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Diet site kicks off 1998

New Year's Day is traditionally the time when many make resolutions, and the Net holds several resources for people seeking to slim down in 1998.

New Year's Day is traditionally the time when many make resolutions, and the Net holds several resources for people seeking to slim down in 1998.

Yesterday, Self/help Technologies launched the Practical Online Weight-Loss Clinic, designed as an alternative to Weight Watchers and similar services. The plan consists of a customized, seven-day meal plan created using a profile submitted by the customer, weekly shopping lists, and weekly meetings held online that offer motivation, tips, and a way for customers to post questions or link up with others that have the same goal, the company said. It costs $19.95 per month for three months, plus a $9.95 registration fee.

"Our expert-based software allows us to personalize a program for each individual and include all the benefits offered by the nationally advertised weight-loss clinics at a very low cost," David R. Humble, president and chief executive of Self/help, said in a statement. "Internet delivery also allows us to update the program each week, just like a personal visit to a dietitian."

But on the Net, as in the physical world, competition is strong in the weight-loss space. The weight-loss business is a consistently huge moneymaking opportunity, as people never seem to tire of diet trends and always are fighting the "battle of the bulge."

Weight Watchers' site offers a search form to find meetings anywhere in the world, along with basic tips and information about its various weight-loss plans. There are also forums for the online version of the company's well-established community.

The Web site for the controversial Atkins Diet has a dynamic FAQ file, where selected questions filed by readers are answered and posted in the FAQ. The site also has a brief overview of the Atkins plan, which calls for higher protein and lower carbohydrate intake.

The Zone Files is the Web home of Dr. Barry Sears's Zone diet plan. There are weekly features such as columns, favorite recipes, and an "Ask Dr. Sears" section, along with news, an updated FAQ section, and an online store.

Shape Up America is a comprehensive site featuring information about diet and fitness. It also offers recipes, as well as a body mass index calculator and exercise tips and ideas. The nonprofit organization, founded by former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, aims to "educate the public on the importance of increased physical activity and the achievement and maintenance of a healthy body weight," according to the site.

Many of the cooking sites offer lower-fat versions of recipes. The Cook's Thesaurus offers substitutions for thousands of ingredients,and can help when searching for ways to lighten up favorite recipes. Cooking Light magazine also has a site full of tips and recipes for diet-sensitive eating habits.

For community, there are Usenet newsgroups that tailor to people seeking to lose weight--such as "alt.support.diet.rx," "alt.support.diet," and "alt.food.fat-free"--but since these are generally populated by other Netizens who might not be health professionals or experts, newsgroups are better used for support and recipes.

As with any potential profit generator, there are plenty of too-good-to-be-true schemes on the Net aimed at dieters, so it is always a good idea to check with a doctor before embarking on any weight-loss program.