Mother’s medicine was tough, grandma’s recipes were so 1900. Fancy diet plans looked good, but soon giving up became easier than slimming down. Weight-loss routines, indoors or outdoors, happened to little effect. Maybe it’s time to go online – even as you add solid sitting weight – to look for fitness websites. A lot of people are doing it.

Nina (45), a Californian friend, swears by SparkPeople.com. “My battle of the bulge started at age ten,” she sighs. Clearly, she has tried a million diet-and-fitness programmes. “At SparkPeople, I found food/exercise tracking tools and a supportive community, for free.” Someone who habitually tore open a bag of chips to beat stress, she now logs on, and talks to a Sparkperson. Under a pseudonym, she accesses personalised meal/fitness plans, recipes and exercise videos.

“I love its directory of nutritional information, weight trackers and “SparkTeams” who help you with a whole lot of topics – from breaking out of a plateau to going vegetarian.” Info is accessible 24x7, PC or mobile. Panic!Button forum gives you advice, Woo-Hoo!Button board cheers you to succeed. “I've lost weight considerably, my life has changed,” Nina trilled.

Team Player? Find your field in Tops.org (TOPS – Taking Off Pounds Sensibly). Motivation to shed weight comes from group meetings. You get a guidebook of standard, government-approved eating plans and nutrition guidelines. You choose a personal plan, depending on what you are counting - calories, carbs or push-ups. From TOPS go to KOPS (Keep Off Pounds Sensibly), whose members meet to discuss weight-loss struggles and to share tips.

Contests too

Love a good contest? Join HealthyWage.com’s cash-for-kilograms, 12-week group competitions — age, gender, weight no-bar. You share health goals with a team, and work for your team’s success. Motivation is high, you don’t want anyone finger-pointing you for defeat! There’s that temptation to splurge at the end of the contest, so form your groups with friends and family. They are sure to crack the whip. The website also throws a free challenge that pays you cash to bring your BMI (body-mass-index) from obese (above 30) to healthy (below 25) in one year. The money is from sponsors, guess who? Just make sure the payer is legit: Do they show a mail ID or phone number to answer questions? Are they on Facebook/Twitter? Do they stay away from marketing fitness-related merchandise?

Fitho.in is an ‘Indianised’ version that employs a pay-to-lose model. On display are diet, nutrition, fitness and personal training plans, with their price tags. Customised diet/meal ideas come in veg-non-veg, Indian/Indo-Continental menus and weight-loss is designed for 1/3/6-month time-lapses. The site has sample diets, free exercise plans, unlimited access to nutritionists, exercise videos. Bonus features include a no-supplement-no-crash-diet promise.

It slips up on the word ‘lose’ but Indiadiets.com strives to tell you everything about food and diets.

Free information covers nutrition and dietetics, therapeutic diets, low calorie recipes, tailored diet plans, updates on the latest nutrition researches and products. To the usual diets-exercises formulas it adds content on pregnancy, parenting, diseases, growth milestones, anti-ageing, skincare, body/brain/libido-lifting and using home remedies and alternative therapies, among others.

About obesity, there’s plenty. You read, sign up for a newsletter, pay for a programme, and consult nutritionist Shubhi Hussain for free. If you are a qualified dietician, start practising as an Indiadiets consultant in your city.

Livestrong.com spreads the “stay fit” campaign through excellent graphics. Interesting pitches in its “women” edition include exercise routines for specific parts of the anatomy, diets for better hair and lots of “how-to” on topics like “Training for an event”, “Balancing fitness with a busy life”, and “Morning routine to relieve aches and pains.” A panel of advisors will take your questions.

Relative anonymity is a big draw, say users. No one reads your weight in front of strangers at clinics. Teeny-boppers in nurse’s uniform don’t give you odd looks. You don’t feel judged. You share your weight-loss stories triumphantly with millions of readers. But will a website work where others have failed?

“Diet plans have to be monitored constantly and where need be, altered,” said Sheila Swarnakumari, Chief Dietician, Frontier Lifeline Hospital. “People have to maintain a diet record for the dietician to see, in subsequent consultations, how compliant (percentage) they are with the plan.” What works is the rapport with the client, assurance the plan will work. Customised diet charts are fine, she said, but a diet-plan includes 24-hour recall, diet history, religious beliefs, likes/dislikes and a host of other considerations.

So, how personalised are they? Yeah, she conceded, online consultation is convenient for 24x7-ers with no time for physical appointments with dieticians. “On websites they can access information from home, from office.”