The Internet: Your Potential Partner in Lifestyle Change When Managing Diabetes

By Alan L. Rubin

Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disease. Some harmful choices for your lifestyle contributed to your development of type 2 diabetes and some helpful choices will help you control it or prevent it if you don’t have it yet. Unlike the people in your life, who can hardly be there with you 24 hours a day, the Internet is only a mouse click away at any time. On the Internet you can find help for the two key aspects of your lifestyle that affect diabetes, diet and exercise.

Because weight loss is the main preoccupation of millions of Americans, numerous websites promise incredible results. Probably the single most important feature of a site that will truly help you to succeed is continued feedback. If you get regular new advice (at least weekly) and peer support in the form of message boards where you can interact with others, you will lose three times as much weight as with sites that only provide diet and exercise information on a noninteractive web page.

Sites for diet and weight loss when managing diabetes

Following are some of the better sites for diet and weight loss:

  • eDiets.com: This site gives you a choice of many different diets and provides the food as well as weekly updates and suggestions. You can choose from more than 22 diet plans, and eDiets.com prides itself on the tastiness of its foods, so one of the plans is sure to appeal to you. You can consult with their nutritionists to develop a diet that meets your needs. If, for example, you have a heart issue, the company will tailor your diet for you. Fitness is an important component of their diets.

  • WebMD Diet & Weight Management: This site uses a questionnaire to develop a “diet just for you.” The diet, which is called a nutritional plan, is personalized and nutritionally sound. You fill out a daily nutritional journal that the people at WebMD comment on. They analyze your progress and nutritional needs each week. WebMD is filled with useful information for people who must lose weight for any reason. It also emphasizes fitness, as any good diet program should.

  • Shape Up America!: Shape Up America!, a nonprofit organization founded by former surgeon general C. Everett Koop, MD, offers lots of free information about nutrition and also advocates for your health. For example, it is working to get the federal government to label beer, wine, and spirits with nutritional information and to classify obesity counseling and treatment as essential health benefits so your insurance has to pay for it.

Sites for exercise programs when managing diabetes

Here are some of the better websites for exercise programs:

  • FreeTrainers.com: This site offers individualized fitness programs with individual advice and message boards for reading the experiences of others and offering your own. They have something for everyone from beginning exercisers to established fitness devotees. You can even find a training partner at this site.

  • Workouts For You: At this site, you can get a personalized fitness program, weekly e-mail tips, and unlimited e-mail consultations. There are lots of member testimonials in case you want to read the experience of others. You have to pay for information and a program at this site.

  • Global Fitness & Health: This website for Global Health and Fitness offers a large amount of information on fitness with lots of feedback from trainers. It touts itself as the first weight-loss and fitness program on the Internet, starting in 1996. It is another site where you pay for information and training.

None of these sites tell you about the people who did not do so well or even the ratio of successful to unsuccessful clients. Don’t spend a lot of money up front until you are sure the program is what you need and what works for you. Good luck!

Finding reputable websites

Not everything that you find on the Internet is true, let alone reputable. The Health on the Net Foundation has established a set of principles that any site on the Internet can adhere to. From its website, you can search for medical sites that follow these HONcode principles:

  • Principle 1: Any medical or health advice provided and hosted on this site is only given by medically trained and qualified professionals unless a clear statement is made that a piece of advice offered is from a non-medically qualified individual or organization.

  • Principle 2: The information provided on this site is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his or her existing physician.

  • Principle 3: Confidentiality of data relating to individual patients and visitors to a medical/health website, including their identity, is respected by this site. The website owners undertake to honor or exceed the legal requirements of medical/health information privacy that apply in the country and state where the website and mirror sites are located.

  • Principle 4: Where appropriate, information contained on this site is supported by clear references to source data and, where possible, have specific HTML links to that data. The date when a clinical page was last modified is clearly displayed (typically at the bottom of the page).

  • Principle 5: Any claims relating to the benefits/performance of a specific treatment, commercial product, or service is supported by appropriate, balanced evidence in the manner outlined in Principle 4.

  • Principle 6: The designers of this website seek to provide information in the clearest possible manner and provide contact addresses for visitors that seek further information or support. The webmaster displays his or her e-mail address clearly throughout the site.

  • Principle 7: Support for this website is clearly identified, including the identities of commercial and noncommercial organizations that have contributed funding, services, or material for the site.

  • Principle 8: If advertising is a source of funding, the site clearly says so. A brief description of the advertising policy is displayed on the site. Advertising and other promotional material is presented to viewers in a manner and context that facilitates differentiation between it and the original material created by the institution operating the site.

If a site agrees with these principles, you can bet the information on it is very reliable.