What are the main reasons people use social media? Most of us use social media to:
- connect with long-lost classmates, family, and friends
- market our business or brand
- vent our frustration
- brag mercilessly about our kids
- share passive aggressive messages we hope the intended audience will understand
Many experts diss social media—pointing to all the ways it can ruin our live. We spend too much time on Facebook and Twitter. We bellyache too much. All our “friends” are fake.
But what if those very things—those things we assume are bad—can actually help improve our health?
The Stats: Good or Bad?
Let’s take a look at exactly what is happening in the world of social media.
- Social media is the most popular online activity; the US population spends more time engaging in social networks than enjoying any other internet activity. Social media even tops email.
- People between the ages of 18 and 34 spend nearly four hours a day on social media.
Some people may say those are disgraceful stats. But let’s put them in context of improving our health, losing weight, and living a healthier life.
How Social Media Helps Weight Loss
In addition to the above mentioned stats, there are a few more you should know about.
- Dieters who received advice and encouragement from a behavior therapist via the internet lost three times as much weight as those who chose to go it alone.
- Social media helps dieters shed more than just pounds. Those who sought encouragement and accountability from their social network saw a reduction in BMI, waist-to-hip ratio, and overall percentage of body fat.
- The more often someone posts to social media, the more weight they lose.
- Social media accountability helps dieters maintain their weight loss. Thanks to social media, nearly half of all participants had managed to maintain their weight loss six months after reaching their goal.
Why is this happening? Many point to the accountability of social networks.
Simon Bell, marketing and social media expert at the University of Melbourne, said, “If you are tweeting about your diet to your followers, then you have a responsibility to maintain a level of integrity.” He goes on to point out how dieters won’t just have to fess up to their failure among their limited friends and family; they’ll have to answer to hundreds of virtual supporters.
It may seem like a shallow promise. After all, most of our online friends and followers don’t really play a significant role in our lives. Who cares if we disappoint them or they think less of us?
Bell points to the “swift trust” that is established on social media. We establish a trusting relationship very quickly on networks like Twitter and Facebook. Even if we aren’t close to these people in the physical world, our strong virtual relationship prevents us from letting them down or losing credibility.
How to Use Social Media for Weight Loss
Here are six ways you can use social media to reach your weight loss goal.
1. Share your goals.
Do you want to lose weight? Do you want your social contacts to help you? There is one simple thing that will make a big difference: tell people your goals.
If you want to lose 20 pounds, tell your followers. If you want to cut sugar or go raw, tell your friends. Just letting people know what you are up to will set the stage for great accountability.
2. Ask for help.
Once people know you are on a mission, ask for help. Tell your social network how they can encourage you.
Ask for recipe ideas, healthy restaurant suggestions, gym membership discounts, at-home workout tips…whatever you need.
3. Join a group.
There are tons of weight loss groups on social media. Join one and bask in the community. Talk a little smack for an extra dose of motivation and encouragement. Brag about your successes. Find support during your struggles.
Online communities are like a 24/7 cheering section. There is always someone who is able to celebrate or commiserate with you.
4. Turn your social media account into a virtual diary.
Keep track of your ups and downs. Include details about what does and doesn’t work. Mention your workouts and meals. Then, you can reflect back on your experience and take note of the successes as you set new goals.
Don’t forget to post photos of the foods you eat. You can look back and get meal ideas when you are in need of healthy suggestions.
Plus, sharing your virtual food scrapbook will help you monitor food choices. If you are posting that plate on Facebook for everyone to see, you’ll carefully consider the food choices and portions.
5. Follow industry leaders.
Want a ton of effective, healthy and free advice? Follow various industry leaders. Get meal planning tips, workout suggestions, and general healthy living ideas from some of the most well-known experts.
All you have to do is follow or like these pros and your newsfeed will be filled with helpful, encouraging, motivating information.
6. Report the facts.
There are tons of apps that sync with social media. These deliver a double whammy—accountability and statistic storage.
Keep track of all your most important weight loss statistics—calories consumed, miles ran, steps taken. Share these bits of news on social media and your followers can help you monitor your success.
Perhaps you’re not keen to share your actual weight in such a public forum, but studies do show that those who regularly weighted themselves (once a month) were better able to maintain their weight loss.
It might not seem like the most natural situation—public conversations about your weight—but social media can help you achieve your goals.
How are you using social networks to shed unwanted pounds?