Weight Loss Programs via Virtual Reality

New study reports successful weight loss maintenance using Second Life

Philadelphia, PA, April 25, 2013

Weight loss is a topic of concern for nearly 36% of Americans who are considered obese. There are many barriers that can interfere with weight loss. For those attending face-to-face weight loss programs, barriers can include travel, conflict with work and home, need for childcare, and loss of anonymity.

In a new study released in the May/June 2013 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, investigators from The University of Kansas Medical Center continue to explore alternative weight management delivery methods to eliminate some of these barriers. The solution they are investigating -- virtual reality for weight loss and weight maintenance.

Looking at the results from twenty overweight and obese individuals after 3 months of a weight loss program at a weekly clinic delivered via face-to-face or virtual reality and then 6 months of weight maintenance delivered via virtual reality, the investigators found virtual reality compares favorably with face-to-face for weight loss and may facilitate greater weight maintenance. Debra Sullivan, lead investigator, adds, “Although we found weight loss was significantly greater for face-to-face compared to virtual reality, weight maintenance was significantly better for virtual reality.”

The virtual reality weight maintenance program was conducted using Second Life, a Web-based virtual reality environment available to the public. Participants in Second Life create virtual representations of themselves, called ‘‘avatars,’’ which can interact with other avatars and navigate through the virtual world of Second Life. Voice communication is accomplished via headset, which allows for person-to-person and group interaction. Education and training takes place on an ‘‘island,’’ which is purchased from Second Life and provides restricted group access to the nutrition education/training area.

To further explain how Second Life can be used in this capacity, Dr. Sullivan explains, “Individuals who want to participate in real-life scenarios without real-life repercussions can use virtual reality. For example, participants can practice meal planning, grocery shopping, and dietary control when eating at restaurants and holiday parties to a much greater extent with Second Life compared with the time-limited clinic meeting. Virtual reality may even be able to serve as a more feasible option to monitor individuals after completing a weight loss program.”

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Notes for Editors
“Improving Weight Maintenance Using Virtual Reality (Second Life),” by Debra K. Sullivan, PhD; Jeannine R. Goetz, PhD; Cheryl A. Gibson, PhD; Richard A. Washburn, PhD; Bryan K. Smith, PhD; Jaehoon Lee, PhD; Stephanie Gerald, BS; Tennille Fincham, BS; and Joseph E. Donnelly, EdD, appears in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 45, Issue 3 (May/June 2013) published by Elsevier.

Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Eileen Leahy at +1 732 238 3628 or jnebmedia@elsevier.com to obtain copies. To schedule an interview with the authors, please contact Dr. Debra Sullivan at dsulliva@kumc.edu or +1 913 588 5357.

An audio podcast featuring an interview with Noel Aldrich, and information specifically for journalists are located at www.jneb.org/content/podcast. Excerpts from the podcast may be reproduced by the media; contact Eileen Leahy to obtain permission.<

About the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (www.jneb.org)
The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB), the official journal of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB), is a refereed, scientific periodical that serves as a resource for all professionals with an interest in nutrition education and dietary/physical activity behaviors. The purpose of JNEB is to document and disseminate original research, emerging issues, and practices relevant to nutrition education and behavior worldwide and to promote healthy, sustainable food choices. It supports the society’s efforts to disseminate innovative nutrition education strategies, and communicate information on food, nutrition, and health issues to students, professionals, policy makers, targeted audiences, and the public.

The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior features articles that provide new insights and useful findings related to nutrition education research, practice, and policy. The content areas of JNEB reflect the diverse interests of health, nutrition, education, Cooperative Extension, and other professionals working in areas related to nutrition education and behavior. As the Society's official journal, JNEB also includes occasional policy statements, issue perspectives, and member communications.

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Media contact
Eileen Leahy
Elsevier
+1 732 238 3628
jnebmedia@elsevier.com