Epiphany in Baltimore, Skinny Kat, Diet Chick and Juju share a lot more besides unusual names. They have a 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 Web.
Anne dishes out some very personal information in her Web log, or blog, titled Hello, I am Fat (http://plork.blogspot.com/). She reports that she's lost 50 pounds and regained 48 of them. But she's shy about divulging her full name to the public.
"I'm uncomfortable with that," said the 31-year-old library assistant, who began her blog in 2004. "I can call myself fat," she said, "but I wouldn't like other people to do it."
Like many people trying to achieve a healthier weight, these weight loss bloggers agonize over food cravings, struggle to find time to work out and often give themselves a public flogging -- make that a webflogging -- for taking a nutritional detour. They vow time after time to steer themselves back onto the road of doing-better-tomorrow. And they share their triumphs and their tragedies, from eating the whole bag of peanut butter cups to becoming one with their couch.
By their very nature, weight-conscious bloggers are amateurs willing to share their own experiences and tips, which may -- or may not -- be smart, scientifically verified or even safe. The quality and nature of the blogs varies widely.
Some bloggers write in such obscurity that they are lucky to log even a couple hundred visitors. Some popular blogs average 7,000 to 10,000 visits per month. Many blogs appear and disappear faster than a box of Junior Mints at the movies. A few bloggers encourage visitors to subsidize their healthy habit advice with payments.
Some of the more inspiring blogs, including the Skinny Daily Post and Epiphany in Baltimore, are written by people, who share what they have learned while losing -- and keeping off -- triple-digit poundage.
"When I began this journal, I was a 310-pound fifth year senior at Michigan State University," writes the 28-year-old high school English teacher who calls his blog EpiphanyinBaltimore (http://epiphany.diaryland.com/biography04.html.) "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 from Michigan, landed a job in Baltimore and whittled his waistline. "My second year, when I hit the 110-lb 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 to call it a journal -- documents a bad romantic breakup, near-bankruptcy, a dog-bites-man lawsuit and a health scare that threatened his vision. "I work hard, play hard, and try to work out hard," he writes on his site, "but I've gained 15 pounds since my fittest days and I'm completely obsessed with that."
These personal stories "can be very powerful" motivators, notes James O. Hill, director of the clinical 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 shed 70 pounds and kept them off for five years.
But Hill fears that blogs may give readers only one perspective, which may not constitute good advice for others. "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."
Hill hopes that more blogs will emerge that focus on keeping off pounds that have been lost. "Most of what I have seen are blogs that are geared towards 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). This blog details the experiences of Debbie, 52, a member of both the Lean Plate Club and Weight Watchers, who has shed 80 pounds by dropping her fork and riding her bike. A lot.
* Skinny Kat (www.skinnykat.com/litter). Kathryn Porter, 27, shed 50 pounds and her blood pressure medicine. Then "life got in the way," as she explained in a telephone interview. Her father died. She lost her job and became reacquainted with Ben & Jerry's. She's regained most of those pounds, but is starting anew.
* The Skinny Daily Post (www.skinnydailypost.com). Created by Julie "Juju" G. Ridl, who has lost 100 pounds and kept it off for years. She co-writes the blog with Jane, who has trimmed 275 pounds with bariatric surgery and healthy habits, and Jonathan, a middle-aged guy who shed 50 pounds.
* Tales of a Bathroom Scale (www.dietchick.blogspot.com/) is by "Diet Chick," 33, who has lost nearly 70 pounds, regained some and eagerly anticipates her wedding about a month from now.
You can find other weight loss blogs, blogs on other topics and instructions on how to write your own at Blogger/Blogspot (www.blogger.com), TypePad (www.typepad.com), Word Press (www.wordpress.com) and Diaryland (www.diaryland.com).
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