HealthWatch: Email Program Helps People Make Healthy Choices

BERKELEY (CBS 5) — Want to feel better, get fit, enjoy better health and even lose weight, for good? Bay Area scientists may have figured out a way.

With each and every step, Melanie Gendell of UC Berkeley feels more alive.

“I feel a lot younger, I feel like I have more energy,” said Gendell. “I don’t have any more aches and pains like I had before.”

The university employee is participating in a program that’s changed her life. Gendell has lost weight, eats better, exercises more, all on her own terms.

“It’s not a diet at all. I hate the word diet,” Gendell said.

Gendell is part of the Alive Project. It’s an email based program that helps people change their lifestyle slowly, easily, step–by-step.

“It’s personalized to the individual. It comes once a week to their email and we suggest personalized goals,” said Dr. Gladys Block.

Gladys Block and her team at NutritionQuest are behind the effort. The internationally recognized nutrition researcher said most folks can’t afford a personal trainer. Personalized emails are the next best thing.

“We can give suggestions to people that are specific to their habits and where they are now,” Block said.

Participants complete a short questionnaire online and choose weekly goals that are highly individualized. Thanks to sophisticated software, the participants get immediate feedback.

“We’re keeping track of how they’re doing and reporting back to them,” said Torin Block, chief executive officer of NutritionQuest.

These goals might seem conscious at first, explains behavioral scientist Dr. Cliff Block, but soon they “become an actual habit, become a part of your lifestyle that’s what we really want to achieve.”

The Alive Project was studied in a group of 800 Kaiser Permanente employees. The results were highly successful. Dr. Gladys Block said they hit a home run with the results.

As for Melanie Gendell, she is satisfied.

“I feel very good about myself,” Gendell remarked.

People who want to participate in the Alive project can visit When you are asked what campus you are on, click “other.”

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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  • Courtney Mitchell

    The news article with Dr. Kim was very interesting, even intriguing. After connecting via the link, it is not clear if this study is open to all persons or just for people that are in the University of California system somehow. Also, there were fundamental flaws in the questionnaire, such as asking retired, unemployed or disabled persons questions that were essentially unanswerable because they really only pertained to persons who work a full work week. The reference to Kaiser was interesting because Kaiser recently offered an electronic health and lifestyle support system that is very, very similar to this one and also had the same fundamental flaw of assuming that anyone interested in their health was working full time. The Kaiser survey also asked questions that could not be answered accurately by anyone who was retired, disabled or unemployed. I’m sure the persons who put together these surveys didn’t intentionally mean to marginalize persons who are not employed, but they did manage to do that, nonetheless. Persons who are retired, disabled, unemployed, or otherwise not in the “normal” workforce need just as much healthy lifestyle support, if not more, as the rest of us do.

  • Alan Mays

    I went through extreme training in the military. I learned head & feet most pron
    to injury, feet(extra socks to prevent trench foot, & frost bite). BUT this time of
    year the heat( wetten a hand towel/put in frig-freezer/wrap around the neck to cool vessels & nerves,Dont forget aHAT to keep sun from frying your brain).
    also dark clothing draws heat/liught colors refect sun away. end messege
    Alan retired Green Beret/Special forces

  • Gladys Block

    Regarding Courtney Mitchell’s comment above: Alive IS open to anyone; they would just click ‘other’ when asked their University affiliation.
    Regarding people not in the workforce for various reasons: The program is useful for everyone, not just employed persons. In fact, it asks explicitly about whether the person is employed outside the home, retired, disabled and other options. There is a separate Physical Activity track for disabled persons. And the vast majority of suggested small-step goals are about individual choices available to anyone, not just employed persons. The RANDOMIZED TRIAL was limited to employed persons over age 50, because our funding agency, the National Institute on Aging, wanted a program that could reach people at a worksite. But everyone is eligible to participate in Alive, and everyone can benefit

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