Resolve fading? Get help online

Advice: Web-based support groups can be as helpful as the real-world kind in keeping your New Year's resolutions.

January 22, 2004|By Tamara E. Holmes | Tamara E. Holmes,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Many of us start the new year with resolutions for improving our lives. While some of these good intentions are often forgotten by the end of February, the Internet community may provide enough support to improve your odds of sticking to your plans.

Online support groups are virtual communities where like-minded individuals share stories of inspiration and encouragement designed to help one another to achieve a particular goal. As with real-world support groups, the allure of such communities is having access to people who can share accomplishments, be inspiring and commiserate about obstacles.

Unlike real-world support groups, though, the Internet version offers the utmost in convenience. As long as Internet access is available, you have 24-hour support, and there are no travel or scheduling headaches to deal with.

Some online support sites consist of forums that let users post messages and respond to other messages at will. Other sites are chat-based, meaning they provide a chat room people can visit at any time and message like-minded individuals in real time.

Finally, there are support sites that are chat-based but have set times when members of the group can log on and chat about their respective situations.

One of the most common resolutions each year has to do with weight loss and healthy eating. On the Internet, support groups exist not just for dieting but for all aspects of food consumption.

Such weight-loss support groups include the Eating Disorder Message Forum (www. eating-disorder.org), Male Eating Disorders (health.groups.yahoo.com/group/maleeatingdisorders/), and Picky EatingAdults.com (www.pickyeatingadults.com/index.html).

If you are looking for help shedding a few pounds and need some extra hand-holding, you might check out Mydietbuddy.com. For a $5.95 monthly fee, you'll be paired with other dieters who have similar goals or challenges so that you can form your own online support system.

Often when people desire to lose weight, they also hope to improve their health by exercising. Support groups exist online to help with this task as well, including an exercise message board at www.healthboards. com/boards/index.php and one offered by health Web site WebMD and Internet company Lycos at http://boards.webmd.lycos.com/topic.asp?topic_id=64.

Another popular resolution is to get a better handle on financial issues. If you are looking to get out of debt or hoping to improve your financial situation, you can find online support groups at Debtors Anonymous (www.debtorsanonymous.org/find_meeting/online.htm). The site offers support areas for different types of people, including compulsive spenders and business owners who have racked up an enormous amount of debt.

HealthyPlace.com is one of the best places on the Web for support on mental and emotional health issues. There, you can find advice, support and guidance from support groups dedicated to depression, anxiety disorders, relationship troubles and more.

HealthyPlace.com offers several different levels of support. Forums where users can post and read messages at will are open 24 hours a day. And some chat rooms are always open. There also are guided support groups that meet in designated chat areas at a set time so that members can get together to talk.

For those who aim to make spiritual development a greater part of their lives this year, BeliefNet (www.beliefnet.com) offers group discussions on a variety of spiritual topics pertaining to different religions. If you find no group to suit your needs, you can start your own.

Finally, the Web is a great source of comfort for people seeking support in dealing with illnesses. A plethora of examples can be found at SupportPath.com (www.supportpath.com). This granddaddy of support Web sites features links to support groups for just about any illness, including cancer, HIV and even the flu.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.