Social media offers a lot of benefits for those who are trying to get healthy and fit. Not only is it a great place to find a community of like-minded individuals, but you'll have access to an impressive library of resources: from workout videos to diet hacks to lifestyle tips to new eating plans. Whether you're on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Snapchat, there are always places you can go to motivate yourself and get help with weight loss.

 

 

Instagram has become a weight loss tool in a curious way: a diet journal. People are taking pictures of everything they eat and posting the pictures to Instagram, where their followers help to keep them accountable.

 

Instagram is home to a great deal of food porn (a glamourized spectacular visual presentation of cooking or eating), and it's hard not to feel hunger pangs as you scroll through all the delicious images and videos of dishes prepared by friends, family, and advertisers. But the highly visual and public medium can actually help you to stay on track with your diet by recruiting your followers to keep you honest.

 

Research from the University of Washington found that using photos to keep people accountable for their eating choices could actually be more effective than writing it down in a food journal. After all, "a picture is worth a thousand words." It's easy to cheat the food journal or forget to write down a condiment or ingredient you used, but a picture will be harder to cheat. Participants in the university's study found that it was easier to stay honest because they posted the pictures to their Instagram feed.

 

Yes, there will always be the risk that you forget to post your picture. You may feel the temptation to avoid posting photos of food you know you shouldn't eat. But that is actually a form of mindfulness that will help you to improve adherence to your diet. The more aware you are of what you're putting in your body, the easier it will be to make the right choices.

 

A number of users found that their Instagram food journal proved more effective at tracking their meals than MyFitnessPal, one of the most popular smartphone apps. The Instagram community (followers) also helped to encourage the users to keep up with their efforts, leading to better motivation as well as accountability.

 

"With Instagram, you can have a separate part of your profile dedicated to food journaling and you don't have to be worried that your family member or neighbor who just wants to see pictures of your dogs or vacations will be turned off," said lead author and UW human centered design and engineering doctoral student Christina Chung. "It's not funneling everything to the same channel."

 

People did report some tensions between wanting to remain honest about what they ate and feeling reluctant to photograph food that would be perceived as undesirable.

But users who ultimately met their weight loss, eating or fitness goals also found that remaining on Instagram -- and helping mentor and encourage others -- made it easier for them to maintain their desired behaviors and to continue to be mindful of their health, the study found.

 

"Maintenance becomes pretty boring for a lot of people because your quest to hit a goal has worn off," said senior author Sean Munson, assistant professor of human centered design and engineering at the UW. "This made things more interesting and meaningful for people because after they got to their goal, they turned to thinking about how they could help others and stay accountable to people who were relying on them for support."

 

Reference:

1.Chung, Chia-Fang, Elena Agapie, Jessica Schroeder, Sonali Mishra, James Fogarty, and Sean A. Munson. “When Personal Tracking Becomes Social: Examining the Use of Instagram for Healthy Eating.” In Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 1674–1687. CHI ’17. New York, NY, USA: ACM, 2017. doi:10.1145/3025453.3025747.

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