Epiphany in Baltimore, Skinny Kat, Diet Chick and Juju share a lot more than their unusual names. They each have such a strong desire to weigh less -- or at least to try to reach a healthier weight -- that they are willing to document their efforts on the Internet.
"It gives me accountability," says Anne, author of the blog Hello, I Am Fat (www.plork.blogspot.com). "I find that really, really useful."
Anne dishes out some very personal information about herself, including the fact that she's lost 50 pounds and regained 48 of them. But she's shy about divulging her full name. "I'm uncomfortable with that," says the 31-year-old library assistant, who began her blog in 2004. "I can call myself fat," she says, "but I wouldn't like other people to do it."
Like others trying to achieve a healthier weight, weight-loss bloggers agonize over food cravings, struggle to find time to work out and often give themselves a public flogging for taking nutritional detours. Like bloggers everywhere, they share their triumphs and tragedies.
Many of these blogs appear and disappear faster than a box of popcorn at the movies. But others, including the Skinny Daily Post and Epiphany in Baltimore, are written by "successful losers," who simply want to share what they have learned.
"When I began this journal, I was a 310-pound fifth-year senior at Michigan State University," says the 28-year-old English teacher who pens Epiphany in Baltimore (www.epiphanyinbaltimore.blogspot.com). "I had a depressed year that year, living in ... clothes I had outgrown. I was ... starting to work out at Gold's Gym next door. I started to get a little happier as that year ended, and interned at Lansing Eastern High School the following year. The regular schedule and rewards of teaching agreed with me and, in a way, saved my life."
Epiphany moved to Baltimore, landed his job and whittled his waistline. "My second year, when I hit the 110-pound weight-loss milestone and felt svelte and happy in nearly every way, was one of the highlights of my life. My third year, last year, I crashed pretty hard."
His blog -- he prefers the word "journal" -- documents a bad breakup, near bankruptcy, an unsuccessful lawsuit against him and a health scare that threatened his vision. "I work hard, play hard, and try to work out hard," he writes, "but I've gained 15 pounds since my fittest days and I'm completely obsessed with that."
These personal stories can be powerful motivators, says James O. Hill, director of the Clinical Nutrition Research Unit at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver and co-founder of the National Weight Control Registry -- a database of 4,000 "successful losers" who have lost 30 pounds or more and kept them off for at least a year.
But Hill is concerned that blogs give readers only limited perspective. "These blogs are generally about helping people restrict certain foods to lose weight," he said. "I worry that in reading a personal story, people will think this strategy works for everyone, and that's rarely the case."
What Hill would like to find are more blogs that focus on keeping off pounds that have been lost, often the hardest part of achieving a healthier weight for good. "Most of what I have seen are blogs that are geared toward weight loss," he said. "I'd like to see some that are about weight maintenance."
Here is a sampling of weight-loss blogs:
* Drop the Fork (www.dropthefork.net): Begun in March, this blog details the experiences of Debbie, 52, who has shed 80 pounds by dropping her fork and riding her bike.
* Skinny Kat (www.skinnykat.com/litter): Kathryn Porter, 27, documents her loss of 50 pounds and her blood pressure medicine. "Then life happened," she said. Her father died. She lost her job and became reacquainted with Ben & Jerry's. She's regained 48 pounds but is starting anew.
* The Skinny Daily Post (www.skinnydailypost.com): Created by Julie "Juju" G. Ridl, who has trimmed 100 pounds. She's added two co-bloggers, Jane, who underwent bariatric surgery and habit change to lose 275 pounds, and Jonathan, who lost 50 pounds.
* Tales of a Bathroom Scale (www.dietchick.blogspot.com): By Diet Chick, 33, a "bookkeeper by trade, writer by heart," who has lost nearly 70 pounds, regained some of it and is eagerly anticipating her wedding, about a month away.
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