How social media can help you lose weight, according to science

It might be seen as oversharing by some, but a new study suggests documenting weight loss on social media might help people achieve their goals.

A team of scientists has found that sharing the ups and downs of participating in a weight-loss programme with an online community helps keep the participants motivated.

Study co-author Tonya Williams Bradford, of the University of California, Irvine, said: “Our research finds that individuals are more likely to realise success with personal goals when they make a public commitment to attaining them.

“By sharing success and setbacks in virtual support communities on social media, we found people are achieving better results.

“This works especially well with goals like weight loss, where before and after images can be shared online with other community members.”

The team analysed the posts on virtual support communities from ObesityHelp.com and WeightWatchers.com and followed two weight loss groups – surgical and non-surgical – over a four-year period.

They found that online support communities offered a “unique environment” that fosters the process of “building community and the co-creation of related outcomes”.

Researchers found sharing weight loss journeys online helped participants achieve their goals (Chris Radburn/PA)

According to Bradford, this helps keep the participants motivated and accountable.

She added: “Through our research we found public commitment, which is a declaration of a position, increases the likelihood of compliance to a course of action and is a key part of a successful weight loss plan.

“When people seeking to lose weight join a virtual support community and share their plans online to attain their goals, they invite members to join them by offering encouragement in both words and actions.

“This exchange of online support facilitates adherence to the offline goal of losing weight. Public accountability is key.”

The research is published in the Journal of Interactive Marketing.


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