A 10-week diet program on Zoom helped people lose weight, cut carbs, and feel more confident, study finds

A 10-week diet program on Zoom helped people lose weight, cut carbs, and feel more confident, study finds
Hosting brainstorm meetings online can actually spur more creativity than in person.Carl Court/Getty Images
  • Virtual counseling and peer support could help people with weight loss, according to a new study.
  • Study participants lost weight, improved blood sugar control, and felt more confident in 10 weeks.

More than a year into the pandemic, precautionary measures have put the kibosh on fitness goals like hitting the gym or working out with a personal trainer

And eating healthy, which is tricky at the best of times, can be even harder combined with exhaustion of evading a deadly virus for months on end.

If you're looking to shed pounds while social distancing, there's some promising evidence that a virtual diet could help.

A small group of British adults lost weight and said they felt more confident about making health choices after Zoom-based health counseling and community support, according to a small study published February 15 in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention and Health.

A group of independent researchers from the UK. recruited 20 people from Hampshire in June 2020, all of whom had type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, or obesity, for the 10-week program. They were taught how to follow a low-carb diet and cut out processed foods via 90-minute small group counseling sessions on Zoom every two weeks.


By the end of the 10-week program, participants had lost an average of 12.7 pounds, or about 6.5% of their starting body weight. They also significantly improved their blood pressure and blood sugar control.

In addition to these measurable benefits, participants also reported subjective improvements: they said they felt more in control of their health and better able to make good decisions. One person even mentioned they were surprised by how easy it was to lose weight.

The study adds to previous evidence that Zoom and other virtual methods might be a viable way to offer weight loss services by providing a combination of personalized counseling, group support, and evidence-based info.

Virtual support could be a helpful strategy for weight loss

Previous research from July 2020 found that online coaching from a qualified team of experts was just as effective as in-person visits for helping participants lose weight.

However, virtual services have limitations.


About 17% of the participants in this recent study said Zoom was "not ideal, but ok" for their weight loss program. For some people, more video-based virtual interactions can even lead to burnout or "Zoom fatigue."

And there's not much data on video-based virtual coaching for weight loss, particularly in the long term. More research is needed if programs like this can consistently help people lose weight and keep it off.

There is still reason to be skeptical of online weight loss programs, too, particularly commerical versions. In a 2017 study, researchers found that fewer than half of the commerical online programs they looked at were supported by good-quality evidence. Even programs that were backed by evidence tended to exagerate their results.

Cutting carbs and being part of a community

This most recent study is limited in that there was no comparison or control groups, so it's not clear how this program compares to other weight loss strategies or even no weight loss plan at all.

It's also not exactly clear what aspects of the program led to weight loss.


Participants were given a range of information about other health strategies such as intermittent fasting, exercising more, getting enough sleep, and managing stress. They were also encouraged to support each other between sessions on a private social media group.

The researchers theorized that cutting carbs may have played a role in the weight loss, but so did cutting back on snacking and junk food. Having a community of like-minded folks for support may also have helped. Most likely, it was some combination of the above, the researchers concluded.