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J Med Internet Res. 2014 Jul 15;16(7):e173. doi: 10.2196/jmir.3332.

Longitudinal accuracy of web-based self-reported weights: results from the Hopkins POWER Trial.

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Department of Kinesiology, Towson University, Towson, MD, United States.



Websites and phone apps are increasingly used to track weights during weight loss interventions, yet the longitudinal accuracy of these self-reported weights is uncertain.


Our goal was to compare the longitudinal accuracy of self-reported weights entered online during the course of a randomized weight loss trial to measurements taken in the clinic. We aimed to determine if accuracy of self-reported weight is associated with weight loss and to determine the extent of misclassification in achieving 5% weight loss when using self-reported compared to clinic weights.


This study examined the accuracy of self-reported weights recorded online among intervention participants in the Hopkins Practice-Based Opportunities for Weight Reduction (POWER) trial, a randomized trial examining the effectiveness of two lifestyle-based weight loss interventions compared to a control group among obese adult patients with at least one cardiovascular risk factor. One treatment group was offered telephonic coaching and the other group was offered in-person individual coaching and group sessions. All intervention participants (n=277) received a digital scale and were asked to track their weight weekly on a study website. Research staff used a standard protocol to measure weight in the clinic. Differences (self-reported weight - clinic weight) indicate if self-report under (-) or over (+) estimated clinic weight using the self-reported weight that was closest in time to the clinic weight and was within a window ranging from the day of the clinic visit to 7 days before the 6-month (n=225) and 24-month (n=191) clinic visits. The absolute value of the differences (absolute difference) describes the overall accuracy.


Underestimation of self-reported weights increased significantly from 6 months (mean -0.5 kg, SD 1.0 kg) to 24 months (mean -1.1 kg, SD 2.0 kg; P=.002). The average absolute difference also increased from 6 months (mean 0.7 kg, SD 0.8 kg) to 24 months (mean 1.3, SD 1.8 kg; P<.001). Participants who achieved the study weight loss goal at 24 months (based on clinic weights) had lower absolute differences (P=.01) compared to those who did not meet this goal. At 24 months, there was 9% misclassification of weight loss goal success when using self-reported weight compared to clinic weight as an outcome. At 24 months, those with self-reported weights (n=191) had three times the weight loss compared to those (n=73) without self-reported weights (P<.001).


Underestimation of weight increased over time and was associated with less weight loss. In addition to intervention adherence, weight loss programs should emphasize accuracy in self-reporting.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT00783315; (Archived by WebCite at


Internet; obesity; self-report; weight loss

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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