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Online Weight Management Program

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Updated May 18, 2006
By Elaine Wilson

Soldiers can now participate in the Army’s weight management program from the comfort of their own home.

The Army has launched an online version of “Weigh to Stay” to improve the program’s accessibility and convenience for Soldiers, families and retirees.

“The site has been hugely successful,” said Lt. Col. Danny Jaghab, site creator and nutrition staff officer for the Directorate of Health Promotion and Wellness, U.S. Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. “We recently had 23,000 hits, the most any medical page has received on (Army Knowledge Online) other than the ‘myMedical’ page.”

The Weigh to Stay program is an Army requirement for Soldiers who have been “flagged” for weight, and comprises three one-hour sessions and three half-hour follow-up sessions with a dietitian.

Before the online program, reserve- and active-duty Soldiers had to attend sessions in person. While the requirement wasn’t generally a problem for the active duty, who have easier access to dietitians, it often created headaches for reservists and their leadership.

“Reservists have to take time off from their civilian jobs and, in some cases, travel a distance to attend a session with a dietitian,” Jaghab said. “As a result, the program’s return rates were poor for reserve and Guard members.”

Hoping to remedy the problem and improve the overall health of reserve members, Army leadership asked Jaghab to find a solution.

Jaghab turned to the Internet for inspiration. “It made sense; people would be able to do the program from home at any time.”

The online site duplicates the standard version, offering the same number of sessions and content, which includes nutrition basics and myths, supplement use, menu planning, behavior modification and the importance of exercise. The only difference is that participants attend sessions online rather than in-person.

“You sign up, go online and pick a class,” Jaghab said. “Then, at the scheduled time, you log on and participate in a virtual class.”

Participants can interact with other students and the instructor, as well as view slides and a participant list.

The site also includes links to health and weight loss information and special features. In a recent section, dietetic interns reviewed nine popular weight loss books, scoring them for such areas as hunger satisfaction, healthiness and effectiveness.

“Weigh to Stay is the Army ‘gold standard,’ but there are other ways that are effective,” Jaghab said. “Since there are other methods out there, we want to make sure we provide information so people can make smart choices for themselves.”

The site’s success has prompted Army officials to extend the online program to active-duty Soldiers, family members and retirees, although only reserve Soldiers are able to forego the traditional program for the online one. It could also prove particularly beneficial for deployed Soldiers who take risks when traveling back from the frontlines to attend sessions with a dietitian, Jaghab said.

“Statistics show that 70 percent of our population is not flagged but know they have a problem now or one in the past,” he said. “There’s a need for this type of online program in the Army.”

The ultimate goal is to create a multi-service site for the Department of Defense, Jaghab said.

“I’m hoping the site eventually becomes a ‘one-stop shopping’ site for weight management,” he said.

For more information or to register for the Weigh to Stay Web site, call Jaghab at (410) 436-8856, DSN 584-8856 or e-mail danny.jaghab@apg.amedd.army.mil danny.jaghab@apg.amedd.army.mil.

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