The Internet completely changed life as we know it. Many of us remember a time when talking with someone who wasn’t in the same room was only possible when we picked up the phone. The idea we can do so now, anytime and anywhere, is mind boggling. Last week we discussed concerns social media and the Internet can have on weight- body image, food porn, and inactivity. Now let’s discuss the benefits.
The weight-loss industry has been completely turned upside down with the advent of internet based accessibility to information. Data, testimonials, products and companies exploded onto the world wide web, which flowed right into our homes. This gave birth to more weight-loss fads and diets. Many have failed but others are working and the internet, with its social web built in, may just end up being one of our best weapons against the rising obesity epidemic. Here’s how:
Online communities promote education about weight loss:
Joining a group of people who all have the same goals to lose weight, be fitter and eat healthier can offer tremendous support and encouragement. Weight-loss regimens that have support online have been popular all over the world for decades. Now, social media is in vogue, and people are beginning to take advantage of it to help them drop excess pounds. Someone may post a diet strategy or success story that gives you motivation or ideas. There are weight loss communities all over the social web offering content where people are constantly posting weight loss articles. More education than ever before is flowing through these platforms. Just use caution. Discuss them with your healthcare provider first to ensure they won’t create a health issue.
Dieters who used the community-support benefits of social media lost more weight than their less-connected peers, according to a Northwestern University study. The online dieters for the study used CalorieKing, a weight-loss tool that raises eating-habit awareness, to access weight-loss tools and log their meals. Those who checked in regularly and “friended” other members lost 8 percent more body weight after six months.
Social media can help to maintain weight loss goals:
We all start diets and exercise programs with the best of intentions, but all too often we give up, lose interest, or become frustrated with how slow things are progressing. Joining a weight-loss community can keep people accountable to their goals. It can also give desperately needed motivation by listening online to how others overcame their diet issues. The social web can be our greatest supporter when the going gets tough, especially when well-meaning friends and family can’t relate. Sometimes they can even be a stumbling block. Looking into social media websites geared towards improving your health may be an option to overcome these challenges.
Follow only healthy sites:
As we discussed last week ” food porn” sites look good, but they tantalize, entice and encourage poor eating habits. “Unfollow” social media accounts that make you crave unhealthy food and focus on the ones that inspire you to attain your goals. Create digital vision boards on Pinterest for each of your healthy interests. For example, designate one board for jogging inspiration, one for slow crock pot recipes, one for smoothies, quick, simple and easy meals to make at home, snacks, etc. Add to them regularly, and explore your boards when you need motivation.
Post your progress:
Use Twitter to make quick comments on your progress in real time. University of Southern California 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 a 1/2 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, say researchers.
Prior to the emergence of the Internet, the self-help approach – following a diet or program without professional help or support – offered the cheapest way to manage weight. Web based programs can be another cost-effective alternative to conventional therapies (e.g. in-person weight management treatments). One study examined the differences in cost per person between two weight-loss programs, one delivered in-person and the other via group internet ‘chat’ sessions. While both groups demonstrated clinically meaningful weight loss, the in-person group showed significantly better weight loss than the internet group by the end of the six month intervention period. But, economic analysis revealed that not only did the internet-delivered weight management program cost less per person it also cost less per kilogram of weight lost.
On days when you feel as if your objectives are impossible, your Internet weight loss community might be able to help. For example, rather than beat herself up for cheating on her diet, one contributor to a weight loss website wrote about her struggles with overeating. Since the people in her community had experienced similar days in the past, they were able to offer encouragement and help her get back on track. The incredible thing is this is available 24 hours a day. Being connected means being connected anytime it’s needed. If your cravings hit at 3 in the morning there’s always someone who can interact. This support may also help to keep off all the weight you’ve worked so hard to lose. A study compared the cost-effectiveness of a ‘personal contact’ program to an internet-delivered one, and found the internet-delivered program cost less. Even though only the in-person treatment produced statistically significant and sustained weight loss, there’s a lot of hope that the two together may provide a less expensive, friendly environment that can enhance the outcomes of such interventions.
Body image can be shattered and reality altered by too much of what’s seen on social media. But in a safe social media community, seeing or posting real pictures of weight loss can give everyone a chance to enjoy and share in the success. This can work as an incredible motivator. Wanting to be a part of, and continue to receive positive feedback means maintaining and progressing towards your goals. This makes it more likely you’ll stick to your program. Public recognition is a great motivating force in our society. When you see that another member looks better with each new picture posted, you will be inspired to lose weight so you can do the same thing. By learning from each other’s triumphs of overcoming seemingly insurmountable impasses social media can help keep up the momentum and belief the end result is possible.
People are posting more than just pictures and stories, they are taking responsibility for their health and saying to the world “I can change”. This alone can be a powerful tool in keeping the real focus on health and better eating. When you stand up and acknowledge an issue, that’s half the battle. Then you can get on with the job of moving forward. Social media shows us a reflection of the person we aim to be and give us the support to get there.
Technology – Apps and Tools:
Companies are launching new tools and apps every day that help with weight loss. There are now food journals, calorie counters, meal apps, you name it, all available in the palm of our hands. Food journal apps like Meal Snap and PhotoCalorie prompt users to take photos of food to tally up calories in order to help keep track of what you’ve had to eat. By logging every bite, you’ll set yourself up to lose twice as much weight, says a study from Kaiser Permanente for Health Research. After looking at 1,685 adults, researchers found the number of days spent tracking food intake directly correlated to more weight loss. They can also keep us posted on their nutritional content, plan healthy meals and snacks or give great cooking ideas for home. They can monitor weight loss and exercise progress and give real time feedback when we’ve wavered off course. Weight loss apps such as MyFitnessPal, TR90, and the Visual Food Journal can also connect to your social profile serving as wonderful weight loss device.
As obesity rises, many fight this battle every day. Don’t be discouraged, let the social web help you hit your goals, educate you, and stay on track. Weight loss is not easy, and this is why it’s truly inspiring to hear others stories. Be safe, don’t share personal data, make sure the information disseminated is accurate, and involve your healthcare provider. An online community can be a powerful addition to your weight-loss regimen when used appropriately.