Dietmate - Computerized Self-Management for the Treatment of Obesity

Computerized Self-Management for the Treatment of Obesity

Albert Jerome, Ph.D.
Lee W. Frederiksen, Ph.D.
Candace B. Frederiksen, Ph.D.
Health Innovations, Inc., Reston, VA

Presented at the 25th Annual Convention of the Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy, New York, N.Y., November, 1991. This research was funded in part by a grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) (1 R43 DK42397).


We describe preliminary results from an ongoing clinical trial conducted with a weight-management program implemented via a hand-held microcomputer. The program--DietMate--combines microcomputer technology with concepts from nutrition science, behavior modification, and exercise physiology to provide an interactive, self-help approach to weight loss. Data on effectiveness and user satisfaction collected after 12 weeks of treatment are provided.


  • Comprehensive weight management program implemented via a hand-held microcomputer.

  • Combines microcomputer technology with principles from nutrition science, behavioral psychology and exercise physiology.

  • Computer individualizes a nutritionally balanced menu plan and exercise program that adjust dynamically for within treatment behavior and changes in weight.

  • Behavioral principles such as prompting, self-monitoring, goal setting, shaping, and feedback are used to modify eating and exercise behaviors.

  • Emphasis is on gradual behavior change in eating and exercise habits to promote long-term maintenance of weight loss.

  • Storage of weekly summary data for up to 2 years and daily variables for 14 days.

  • PC interface allows for uploading of data for storage and analysis.


Subjects were 19 women and 9 men recruited through newspaper announcements for research volunteers. Mean age of subjects was 44.6 years (SD = 7.7), and subjects had completed a mean of 15.3 years of education (SD = 2.5). Subjects were a mean of 26.2% over their ideal body weight (SD = 14.4), and had a mean Body Mass Index of (BMI) 33.6 (SD = 7.3). All subjects had previous dieting experience.


Baseline assessment included demographics, dieting history, a variety of physical measurements, and questions concerning expectancies for success and level of motivation. Subjects met in small groups to receive computers, written materials, and instructions. Treatment was run in a self-help format. Subjects met with a research technician three times during treatment to upload computer data, weigh in, and fill out satisfaction ratings.

funded in part by grants from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (1 R43 HL44260) and the National Institute


Twenty-one subjects completed 12 weeks of treatment. Subjects lost a mean of 10 lbs. (SD = 6.7). Mean loss per week was .83 lbs. (SD = .56). Weight, BMI, systolic blood pressure, and pulse rate decreased significantly from pre-treatment to post-treatment, while self-rated body satisfaction increased significantly. Subjects reported a high level of overall satisfaction with the program (M = 5.9, SD = 1.4 on a seven-point scale), and rated the program as being very easy to use (M = 5.8, SD = 1.2 on a seven-point scale).

Table 1. Dependent Variables

Variable Pre Post t (p level)
Weight 207.2
6.79 (p<.001)
BMI 33.4
6.55 (p<.001)
Diastolic BP 77.2
2.03 (p<.06)
Systolic BP 124.7
2.47 (p<.05)
Pulse 68.5
2.36 (p<.05)
3.53 (p<.01)


  • Subjects rated DietMate as being easy to use, and they indicated overall satisfaction with the program.
  • Subjects lost weight at a moderate rate that is within recommended guidelines for safe weight loss.
  • Significant changes occurred in body mass index, blood pressure, pulse rate and self-rated body satisfaction from pre- to post-treatment.
  • Overall, these data concur with results from previous studies suggesting that computerized treatment is a viable approach to weight loss that is both effective and perceived positively by users.