attempts among users of self-directed Internet diet programs. Some people think that computer-tailored feedback might even replace one-on-one human counseling in the future.
To test this theory, researchers divided 192 adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 32.7 (plus or minus 3.5) into three study groups. One group got no counseling at all; a second received computer-automated feedback; and a third got counseling from a human via e-mail. All participants received one weight-loss group session, along with coupons for meal replacements and access to an interactive website.
After 3 months, both the computer-automated feedback group and the group counseled by a human via e-mail had lost significantly more weight than the group that received no counseling at all. But after 6 months, those counseled by a human clearly had the edge: they had lost significantly more weight than those who got computer- automated feedback and those who had no counseling.
The bottom line: While computers are a great tool for counseling clients, there is no substitution for human contact when it comes to helping clients keep the weight off.