Can Twitter and Facebook Help You Lose Weight?

The research is clear—social support boosts weight loss success. But what if that social support came from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter? Two studies show that logging on can make you a big loser.

Trim down with Twitter
Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill put nearly 100 men and women on an online weight loss program that involved a weekly diet and fitness podcast. Half the group was also instructed to use a phone app that tracks exercise and diet as well as Twitter. Participants in this group received two tweets a day from a weight loss counselor to reinforce points from the podcasts and encourage discussion, and they could also tweet each other. 

Tweets between participants ranged from informational to motivational:

“About healthy snacks, usually baby carrots or raw almonds no salt, the stone wheat crackers from Trader Joe’s also satisfy crunchy need.” 

“Help I fell off the wagon! Too much free food! Bakalava and beer…” 

“Don’t feel bad, tomorrow is another day. Eat healthy and get some exercise!”  

Six months later, both groups lost about the same amount—an average of 2.7 percent of body weight, while some lost up to 8 percent of their body weight. (A 2.7 percent loss translates to 5 pounds for someone starting out at 185 pounds.) But there was an interesting finding: The biggest tweeters were the biggest losers. For every 10 Twitter posts sent, about half a percent of body weight was shed. 

That means someone who started at 185 pounds could lose more than 9 pounds if he or she tweeted 100 times in six months. (In the Twitter group, most people were active on the site for the first three months of the study; participation dropped for the last three months—only 55 percent were active in the latter half.)

Researchers admitted they couldn’t tell whether those who were successful at weight loss were more motivated to tweet, or whether engaging in Twitter helped them lose weight. They did conclude, “participation in the online social network was beneficial to some participants.”

(Click here to follow Best Life on Twitter.)

Fight Fat with Facebook
More than 200 employees signed on for a ConAgra workplace weight loss program based on portion control. Participants were invited to join a members-only Facebook page, where a dietitian posted weight management strategies and participants could rely on fellow dieters for support and advice. The researchers found that dieters who used Facebook lost more weight over four weeks: 4.5 pounds on average versus only 2.9 pounds for people who didn’t use Facebook.

Social support, whether it’s coming from a real-life friend or a virtual friend, can help you stay on track and reach your goals. Be sure to check out the Best Life Facebook page for encouragement and advice.

Do you rely on social media for support?

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About Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D., Best Life Lead Nutritionist

Janis can’t help but be immersed in nutrition, and not just because she is a registered dietitian or writes about the topic daily for TheBestLife.com. It’s also because she simply loves food, and will try just about any dish you put in front of her. In addition to her work for The Best Life, Janis is a contributing editor at SELF magazine. She also wrote The Life You Want with Bob Greene and psychologist Ann Kearney-Cooke and The Best Life Guide to Managing Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes (Simon & Schuster 2009), along with Bob and endocrinologist and Best Life chief medical advisor John J. Merendino Jr., M.D. When she’s able to get away from the kitchen and her computer, she often walks around Washington, D.C., a wonderful walking city with lots of ethnic food stores, farmer’s markets and great restaurants. (Did we mention she loves food?)

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  • 2abner

    it talks about gaining weight by using twitter, but at the end of the article it tells people to tweet it.
    so which is it? you can’t have your take & eat it, too [pun intended]