Avatar videos help women lose weight, researcher says

(WJLA) - With the holidays quickly approaching, the top toy on the Christmas lists of many kids across the country will be a new video game.

And, just in time for the season of giving (and eating), a new type of game that's hitting the market may help people lose weight.

The premise of the project involves watching an avatar shop for healthy food; a virtual world that's the brainchild of Melissa Napolitano, an associate professor at George Washington University.

Napolitano set out to see if watching digital people had any effect on the behavior of real women. Participants in her pilot program watched DVDs of four virtual worlds, which depicted people shopping for groceries, working out, establishing portion control and watching television.

The women kept a diary of their experiences, and after a month, each participant had lost an average of 3 pounds.

"The idea is that by watching the avatar, that's going to stick in your mind," Napolitano said. "The next time you have a meal, you may remember that."

She hopes that the results are a promising look at the potential of using the avatars to help people understand and learn different behaviors.

"It has such broad potential for reaching many people to help them eat healthier and live healthier lives," she said.