PATH (Parents Tracking for Health) is a free weight loss program brought to you by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that is designed to help parents of children ages 2-12 adopt healthy eating and activity habits for the health of both parents and children. The 6-month program will be delivered using a study smartphone app, digital health tools, and text messages. You will also receive personalized feedback on your weight, eating, and activity behaviors. This program has been developed using evidence from other successful weight control programs that have been conducted at the UNC Weight Research Program.

 The PATH program is also a research study. One of the main goals of the research study is to compare two different ways of tracking dietary intake to determine which one leads to the best weight loss, and which one parents enjoy the most. This means that the PATH study has two different study groups. You will be assigned to one of those groups randomly, or by chance – meaning that you can’t pick which group you want to be in. In order to participate, you must be willing to be in either of the groups.

 If you enroll, you will be one of approximately 70 parents participating in the program.


You may be eligible if you: 

  • Are currently age 21-55

  • Have a body mass index between 25 and 50 (see here or use the calculator to compute your BMI) 

  • Have at least one child between the ages of 2 and 12

  • Not exceeding physical activity guidelines

  • Own an iPhone with a data and text messaging plan 

  • Are willing to attend two visits at the UNC Weight Research Program in Chapel Hill, NC 

 *Additional eligibility criteria apply.


The PATH program uses a simplified and personalized approach to weight loss. You will use a digital scale to track your weight and an activity tracker to help increase your physical activity. You’ll also track your dietary intake using your smartphone to help you make positive changes in your eating. You will receive personalized text messages and feedback that will help you stay on track with your weight goals.

All participants will be asked to complete online questionnaires, a telephone call, and other measurements at the start of the study and after 6 months, in addition to a set of online questionnaires only at 3 months. Participants will need to attend two in-person visits at the UNC Weight Research Program in Chapel Hill, NC. The first visit will be a group session with other participants where you’ll get set up to begin the program. For the second visit, you’ll come back to the office after the 6-month study to complete a brief weight measurement.


Research shows that having children in the home can make it harder to lose weight, and that weight gained while having young children can also be associated with child weight gain. You may benefit from the program by losing some weight now and learning effective ways to manage your weight so that you can achieve and maintain a healthy weight for years to come. Your child (or children) may benefit from positive changes in the home eating and activity environment.

Throughout the program you may also benefit by receiving:

  • Professional expertise (health educators, nutritionists, exercise physiologists, psychologists) and information to help you adopt strategies for making changes in your eating and physical activity 

  • Messages that give you feedback and strategies to help meet your weight goals  

  • Personalized feedback on your overall progress 

This information is provided to you free of charge as a participant in the PATH study. You will receive $20 for completing the 3-month online-only assessment, and $40 for completing the 6-month assessment.

If you are interested in signing up, please go to our online screener below to see if you are eligible to participate.


If you would like to learn more about the PATH study, please contact us at (919) 966-5852 or email pathstudy@unc.edu.

This study has been reviewed by the IRB (Study #17-3027).