A recent research conducted by South Carolina’s renowned Arnold School of Health indicates that social media websites can be connected to significant weight loss. As a matter of fact, it is especially helpful during the crucial maintenance period once the person has already reached his/her ideal weight. During this period, support from clinical staff drops, so the person needs to have another source of much-needed support. This can be obtained from family, friends and acquaintances through social media, so even those who are far away can be utilized for support.
Social Media and Weight Loss
Weight loss support groups are very useful when it comes to losing a significant amount of weight. Because of social media, you no longer have to attend meetings at your local weight loss support group. You just need to go online and you can connect easily with members of your support group using Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. Researchers from the prestigious Brown University in the United States found that people trying to lose weight who received advice regularly from therapists online lost about three times as much weight in a six-month period compared to those who didn’t get any advice.
The Importance of Online Support
Twitter is now a popular weight loss tool because it is personal and accessible according to Amelia Burton who is a personal trainer. She uses Twitter to check her clients and motivate them with the advice she regularly tweets. According to Simon Bell, who is a marketing and social media expert from the University of Melbourne, social media allows people to create their brand through their posts and messages. When a person considers himself/herself as a brand, a reputation that needs to be upheld is created according to Bell. Thus, you have to maintain some level of integrity and the chance that you will cheat on your diet decreases. If you make the wrong move, you will be answerable to all your virtual supporters.
Online Food Diary
The use of a food diary is very important in keeping track of caloric intake that is vital for weight loss. In fact, a study in the United States found that keeping a food diary can help almost double the weight loss of a person. Tweeting can be used as an online food diary that other people can see. They can also make comments and suggestions to improve the diet. There are also websites designed as food diaries like Tweet What You Eat, which was started by Alex Ressi. He started the site for his weight loss as a convenient food diary that holds him accountable to his followers. There are now 35,000 registered users that utilize Tweet What You Eat.
Advantages of Social Media for Weight Loss
- The user can access diet, exercise and nutritional information advice helping increase their knowledge maximizing weight loss.
- People can see if you are succeeding or failing in your diet so there is a smaller chance that you will regain the weight and disappoint them.
- The dieter can access all the information whenever he/she wants to instead of just being restricted to appointment times.
- Online consultations are more affordable compared to face to face consultations.
- Having support from people you are familiar with is very helpful when it comes to motivation.
- The weight loss success stories of other people can motivate you to do the same.
- For those with social anxiety or are too conscious of their weight, online communication is in most cases more effective.
- You can easily follow the trends and patterns for maintenance.
Disadvantages of Social Media for Weight Loss
- You can shut down your social media account anytime if you decide to quit.
- Important avenues of communication like physical contact and body language are not present so there is a tendency that the person will feel less connected.
- You need some computer skills.
- Some people are more interactive during face to face consultations.
- When you are using social media, you are sedentary.
- There is a high tendency for avoidance since you can just not log in if you don’t feel like it.
It is a fact that social media can help with weight loss and there are several pieces of research supporting this. However, social media, when used for weight loss, has its advantages and disadvantages. Moreover, it is not effective for everyone. Thus, you have to try for yourself if it is helpful for your weight loss or not.
Sarah B. Hales, Charis Davidson, Gabrielle M. Turner-McGrievy. Varying social media post types differentially impacts engagement in a behavioral weight loss intervention. Translational Behavioral Medicine, 2014; 4 (4): 355 DOI: 10.1007/s13142-014-0274-z