Guest post: How one successful Diabetes Prevention Program keeps patients on track

Dan Sheeran

[Ed. Note: Dan Sheeran is the CEO at HealthSlate, a US-based Diabetes Prevention Program. Dan's team uses Nokia scales to help their patients reach weight loss goals.]

We at HealthSlate are finishing up the second full year of delivering a national diabetes prevention program (DPP), which has been shown to reduce diabetes risk by 58%. A DPP works principally by reducing weight and increasing physical activity. Many thousands of clients reduce their risk by using the HealthSlate app, connecting with a coach, and tracking their activity and weight through great consumer products.  And while there’s no silver bullet to weight loss, we and our scale partner, Nokia, have spent a lot of time studying this problem. We’ve learned that a key predictor of success is weighing yourself every day.

Learn how Nokia helps Diabetes Prevention Programs scale their offering

Weighing in every single day? For years the most common advice has been to weigh in only once a week. Even celebrity weight loss “experts” have preached this. They argue that random variations in weight can make it too easy to get discouraged by daily weigh-ins, so the best solution is to just weigh once a week.

We believe this is bad advice. More and more published studies have confirmed that people who weigh in every day lose more weight than those who weigh themselves once, twice or even 5 days a week.

We see at least two reasons why weighing in every day makes a difference. First, stepping on the scale every morning helps you remember that you are working on your weight and health, which can influence choices you make later that day.

Second, the problem with the common advice is not that those “experts” are wrong about weight varying naturally, the problem is that they are more correct than they realize. Our data shows that all of the weight change from week to week can be obscured by natural variation occurring on the day of the weekly weigh-in. If someone works hard all week only to be told that their weight has not budged or has even increased, it’s very hard to convince them to stay the course.

If someone weighs in every day, we can get a clear enough picture about their trends and natural variance to detect when actual weight change is happening. And when it’s not, we can send a message like, “Don’t worry. We think today’s uptick is just natural variation.” Unsurprisingly, people like receiving that message.

But to send that message reliably, we need our client to step on the scale every day, we need it to be easy to send the results to our servers (forget about Bluetooth-only scales,) and we need the scale to upload to us only that client’s results, not the results when their cat, housemate, or family member steps on the scale.

Fortunately, the Nokia Body scales detect which results are valid, the WiFi functionality automatically uploads those results, and because the LED shows today’s weather forecast, stepping on the scale gives an immediate reward even if the weight news isn’t great.

All of which is a great start. But we need to keep innovating so stepping on the scale is both rewarding and habitual. At HealthSlate we are doing very interesting work with Alexa and chatbots that is starting to yield exciting results. Stay tuned.

 

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