7 Things You Do on Social Media that Help You Lose Weight
Don’t feel bad about scrolling through your newsfeed! Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites can help you live healthier and reach your weight loss goals.
Online activities and your weight
Maybe you post photos of your dog on Instagram or ask for suggestions on Facebook about what to watch on Netflix. There are lots of ways to use social media sites—including help with weight control. If you want an assist with maintaining your weight or even shedding a few pounds, here’s what you can do online.
Unfollow indulgent food
Scrolling through drool-worthy photos of #foodporn on Instagram may seem harmless, but it encourages you to indulge more. A review of studies published in the journal Brain and Cognition found that regular exposure to virtual food may exacerbate physical hunger. Even worse: Seeing photos associated with a particular taste may decrease your enjoyment when you actually experience that taste.
“Unfollow accounts that set you up to overindulge or consider looking at them only at certain times such as early in the day after a meal when your cravings and appetite aren’t triggered,” suggests DJ Blatner, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Chicago and the author of The Superfood Swap. Instead, she says, “think of your Instagram feed as a ‘vision board.’ What you see regularly creates more of that in your life. If you see pictures of people being active, enjoying superfoods, participating in non-food joy, it will inspire you consciously and unconsciously to create the same in your life.”
Pin healthy inspiration
Once you’ve unfollowed social media accounts that make you crave unhealthy food, focus on the ones that inspire you. “Create Pinterest vision boards for each lifestyle area: fitness routines, fitness outfits, quick recipes, party recipes, non-food hobbies, drinks/hydration, stress, sleep, and don’t forget to make at least one with motivational quotes and mantras,” suggests Blatner. Add to them regularly, and explore them whenever you need motivation. “Creating digital vision boards is a powerful tool,” she says. “Seeing inspiring pictures of what you want in your life will encourage you to start creating that and take inspired action. Over time, you become what you surround yourself with.”
Build your support group
You know a support system is crucial for successful weight loss, but sometimes your family just isn’t on board. (Ditch Friday pizza nights? Never!) If that sounds familiar, find a support group online. A study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface found that online dieters who checked into a weight-loss website to log their meals and “friend” other dieting members lost 8 percent more body weight after six months than their less-connected peers.
Post your favorite photos
It’s exciting to see your body get toned and slim, so go ahead and show it—just don’t linger on the site waiting for likes to feel good about yourself. Yes: Posting photos of your progress online gives friends a chance to offer the kind of support and encouragement that can inspire you to stay on track. A study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking found that simply spending time exploring or editing your Facebook profile can boost self-esteem. However, other more recent research, including a review of studies published in 2019 in Cyberpsychology, suggests that spending too much time on Facebook can have the exact opposite effect, lowering self-esteem.
To hit the sweet spot, limit your postings and remember to adjust privacy settings to determine who exactly sees the weight-loss photos you post. “Positive feedback from family and friends may be helpful for someone trying to lose weight,” says Keri Gans, a registered dietitian nutritionist in New York City, author of The Small Change Diet, and host of The Keri Report podcast. “But ultimately a person should not rely on any feedback but rather find positive validation within themselves.”
Tweet your progress
Use Twitter to make quick comments on your progress in real-time. In a study published in Translational Behavioral Medicine, researchers assigned one group of adults to listen to two nutrition and fitness podcasts each, and another group to listen to podcasts in addition to reporting workouts and connecting with other study participants on Twitter. Every 10 tweets in the second group corresponded to about a 0.5 percent greater weight loss. Twitter can be an effective tool in a weight-loss program because of the increased access to information, accountability, and social support. Use Twitter to follow others “who promote healthy eating and wellness,” says Gans. “They may provide cooking ideas, food shopping tips, and ways to incorporate healthy lifestyle changes.”
Write about your ups and downs
Prone to emotional eating? Blog about it. “It’s another way to hold yourself accountable and perhaps share with like-minded people,” says Gans. Recording your weight loss journey can also help you identify triggers that make you binge, helping you differentiate between emotional and physical hunger. Keep it private, or publish it publicly to inspire others also struggling with emotional eating. Once you determine what your triggers are, write about how you’ll fix the problem. If you tend to overeat after work, write about what activities you’ll do before going home instead. Follow up with notes on how your plan worked.
Use apps to log your meals
Various smartphone apps let you log your meals, post photos of your food, and leave comments on other dieters’ healthy food posts. Some apps even use food recognition technology, which determines nutritional information based on photos you upload. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that participants who monitored their diet with either a smartphone app or memo feature missed fewer days than people using paper and a pencil, possibly due to ease of use.
“I don’t recommend long-term calorie counting, but becoming ‘calorie educated’ is a first step to understanding weight,” says Blatner. To that end, she recommends “using apps like MyFitnessPal for seven to 10 days to log everything you eat as a way to learn about calories,” she says. “After learning calories in your favorite foods, meals, and portions, it becomes easier to see where to make small lifestyle adjustments without going on a diet.” Other apps she recommends include: Insight Timer to help with stress and sleep; MealLogger to keep a photo food log; and Done or Habit-Daily Tracker to track habits. Check your app store for available apps (many are free).
- Brain and Cognition: "Eating with our eyes: From visual hunger to digital satiation"
- DJ Blatner, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Chicago and author of The Superfood Swap
- Journal of the Royal Society Interface: "Social embeddedness in an online weight management programme is linked to greater weight loss"
- Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking: "Mirror, Mirror on my Facebook Wall: Effects of Exposure to Facebook on Self-Esteem"
- Cyberpsychology: "Social media addiction: Its impact, mediation, and intervention"
- Keri Gans, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist in New York City, author of The Small Change Diet, and host of The Keri Report podcast
- Translational Behavioral Medicine: "Weight loss social support in 140 characters or less: use of an online social network in a remotely delivered weight loss intervention"
- Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior: "Dietary Self-Monitoring, But Not Dietary Quality, Improves With Use of Smartphone App Technology in an 8-Week Weight Loss Trial"