Monday, 9 November 2015

Can social media help you lose weight?

Using Facebook or Twitter can help you to lose weight. Here's how.

Want to lose weight? There's no longer any need to head to your local weight-loss support group. Just go online. The rise of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter means you can go to cyberspace for diet and fitness support. We spend about 3.6 hours online every day, messaging, updating and tweeting. There are 50 million messages tweeted every day. Twitter, an instant message-style website that allows you to notify your "followers" of every thought or action in 25 words or less, can help you use your network to support your weight loss.
Researchers at Brown University in the US found dieters who received weekly advice from therapists online lost three times as much weight in six months as those who didn't receive advice. And a report in the Journal Of The American Medical Association on the largest weight-loss maintenance study to date found a combination of personal contact and web-based support is crucial for long-term weight management.
"Twitter succeeds as a weight-loss tool because it's personal and accessible," personal trainer Amelia Burton says. She trains her clients via Twitter and motivates hundreds with her advice.

Online supporters

"The phenomenon we're seeing with the advent of Facebook, eBay and Twitter is an individual's ability to create their own brand through the messages and photos they post," says Simon Bell, a marketing and social media expert at the University of Melbourne.
Bell says by considering ourselves a brand, we're creating a reputation that we need to stand by. "If you are tweeting about your diet to your followers, then you have a responsibility to maintain a level of integrity," he says. "We're no longer answerable to our five friends and family members if we fall off the dieting wagon, we're answerable to our hundred virtual supporters."

Tweeting is, in effect, an online food diary that others can see and comment on

"Keeping a food diary helps you keep track of what you're eating and to realise what foods you're missing out on," says Tara Diversi, spokeswoman for the Dietitians Association of Australia.

According to a US study, keeping a food diary can double a person's weight loss

A virtual food diary was the inspiration for Alex Ressi founding his website, Tweet What You Eat. Ressi established the site as part of his efforts to lose three kilograms. He wanted to create an easy-to-use food diary that would hold him accountable to family and friends.
"The support I was getting online kept me to my program. It was like having a team of personal trainers to answer to every day," Ressi says.
His website now boasts 35,000 registered users and an average weight loss of 4.5 kilograms, although there are several stories of weight loss of 31 kilograms.
"Our users are honest about what they are eating, as the feedback they receive is unconditional," Ressi says. "If they eat something they shouldn't, they receive encouragement to forget about it and keep eating healthily. It's like having a local weight-loss support group, but our members are all over the world."
A BBC study found online networking can help people lose weight in the long term. The study, published in the British Medical Journal, found that people who followed an online weight-loss program lost more weight than those who didn't use the internet for their support. And after six months, 45 per cent of those with online support had maintained their weight loss, while the second group had gained weight.
So is online social networking the secret that has been missing when it comes to Australia's obesity problem? Or is it the 21st-century version of the gym membership that never gets used?
"Taking part is the secret," Bell says. "The beauty of sites like Facebook and Twitter is their ability to create 'swift trust', where we arrive at a trusting relationship quickly by 'friending' and 'following' others. If you have followers, there's an obligation not to let them down."
A worldwide web of supporters may be the motivation you need to get those running shoes on. After turning down that biscuit, of course.


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